Heritage Cafe has been mentioned before–positively!–in another forumosa thread about bad cinnamon rolls sold by a prominent chain. But in my view it also deserves its own stand-alone entry. Here’s my take on it.
A couple weeks ago, I was making my way across the older neighbourhood between Ximending and Taipei Main Station when I was stopped in my tracks by a striking storefront with a sign in the window written in a san serif font:
Located amidst a cluster of camera shops and (toward Ximending) shops selling stereo equipment, this storefront really stood out. A cafe around here, in this hipster-free zone? Hmmm, I seem to remember Dana Ter writing about this place last fall in the Taipei Times… Since I was in the neighbourhood, I decided to check it out.
Inside, I found friendly frontline staff and the engaging owner, who was busily involved in a photo shoot during my first visit, but had more time to chat about the cafe and its remarkable space in a subsequent visit. The building, I learned, is an old family house that has been brilliantly renovated to foreground its strengths (with an exposed brick wall, and intelligent use of hinoki and some remaining fixtures from the old house). The upstairs seating area is a wonderful space: open and airy and laid out with obvious care.
The goods for sale, though, are down on the ground floor: various espresso based coffees (including a cappuccino I very much enjoyed); old school and satisfying American-style desserts (carrot cake, brownies, cinnamon buns–all of which hit the mark); and some more experimental fruit-based desserts often using Taiwan fruits. For those who are so inclined, I also recall seeing a range of specialty beers and other beverages from the San Francisco area. I would not characterize the prices here as cheap, but they are not unreasonable given the quality of the goods for sale and the extraordinary space of the cafe.
As mentioned above, I found service here to be friendly and helpful. Other online commentators have had more uneven experiences. The only moment of discomfort I’ve had was with a male staff member (a manager?) who spoke to me in full-on interrogative mode–a common Taiwanese discourse style, yes, and by no means the first time I have encountered this, but also perhaps not the best way to make folks feel welcome or relaxed. In contrast, the cafe’s female owner is fully bilingual, fantastic to chat with, and obviously committed to making people feel at home. And in my experience so far, the frontline staff behind the counter is excellent.
With some fascinating eats nearby (including a couple of Chinese Muslim places, as well as other options), and the historic Beimen sites located just around the corner, Heritage is well worth a visit–and easily paired up with a meal or a bit of sightseeing. It’s a lovely addition to this centrally located yet at-times overlooked neighborhood.
Address: 73-2, Section 1, Hankou Street, Taipei City (漢口街一段73號之2)
Hours: 11:00am-7:00pm daily; closed Mondays; open until 8:00pm Fridays and Saturdays