[Updated 2016] What To Eat - Half A Day In JB On Foo(t)/(d) [Directions Included]

Just across the Causeway, Johor Bahru (JB) is a great place to explore and go on a food trail. Our stronger local currency makes it economical when spending over there, especially for students. Aside from the jams or massive queues at the customs which may be deterring, there are concerns on safety and getting around without a car. Here's a possible itinerary to consider for your next trip, without the need to cab and all in the vicinity of the Causeway. Getting from place to place is just a matter of walking.

After crossing the Malaysian customs, follow the route and the crowd in the general (straight all the way) direction (trust me, you will know) till you reach City Square. It is a 5-10 minutes, entirely sheltered walk to City Square once your passport is chopped. Along the route, you will be crossing a bridge that connects JB Sentral train station to City Square. 

1. Nyonya Leaf 
This little kiosk is the first thing you see when you enter the inner mall of City Square through the sheltered walkway and going up the small escalator that connects the walkway from the checkpoint to it. Don't overlook it because it is a kiosk. I always make it a point to get the nyonya kuehs because they are really fantastic. There is a huge variety; all sorts of tantalising, colourful kuehs to chives-and-minced-meat crystal wraps and spring rolls. I can't say for all, but everything I have tried from here has been good, and the amount of people always surrounding the stall is a good indication I suppose.  


  • Ondeh ondeh - chewy, filled-with-liquid-gula-melaka balls that burst in your mouth. (RM6 for 10)   
  • Chives-and-minced-meat crystal wraps 韭菜水晶卷- don't be fooled by its plain appearance. It is chock-full of chives and simply marinated minced meat. I am not a crystal wrap kind of person, but this, my eyes lit up after my mum forced me to take the first bite and I have never looked back. :D (RM3.60 for 1)
  • Kueh Salat (or any of their nyonya kuehs actually)- the kueh with a green (pandan custard) layer on top and bottom of glutinous rice. 
No. Of Forks: 5

Now to exploration proper. 

2. Hiap Joo Bakery
Upon exiting City Square, head first to the ground floor and find your way to the corporate office tower building lobby of city square. Exit from the lobby and turn right, where you will see a traffic that leads you to cross to opposite of City Square. Cross to the other side and walk up the street along the sidewalk. You should be going against the direction of the travelling cars (since the road is one-way). 

Follow the road and walk all the way straight till the end of the road. You will walk past Maybank first on the right and then Hong Leong bank across. Near the end of the road, you will encounter a bend. Follow the bend into a smaller street. Continue walking straight for about 3-5 minutes and you will see Hiap Joo Bakery on the left, past the red Tan Hiok Nee Cultural Street Arch.   

This old-school bakery operating since 1919 still churns out breads from the very same clay brick oven that uses wood for its fire. Because of this, the buns that come out have a slightly charred, brown exterior that is slightly crispy, yet very fluffy inside.

The shop can be a little cramped and hot, with the oven in operation. There have an extensive variety, from butter sugar breads to peanut to curry, but the popular items here are the banana bread and coconut bun. 

Banana Bread - One slab of 5 pieces for RM 8. The whole cake is available too at a higher price. 
The banana bread was moist without being too sweet. A must-try for banana bread fans.

Coconut Bun - RM 3.50 (~$1.40) for a pack of 5 

The coconut bun, which had small coconut shreds inside, was nicely chewy. The kaya bun also had the same texture, just with a coconut kaya filling that was slightly flowy after heating up.

Kaya Bun - $3.50 (RM 1.40) for a pack of 4
These breads can last for 3 days at most, as there are no preservatives. It makes for great 'souvenirs' to take home and still tastes great the next day. 

No. Of Forks: 4.5 (if you are a banana bread person), 4 otherwise.  

3. The Replacement Lodge
This relatively new cafe opened by the owners behind Faculty of Caffeine has a spacious, minimalistic white-themed setting. Despite the whiteness, it isn't clinical and still exudes the warmth of a cosy cafe. The tables are spaced well apart, so it doesn't feel cramped, though it may get a little noisy when it is filled (especially often I should think, given its popularity). 

The Replacement Lodge Drinks Menu

The Replacement Lodge Food Menu

We got the Churros with Salted Egg Dip. The churros were not the least oily at all. It was similar to a baked texture (could it possibly be??) - slight crisp on the exterior while with a slightly cakey (not airy fluffy like your you-tiao) texture. The texture made it different from all other churros I have tried before but I really liked that it was non-greasy. The salted egg custard dip was just the right density and a balanced savoury-sweet. Definitely one of the best renditions of churros in salted egg yolk dip I have tried. Get it.

For the mains, we had The Breakfast Platter to share. All the favourites - Scrambled eggs, sautéed mushrooms (SO buttery good), bacon (choice of beef or turkey), grilled tomatoes, chicken sausage, mixed beans (not a fan usually but these homemade ones were good) with toast. Check. Value for money? Check. RM29.90/S$10. 

