Situated by the border between Malaysia and Singapore, Johor Bahru (JB) can often get overlooked by travelers as they head straight for its bustling neighbor Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital. But the city has its own historic charm and arts scene, plus a surprising number of family-friendly attractions. And let’s not forget the food. You’ve got street stalls, traditional bakeries and, of course, cafes, which is what we’re here to talk about.
On your next cafe-hopping trip, check these ones out for brunch grub, sweet treats, and a solid brew.
One of the newer haunts to open in an old school shop house, the hidden spot exudes chillax vibes. Whether you’re seated outdoors or in the two-story rustic space, you’re primed to while the hours away with a variety of sandwiches, pastas, and desserts in unusual variations.
Bakes that’ve popped up include matcha brownies and teh tarik cake, which you can pair with a cup of coffee that’s gotten the ondeh ondeh treatment (it’s a sweet snack of glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar).
36 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru. +60 16-727 9944. Daily 10:30am-7pm.
Self-hailed as Malaysia’s first container cafe concept, Chaiwalla & Co has that vintage industrial look down pat, with pops of greenery and reclaimed wood livening up its dark shipping container space.
Popular for its Thai milk teas and chai brews, the ice cold drinks make for a proper thirst-quencher in scorching weather, and sugar levels can be adjusted according to your preferences. If you’re not busy chewing on toppings like tapioca pearls or nata de coco, try some of the pastries or sweets on display.
36, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Bahru. Sun-Thurs 11am-midnight, Fri-Sat 11am-1am.
One of the first few cafes in JB to get serious about brunch, Faculty of Caffeine is a chic spot lined with dark walls and exposed bulbs. Besides its mix of Asian and Western mains like unagi tendon, chicken leg confit, and maze ramen, the brunch side of things offers a breakfast platter and avocado with baked beans.
Fried chicken and fries are available to munch on, as well as desserts like house-made brownies. And if you’re not in the mood for a cuppa, a fresh cold pressed juice could do the trick.
106, Jalan Trus. +60 12-411 5909. Daily 9am-5:30pm.
Skinny doesn’t exist in the vocabulary of breakfast hangout Good Morning Food Truck, where the sandwiches are stuffed high with meats, greens, cheeses, and eggs. A proper pick-me-up at dawn, if we ever saw one. Done Taiwanese-style, the sammies come in variations such as mayo egg and chicken egg, cooked up either at the mobile vehicle or its nearby brightly-colored cartoon house-shaped physical store counterpart.
Jalan Ekoflora 1, Taman Ekoflora. Tues-Sun 7am-3pm.
It’s about as hipster as you can get, having a cuppa in an industrial cafe that’s located in a former factory surrounded by warehouses. The door knob of the entrance is an upcycled coffee filter holder, burlap sacks hang from the ceiling, pipes make up the second-floor railings, and of course, exposed bulbs dot the space.
It’s cool and all if you’re into that sort of thing, but java enthusiasts will be just as happy to note the variety of beans, brews, and roasting machines at Just Want Coffee’s sprawling headquarters.
No. 30, Jln Mutiara Emas 5/3, Taman Mount Austin. +60 7-350 7508. Daily noon-11:45pm.
Famous for its mille crepes that come in a myriad of 20 ever-changing flavors, which include peanut blueberry, hazelnut, rum and raisin, tiramisu, and rose, Maco whips its cakes into buttery smooth form that’s almost second to none. Even if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, the menu offers pastries, quiches, pies, and pizzas to go with your coffee of choice.
65, Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Taman Sutera Utama. +60 13-727 3366. Mon-Thurs 11:30am-11pm, Fri-Sun 11am-11:30pm.
A green, nature-lovin’ space that celebrates local produce and farm-to-table food, this airy, light-filled crowd favorite is known for its burgers and rice bowls topped with beef tenderloin, unagi, or grilled chicken. Desserts are quite the treat, too – no trip here is complete without an order of the Kumo Ultimo, a jiggly cream cheese soufflé pancake that comes in flavors such as mango, strawberry, and tiramisu.
78, Jalan Pingai, Taman Pelangi. +60 7-336 3562. Daily 11:30am-11:30pm.
Shake off the lethargy with a sugar rush at Shakespeare’s cozy shop house space, where you can snack on desserts for days. It’s got churros with Nutella and chocolate dipping sauces, soft serve ice cream, waffles topped with the likes of salted caramel affogato, and crepes stuffed with matcha or peanut butter. Plus, savory “croffles”, which aren’t some newfangled invention – they’re basically croissants pressed in a waffle iron.
For more liquid calories – and since milkshakes are part of its name – try the rich beverage in flavors such as avocado gula melaka, Kinder Bueno, and banana with dark chocolate. Otherwise, take it easy with a cappuccino or ice fruit tea instead.
9, Jalan Trus. +60 16-421 8530. Mon-Fri noon-11pm, Sat-Sun noon-midnight.
If you’re craving for a frozen treat, this ice cream parlor makes its own batches fresh in liquid nitrogen with classic flavors like milk and dark chocolate, alongside more uncommon ones such as brownies and cream, butterscotch, matcha green tea, raspberry granola, and Ferrero Rocher fudge. It’s a cool stopover to keep in mind if you’re always on the lookout for dessert after dinner.
31 Jalan Dhoby. +60 7-207 2021. Mon-Thurs 3pm-10pm, Fri 3pm-midnight, Sat 1pm-midnight, Sun 1pm-10pm.
White walls and minimal décor prettify this heritage shop house unit, bringing a sprinkle of Melbourne’s café culture to JB. The popular eatery has been around for a couple years, drawing diners back time and again with its brunch line-up of French toast, eggs benny, and croque madame, alongside hearty all-day items such as crab mentaiko aglio olio, soft shell crab bao, and chicken confit. Churros and cakes are available as well, if you prefer a light nibble to go with your coffee, tea, cold pressed juice, or cocktail.
33-34 Jalan Dhoby. +60 12-547 7885. Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri-Sun 9am-10pm.