Hey all! Colin’s been hard a work devising this delicious ranking of some of our favorite food haunts in and around Jogja, but somehow he hasn’t gotten around to making a blog account, so I have to post this for him.
Lubelczyk’s Food Rankings:
While my compatriot Mr. Jacobs has been obsessing over and trivializing every aspect of our Saturday afternoon beachside chat, I have decided to dedicate my blogging energy to an endeavor that won’t necessarily bore our 10(+/-) readers to death: ranking our favorite Indonesian restaurants. Apart of time spent inside the friendly confines of USD, we spend the most time patrolling the streets of Jogja either staking out new places to eat or visiting old favorites. As food has consumed our minds for an embarrassing amount of time thus far during our stay, it surely deserves its due time in print here on the blog. To do this in the most reader-friendly way possible, I have decided to devise a system of “Power Rankings” to determine which restaurant can claim city-wide bragging rights.
Let me offer a few points of clarification before embarking on the tough task of picking the group’s favorite restaurants. Because it would be impossible to rank every restaurant and food stand (warung in Indonesian) we’ve indulged in over the past three weeks, I’ve decided to restrict my rating system to only the places that have received us on multiple occasions. Though I will provide information on how expensive each restaurant is, this rating will not weigh in heavily when determining the overall rank because no matter how fancy or exotic a restaurant may seem, we have yet to pay over the equivalent of $5 for a meal (which might be my favorite part about the trip thus far). A final note: all of these restaurants are rated on Indonesian standards i.e. an Indonesian place earning a “C” is still akin “A” restaurant back home in the states…yes the food is that good.
Food and Beverage Quality: Graded on the traditional A-F scale
Price: $$$- expensive (by Indonesian standards), $$- moderate, $- cheap
1. MILAS Food and Beverage Quality: A+
I find it hard to believe there will be much griping from my fellow travelling companions about Milas’s coronation atop the rankings, as even our most picky eater (cough cough Elizabeth), found something that she thoroughly enjoyed. Though I’m not usually one to be swayed by ambiance because in my book, food always comes first, I must say the dimly lit, jungle-esque atmosphere provided by Milas actually helped set it apart from our favorite places in Jogya. It’s vegetarian cuisine of flavorful curries, spicy stir-fries, and appetizers doused in city-renowned peanut sauce also helps Milas emerge as the clear winner. The only complaint I’ve heard during our two trips was that too many delicious-looking options crowd the menu, causing the decision-making process to be somewhat excruciating.
2. Warung Gado-Gado Food and Beverage Quality: A
After taking into account the cab ride, somewhat slow service, and burning desire to stay in their alluring oasis for hours after your food has been consumed, a trip to Milas is surely a night long affair. The opposite can be said for the place boasting second place in this week’s rankings. Warung Gado-gado dispels all the myths that Milas propagates by proving that good food doesn’t need to be prepared in a picturesque atmosphere and a menu doesn’t need to consist of more than two items. Every time I eat at this food stall for lunch (I’ll spare you of the ever-rising tally), I know both exactly what I’m going to eat and that I won’t spend more than 30 minutes or 10,000 rupiah ($1) doing it. While the “Lotek” I order each and every time is merely an assortment of diced vegetables mixed with homemade peanut sauce, I have not once been disappointed by it. It’s quick, simple, and top of the line. As Boston sports teams have proved throughout my lifetime (hence the city being dubbed “Titletown”), here’s something to said for being consistently above average, and Warung Gado-gado’s lofty position amongst its competitors is another example of this adage.
3. Phuket Food and Beverage Quality: A-
If eating at a Thai restaurant while amidst hundreds of traditional Indonesian places is sacrilege, we are repeat sinners. If I remember correctly, there was one stretch during which we turned up at Phuket’s doors on three consecutive days. Though this place doesn’t possess the “wow” factor of Milas or the proximity and quickness of Warung Gado-Gado, apart from an unfortunate ordering misstep that ended in a repulsive avocado beverage, I have yet to be disappointed by a meal at Phuket even though I’ve ordered different things each time I’ve visited. Being located within walking distance of our living quarters also scores it points. Though it is improbable (I hope) that we ever break our own record of three days in a row, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were able to stroll in to Phuket and demand “the regular” by the end of our time in Jogya.
4. Warung Soto Food and Beverage Quality: A-
As our #4 favorite place is located right next door to Warung Gado-Gado, we are always confronted with the difficult decision of which food stall to invade after class for lunch. Like its competitor next door, Warung Soto specializes in giving customers the choice between two savory options, but instead of Lotek and Gado-gado, this food stall specializes in chicken soto and chicken curry. The heaping plates of fried tempeh and homemade sambal littering the tables cause some to give Warung soto the leg-up on its next door rival. While none of us have yet managed to come close to Alex’s record of 7 (yes you read that correctly) pieces of tempeh in one meal, we still have plenty of time and given the quality of the tempeh, the task seems surmountable. While the food is surely top of the line taste-wise, one should avoid looking too far back into the kitchen, as its state of cleanliness bears a striking resemblance to my own beloved kitchen in the HC apartments. My mother will be the first to tell you that this is by no means a compliment, but as long as the Indonesian Board of Health remains at bay and none of us comes down with a mysterious food-borne illness, Warung Soto will surely continue to receive our business on a weekly basis.
5. Nanamia Food and Beverage Quality: A-
Not surprisingly, the first restaurant on the list to classify as “very expensive” is the most touristy spot we have visited. Complete with Italian style cuisine and atmosphere, Nanamia provides us Westerners with a nice break from the local options that, though delicious, are also usually quite spicy and can sometimes be overwhelming for Prince Jacob’s sensitive stomach and taste buds. However, because Nanamia is hilariously positioned beside a food stall specializing in dog meat, it doesn’t take much for travellers to remember they are in Jogja rather than Florence. Though Nanamia’s options are tasty and different from most other places, their high prices and small portions (an especially important factor when pizza is the topic of discussion) prevents Nanamia from climbing above the 5-spot in the current rankings.
6. The Loving Hut Food and Beverage Quality: B
Despite its arguably average menu options, the Loving Hut has become somewhat of a staple for our travelling group in the early going primarily because of its ability to provide everyone with a decent and quick meal. Though we aren’t often wowed by this vegan establishment, I think its safe to say it has never truly disappointed us. I liken it to Gado-Gado in terms of consistency minus the out-of-this-world menu options. At this point however, it’s a fallback option that I wouldn’t mind not visiting for the next couple of weeks. It’s tough to find seating and I am beginning to wonder…”If it tastes like meat, smells like meat, and looks like meat, how the heck isn’t it meat??” One of the many mysteries of the Loving Hut that should, in my opinion, be left forever unsolved.
7. Bakso Warung Food and Beverage Quality: C
Until this past Wednesday, I would’ve liked to consider myself someone with pretty good judgment. That is, until I made the mistake of eating at this food stall. In my defense, I was driven into madness by both gnawing hunger and a local recommendation by our usually-trustworthy Indonesian research partners. The grayish meatballs served up at this cart didn’t look like anything a sane man would want to eat and in retrospect, I wish my picky-eater side had kicked to dissuade me from making the self-sacrificial decision to chow down anyway. Despite an extremely rubbery texture, once I closed my eyes and tried not to think about what type of dead animal I was ingesting (a combination of rats and lizards immediately came to mind), the bowl of meatballs was actually pretty edible. Once the tasty mixture of noodles and vegetables was thrown into the equation, forgot altogether the questionable decision we had made. The next morning however, we paid dearly for our mistake. All I will say is it that the situation would have been made much less tense if our apartment was furnished with more than one bathroom.