For our friends to the north and those from the south, Johor Bahru is often seen as a mere pitstop between the buzzing capitals of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. While these two cities may have thriving cafe cultures, JB’s unique cafe culture – concentrated around the city’s historical Jalan Dhoby – can stand toe-to-toe with them.
Don’t believe us? Find out for yourself by checking out these hip cafes serving up some of the best coffee and bites in town:
Fun fact: The name of the street is pronounced as ‘doh-bee’ (not like Dobby the Elf in the Harry Potter series, lol). It comes from the South Indian term for a person who washes clothes and was a common trade along the street decades ago.
1. Roost Repurposed & Recycled
Situated at the corner of Jalan Trus and Jalan Dhoby, Roost is a prominent and well-loved fixture in JB’s cafe scene, as it was one of the first cafes to open in the area.
True to its name, the retro furniture and decor at Roost are made of repurposed and recycled materials, such as wooden crates and oil barrels. The cafe takes up two floors, lending to the cafe’s spacious feel and chill ambience.
Its menu is an interesting mix of concoctions, from healthy zoodles and salads to hearty mashed potato or pasta bowls.
Must-try: Chicken Meatball and Mashed Potato Bowl; Thai Pesto Bowl with Salmon.
14, Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru.
Open Monday and Wednesday to Sunday | 1pm – 12am | Closed on Tuesday
2. Flowers In The Window
Owned by the same founders as Roost Repurposed & Recycled, Flowers In The Window offers a similar vintage atmosphere, but with a green twist – the cafe is filled with foliage and flowers, turning it into a secret garden.
Its menu also features a floral touch: many of their wide selection of cakes and drinks feature edible flowers. Their cakes are decorated in such a way that they’re almost too pretty to eat. (Emphasis on ‘almost’ – we can attest that they’re yummy, too!)
The cafe’s mains won’t make you feel too guilty for indulging in dessert, as they’re generous with the veggies. And their coffee is potent.
Must-try: Whole Chicken Leg with Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Vegetables and Oregano Gravy; Earl Grey Lavender Cake.
9, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru.
Open Monday and Wednesday to Sunday | 10am – 9pm | Closed on Tuesday
3. The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen
This cafe is a minimalist’s dream come true. With whitewashed walls, rustic furnishings and plenty of natural sunlight flooding in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s envisioned as “a nook in the cityscape to celebrate good food”.
Its brunch menu has the usual suspects, such as a breakfast fry-up, eggs benedict and croque madame. If you’re a caffeine addict, be sure to sample the specialty coffee menu, featuring award-winning blends such as the Burundi Kayanza Mpanga.
It’s a popular brunch spot for both locals and Singaporeans in the know during the weekend, so to avoid disappointment, try booking a table ahead of time through their Facebook page.
Must-try: Eggs Benny; B&B French Toast; Dark Chocolate Churros (served with a dip of your choice).
33, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru.
Monday to Thursday: 10am – 6pm | Friday: 10am – 6pm; 7pm – 12am | Saturday & Sunday: 9am – 6pm; 7pm – 12am
4. IT Roo Cafe
IT Roo is a JB institution, guys. I’ve been going here for their Hainanese Chicken Chop since I was a kid, and I’ve yet to find any other place that serves one as good as theirs. Awarded the title of ‘Best Chicken Chop in Town’ by The Star back in 2013, no one’s been able to steal that crown away from them.
They serve other things on the menu, like noodles and rice, but why on earth would you try anything other than their juicy chicken chops?? Served with crispy golden potatoes and gravy so good you never feel as though you have enough on your plate, trust me, you’ll keep coming back for more.
It may not be as stylishly decorated as the other cafes around Jalan Dhoby, as it’s more of a local kopitiam (Chinese coffee shop), but it has an authentic vintage look to it, as opposed to those that only dress the part.
Must-try: Fried Chicken Chop (served with either Mushroom or Black Pepper sauce); Lime Juice with Ice Cream Soda.
17, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru.
Open daily | 12pm – 9.30pm
5. Chaiwalla & Co.
Chaiwalla & Co. is the pioneer of container cafes in Malaysia, and though it has since spread its wings beyond Johor Bahru and into Kuala Lumpur, its first cafe still stands proudly on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, parallel to Jalan Dhoby.
Built using refurbished cargo containers and reclaimed wood, the cafe is peak hipster. However, it’s the perfect refuge after a hot day of walking around JB’s historical district.
You may have a hard time choosing your beverage though, as they serve up all kinds of teas, coffees and smoothies with flavors and toppings galore that you can order in a variety of combinations. They also offer small bites to nibble on along with your drink, such as pies and brownies.
Must-try: Thai Milk Tea with Pearls; Matcha Latte; Chai Latte.
36, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru.
Open daily | 12pm – 12am
6. Senso Art Gallery Cafe
Tucked into the quieter end of Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Senso Art Gallery Cafe is a hidden gem that I was glad to stumble upon. The front of the shop has charming knick-knacks and artwork on display, while the small space to the back was converted into a cafe.
Their menu is simple, with mains like pizza and pasta and desserts such as creme brulee and cakes. Their coffee is also quite good – strong, and not too milky or sweet.
The space above the cafe is utilized as an art gallery and for arts & crafts workshops, so if you’re interested in picking up new art skills, take a look at upcoming workshops on their Facebook page.
Must-try: Cold Brew Rose Coffee; White Mushroom Pizza.
25, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000, Johor Bahru.
Monday to Saturday: 11am – 7pm | Sunday: 12pm – 8pm | Closed on Tuesday
If you’re ever in Johor Bahru, Jalan Dhoby’s pre-war shoplots-turned-trendy cafes and colorful street murals are a must-visit! Book your trip on Traveloka today.