Most places are famous for one just dish, so no need for a translator app to decipher the menu, just rock up and point at the plat du jour. Often when a recipe becomes popular, many copy cats spring up—don’t worry if you’re not at the “original” (asli), it’ll probably be pretty tasty anyway. Being a fairly conservative town, alcoholic drinks are not readily available, but beer is easy enough to find. If it’s not sold in your restaurant, or accommodation try Toko Tiara on Jalan Kapten Piere Tendean or simply ask around.
Sego Tempong M’bok Wah is the “original” sego tempong joint in town. “Sego” is rice in the local dialect and “tempong” means to slap and describes the impact of the spicy sambal that is the mainstay of this dish, a fiery concoction of chilis, tomato and shrimp paste. Here you’ll be served a bowl with rice, cucumber, some greens, a corn and tofu fritter along with a good dollop of sambal and then it’s point and pick for accompanying dishes, mostly seafood and vegetables. We liked the pindang koyong, fish in a fragrant, slight sour soup flavoured with belimbing sayur, from the starfruit family and also tucked into a bowl of crunchy small crabs, washed down with homemade temu lawak, a spicy sweet drink made from a root belonging to the ginger family. The basic sego tempong will set you back 15,000 rupiah, add around an extra 10,000 rupiah for each side dish.
Soto Ayam Barokah PH Niti is not just another soto ayam joint, the classic Indonesian chicken soup served with bean sprouts, glass noodles, a boiled egg, a squeeze of lime and a spoonful or two of sambal to taste. Here the broth is thicker and more coconut flavoured than usual and you can choose various bits of the chicken you’d like. A bowl of powdered dried coconut sits on the table to thicken the soup even more if you desire. We went for the soto ayam kampung (12,000 rupiah), and asked for all regular meat as we’re not a fan of gizzards and other whatnots. Aside from variations of soto ayam, other simple standards such as nasi goreng and lalapan are available too.
Along with nasi tempong, Banyuwangi is also famous for rujak soto a hearty rich dish well worth a try for those not bothered about a bit of tripe and sambal. Rujak is traditionally a fruit and/or vegetable salad dish with a million and one variations across Indonesia, but in this case the dish is a fusion of the tangy vegetable (no fruit) salad with beef soto (soup) creating almost a salad in a soup. Bear with us please. The core of the dish is palm sugar smeared into crushed fresh chillies (do say so if you don’t want it to pack a punch) and shrimp paste, then to this base a mix of boiled vegetables (sprouts, kale and something else green were in ours) is added. This is then ladled over a bowl full of sliced lontong, then comes the tripe (as with the chilli, say if you don’t want it, but the broth is meat based, so this dish is NOT great for vegetarians!) and then a generous serving of broth to pull it all together along with a few krupuk to soak up the sauce. The flavour is rich with a heavy spicing and the shrimp paste really adds to the whole dish. Wash it down with a fruit shake or an iced lemon tea. We paid 25,000 for a very filling bowl with an iced lemon tea at Losari Rujak Soto on Jalan Losari at the intersection with Jalan Progo. Open for breakfast and lunch daily. Recommended.
In business since 1948, with a branches in Bali, Warung Bik Ati is known for their nasi rawon—essentially a black beef soup with rice on the side. Considered to be a Javanese original, the deep dark colour of the soup come from the seeds of the keluak tree. These contain hydrogen cyanide naturally (and so you really don’t want to eat them!) which, through a fermentation process, is leached out of the seeds making them safe to consume. The bumbu include candlenuts, lemongrass, chillis, garlic and shallots, which, along with the flesh from the keluak seeds are ground up to form the base of the soup. Rawon can be very heavy and thick or quite light and watery, and in the case of Warung Bik Ati it is the latter. See here for more details and some great photos of a thick version. Our bowl, served with chilli, mungbeans and rice on the side was delicious and, at 27,500 rupiah, affordable—we could easily have eaten another bowl, which left us looking a little suspiciously at the MSG branding around the lip of the bowl! Popular throughout the day, and with a central location, this is an easy one to try. They also have an air-con section of the restaurant—handy if you are struggling with the heat. If you don’t want beef, they also have a range of chicken dishes and bakso.
