Jalan Dhoby is the best place to start your JB café-hopping adventure. Ten minutes away on foot from City Square Mall, the narrow street has the highest concentration of cafés, from coffee shops to trendy brunch eateries. We packed our passports (and cameras), hopped on a bus, and paid a visit to our closest neighbour to bring you the 12 best cafés in Johor Bahru, close to the causeway and beyond.
You know you've arrived at Jalan Dhoby when you spot Roost Café and Bistro. Entering the café is like stepping into a two-storey time machine – think mid-century sofas, antique telephone sets, mini jukeboxes and ornate mirrors, relics of a bygone time. The food menu is based on co-owner Sea Wong’s family recipes and the drinks are served in small, colourful buckets. When you’re done dining and drinking, pop over to Miss Ireen Handmade and The Girl Next Door: the custom accessories boutique, and designer/vintage store and hairdressing salon share an al fresco area with Roost.
9 Jln Dhoby (+60 1 6776 7489). Mon-Sat noon-4pm, 6pm-midnight; Sun 6pm-midnight.
A hangout for JB's cool kids, People & Places Cafe is inspired by Melbourne's famed brunch scene. Decked out in industrially-inspired interiors and floor-to-ceiling glass walls with potted plants at every turn, the cafe is an insta-approved spot.
It's best for all-day breakfast. Try out the Quesadilla breakkie (RM25) with fluffy Tomyam scrambled eggs, chicken ham, sliced tomatoes, Alexa's Sriracha aioli, coriander, and Belgium cheddar cheese sandwiched between tortilla sheets. Those looking for healthier options can consider Keto-friendly dishes such as the pan-fried salmon fillet, kimchi, cauliflower rice (RM34.90), kale spinach, beetroot poached egg, lemon mustard cream and toasted sesame seeds.
6 Jalan Kencana Emas 2/3, Kawasan Perindustrian Tebrau 3, (+60 7-351 5303, www.facebook.com/peopleandplacescafe). Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm; Fri-Sun 10am-9pm.
Littered with ferns and flowers, this cosy café smells like you’re taking a trek through the crisp rainforests of Malaysia. The first floor can feel a little cramped, but head upstairs for more comfy seats to lounge in. Since Flowers in the Window is run by the same people behind Roost, the menu is similar.
The Hainanese chicken rice noodles (RM14) is unlike anything we’ve tried in Singapore: the noodles are thick, chewy and sticky, perfect for the sweet and spicy sauce. The chicken is lightly battered and fried, but not too greasy. Drinks and desserts also pick up on the floral theme – try the lavender pineapple juice (RM15.90) and lemon meringue curd (RM16).
9 Jln Dhoby (+60 1 6776 7489). Mon & Wed-Sun 10am-10pm.
Burger trucks are all the rage in Johor Bahru, and you can find one when wandering through its alleys. Atan Burger Truck is known for its mouthwatering, juicy burgers at affordable prices.
Tuck into Atan's popular double cheese chicken burger (RM5.50), made from Ramly chicken patty and drizzled with smoky sweet BBQ sauce, cheesy melted cheese, and a mixture of sauces and spices. Feeling adventurous? We dare you to order either the rabbit meat (from RM6.50) or ostrich (from RM6.50).
Taman Pelangi Indah, parking lot next to the Caltex Petrol Station (+60 19-762 8797, www.facebook.com/pages/Atan-Burger/287473944697240). Mon-Sat 8.30pm-3.30am.
Compared to other cafés ‘round these parts decked out in crazy decor, The Replacement stands out with its minimalist design. Natural light bounces off white walls and the marble bar, giving the spartan café a warm glow.
Out of all the cafés we tried during our JB trail, The Replacement undoubtedly has the best food. Order the soft shell crab bao with fries (RM29.90): the crispy texture of the soft shell crab has a nice contrast to the soft, homemade bao bun. For dessert, get a plate of piping hot churros (RM16.90) with your choice of dip – there’s salted caramel, dark chocolate, hazelnut Nutella and the ever-coveted salted egg yolk sauce.
33 Jln Dhoby (+60 1 0226 0311, www.facebook.com/thereplacementlodgeandkitchen). Daily 9am-9pm.
At this pint-sized Jalan Dhoby storefront – which, by the way, has a swing for a seat – the staff offer a twist on traditional ice cream with the help of some good ol’ liquid nitrogen. Lest you start your naysay – ‘But liquid nitrogen ice cream is nothing new!’ – let the freshest, finest ice cream this side of Malaysia do the talking.
