My Visit to the World’s First Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan

Barbie Cafe, Taiwan

We’ve got some really quirky places to eat at in Taiwan, and it’s no secret that the Taiwanese love theme restaurants. Unfortunately, the theme restaurants that I’ve been to in Taiwan tend to offer the same kind of standard cookie-cutter set meal: Japanese pork cutlets, burger, baked rice dishes, pasta, and salads.

People don’t go for the food. They go for the experience. And I am not ashamed to admit that I’m perfectly willing to put up with semi-decent fare for the thrill of having Hello Kitty stamped on my toast or a Barbie doll chair to sit on.

When I found out that the world’s first Barbie Cafe had opened in Taipei, I was pretty excited to go and see how the owners had dumped USD$1.7 million into decorating the restaurant. The food? M’eh. Not so much. We were prepared to endure a dull meal in the midst of Barbie’s favorite color pink with glass etchings and chandeliers for some added sparkle. The tables are hot pink, the chairs are wrapped up in ribbons and Barbie’s face adorns every nook and cranny. The interior of the restaurant was as Barbie-lific as we expected, but the service left much to be desired. It’s really too bad the Barbie Cafe can’t get it together. I can’t see it sticking around for long. I’ve read lots of other posts about people have the same issues with the service as we did.

We arrived for our dinner reservation at 8pm to a fairly empty restaurant. I was expecting the restaurant to be hopping. Instead, there was hardly anyone there. Even more curious was that no one was at the front desk to greet guests. We took our seats on the couch in the restaurant lobby and waited for a Barbie waitress bedazzled in a tiara and pink tutu to come out and lead us to our table.

No one came to greet us. After sitting there for 20 minutes, we wandered into the restaurant and asked the bartender where we should sit. He had no idea and called over the restaurant manager, who literally took one look at us, threw up his hands, and started shaking his head no.

“We’re too busy,” he says. Then he tells us he can’t serve us and that we need to make a reservation.

We tell him we already have a reservation. He shoots us a bit of a dirty look, and then vaguely gestures to a table with two chairs. Then we tell him that we’re a party of three, not two. He just waves towards at an empty booth. Then he turns around and walks away!

So we sit there like lumps for 20 minutes. No one brings us any water. No one even looks in our direction. We have plenty of time to look at the menu and realize that we are, indeed, not missing out on the food. Then we figure that if no one was coming, we might as well take some photos. So we snapped all of these cool photos of the Barbie Cafe and then we walked out, almost an hour after we had walked in.

And that was the sum of my experience with the Barbie Cafe. I think I’m done with theme restaurants.

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You can see just how busy the restaurant. Business is booming, eh?

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Here’s a photo of the menu, which includes that set meal I was telling you about at the beginning of my post.Barbie Cafe, Taipei_7Here’s the back of the restaurant with its famous Barbie throne and glass Barbie bathrooms.

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Here’s the front of the restaurant, where we waited for 20 minutes for someone to come and greet us.

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All hail Queen Barbie! NOT!

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See? I told you the chairs were really cool.

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Here’s the entrance to the restaurant on Zhongxiao Road in Taipei.

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We had loads of time to stop and take our photos in the bathroom. 

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That’s me having a little fun with Barbie’s glass head.

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carriekellenberger/.

18 thoughts on “My Visit to the World’s First Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan

    Lane

    (April 2, 2013 - 4:51 pm)

    I really thought this was a joke headline. To each his/her own. Wow.

    Agness

    (April 3, 2013 - 12:36 am)

    What? The place looks insane. I didn’t know something like this even exists. I like the design, so cozy. Anything nice to eat there?

      Carrie

      (April 3, 2013 - 1:59 am)

      It’s pretty cool-looking, but the service is awful. We waited there for an hour for dinner and no one even offered us a glass of water. They were “too busy”. That’s pretty apparent from my photos, eh? 🙂

    Kristin of Be My Travel Muse

    (April 4, 2013 - 3:00 am)

    That is truly special. My inner 6-year-old is squealing with delight. My present 26-year-old is saying, “that’s a lot of pink”

      Carrie

      (April 8, 2013 - 3:11 pm)

      Kristin,

      It’s pretty cool inside. There are mirrors and ribbons and crystals everywhere. I was expecting there to be Barbie hostesses, but apparently they were all off the night we went in. 😉

    Christine |GRRRL TRAVELER

    (April 6, 2013 - 10:48 am)

    It reminds me of the Hello Kitty Cafe… do they even have Barbie themed food? Love the menu by the way!

      Carrie

      (April 8, 2013 - 3:12 pm)

      Hi Christine,

      Their dessert section offered cakes and cookies with the Barbie logo on top. Have you been to any good theme restaurants?

    Lisa Vinish

    (April 7, 2013 - 7:14 am)

    Sounds a lot like my Hello Kitty restaurant experience in Beijing (which I blogged about). Awful/non-existent service must be a prerequisite for running these kinds of restaurants. Nevertheless, I still want to go there when I visit in September 😛

      Carrie

      (April 8, 2013 - 3:14 pm)

      Lisa,

      Where did you blog about it? I’d love to read it. We have a Hello Kitty cafe here as well, and I know I passed one in Seoul when I was a there a few weeks ago. I agree. It’s funny that we’re willing to take the bad service and food for the experience. They probably count on it, so why bother to improve? Are you visited Taiwan in September?

        Lisa Vinish

        (April 9, 2013 - 10:03 am)

        Here’s the link: http://lisavabroad.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/hello-kitty-restaurant-in-beijing/

        I think the Hello Kitty cafe in Seoul is just a coffee shop. The one in Beijing had a pretty extensive menu. And yes I”ll be in Taiwan in September, over Chuseok. It’s one place I didn’t think I’d be interested in visiting, until a friend of mine moved there and I started seeing all his pictures. And hearing how superior it is over Korea 😛

          Carrie

          (April 9, 2013 - 11:12 am)

          The Hello Kitty Cafe serves up coffee and sweets, but they also offer pork cutlets, burgers and salads. I didn’t think the food was anything special, but the sweets weren’t bad. Pencil me in for a date or two when you get here, ok?

    Samantha

    (April 12, 2013 - 5:44 pm)

    Hey, don’t let one bad experience turn you off to theme restaurants. What baffles me is that they would spend $1.7 million on this, and then try to recoup it with terrible service.

      Carrie

      (April 14, 2013 - 10:18 am)

      Yeah, I don’t get that either. It’s like they’re trying to drive away customers.

    Alli

    (April 12, 2013 - 10:10 pm)

    A Barbie cafe?! I’m not sure what I think about that. It looks very well done and also a little scary. I would probably have to check it out if I was there but I”m not sure I would sit down and eat. Crazy!

    Casey @ A Cruising Couple

    (April 14, 2013 - 8:50 am)

    Too funny you just wrote about this! Dan and I are actually planning on making a whole day out of theme restaurants sometime soon because we still haven’t been to any. I guess I’ll cross this one off the list then!

      Carrie

      (April 14, 2013 - 10:18 am)

      If you do go, I hope your experience is better than mine. I really wanted to enjoy myself there. I was with my friend Leanne last night, and she told me I was far too kind in my review about the Barbie Cafe. Let’s hope they improve!

    sgrmse.

    (January 9, 2014 - 11:13 am)

    deathly in love with theme restaurants and Barbie is my absolute FAVE! a shame about the (non) “dining experience” though but at least you got really cute pictures!! ;D

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