January 24, 2012

The Diner

Address: ATT 4 Fun Building, No. 12 Song Shou Rd (台北市信義區松壽路12號1樓)
Telephone: (02) 7737-5055
Hours: 9am to 3am
Price: $$

  Oh the Diner. One of the first places I ate in Taipei, the Diner was a humble restaurant off of Ruian Street. While the original remains unchanged, the Diner has really taken off and opened two additional restaurants, one in the ATT 4 Fun building by Taipei 101 and one off of Dunhua South Road by the Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza and Carnegie's. The atmosphere in the three restaurants differ and I think it's a cute way to differentiate one from the other and pick a favorite. Today I visited the ATT 4 Fun location for some good ol' fashioned American brunch.
As per usual, the place was packed! I wasn't able to sit upstairs at the bar or at a personal table, so I made due with the small seating area downstairs. I believe this is the newest of the Diner's and the ambiance is modern rustic? Does that make sense? Well anyway, it's tastefully decorated with a muted color scheme. The choice of artwork on the walls and use of corrugated metal differentiate this locale with the other two Diner locations.

 Now, I had originally come into the Diner thinking I'd be having a pancake brunch. Wrong. There are simply too many delicious things on the lunch menu. First, the drink menu. What isn't on the drink menu? There are milkshakes (small $160 NT, large $180 NT) in a variety of flavors like Chunky Monkey and Nutella Marshmallow, hot chocolate (regular $70 NT, with marshmallows $100 NT), fruit yogurt drinks ($120 NT), and then there's your standard juice, milk, imported sodas, smoothies, coffee, tea, etc. Alcoholic beverages are the basic Heineken, Corona, Budweiser ($100 NT), Bloody Mary's ($180 NT), and if I'm not mistaken they have Mimosa's and alcoholic milkshakes, though I wasn't looking for these and can't confirm if they're on the menu. After much debate, I chose the hot chocolate with marshmallows. The marshmallows have chocolate syrup drizzled on them and if you let them sit in the hot chocolate long enough, they're almost gooey enough to remind you of that one time you went camping. The hot chocolate itself is relatively standard. It's good, but nothing too memorable. 

 Deciding on a main course was extremely difficult (as always). There are sandwiches, burgers, pancakes (AMERICAN style pancakes), french toast, classic breakfasts, five variations on Eggs Benedict, salads the size of a small alpine mountain, steak, macaroni and cheese, chicken alfredo, and the list goes on (seriously, nachos, quesadillas, cheese fries, chicken wings, etc, etc.). Whilst reading all of this, I decided to try the California burger ($320 NT) which consisted of beef, "white cheese", and avocado. The Diner also has mushroom cheeseburgers, Aloha burgers (with bacon and grilled pineapple), chicken burgers, garden burgers, and (get this!) a Velveeta burger that has Velveeta cheese smushed into the hamburger patty! There is nothing if not variety in this eatery. The price for a burger with your choice of a side (french fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, or mashed potatoes) ranges from $170 NT to $330 NT. 
My California burger arrived promptly and it was Absolutely Delicious. This burger is pure Americana. Close your eyes and you could be in one of those swanky Vegas burger joints, this burger is that good. The bun is something to be savored in and of itself. The Diner apparently gets all of their bread from a bread artisan overseas and the proof is in the pudding ... or bun. The hamburger meat was perfectly cooked to my specification of medium rare, the cheese hot and melted, the avocado fresh and ripe. The vegetables to the side were also fresh, crisp, delicious. The french fries leave a little something to be desired though. They were room temperature when I received them and because of my close proximity to the door, they cooled quickly. They were your average french fries from your average restaurant. I would recommend trying the sweet potato fries or another side dish. 
Another fantastic thing about this burger is the sheer heft of it. In Taipei there are too many burger joints selling minuscule burgers. By minuscule I, of course, mean that the burger probably is less than 2,600 calories which, as we all know, is absolutely unacceptable. The Diner burgers are huge, enormous American affairs and for those Americans living here abroad, myself included, these burgers will remind you of home. 
As always, the staff speak both Chinese and English, and the English menu is very detailed with photos and explanations of ingredients used. By the cashier, there's a dessert case with pies, brownies, fresh fruit, and other pastries. I didn't see any prices, but I was much too full to contemplate dessert. While I'm a huge fan of the Diner, my one complaint is the lack of restrooms. In fact, there isn't one. You need to go outside, into the ATT 4 Fun building and find one. If memory serves me correctly, the other two Diner locations have restrooms, so this is just an issue with the ATT Diner. 

Another helpful hint: There is always a crowd outside of every Diner location, but the original Diner on Renai Road seems a bit calmer. Try to go before the lunchtime rush (11:30am to 2pm) and before the dinnertime madness (5pm to 8pm). 

The Diner's website has better directions, but the English version of the website is outdated and largely inaccurate. You're better off copying and pasting the Chinese version into Google Translate. http://www.thediner.com.tw/

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