Jakarta is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas and one of the most difficult to navigate. Fortunately, excellent food, both Indonesian and international, can be found throughout the city, and it’s hard to go wrong, whether you’re eating on the footpath or in a restaurant. A vibrant new café culture has emerged in recent years, and many bars and drinking holes serve unique cocktails and snacks. The choices are truly overwhelming. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack-time: Jakarta’s street food vendors will deliver the delicious goods. Most street vendors only sell one or maybe two different dishes, and many are only open at certain times of the day. Cart-based sellers (kaki lima) often walk around neighbourhoods, while larger operations that set up tents (known as warung) generally only open up in the evening. Don’t be surprised to find that a footpath that is empty in the mornings suddenly turns into an eaters’ paradise after 18:00!
Costs for street food are generally the same throughout Jakarta and its greater metropolitan area—which includes Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, South Tangerang and Bekasi—and there are very few places where you will have difficulty finding stalls on the side of the road.
Legally, no one is allowed to sell food outside of restaurants, and occasionally the municipal police will come along and shoo everyone away, but generally, outside of major thoroughfares such as Jalan Jendral Sudirman, you will encounter street vendors every few metres. Expect to pay around 10,000 to 25,000 rupiah for most meals, with most popular places costing a bit extra and involving a longer wait time. A basic drink such as iced sweet tea will set you back around 5,000 rupiah.
As with other major cities in Southeast Asia, such as Ho Chi Minh City, you might be worried about getting ripped off by street vendors. Thankfully, this is very unusual in Jakarta, probably since few international tourists actually spend much time in the city. Food sellers are more often delighted to have a foreigner eat at their stall.
Indonesians generally eat savoury food for breakfast, and there are a few firm favourites in Jakarta. The most popular, according to a poll run by Roads and Kingdoms after a backpacker claimed that banana pancakes were a common breakfast for locals (hint: they’re not), is undeniably bubur ayam, a kind of rice porridge topped with shredded chicken, roasted peanuts, deep-fried cakwe (chewy dough sticks), and a ladle of chicken broth. Budget versions will often leave out the chicken and even the cakwe, and the price falls accordingly. Bubur ayam is generally sold from carts, beginning at daybreak and continuing until perhaps 09:00.
The second-most popular breakfast dish is nasi uduk, rice cooked with coconut milk, particularly the local Betawi version (Betawi are the indigenous residents of Jakarta). You can choose the accompaniments for your rice from a selection that usually involves ayam goreng (fried chicken), tempe bacem (coconut water-soaked tempe), bihun goreng (stir-fried vermicelli noodles), tempe orek (stir-fried diced sweet tempe), ati goreng (fried chicken liver), and more. Peanut-based chilli sauce (sambal kacang) and a handful of kerupuk (prawn crackers) round out the dish. It’s a wonderfully savoury meal to start the day.
Another favourite breakfast is ketupat sayur, a Padang dish from Sumatra that involves chunks of ketupat (rice cakes), cooked jackfruit, fern leaves, and a rich coconut milk soup. Optional side dishes include fried chicken, opor ayam (chicken cooked in coconut milk), tempe, tofu, or rendang (slow-cooked beef curry). Spicy and more-ish.
One of the few sweet dishes popular for breakfast is bubur kacang ijo, or mung bean porridge. Often served in combination with bubur ketan item (black rice porridge), the porridge is served to order in small bowls with ladles of salty coconut milk and sweet gula Jawa (Javanese palm sugar) over the top.
A different set of vendors will start selling around 10:00 or 11:00 for the lunch-time rush. In addition to the many canteens and food courts dedicated to office workers, street-side stalls and carts offer a huge array of Indonesian dishes to be gobbled down under the harsh mid-day sun.
A perennial favourite is soto ayam (chicken soup), alongside its Jakartan cousin soto Betawi (Betawi soup). The difference between the two is simple: soto ayam has a clear, yellow chicken broth, while soto Betawi uses coconut milk as well as a chicken or beef broth. Both are eaten with rice, sambal, and a squeeze of lime. Soto ayam and rice will set you back around 12,000 rupiah, while soto Betawi tends to be slightly more expensive, up to 20,000 rupiah.