No. Of Forks: 4.5

Chaiwalla Container & Co

Located just right round the corner from Hiap Joo, they do Thai teas and other beverages here. Thai milk tea; Thai milk green tea with toppings you can choose to add. There is a small selection of pies/muffins as well. Price wise, it is pretty high at RM9.90/S$3.30 for one. The taste was just like any other Thai milk tea you can get back at brand name shops in Singapore. There aren't places to sit (unless you count the 2 or 3 tables in the sun) as it operates out of a container. 

No. Of Forks: 2 (not because the milk tea is bad but because you can find this standard back in SG and at the same price). 

5. Faculty of Caffeine (visited Dec 2014)

After a visit to the bakery, you can walk to Faculty of Caffeine. And no, it is in no way related to SG's Department of Caffeine.

Exit Jalan Tan Hiok Nee (the street Hiap Joo is located on) to the road nearest to it. The road is named Jalan Trus (perpendicular to Jalan Tan Hiok Nee). Follow the road and walk down it till you see (about 5 minutes) the cafe. You will walk past Galleria mall, next to Plaza Seni. The cafe is further down and opposite the road. 

The interior is slightly dark, but comfortable all the same with the usual hipster vibes.

Faculty of Caffeine Menu

While the brunch menu may not offer an extensive variety, it is sufficient to chose from.

Iced Passion Peach Raspberry (RM 9), Caffe Mocha (RM 10), Iced Mocha (RM 12)
My choice of Caffe Mocha was just a right balance of chocolatey and nutty coffee undertones. I especially liked the thick froth that covered the cup. This is a very decent cup, but it comes at a price that nearly matches those of Singapore's cafes.The fruit tea was alright.
All 3 of us picked the Generous Breakfast for our main.

Generous Breakfast - RM 17.50 ($6.70)
It was a generous platter indeed, with the sauteed mushrooms, scrambled egg, ham (or you can choose beef bacon), tomatoes and slice of toast. All items were done satisfactorily well and we all agreed it was great. The price in SGD also makes this super value-for-money, although I think it is slightly steep for a cafe in RM.

They also offer some cakes for dessert, which by the look of the display counter when we were there, were limited. If you have more time, you can also relax with a book in the cafe. At the back of the cafe, there's an alfresco area that overlooks the back alley. The view isn't great, but it will do.

No. Of Forks: 4 

6. Humble Beginnings (visited Dec 2014)
Exit the cafe and turn right, following the stretch to the first side road, right by East West Cafe. Turn right towards Jalan Segget and continue left when you reach Jalan Sengget, past Ya Wang Restaurant. Once back out onto Jalan Wong Ah Fook, just walk towards City Square. 

On its own, City Square has a lot of food choices that Singapore does not. Restaurant chains like Dragon-I (Chinese cuisine) and Elmigos (Mexican fare) are among those. For dessert however, Humble Beginnings located on the top-most floor of the mall is a great. The cafe sells mille crepes mainly here, at very affordable prices compared to the mille crepes in Singapore.

They have a great variety of flavours to choose from, like Oreo Cookies n Cream and Matcha. Apart from the mille crepes, they also do cheesecakes and there are a variety of beverages offered on the menu.

 We settled on the Swiss Chocolate Velvet and Royal Milk Tea. Between the two, I preferred the Swiss Chocolate for its richer flavour. For texture, the mille crepe layers were even with a soft texture. The 20 layers together created was somewhat velvety in the mouth. I am not sure if it's comparable to Lady M's as this is my first mille crepe, but it definitely makes the mark in taste, if not construction and texture.

Swiss Velvet Chocolate and Royal Milk Tea Mille Crepe (RM 10.90 each - $4.20)
Feel free to explore the other parts of City Square after this, for shopping and the food. I like to take home a box of J.Co donuts as they are nearly 50% cheaper compared to in Singapore, whereas my friends like Famous Amos (cheaper by 30-40%).

No. Of Forks: 4

Hiap Joo Bakery 
13 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Bahru
Mon-Sat, 8am-6pm or till sold out (Buns start coming out at 11am). 
Closed Sun

The Replacement Lodge and Kitchen
33, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru
Phone:+60 016 7-132714
Daily from 10am-10pm

Chaiwalla & Co. Container Cafe
Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru,
Phone: +60 12-735 3572
Weekdays 9.30am-10.30pm; weekends 9.30am-1pm

Faculty of Caffeine
106 Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru
Phone: +60 167-132714 
Daily from 9am-6pm

Humble Beginnings
J6-05, Level 6, City Square JB
106 - 108 Jalan Wong Ah Fook, 80000 Johor Bahru
Daily from 12pm-10pm