Our Hungry Hound says there are plenty of similarities, but still, some notable differences that are all quite delicious.
The rice-based dishes and noodles will seem familiar, but look a bit closer, and you'll spot unique potstickers, puffy buns of gua bao or sweetened black teas loaded with chewy tapioca pearls.
Here's the best part of all, nothing on their extensive menu tops twelve bucks.
The puffy gua bao buns are the first indication this isn't your typical Chinese restaurant. They're a Taiwanese staple, and a constant presence at Taipei Cafe, located about a mile from Chinatown in Bridgeport. Stuffed with braised pork belly, crushed peanuts and cilantro, they're one of several dishes requiring special importation.
"The Taiwanese market in Chicago is very small, so a lot of shops or grocery stores they don't have the Taiwanese items. So the majority of items need to be imported from Taiwan in order for us to cook our food," said Jimmy Li, Manager of Taipei Café.
Potstickers are also unique. Rather than steamed and pan-fried, they're first surrounded by batter in a skillet, then covered for about 10 minutes. The result is a lacy web binding the potstickers together.
There are simple, straightforward dishes like braised pork over rice, topped with pickled veggies, as well as beef or pork with noodles.
And a Taiwanese hallmark: tea. Specifically bubble tea, that is, small, chewy tapioca pearls at the base of any number of flavored teas, shaken up with some simple syrup and ice, and then sealed with a super-cool plastic lid if you want it to-go.
"We have a lot of different type of teas the menu is extensive. We offer over 15 type of teas and all of them need to be brewed and that's why sometimes when we're out of stock, it's usually 15 minutes before the next batch can come in," said Li.
In this week's "Extra Course," Steve talks about one of the best desserts on their menu, a smooth, delicate shaved ice made with fresh mango and vanilla custard.
2609 S. Halsted St.