Gado gado is the king of Indonesian vegetable dishes, and a popular meal for lunch. Chopped up cooked and raw vegetables such as kangkung (water spinach), cabbage, beansprouts, corn, potato and cucumber are added fried slices of tempe and tofu before being mixed with a thin, spicy peanut sauce. The sauce is usually made on the spot, so you can request spicy or non-spicy versions (pedas means spicy and tidak pedas means not spicy). A plate of gado gado goes for around 12,000 rupiah without a boiled egg, or 15,000 rupiah with.
If you are feeling adventurous, try eating at a warteg. These are small restaurants that sell home-cooked food, often 24 hours a day. Many warteg offer more than 20 dishes at any one point in time. Just point to what you want, and you’ll be handed a plate with your selections. Vegetarians tend to fare better at warteg than at street vendors, as there are more vegetable dishes to choose from.
Of course, nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles) can be found throughout Jakarta at any time of day, but are most popularly eaten for dinner. Most are sweet and spicy, and include a scattering of chicken and perhaps some beansprouts, but are often quite plain.
For sate (satay), just follow the smoke; sate stalls use long charcoal grills to cook the chicken (sate ayam) or goat (sate kambing) skewers to order. Ten sate sticks with a plate of rice or lontong (rice cakes) will set you back around 25,000 rupiah. Two options are generally available for sauces: peanut sauce (kacang) or a sweet soy sauce with fresh green chillies (kecap manis). You can request whichever one you want.
Many warungs that open in the evening continue to sell until the wee hours of the morning, perfect for late-night drinkers and those with early flights. Most vendors sell the usual suspects: fried rice or noodles, rice with fried chicken and sambal, or sate ayam. Most aren’t worth mentioning specifically, but there are a few special places, such as Gule Daul in front of Camden Bar on Jalan Gandaria Raya in South Jakarta, which is a must for food lovers. Beef curry with a rich soup, a generous sprinkle of fried garlic slices, a splash of sambal, and a squeeze of fresh lime? It’s possibly the best late-night meal you’ll ever have.
An addition to street food and wartegs, Indonesian dining places come in many guises, from small family-run joints and mid-size ‘restos’ to family-friendly chains and upscale restaurants.
Sate Khas Senayan can be found in malls and on major thoroughfares across the whole city. A great option for visitors just learning about Indonesian food, these restaurants offer traditional dishes such as iga penyet (beef ribs with sambal), pepes ikan (fish and spices steamed in banana leaves, and pecel (vegetables with peanut sauce), along with tens of varieties of sate, drinks and sweet desserts. Menus are also in English. Bakmi GM is another family-friendly favourite that seems perennially packed at all its outlets. The chain specialises in mie ayam (egg noodles with marinated chicken), but is also a good place to try bakso (noodle soup with meatballs).
Being a city of 10 million residents, Jakarta is fortunate to have restaurants offering food from all over the archipelago. Delicious mie Aceh (Acehnese-style noodles with a spicy curry sauce) and cinnamon-infused teh tarik (frothy pulled milk tea) often lead to crowded shared tables at Mie Aceh Seulawah in Benhil, Central Jakarta; plates of nasi campur (rice with various side dishes) from across the archipelago can be found at Kedai Makan Lumpang Emas in Panglima Polim, South Jakarta; for traditional Indonesian-Chinese food, Restoran Trio in Menteng serves up many dishes that are now hard to find elsewhere; devour gado gado at Gado-Gado Bon-Bin in Cikini, which has been operating since 1960; and for pork lovers, there’s Kopi Es Tak Kie in Glodok, North Jakarta. The latter was founded in 1927, and here you can get plates of rice with pork dumplings, pork sausage, roast pork, cha siu pork and pork sate.
For some of the best noodles in town, you can’t go wrong with Bakmi Boy at Pasar Mayestik, South Jakarta, for egg noodles with chicken and deep-fried dumplings, or with Kwetiau Sapi Aciap for West Kalimantan-style rice noodles with beef (don’t forget to add the green chillies in vinegar!).
