Rose Tea Cafe
The charming Rose Tea Cafe arises to add some bubbles and more, including a touch of Taiwan, to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
The interior of the Rose Tea Cafe amid the hustle and bustle of a recent afternoon lunch hour.
Photos by Laura Petrilla
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Everyone has a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Mine is Rose Tea Cafe, a small Taiwanese restaurant in Squirrel Hill's business district owned by a Taiwanese woman named Ya Pint. I love this restaurant because the food is varied and packed with flavor; the service is quick, and the "bubble tea" (more on that later ... ) is addictive.
Bloggers will tell you that Rose Tea Cafe is the most authentic Taiwanese food in Pittsburgh. From inside the restaurant, you'll see buses unloading groups of Asian students from Oakland. Manager Jojo Wu says the restaurant's patrons have become increasingly diverse over the past six years.
Ordering at Rose Tea Cafe can be a challenge because the menu is long and offers about 120 dishes with nondescriptive names such as "string bean with pork," "string bean with beef" and "string bean with chicken." Members of the wait staff are hesitant to make recommendations, but if you press them, they will guide you toward excellent choices.
After almost weekly visits to Rose Tea Cafe for several years, I have finally made a dent on the menu. On one visit, I brought along my college friend who's a Taiwanese immigrant. After a prolonged conversation with the waiter in Taiwanese, she very specifically placed our order, cutting through the mystery of the menu in less than five minutes. A lasting recommendation from her is the salt-and-pepper shrimp, which is shrimp coated with salt and pepper and fried. You can eat the shell or peel it off for a messy but delicious treat.