To Eat and Draw in Taipei

Ted Profile-02Columnist: Ted Pigott 
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Many years ago, when I was growing up in Northwest Indiana, one of my favorite movies of the time was To Live and Die in L.A. I even had the soundtrack from the film by Wang Chung (on cassette tape), and I would listen to it on my Walkman when I mowed the lawn. Sometimes, I would think about how amazing it would be to live in the sunshine and palm trees of the “City of Angels.” Later, Tupac Shakur released a song with the same name.

I never moved to L.A., but many years later, I did end up in another sunny city with palm trees—on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Interestingly enough, the name of this city also had two syllables and rhymed with L.A. It was Taipei, of course.

One day, after I had lived here for a few years, I was riding my scooter through traffic, and a thought struck me: Hey, why not “To Live and Die in Taipei”? Wouldn’t that be a great title for the life I was living in this city?

Then, I thought some more—it’s great to live in Taipei, but I don’t want to die here (at least not for many, many years). And, to be honest, my life wasn’t that glamorous or exciting —I wasn’t a Secret Service agent or a counterfeiter, like the characters in the film, and I was never involved in any epic car chases on the wrong side of the highway.

What was my life in Taipei really all about? What did I most often do in the city that I called home?

Well, one thing for certain was that I liked to eat in Taipei. And around that time, I had started to draw again, after having taken a long break from doing so.

How about “To Eat and Draw in Taipei”?

That described my passions pretty accurately, and when I looked at it again, I saw that this could also be written as “To Eat and Draw in Taipei,” or “TED in Taipei.”

That clinched it! This became my new theme.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time eating and drawing in Taipei, and along the way, I’ve developed a few thoughts and opinions about doing so.

 

Toasteria Cafe, one of Ted’s favorite places to eat and draw in Taipei. / Photo Credit: Ted Pigott

 

To begin with, I will eat and draw anywhere in the city, from a night market to a beef-noodle shop to a re’chao restaurant with the little stools all the way up to a classic steak house or a high-end fusion restaurant.

However, I also realize that some of the smaller “Mom-and-Pop” restaurants rely on high turnover to make a profit. The focus in many of these places is “eat and go,” and I wouldn’t want to affect their business by taking up a table and drawing after I’ve finished my food. So, I usually try not to spend too long drawing in these types of eateries.

Instead, I look for the following when I want to eat and draw in Taipei.

Comfortable surroundings and inviting atmospheres. I know that the food is, of course, important, and as one laoban told me in a dumpling shop, “You don’t eat atmosphere.”

However, if I’m going to be sitting somewhere for an hour or more eating and drawing, I’d like to do so in a place with some character and where some attention has been paid to the surroundings. Not fancy or plush, mind you, but welcoming and comfortable.

A nice view. Of anything—the street outside, a park across the street, a busy intersection. I often draw what I see out the window in a restaurant, and I always ask for a table by the window.

Or better yet . . .

Outdoor seating. I also always ask to sit outdoors, if possible.

Usually, for some reason, these are the places that no one wants to sit at, so it’s easy for me to get a seat, and I don’t feel bad about taking up a table if I’m by myself.

I love sitting outdoors when I eat and draw, especially on a nice day. Even if it’s just a little patio or balcony area, I will always try to dine as al fresco as possible.

Good food. I guess it goes without saying, but I like to go to places with good food, or at least the food that I like to eat.

I don’t eat everything, but what I like to eat, I really like to eat—and I eat a lot of it. For me, that’s pizza, cheeseburgers, dumplings, teppanyaki, fried chicken, and beef noodles, among a few other favorites.

I’ve been accused of eating too much Western food, but I don’t look at it that way. To me, it’s not about Western food or Asian food—it’s about “Ted food.” And I like to eat the food that that makes me happy. I guess you could call it “Ted’s comfort food.”

Good music: I love listening to music when I draw (and eat). Not blasting out of the speakers at full volume, but in the background, adding to the experience. Loud enough to be enjoyed, but not loud enough to intrude. I especially like places that play new music I haven’t heard before.

Good service: To me, this does not involve bowing or a servile attitude or shouting out some sort of welcome when I walk in the door. Instead, it means giving me a genuine smile, working with me if I have any special requests, and then leaving me alone!

Sure, it’s nice to be checked on from time to time, but I like it best when I’m left alone to draw at my table.

At Zoca Pizza. Ted enjoys sitting outdoors when he eats and draws. / Photo Credit: Ted Pigott

 

With this criteria in my mind, here are a few of my favorite places to eat and draw in Taipei right now.

  • Toasteria Cafe: This place has everything I’m looking for when it comes to eating and drawing in Taipei: Great food that’s consistently high quality—just pick anything from the menu, and you can’t go wrong. Excellent service that’s attentive, but that also gives you space. Funky décor. Outstanding music, always. And best of all, a little “secret garden” area on the second floor, with seating on a little balcony. This is my favorite place to sit at Toasteria Cafe, and I love drawing the flowers here. [Full disclosure: Some of my drawings are currently on display here, and the owner is a friend.]

 

  • Woolloomooloo Xin Yi (WXY): The best flat white in the city, and some of the best bread and baked goods, too. Skip the first floor and the indoor second floor communal tables, which can get loud at lunch. Ask instead to sit outside, on the little second floor patio overlooking Xinyi. There’s a nice garden wall, and some wonderful flowers, too, and the sun streams in on the seats here at lunch.

 

  • Zoca Pizza: One of my old reliable favorites for pizza, with a friendly owner and family and staff. I like the little outdoor deck, where you can watch a parade of people passing by on their lunch breaks. There are some nice topiary plants to draw, too, and the desserts are always good.

 

  • Neighborhood Parks: For a more budget-friendly option, I enjoy eating and drawing in the little parks that dot the city’s neighborhoods. I usually find a park and get something to go from a restaurant or food stand nearby. Then, I take it to the park and make a picnic out of it. There are plenty of plants and people to draw, and it’s always nice to sit outdoors and eat. Personal favorites include Yongkang Park, Lianyun Park, and Wenzhou Park, among many others. (Sometimes it’s fun just to ride my bike to a different part of the city and eat and draw in the first neighborhood park I find.)

 

Lunch, a sketch, and a flat white on the second floor balcony at WXY. / Photo Credit: Ted Pigott

 

Now, these are just a few of the places in which I like to eat and draw in Taipei, and I’m always looking for new restaurants and cafes to check out.

So, if you have any favorites, please feel free to let me know, either by sending me a message or by leaving a comment on my Facebok Art page (Ted Pigott Art), Instagram (ted.pigott.art), or in the comments below.

 

When I was young and callow, I thought it would be cool to “To Live and Die in L.A.”

But now that I’m a bit older, I believe that it’s less about living a glamorous life in a stylish city and more about living your own life, wherever you are.

Sure, we all have to live and, sadly, die somewhere.

But, until then, why not do what you are most passionate about, in the city in which you live? And for me, that means “To Eat and Draw in Taipei,” as much as possible.

 

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