Let's cut to the chase: 56 Cafe has, quite possibly, the best cup of coffee in Taipei and is my favorite place to eat in Dazhi. That's saying a lot, because I drink a lot of coffee, and Dazhi -- nestled somewhere between the old Martyr's Shrine and the new Mirimar / Warner Village -- has scores of places to eat.
Three things have made 56 Cafe a favorite of the university and high-school students that haunt Dazhi: a comfortable and pleasant atmosphere, decent food and great coffee.
The pleasant environment is a reflection of the owner, Tony Yang (楊仲賢), who took over the business from his dad six years ago. At that time, Tony turned what was basically a standard Chinese eatery into a place that looked and felt more like a Western-style coffeehouse. The result is a bright and welcoming cafe where you can enjoy a noon meal or relax with an afternoon au lait or latte.
56 Cafe, as the name might imply, serves a variety of snacks, set meals and desserts.
At lunchtime, the set meals -- which include soup and tea -- are especially popular with frequent customers. Among the standard meals is the braised beef with rice (紅燒牛腩飯, NT$100). Many people also like the deep fried pork cutlet with rice (法式黃金炸豬排).
All of the set meals are made fresh each day, so they don't have that prefabricated taste found at other hash houses.
Regular clients hold out for the daily specials, which include the local version of beef bourguignon (紅酒牛肉, NT$130) and mushroom chicken (香菇燉雞, NT$120).
But if you just want to relax with a cup of coffee, the off-peak hours are the best time to go. The lunch crowd clears out about 1:30pm and you can relax and enjoy your java in peace while listening to smooth jazz. The afternoon is also when 56 Cafe offers coffee and dessert specials.
For those who like the straight-up cup of joe, the cafe Americano (NT$55) is a good deal, better and less bitter than that offered by the look-alike coffee chains.
For those who like more milk with their coffee, 56 offers cafe au lait (NT$75) made with French roast coffee; it also offers cafe latte (NT$75) made with espresso. For a special treat, try the Indian cafe (NT$85) made with a double shot of espresso, a dash of salt and a taste of honey.
The facts that Tony knows the difference and makes each cup himself shows his commitment to quality -- and to his loyal customers.