Generally-speaking, a restaurant meal will set you back around 50,000 rupiah, but more if you eat pork or beef, with drinks 5,000 to 25,000 rupiah extra.
One of Jakarta’s favourite foods is undeniably Padang food. Originating from the Minangkabau ethnic group of West Sumatra, the cuisine is named after West Sumatra’s capital city, Padang. Coconut-based curries with thick sauces dominate Padang food, but be careful if you don’t like offal, as brains, lung, liver and cartilage are some of the most popular dishes. Eating at a Padang restaurant is very straightforward: Simply point at the dishes you want from the window selection, or sit down at a table with your friends and a portion of each dish available will be placed on the centre of the table. You only pay for what you eat, so call the wait staff when you’re done and they’ll count it up for you. You would be well advised to try rendang (slow-cooked beef curry), terong balado (eggplant cooked in tomato and chillies), gulai ayam (chicken curry), perkedel kentang (a peppery potato croquette) and gulai daun singkong (cassava leaf curry). Don’t forget the sambal ijo (green chilli sauce)!
Our favourite Padang restaurants are Rumah Makan Surya in Benhil, Central Jakarta; Rumah Makan Kebayoran Baru in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta; and Garuda Padang Restaurant in Menteng, Central Jakarta. There are many chains around town that you also can’t go too far wrong with, such as Sederhana, Pagi Sore, Sari Indah and Putra Minang. More expensive but undeniably scrumptious Padang can be found at Marco at Grand Indonesia or Pacific Place. Their deep-black rendang is a truly phenomenal example of the dish.
At the fancier end of the scale, restaurants like Remboelan and Seribu Rasa provide up-market versions of traditional Indonesian food. Both have branches across Jakarta. New on the scene is KAUM, part of the Potato Head family, where many dishes cost upwards of 150,000 rupiah each—very expensive in Jakartan terms—but have been wowing diners. Modern interpretations dominate the menu, such as beef sate made with wagyu.
Bakmi Boy Pasar Mayestik, Jl. Tebah III No. 5, South Jakarta; Mo–Sa: 10:00–17:00.
Bakmi GM Jl. Sunda No. 9, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 390 3018; http://www.bakmigm.com/ Mo–Su: 07:00–21:30.
Gado-Gado Bon-Bin Jl. Cikini IV No. 5, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 314 1539; Mo–Su: 10:00–17:00.
Garuda Padang Restaurant Jl. Haji Agus Salim No. 59, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 314 2466; Mo–Su: 24 hours.
KAUM Jl. Dr. Kusuma Atmaja No. 77–79, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 2239 3256; http://www.kaum.com Mo–Th: 11:00–00:00, Fr–Sa: 11:00–01:00, Su: 11:00–22:00.
Kedai Makan Lumpang Emas Jl. Panglima Polim IX No. 22, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 9384 3332; http://lumpangemas.com/ Mo–Su: 11:00–21:00.
Kopi Es Tak Kie Jl. Pintu Besar Selatan III, Gang Gloria No. 4-6, North Jakarta; T: (021) 692 8296; http://kopiestakkie.com Mo-Su: 06:30–14:00.
Kwetiau Sapi Aciap Jl. Prof. DR. Satrio No. 64, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 525 3445; Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00.
Marco, Pacific Place Jl. Jenderal Sudirman Kav. 52–53, South Jakarta; T: (021) 5140 0445; http://www.marcopadang.com Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Mie Aceh Seulawah Jl. Bendungan Hilir Raya No. 8, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 570 8660; http://mieacehseulawah.com/ Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Remboelan Plaza Senayan, Jl. Asia Afrika No. 3, South Jakarta; T: (021) 527 5088; http://www.remboelan.com Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Restoran Trio Jl. RP Soeroso No. 29A, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 3193 6295; Mo–Su: 10:00–14:00 & 17:00–21:30.
Rumah Makan Kebayoran Baru Jl. Gandaria Tengah III No. 3, South Jakarta; T: (021) 725 0172; Mo–Su: 08:00–21:30.
