A handful of places offering good brunch fare have sprung up in Taipei over the years. However, finding a place that will actually allow you to brunch and not try and move you out within an hour or so is still hard, so this reviewer was happy to find that friends’ recommendations for The Diner lived up to the advanced billing. As did the warnings about the need to call for a reservation because of the long lines that form around the prime brunching hours of 11am to 2pm — at both the Dunhua South Road (敦化南路) branch and the original Ruian Street (瑞安街) branch (reviewed in the Taipei Times on Jan. 19, 2007, p15).
Don’t let the deceptively small first floor put you off waiting; The Diner has a large, pleasant basement room with enough space for about 20 tables in various seating combinations without feeling crowded, including one armchair combo tucked away in the corner.
The person who took my reservation warned us that we would still probably have to wait a bit, but it was worth it. Despite the crunch, the staff was quick to take our orders, the food came promptly, drinks were refilled fairly efficiently and we were able to eat and talk and linger over our coffee and tea for more than two hours.
The Diner has a big menu, ranging from the simple two-egg breakfast (NT$160), steak and eggs (NT$320) or choice of four kinds of scrambled eggs (NT$240), to six types of omelets (NT$180 to NT$250), not including the made-to-order options, which include an egg-whites only version, and five choices under the eggs Benedict label (NT$240 to NT$320).
The “sweet tooth” breakfasts comprise six types of pancakes, from regular to chocolate chip to blueberry (NT$220 to NT$260), plus two eggs cooked to order, hash browns and ham/bacon/sausage or French toast.
All the breakfast plates come with a small glass of orange juice, a ramekin of seasonal fruit, and a bottomless cup of coffee or tea.
With four people, we were able to get a fairly representative sampling of the offerings: the French toast breakfast, a cheese and bacon omelet and two pancake breakfasts, one regular and one with blueberry pancakes.
I was the only one slightly disappointed with my choice — I found the French toast too dry, since I like a more custardy consistency. But it did come with the required dusting of icing sugar — and the scrambled eggs and hash browns were perfect.
I was happily offered a taste of the regular pancakes, and more grudgingly, the blueberry ones, since the friend who had ordered them kept raving about how the blueberries must have been added individually on the grill instead of being mixed into the batter because they were whole berries that popped in his mouth.
For those who want a less filling meal, the pancake options (NT$120 to NT$160) and French toast (NT$120) are available on their own, or you can choose a yogurt fruit cup (NT$110) or peanut butter and jelly sandwich (NT$50).
While leisurely champagne brunches have yet to become popular in Taipei, The Diner does offer beers, wine and a few cocktails in addition to a variety of soft drink, fruit juice and milk shake options.