Nestled in a jungle of office buildings, Mini Second Floor Cafe is a small pocket of fresh — and reasonably palatable — air.
A miniature of the original Second Floor Cafe at 14, Ln 63, Dunhua S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路二段63巷14號), the Neihu branch is an anorexic four stories high. Everything is almost uncomfortably petite, but all the more stylish for it. Even glasses hold a mere 18 centiliters or so, demanding constant visits from an already busy staff, especially since refills for fresh-squeezed orange juice, soda or coffee are free.
The place has been decorated meticulously, from a hanging basket of paper towels in the bathroom to artful photos of the Eiffel Tower to shelves stocked with books and condiments lining three sets of stairs. Perhaps in contrast to the surrounding cityscape of dark granite and mirrored glass, visible through large street-facing windows, the restaurant’s lime-green wallpaper and sparkly gold curtains are particularly charming. Elpo, our waiter, looked just as cute in a baby pink polo and coffee-colored apron, handmade nametag sporting bubble letters in magic marker.
The menu offers a decent range of American fare in portions that, looking around the room, don’t match the restaurant’s theme. I chose the smoked salmon salad with vinegar and olive oil (NT$270). It should have been delicious: a bed of iceberg lettuce with slivers of carrot, onion and cabbage was encircled by a ring of baby tomatoes and egg slices, and topped by a perky coil of smoked salmon garnished with capers. Too bad everything was drenched in a sea of dressing that rendered all but the first bites too tangy. Saving the best for last was a mistake — I fished slices of limp salmon onto the dry rim of my plate, but its vinegar and olive oil bath had rendered the fish too pungent to relish.
My dining companion had the club omelet (NT$230). When asked how it was, he replied with a shrug: “It’s an omelet.” Although described as club, the puffy yellow wrap tasted as if it contained only ham, and the standard corn, cheese and mushroom. The highlight of the meal was the accompanying steak fries and two fluffy slices of wheat bread toast dusted with garlic and butter.
For NT$90, any meal can be upgraded to include the daily soup, bread and a drink.
All in all, the food and portions are decent enough that I didn’t mind paying a bit more to enjoy the quaint atmosphere, or wouldn’t mind coming back to try the open-air dining on the rooftop patio in less scalding weather.