There are only four fuss-free flavours: original in milk, chocolate, brownie and cream, and butterscotch. But less is more, especially when it comes to tried-and-tested classics. Order a scoop of the original, top it off with a hot, homemade chocolate chip cookie, and wash it down with a glass of milk; it’s as deceptively decadent, yet truly wholesome as any ice cream treat there is. There’s coffee, too, but we suggest you pick from the extensive Gryphon tea menu.
31 Jln Dhoby (+60 7-300 7286, www.facebook.com/tipdonttilt). Tue-Thu & Sun 3-10pm; Fri & Sat 3pm-midnight.
Probably the prettiest cafe in JB, Rowan & Parsley Food Atelier is tucked within an industrial estate along Jalan Kota. Enter its iconic, arch iron gates and you'll be greeted by an enchanted garden with fruit trees and lush greenery.
The cafe itself is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass panels, evoking industrial-chic sophistication. While you're there, don't miss the desserts like the Peanut Chocolate Pie.
17 Jalan Cenderai 20, Taman Perindustrian Kota Puteri (+607-382 1760, www.facebook.com/rowan.parsley). Sun-Thu 11.30am-11pm; Fri&Sun 11am-11.30pm.
With an unassuming façade and name, we weren’t expecting much from Sangkaya. And when the small, hollowed-out husk of a young coconut arrived with four scoops of ice cream, we were still not convinced. But from the first bite, we knew there was a reason for Sangkaya’s confidence in serving only coconut ice cream.
The ice cream is thick, creamy and tasted better than those we’ve had in Bangkok. Yes, even the ones from Chatuchak. While we only sampled the original (from RM2.90), it also comes flavoured with Thai milk tea, green tea or chocolate. Order a combo set and get any ice cream and coconut water at RM12.90.
14 Jln Dhoby (+60 3 8938 9889, sangkaya.co). Mon-Thu & Sun 1pm-11pm; Fri & Sat noon-midnight.
Housed in a repurposed shipping container, Chaiwalla is the place to stop for a tall glass of iced Thai milk tea – best paired with a box of banana cake from the nearby Hiap Joo Bakery, an old-school joint that still churns out buns in its charcoal oven. Aside from the popular classic Thai milk tea, it also has cold saffron tea, Thai green milk tea and black tea among other beverages for a quick refuel.
36, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru. Mon-Thu & Sun noon-midnight; Fri & Sat noon-1am.
Don’t be confused when you first step into Bev C'afe – the café is on the second floor. The first floor is a retail space that houses fashion basics, mostly in either black or white. Once you’re happy with your purchase, climb up the narrow staircase and order yourself some coffee and snacks to refuel. Or, if you feel daring enough, you could rest your head on the decorative bed laid out in the middle of the café. The house special espresso ice cube (RM13.90) is a hot favourite. Shots of coffee are frozen into cubes and served with a side of milk – this way, you can enjoy a cold cuppa without diluting it with ice.
54 Jln Tan Hiok Nee (+60 7 221 3530, www.facebook.com/BevCclothingbrand). Tue-Sun 11am-8pm.
Bamboo Briyani has one of the best biryanis in town, evidenced by the long queues outside the stall. The eatery serves basmati rice with toppings like chicken and prawns – enclosed in freshly cut banana leaves in bamboo pipes – to marry the spices and flavours of the meats together for a fragrant biryani. And if you're too lazy to leave your hotel, they also do delivery. Prices start from RM10. Bamboo Biryani is open every day (except for Mondays) from noon to 7pm.
61 Jalan Ibrahim (+60 7-226 7762, www.facebook.com/BambooBiryaniJohor). Tue-Sun noon-7pm).
The newest café on the stretch, Shakespeare Milkshakes is also a gem of a discovery. While the focus here is on milkshakes, it doesn’t go completely over the top with saccharine concoctions that have 'diabetes' written all over them.
The Kinder Bueno Shake (RM16) comes in a tall glass, whose rim is coated with Nutella, topped with a cookie and half a Kinder Bueno. For people with a sweet tooth, waffles served with soft-serve ice cream and other toppings like chocolate banana (RM15) are available, but we recommend getting a 'croffle' instead. These croissants are stuffed with treats like ham and cheese or beef pastrami before being pressed in a waffle maker.
9 Jln Trus (+60 16 421 8530, www.facebook.com/pg/shakespeare.milkshakes). Mon-Tue & Thu-Sun 1-11pm.