Good Living and Touring Down Along Shady Lanes


Taipei is a city that, at first sight, seems like a forest of tall buildings. Dip into areas behind the major thoroughfares, however, and you find many a “small” thriving community. Among the most characterful is the Minsheng Community, which boasts a large number of neighborhood parks, thickly leaf-shaded arteries, artsy cafés and restaurants, concept boutiques, and a noticeably slower, quality-oriented cosmopolitan approach to living.

Note: This article was published in the 2024 Summer Edition of TAIPEI magazine, a publication by the Taipei City Government.

Let’s head out on a breezy dappled-sunl ight out ing sampling six leisure-oriented enterprises that will give you a feel for this neighborhood’s pulse. By the way, about those trees, primarily banyan and bodhi (sacred fig) – Minsheng Community originally took shape in the 1960s, a Taipei City Government urban-development initiative, as Taipei’s first American-style model community. Proximity to Taipei Songshan Airport made its low-rise residential buildings a must. Fujin Street is the community’s heart and the highlight for our sampler experiences.

Fujin Street in the Minsheng Community

We start our day by taking Taipei Metro’s Brown Line to MRT Songshan Airport Station. After leaving the station by Exit 3, we turn south, cross Minquan East Road, and head to our first stop on Fujin Street.

but. (we love butter)

With a name like but. (we love butter), what pray tell do you think you’ll be experiencing upon walking through this shop’s door? Answer: French-style butter cookies, biscuits, soft candy, and donuts. Entering is itself an adventure – the façade and inner entry area are set up like a highfalutin British tailor shop. The pastry shop, looking like a fashionable speakeasy with diner seating, is found through the last of a series of short-hallway doors. The sweet creations are French in inspiration whilst starring such quintessential Taiwan-produced ingredients as pineapple, longan, almond, honey, and rice.

Outside but. (we love butter)
Fancy interior design
Fine butter cookie

It’s just a walk of two minutes from the pastry shop to the following tea store, located in one of the community’s quiet tree-shaded alleys.

Wolf Tea

Wolf Tea specializes in single-origin Taiwan teas, celebrating the island’s marvelous mosaic of terroir excellence and ultimate craftsmanship. Its menu is ever-changing, for its experts are constantly traveling the hills and mountains to source the best leaf “picked by outstanding tea masters at the most suitable weather moments in the highest-quality tea gardens each season.” The shop décor is a mix of Scandinavian blonde elements along with wood-plank flooring, cabinets, tables, and chairs that would be right at home in a well-lived-in North American farmhouse, while the tea accouterments are classic-style Chinese.

Outside Wolf Tea
Inside the shop
Preparing fine tea
Single-origin Taiwan tea

If you prefer coffee over tea, you might enjoy following us to our next stop, a fine café, located in another tree-lined alley 5min on foot southwest from the tea shop.

Coffee Essential

Taipei (and all of Taiwan) has seen an explosion of cafés over the past 15 years as the younger generation seeks an alternate path to office careers, making it difficult to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Coffee Essential has risen to the top, acquiring a brand reputation as the crème de la crème.

The wide front is an almost solid wall of glass, allowing sunlight to pour in by day and a soft-lighting inner glow to radiate outward at night. Inside, the stained wood of the long serving bar (seating before it) and the tables have a (deliberately) weathered look, the original cement floor has a mottled pattern, a full red-brick wall has been left exposed, and industrial lighting is used – the overall effect one of rough and ready homey simplicity. Beyond the flavorsome specialty coffees and teas, Western-style light foods (frittata, croque madame, etc.) and desserts (homemade cheesecake, crème brulee, etc.), as well as craft beers and cocktails are served.

Inside Coffee Essential
Fine coffee and cake

Next up, let’s head to a boutique selling stylish fashion. Forthis, we walk back to Fujin Street, about 12min. from the café.

Fujin Tree 355

Fujin Tree 355 is a welcoming fashion boutique housed with a bright and airy interior space, the dominant décor themes light woods and exposed brick walls painted eggshell white. The fashion categories you’ll browse happily through are women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes, and accessories (scarves, shawls, socks, etc.). The smart and tony fabrications, many highly eclectic, are sourced from up-and-coming designers from Taiwan, Japan, and elsewhere around the globe – check out such names as AURALEE, Baserange, FUMIKA-UCHIDA, and Gabriela Coll Garments. You’ll find café-style seating under the trees right before the boutique, perfect for a mid-browsing rest – these are a spillover from the chic sister operation right next door, Fujin Tree Café.

Inside the boutique
Clothes and accessories

Just a 5min. walk east from the boutique along Fujin Street is our next stop, a shop specializing in antiques and vintage items from America.

Vintage & Déco

The moment the Vintage & Déco shop first comes into view will no doubt leave you spellbound. This is one of Taipei’s premier antiques and vintage items retailers. Through the full-storefront wall of glass, a cornucopia of serendipity treasure is on display, from furniture to apparel to home decorations, seemingly every inch back to front and floor to ceiling filled with something you’ll feel sure will be perfect for display back in your abode. A very large US flag on one wall declares that what you are looking at is Americana. Fully 90% of the trove is imported directly from the US, with many items from the 1800s. Travel the 1880s through the 1970s – a love seat designed like a car’s front end, a mounted globe that depicts a yesteryear world, old Coca-Cola corner store signs… and a whole cultural world beyond.

Antiques and vintage items

A few doors from the antique shop, we then arrive at our final stop for the day, a restaurant serving excellent Western fare.

Restaurant Pinecone

Entering Restaurant Pinecone is like entering a country cottage. Steps lead up past a mini-forest of potted and hanging plants to the front door, door window, and large windows on either side all old-style multipaned. Inside, the theme is a country house courtyard, with much space between the small, rounded, and rectangular wooden café-type tables and long, rustic wooden-bench tables, sections of original red-brick wall left exposed, and tent-style fabric awnings hanging overhead. The menu is primarily Western, featuring salads, appetizers, rice dishes (risotto/stew/curry), pasta dishes (handmade pasta), “slow foods” (such as seafood laksa, fruit-topped pancakes), and limited-quantity baked desserts. Don’t be the last in the door – the cinnamon rolls and Charlotte cake disappear especially fast!

Outside the restaurant
Truffle risotto
Sparkling drink

About the author

Rick Charette

A Canadian, Rick has been resident in Taiwan almost continually since 1988. His book, article, and other writings, on Asian and North American destinations and subjects—encompassing travel, culture, history, business/economics—have been published widely overseas and in Taiwan. He has worked with National Geographic, Michelin, APA Insight Guides, and other Western groups internationally, and with many local publishers and central/city/county government bodies in Taiwan. Rick also handles a wide range of editorial and translation (from Mandarin Chinese) projects.