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Thursday, April 24, 2008
american/burgers: i recommend BONGOS
No. 3, Alley 5, Lane 74, WenZhou St
Gongguan area, near Taida
MRT: Gongguan or Taipower Bldg
hours: 11:30 am-10 pm
Kid friendliness: No high chairs. Reservations (especially on weekends) strongly recommended.
Visit reviewed: 4/13/2008
A popular place in Gongguan area for burgers, Mexican fare and hanging out- Bongos has gained a following with both locals and expats for its affordable American-style eats and casual atmosphere.
I didn't expect it to be so packed on a Sunday night, but I'm glad I had called ahead and made reservations for my party of 8. Otherwise, I might have been turned away to Coda (the owner's newer restaurant nearby) or had to wait, as we witnessed happened to walk-ins. I was also surprised that it appeared that all the other customers were younger locals and I didn't spot any expats at all. It's very close to Taida (the nickname for National Taiwan University), so maybe many of them were students.
In the hustle and bustle, we were seated in the darkness of the outdoor patio, which was not bad in the cool weather, but very dark. A few of friends complained they must be getting old since it was hard to read the menu in the night's light. They have separate menus (with a few pictures) for Chinese and English and after request, I got an English menu instead. With appetizers, salads, burgers, Mexican, pasta and main dishes offered, most of the meals come w/ your choice of 2 sides (fries or salad) and a drink. Having been to Forker first, I recognized a lot of the fonts and identity styling had come from Bongos.
While waiting for the rest of our friends to arrive, we ordered the quesadillas (NT$260) (offered as a meal, not appetizer) a side of chili cheese fries and small salad, as well as the Five Layers Mexican dip (NT$180).
I was excited about the guacamole in the dip, but could barely find/taste it as the spicy salsa was the overwhelming flavor. There were also not enough chips to finish the dip (as with our experience w/ the spinach artichoke dip at Forkers). I tried to request more chips instead of fries when I ordered my burger, but they wouldn't do it, saying extra chips would be an extra NT$20. I definitely wouldn't order this again for the size and price.
The quesadillas were pretty good on the other hand, cheesy and meaty with a kick. The chili on the chili fries was thick and disappeared quickly.
The bowl of mushroom soup was also surprisingly good- it was creamy and aromatic and actually quite kid friendly. The side salad that comes with the meals was quite blah, as was their chicken entree salad which had slim toppings in a huge bowl of lettuce. We tried to order their udon salad at first, but they had run out of udon.
Instead, stick to their burgers. I ordered the bacon gouda cheese burger (NT$240) and requested guacamole on top (for extra NT$) and the burger was a lot better than my burger at Forkers. The wheat bun, meat patty and toppings all meshed together (after I picked ou the sprouts. I hate sprouts) to be a pretty good bite.
I was quite full after the quesadilla and chili fries appetizer and was unable to finish my double fries order with my burger (plus I was saving room for shaved ice at Tai Yi nearby afterwards).
My friends enjoyed their chimichanga, burger and sausage dishes. I thought the chimichanga was okay with spiced ground beef inside, but preferred the chimichangas at Jake's Country Cafe or La Casita,. Bongo's Mexican is more Tex-mex, if that. My friend also tried to order a pasta dish, and they were also out of that. There's no automatic service fee included in your bill, but your drink refills and water are self serve. They are quite busy getting to all the tables, so service can be on the absent side.
I'm glad I found it after getting lost in the taxi the first time. Now that I think about it, we were probably RIGHT around the corner and missed the small entrance, since there are no side signs in the one way alley, but instead right in front. It is easier to find from Xin Sheng South Road... as we walked around, there were a TON of little eateries and shops that I wanted to come back to check out.
Any other recommendations for this area?
(ADDED Oct 2009)
It can be a bit tricky to find, so I'd suggest looking for Tai Yi Milk King on Xinsheng S Road, and then taking the alley to the left of it, go three alleys past Wunjhou St and then turn right. It should be on the corner, on the left hand side. Look for white gates if you don't see the sign, or give the restaurant a call for directions. The green pin on the map below is Tai Yi, the red pin is Bongos.