A satellite city of central Taiwan's Taichung, Fengyuan doesn't have a tropical beach or a sky bar with views of a flashy urban grid below. But an entertainment hub near the industrial suburb's railway station has spawned at least 50 places to eat. The recipes are diverse or unusual enough to draw customers from outside town.
Pedestrians taking an immediate left from the Fengyuan railway station and following Zhongzheng Road will find tofu meatloaf, vegetarian sushi rolls and ice cream with flavours such as eggs and peanut butter. There are Thai noodles and kebabs boiled Tokyo-style. Iced tea topped with a salted foam goes for about HK$10.
As for dinner, an offshoot from the main road dubbed Miao-Dong Snack Street works like a typical Taiwanese night market, except the kebabs and seafood start frying from about 10am. To get there, follow Zhongzheng Road left from the railway station, veer right at a three-way intersection and look for a temple on the left side. Restaurants are along the main drag as well.
"Fengyuan is small, so everyone just descends on this district to eat," says Lu Liang-chuan, owner of the Xin Xiang Gu Wei traditional Taiwanese restaurant, as she rushes between orders.
Here are five places to try, all within a five-minute walk:
Xin Xiang Lu Wei
No 3, Lane 167, Zhongzheng Road
On weekends, about 100 people at a time occupy this restaurant near the mouth of Miao-Dong Snack Street. Try its oyster noodles, oysters with basil and onion or the house recipe "tofu meat" - which looks like meatloaf, but is boiled in a street-side vat. Another option is Taiwan-style spaghetti, meaning noodles, meat sauce and greens.
The menu of more than 40 items draws people into a dining hall where the longest wall is marked up with countless customer-sketched cartoons.
Miao Dong Sushi
2-8, Lane 167, Zhongzheng Road
This 18-seat, air-conditioned restaurant serves Japanese cuisine adapted to Taiwanese tastes. Green and white vegetarian sushi rolls sit on a rack above the bar. On the boil is a Tokyo-style clear broth swimming with seafood skewers and fish balls on sticks. It has been popular with tourists over its 26 years, a manager says, although its main customers are younger Taiwanese. Prices range from NT$20 (HK$5.18) for the miso soup to NT$280 for main courses.
Chan Family Pao-Pao Ice
13 Zhongyang Road
Peanut butter/red bean leads the 16 recipes at this second-generation bubble ice dessert shop. It's a recipe invented by owner Chan Yung-kuang's father. More conventional flavours include mango, strawberry and passion fruit.
The shop fits about 30 people and few seats go begging at night, Chan says.
65 Zhongzheng Road
This clean shop with a sparkling white motif sells 14 blended teas. Salted foam tops the iced black tea. Fruit teas come in grape or grapefruit flavours. Customers can choose their own sweetness level for most of the teas, which cost from NT$45 to NT$80 per tall glass.
The store's 35 seats fill quickly, even though the shop opened just two months ago, but a takeaway is always possible. The tea shop is part of a Taiwanese chain.
153 Zhongzheng Road
This take away bakery chain does 2,500 to 3,000 transactions per day at its Fengyuan headquarters, largely on sales of
taiyangbing, which translates to "suncakes." Taichung says these crumbly, malt sugar-filled pastries are a local invention and urges every visitor to take a box home. The shop sells 300 other types of pastry, including Taiwan's signature gooey pineapple cakes.
"We're popular because we've done our brand promotion well, plus we don't get too expensive, yet everything's fresh," says Chang Kui-shuo, founder of the 25-year-old bakery. "Rents have gone up here, so only a few of us have the means to keep going, which means holding onto lots of customers."