My memory led me to do a google search and lo’ and behold I came across the International Mall, located in Westmont, Illinois. This was indeed the place I remembered.
However, the years have not exactly been kind to the strip mall. Only a handful of restaurants still remain and most of them have received awful reviews. Luckily, I followed the advice I saw on Yelp and decided to check out Chinese Cafe. It is apparently the most popular and visited place in this ghost-like building.
I embarked on the hour and a half drive in hot pursuit of some tasty Taiwan delicacies I’ve been missing.
When I pulled up, the mall looked a lot more run down than I’d remembered. The strange herbal shop still remained but I didn’t go inside. My eyes were set instead on Chinese Cafe and the wonderful variety of menu items that almost brought me to tears.
A couple other restaurants are still in business inside the building but on the day I went, all patrons were flocking to Chinese Cafe. I had a pleasant conversation with the cashier (I’d prepared myself beforehand to make use of my toddler Mandarin, because a few people on Yelp said the employees did not speak English) in both English and scattered Chinese. When I told the cashier about my Taiwan days, she happily informed me 90% of the staff were from Taiwan. I gazed indecisively at the selection of menu items until I settled on steamed tofu with vegetables, an avocado smoothie (Oh, how I’ve missed them!) and some fried breakfasty thing I recall eating in Puli.
As I settled down at a table with my plastic tray and heaping pile of food, I could almost pretend I was back in Taiwan. Once again, I stood out as the token blonde in the crowd and ironically, I felt at ease.
The food was delicious.
It was a nice day.
If you’re ever in the area, check out Chinese Cafe at the International Mall in Westmont and get your Taiwanese food fix.