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Outside TCRC Bar at night.

TCRC Bar is a hip cocktail bar inside a beautiful old historic home in back alley Central-West Tainan 台南市中西區. It is an extension of TCRC Live House, short for The Checkered Record Club, a small live music venue located just around the corner that is also worth a look. Although it isn’t strictly a speakeasy TCRC Bar is about as close as Tainan gets to a place like Ounce in Taipei 台北.

The crowded front room at TCRC.

There is no menu at TCRC Bar; you just tell your server what sort of drink you’re looking for and they’ll mix something up for you. Only the most basic English is spoken here so you’ll have to make do with naming popular cocktails—Godfather, Sidecar, Manhattan, and so on—or maybe just a base alcohol unless you have the good fortune to sit at the big bar in the back room, at which point you can see what they have on hand. I’ve had good luck saying something like “dark rum; surprise me” but your mileage may vary. Beer and other drinks are also available but I don’t know why you’d bother since you can get that stuff anywhere else.

Barbecue is also available, strangely enough, and will be delivered from a nearby stall that stays open late. Just look for the paper forms laying around the bar. I tell you, there’s nothing quite like chewing on a bunch of crunchy cartilage on a stick while sipping a fancy drink. Hey, it’s Taiwan!

The back bar, fully stocked.

Finding the place may provide a little entertainment. The bar faces a temple in the labyrinth of alleyways behind the ring road around the western gate. If it’s open, you’ll know—there will probably be a bunch of people milling around outside waiting for a table. I should warn you: this place is very popular. Arrive early to grab a seat or call ahead to make a reservation (if your Chinese is good enough). Prices vary but you should expect to pay about 200 to 300 NT for a cocktail, about a half to two-thirds of what you’d pay in Taipei.

A drink at TCRC. I can’t remember what it was. Maybe I didn’t even know.

Read more about TCRC Bar in Chinese here and here and check out a small comment in English here.

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