Rumah Makan Surya (021) 573 1474; T: Jl. Bendungan Hilir No. 5, Central Jakarta; Mo–Su: 07:00–21:00.
Sate Khas Senayan Grand Indonesia, Jl. MH.Thamrin No. 1, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 2358 1273; http://www.sarirasa.co.id/sks/ Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Seribu Rasa Jl. Haji Agus Salim No. 128, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 392 8892; http://arenacorp.com/seribu-rasa/ Mo–Su: 10:30–22:30.
Jakarta has an enormous selection of foreign cuisine. One of the most interesting parts of town is Blok M, where a Little Tokyo has long been popular with locals and Japanese expats alike. Much cheaper than the Japanese restaurants located in malls, Little Tokyo is a maze of ramen, udon, sushi and yakitori joints. Most serve pork, but some are halal. Visit Echigoya for steaming bowls of pork tonkotsu ramen and plates of pork-and-chive gyoza, or Kira-Kira Ginza for okonomiyaki and karaage. Expect to pay around 60,000 to 100,000 rupiah per dish.
The international Korean craze has not left Jakarta untouched: Korean barbecue and noodle restaurants can now be found all over town. One of the best for barbecue is Born Ga in the Senopati area of South Jakarta, where you can grill pork and beef to your heart’s delight while you nibble on a selection of yummy free side dishes. Nearby Legend of Noodle serves many interesting Korean noodle dishes, both cold and hot (prices run 60,000 to 200,000 rupiah), while Chung Gi Wa, located in multiple malls across the city, does a great dolsot bibimbap (75,000 rupiah) and kimchi jjigae (65,000 rupiah).
Italian cuisine is popular in Jakarta, but many restaurants provide Indonesian-ised versions of traditional dishes. For the real deal, there’s Mamma Rosy and Toscana in Kemang, Bottega in SCBD, and Patio in Dharmawangsa. Pizza Express (at some locations it is still trading under its old name, Pizza Marzano) is the best pizza chain in town, and can be found in most malls. A large thin-crust pizza costs around 120,000 rupiah, while their classic pizzas are cheaper at around 90,000 rupiah.
An excellent choice for dumplings is Paradise Dynasty: The Legend of Xiao Long Bao in Plaza Senayan. With eight kinds of xiao long bao on offer, not to mention tens of different la mian noodle soups, this is the place if you are craving Chinese. A bowl of la mian costs 68,000 rupiah while the eight-variety xiao long bao packet is 88,000 rupiah.
Mexican is a growing trend but remains tricky to find. Taco Local in Dharmawangsa was once great and remains decent, but sadly seems to be going downhill. One can now get great burritos and tacos (including vegetarian options) at Poblano Mexican Grill in Pacific Place, with prices starting at 65,000 rupiah.
Born Ga Jl. Wolter Monginsidi No. 24, South Jakarta; T: (021) 723 3024; Mo–Su: 11:30–22:00.
Bottega Ristorante Fairground Building SCBD, Jl. Tulodong Atas 2, South Jakarta; T: (021) 5140 2266; http://www.bottegaristorante.net Mo–Su: 11:00–00:00.
Echigoya Blok M, Jl. Melawai VIII No. 6, South Jakarta; T: (021) 739 5962; Mo–Fr: 11:30–14:00, 18:00–01:00, Sa: 11:30–14:30, 17:00–00:00, Su: 11:30–14:30, 17:00–23:00.
Kira-Kira Ginza Blok M, Jl. Melawai IX No. 8, South Jakarta; T: (021) 726 2611; Mo–Fr: 11:30–14:30, 18:00–23:30 Sa–Su: 11:30–22:30.
Legend of Noodle Jl. Senopati No. 81, South Jakarta; T: (021) 521 0230; Mo–Su: 11:30–21:30.
Mamma Rosy Jl. Kemang Raya No. 58, South Jakarta; T: (021) 7179 1592; http://www.mammarosy.com Su–Th: 10:00–23:00, Fr–Sa: 10:00–00:00.
Paradise Dynasty Plaza Senayan, Jl. Asia Afrika No. 3, South Jakarta; T: (021) 5790 0146; http://www.paradisegroup.com.sg/indonesia-paradise-dynasty/ Mo–Su: 10:00–21:00.