Fancy a seafood feast? Head to Seafood Sobo on Jalan Kepiting, where this cheery and clean orange painted warung dishes up not only seafood, but chicken, duck and veggie dishes from an extensive menu. Seafood is cooked Chinese style with a large choice of sauces, just be wary when you order, a some meals are per portion, and others by weight and be clear as to which you want. We “accidentally” ordered a kilo of black pepper crab (24,000 rupiah per 100g), and had a bit of a surprise when we received the bill, it was tasty however. We also tried the ayam Taliwang, a spicy finger-licking barbecued chicken (35,000 rupiah) and pungent udang pete balacan, prawns with stinky beans cooked in shrimp paste (48,000 rupiah), quite a feast. Service is far from brisk, and we had to wait some time for our food, but staff are friendly enough and speak a little English. Unfortunately they don’t serve beer which would have gone down well but do offer a variety of juices. If you order the jus timun, cucumber juice, as we did, you may like to request it without sugar!
Along the same street, we also ventured into Warung Kepiting a similar seafood spot, although the decor here is a tad more downmarket. Expect barbecue fish and other seafood standards and of course, kepiting (crab).
As you wander from one seafood establishment to the other, grab a coffee to pick you up, Cute and cosy SAE Coffee sits between these two spots on Jalan Kepiting. Open late.
Coffee connoisseurs will want to venture out to Nidom Coffee Station, four kilometres west of the city centre to visit this traditional coffee house where you can see (and smell) small batches of coffee roasted the traditional way in a wok over a wood stove. Chat to the friendly owner then sit back and enjoy a fresh brew. Take home a packet of freshly roasted arabica, and savour a cup of Java at home. Stop here on your return journey from Ijen.
Heading back from Ijen? Make sure you make a detour to Ijen Shelter restaurant at Licin (you can stay here in a treehouse too) and try their delicious, innovative and very authentic local fare. Many of the dishes originate from this village, and you won’t find them down the hill in Banyuwangi. Their speciality dish is nasi lodhog (25,000 rupiah). “Lodhog” means to push in the local lingo, and with this interactive dish, you take the banana leaf rice packet with spices and chicken or fish cooked inside a bamboo tube, and push it out with the dowel provided. You’ll want to try both flavours, but be prepared to wait, it takes a little while. Oh and did we mention the view is terrific too?
Need a break while waiting for the train or the ferry? Drop by RM Kedai Stasiun Ketapang, serving tasty local standards a well as tourist-friendly Western favourites including cold beer. You’ll find this Dutch run joint on the corner of the main highway opposite the harbour and the road that leads to the Banuwangi Baru Station. Clean toilets and reasonable prices here too.
Ijen Shelter Jalan Raya Ijen, Banjarsari, Licin; T: (0858) 1679 5510, (0821) 4024 3989, (0858) 1679 55; https://www.facebook.com/ijenshelter/ .
Losari Rujak Soto Jl Losari, Banyuwangi; T: (0333) 41 4074; Mo–Su: 08:00–14:00.
Nidom Coffee Station Jalan Kemiren, Banyuwangi; T: (0812) 5267 6893, ; https://web.facebook.com/NIDOM-Coffee-Station-1899750103398737/ .
RM Kedai Stasiun Ketapang 1 Jalan Stasiun, Ketapang; T: (0823) 3789 3565; Mo–Su: 08:00–22:00.
SAE Coffee 29B Jalan Kepiting, Banyuwangi; T: (0877) 5563 2234; https://web.facebook.com/SaeCoffee10/ .
Seafood Sobo 90XX Jalan Kepiting, Banyuwangi; T: (0823) 3168 0237; http://seafoodsobo.com Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00.
Sego Tempong M’bok Wah 222 Jalan Gembrung, Banyuwangi; T: (0822) 3163 1493; Mo–Su: 09:00–23:00.
Soto Ayam Barokah PH Niti 30 Jalan Braeijaya, Banyuwangi; T: (0852) 5839 6161; https://web.facebook.com/Soto-Ayam-Barokah-P-H-Niti-854687921321088/ Mo–Su: 07:00–22:00.
Toko Tiara 33 Jalan Kapten Piere Tendean; T: (0333) 421 688; .
Warung Bik Ati Jalan Jenderal Ahmad Yani No. 83, Banyuwangi; T: (0333) 42 3165; Mo–Su: 09:00–21:00.
Warung Kepiting 29B Jalan Kepiting, Banyuwangi; T: (0877) 5563 2234; .
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.