Much of Johor Bahru's appeal is derived from its proximity to superstar neighbor Singapore, proving to be an option for cheaper, good quality food that can be had for half the price. Not that it's a poor man's Singapore; the varied cultural heritage representative of Malaysia shines through in the food on tap, whether you are interested in Mamak specialties, hawker-style food courts, Chinese-influenced dishes, or even other international cuisines.
The most affordable, the most frequently romanticized, and often the most authentic way of eating is hawker-style. In Johor Bahru, a number of food courts have been set up where hawker food is available representing a range of influences, from Chinese to Indian and beyond. Some of the most significant food courts include Tepian Tebrau on Jalan Sungai Chat, which includes 32 stalls that serve an excellent variety of Malaysian dishes; Pusat Penjaja Taman Sri Tebrau on Jalan Keris, which has an incredible 118 stalls; and Medan Selera Meldrum Walk on the pedestrianized Meldrum Walk, which has up to 90 food cart operators. There are more hawker food courts around the city, usually not far from where you may be staying or sight-seeing; ask a local or someone at your accommodation for the closest one.
You'll find varieties of both Malay and Mamak (Muslim Malaysians) cuisine throughout the city, particularly at the aforementioned food courts, although classics like nasi lemak (a versatile rice dish cooked in coconut milk) are best had at Nasi Lemak Senibong on Jalan Senibong and the 24-hour joint, Restoran Banafee on Jalan Datuk Abdullah Tahir. Also, check out Mama Nyonya Food on Jalan Molek and Madam Chang's Nyonya Cafe on Jalan Bestari for a taste of unique local flavors that bear both Malaysian and Chinese influence.
If you're looking for a few streets where the selection of food is distinguished (and you're not feeling the hawker carts), the following can be counted on. First is Jalan Sungai Chat (near the city's most famous square, Dataran Bandaraya), which features a number of shops, including the Malay and Thai stylings of Restoran ZZ and the previously mentioned Tepian Tebrau. Another is Jalan Sutera, just off of the Tebrau Highway. Institutions like Restoran Bamboo and Bubur Nasi Sentosa lead a pack of some of the best restaurants in the city. Lastly is Jalan Molek, which is in the Taman Molek neighborhood, an increasingly hip commercial area. Mama Nyonya, Nasi Lemak Anggerik, and Restoran Sayed all call this street home, combining to provide the full range of what makes Malaysian food so varied and wonderful.
For further information, take a look through our cuisine pages or start a conversation with others in our community. Remember, if you're looking for a much cheaper alternative to food in Singapore, Johor Bahru is the place to go.