Patio Jl. Wijaya XIII No. 45, South Jakarta; T: (021) 724 1362; http://www.plataran.com/venues-dining/patio-venue Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00.
Pizza Express Grand Indonesia, Jl. MH.Thamrin No. 1, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 2358 0150; http://pizzamarzano.co.id Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00.
Poblano Mexico Grill Pacific Place, Jl. Jenderal Sudirman Kav. 52–53, South Jakarta; T: (021) 57973199; Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Taco Local Jl. Dharmawangsa Raya No. 4, South Jakarta; T: (021) 9494 9538; Mo–Th: 12:00–22:00, Fr–Sa: 12:00–00:00, Su: 09:00–21:00.
Coffee and tea are ubiquitous in Jakarta, but unless at a café, coffee sachets and tea bags are the norm. Fortunately, a vibrant café culture has emerged in the city over the past five years, and there are now so many choices that it is almost overwhelming.
The original leaders of Jakarta’s new coffee culture all now have multiple branches across town. They include 1/15 Coffee, Anomali, Crematology and Tanamera. All are reliably good, and all serve tasty food as well as espresso-based drinks. 1/15 also recently opened at Soekarno Hatta Airport’s new Terminal 3. A latte will generally set you back 30,000 to 45,000 rupiah.
A few older-style cafes remain, many of which are decked out in retro Indonesian décor. One of the best examples of this is Bakoel Koffie in Cikini, Central Jakarta, where you can try traditional-style brews such as kopi tubruk (ground coffee placed directly into your mug). Goedkoop in Benhil is another great choice, where you can snack on old-school Dutch-Indonesian snacks such as bitterballen (beef croquettes), poffertjes (baby pancakes) and toastje (grilled cheese toasties).
Every day, more cafes seem to open. Many of these are in South Jakarta, particularly in the Senopati area, where delicious joints such as Mister Sunday and Kopi Kalyan are constantly busy. Toko Kopi Tuku at the nearby Pasar Santa only does take-away coffees, both hot and iced, but the queues are evidence of their excellent traditional-style brews. Expect to pay around 30,000 rupiah for a latte.
For tea, an excellent option is Lewis & Carroll, which specialises in loose leaf teas and offers a huge array of both hot and iced teas. Their main café is on Jalan Bumi in South Jakarta, but they have a branch at Grand Indonesia, too.
Something different is Suwe Ora Jamu, a jamu café located on Jalan Petogogan in South Jakarta. Jamu is a traditional Indonesian herbal tonic, and comes in literally tens of different flavours, all with different medicinal purposes. There is jamu to make you stronger, to make you thinner, to improve your skin, and even to improve your, er, male vitality. All that for just 15,000 to 30,000 rupiah a glass!
1/15 Coffee Jl. Gandaria 1 No. 63, South Jakarta; T: (021) 722 5678; http://www.1-15coffee.com Mo–Su: 07:00–21:00.
Bakoel Koffie Jl. Cikini Raya No. 25, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 3193 6608; http://www.bakoelkoffie.com Mo–Su: 09:00–23:30.
Crematology Coffee Roasters Jl. Suryo No. 25, South Jakarta; T: (021) 7278 0012; http://www.crematoogy.com Mo–Fr: 07:30–00:00, Sa–Su: 09:00–00:00.
Goedkoop Jl. Bendungan Hilir Raya No. 62, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 573 4430; http://goedkoopjkt.com Mo–Th: 10:00–22:00, Fr–Sa: 10:00–23:00 Su: 07:00–22:00.
Kopi Kalyan Jl. Cikajang No. 61, South Jakarta; T: (021) 722 3712; http://www.kopikalyan.com Su–Th: 07:00–22:00, Fr–Sa: 07:00–23:00.
Lewis & Carroll Jl. Bumi No. 4, South Jakarta ; T: (021) 270 2660; http://www.lewisandcarrolltea.com Su–Th: 08:00–22:00, Fr–Sa: 08:00–23:00.
Mister Sunday Jl. Cikajang No. 30, South Jakarta; T: (021) 721 1189; http://www.mister-sunday.com Su–Th: 08:00–22:00, Fr–Sa: 08:00–23:00.
Suwe Ora Jamu Jl. Petogogan 1 No. 28, South Jakarta; T: (021) 7279 0590; http://www.suweorajamu28.com Mo–Th: 15.00–24.00, Fr–Su: 11:00–24:00.
Tanamera Thamrin City Office Park, Jl. Kebon Kacang Raya Blok AA07, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 2962 5599; http://tanameracoffee.com/en/ Mo–Su: 07:00–20:00.
Toko Kopi Tuku Pasar Santa, Jl. Cipaku I, South Jakarta; http://www.tuku.coffee Su–Fr: 07:00–20:00.
Jakarta has a small but good selection of bars and drinking holes. There are no restrictions on drinking alcohol at restaurants or bars; however, drinks are generally expensive due to the ridiculously high 300 percent import tax on liquor and wine. A gin and tonic will usually cost about 120,000. Local beers such as Bintang and Stark are cheap and abundant, usually costing 30,000 to 60,000 rupiah. Unfortunately, new laws introduced in the past few years mean that minimarts can no longer sell alcohol, so if you want to get some takeaway, you’ll have to go to a supermarket.
One of the most popular drinking joints is Beer Garden, which has two locations: SCBD and Gandaria, both in South Jakarta. Large and open-air (but with rooftops, of course, thanks to Jakarta’s six-month-long rainy seasons), Beer Garden is a relaxed place to imbibe and is great for hanging out with friends. You’ll need to make a booking for Friday and Saturday nights, and there is usually a minimum spend requirement when doing so.
An alternative to Beer Garden is Camden, which is more like an English pub but with rock music playing over the speakers. Located in Gandaria and now also in Cikini, Camden is popular with a young crowd and can be full-to-overflowing on Fridays and Saturdays.
Opposite Grand Indonesia and around the corner from KAUM, Face Bar is the hangout of choice for many diplomats, foreign journalists and other miscellaneous expatriates. It’s in the same building as Lan Na Thai and Hazara Indian, and thanks to Face being designed as an urban oasis of calm, the music is never too loud to have a good chat with your mates.
If you don’t know to look for the pink neon light, you’ll drive straight past Lola – Espiritu y Libacion in Senopati. There’s no sign announcing this underground bar, which is probably part of its allure. Very quiet before 21:00, the bar gets bouncing when the ‘90s R&B comes on. Lola specialises in gin, with around 12 varieties available at last visit. A word of caution, however: Lola can get very, very smoky, and your eyes will be as dry as sand within just 90 minutes.
At the expensive end of the market is Skye, sitting at the top of Menara BCA on Jl Sudirman near Grand Indonesia. Skye is a once-in-a-trip visit, and even then, you might only have one drink, but it’s worth it for the phenomenal views of this crazy city. Be warned: no shorts or sandals allowed.
Beer Garden Lot 8 SCBD, Jl. Tulodong Atas 2, South Jakarta; T: (021) 515 3557; http://www.beergardenjkt.com Su–Th: 15:00–02:00, Fr–Sa: 15:00–03:00.
Camden Jl Cikini 2 No. 1, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 310 1283; Sa–We: 17:00–02:00, Th–Fr: 17:00–03:00.
Face Bar Jl. Pamekasan No. 85, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 31925053; Mo–Su: 18:00–01:00.
Lola Jl. Gunawarman No. 21, South Jakarta; T: (021) 2571 3500; http://lolajkt.com Mo–Sa: 18:00–02:00.
Skye Bar & Restaurant Menara BCA, Jl. MH. Thamrin No. 1, Central Jakarta; T: (021) 2358 6996; http://www.ismaya.com/skye Mo–Fr: 16:00–01:00, Sa: 11:30–02:00 Su: 11:30–01:00.
Kate Walton is a Jakarta-based development worker, writer, and activist. She has called Indonesia home since 2011, and can often be found sitting on a stool on the side of the road, chatting to street vendors and trying to learn their secret recipes.