A plate of gado-gado at Gado-Gado Bon Bin costs Rp 36.300. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Tasty and Affordable: Best Modern Indonesian Warungs in Jakarta


APRIL 20, 2018

Family-owned warung serving affordable but tasty food and drinks are a dime a dozen in Indonesia. In the capital Jakarta you can find them on almost every street, serving everything from gado-gado – the famous Indonesian salad drenched in sweet peanut sauce – to, yes, in this age of globalized palate, pasta.

The Jakarta Globe went to five modern warungs in Jakarta and show you the evolution of these original fast-food joints.

1. Gado-Gado 'Bon Bin' (1960)

"Bon-Bin" is actually an acronym for "Kebon Binatang" (Zoo) since the warung is located very close to the old Jakarta Zoo in Cikini, Central Jakarta, before it was relocated to Ragunan.

Owner Hadi’s parents opened the original food stand, called Warung Lontong, in 1942.

Lontong is rice cake wrapped in banana leaf, and can be served with all sorts of dishes and condiments.

In 1960, they started specializing in the one dish they are now famous for: gado-gado.

A plate of fresh gado-gado at Gado-Gado Bon Bin costs Rp 36,000 (less than $3). (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

The gado-gado salad is typically made up of blanched or steamed vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, tempe, tofu and covered with generous dollops of homemade peanut sauce dressing.

Hadi’s version also has crunchy bean sprouts, fresh green beans, spinach, soft tofu, thick but tender lontong, potatoes, his own homemade special peanut sauce and topped off with emping (crackers made from crushed melinjo seeds) and krupuk (deep fried crackers made from flour and seasoning).

Bon Bin’s peanut sauce is thicker than most and quite sweet. Hadi tells The Jakarta Globe unlike in most other places, he does not fry the peanuts before they're crushed into sauce and simmer it for longer to release more flavors.

As the peanut dressing is the main part of the dish, when it runs out the shop has to close so they can make the next big batches.

George Kuak from Singapore has been coming every week to Gado-Gado Bon Bin since finding the place two years ago.

"Gado-gado is very healthy, and with all these ingredients, it’s a full meal on its own. My office is a bit far, in Sudirman, but I come here a lot," he said.

Hadi continues his parents' legacy at Gado-Gado Bon Bin. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Address: Jalan Cikini 4 No.5, Cikini, Central Jakarta.

Opening hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Monday-Sunday)

2. Warteg Warmo (1970)

Warteg stands for Warung Tegal (literally "warung from Tegal," a town in Central Java), but the name is now synonymous with any small restaurant that serves various pre-cooked dishes that stand proudly in glass-windowed cupboards.

The menu, just like here at famous Warteg Warmo, is usually so extensive you'll have difficulty choosing unless you already know what you want.

It can seem like every single Javanese dish is available at Warmo, from all sorts of sayur (vegetables, Rp 5,000 per portion) to chicken, beef or seafood (Rp 13,000), fish (Rp 8,000), spicy chicken soup (Rp 20,000) or beef ribs soup (Rp 25,000).

There isn't a price board available because all the dishes are priced depending on the ingredients used.

Best-selling potato crisps at Warteg Warmo. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Warmo, located on a busy corner of Tebet in South Jakarta, is traditional in every sense. Though not air-conditioned, the place is cool as the grated windows allow a nice breeze to come in.

Since it's open 24 hours, Warmo is popular with young people who flock to it for midnight snacks or even a full meal after going clubbing.

A communal wooden bench is set inside for strangers to eat side by side – be warned that when this place gets crowded, there will be no room for personal space.

Rita, the third out of five children of the late Pak Dasir, the original owner, manages the restaurant. Her younger sister is in charge of the cooking, which is done every day from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.

All the dishes at Warmo are cooked fresh on site every day. It takes six hours in total. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

The warung has always opened 24 hours because Pak Dasir used to be a becak driver before he opened Warmo. He knew that becak drivers are often hungry at night and often could not find a warung open late enough to fill their belly.

This is also the reason why Warmo has kept the prices of each dish relatively cheap even though it's popular with the city's rich and trendy set.

Rita, Warmo's manager and the daughter of its original owner. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Address: Jalan Tebet Timur Raya No. 1D, Tebet, South Jakarta.

Opening hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

3. Warung Pasta (2006)

Warung Pasta's owner and chef Ragil Imam Wibowo always wanted to be different. He wanted to be a pioneer.

So when everybody else was opening noodle joints back in 2006, he and his wife decided to open Warung Pasta, an "Asian Pasta" place that serves the Italian dish tailored to the Indonesian palate.

Since then, Warung Pasta has constantly adapted to the times, changing their menu regularly to keep up with trends.

Their steady bestsellers include Meaty Lovers (a spaghetti bolognaise with a sweet meat and tomato sauce) and Snowy Chip (a creamy carbonara pasta with smoked beef).

They also recently introduced a cold pasta salad – only available currently at their Kemang and Bandung shops.

'Snowy Chip,' one of Warung Pasta's bestsellers. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Warung Pasta's Kemang store is located on the second floor of a shophouse, with a balcony patio looking over busy Jalan Kemang Raya.

Chef Ragil said every pasta and pizza dish at his restaurant has been modified to suit local taste. If you're new to Italian pasta, then this is the place for you.

Warung Pasta in Kemang. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Address: Jalan Kemang Raya No. 88, Kemang, South Jakarta.

Opening hours:  7 a.m. - 1 a.m. (Monday-Thursday, Sunday) 7 a.m. - 3 a.m. (Friday, Saturday)

4. Warung Turki by Turkuaz (2015) 

To Warung Turki's owner and chef Sezai Zorlu, the word "warung" means simplicity, and compared to his first restaurant, the more upmarket Turkuaz, Warung Turki gives customers a better glimpse into his hometown.

"This is not an Indonesian warung, this is a Turkish warung," Zorlu said.

Zorlu hails from the southeast of Turkey, growing up in a city called Iskenderun.

His grandparents were farmers, so he understands the value of growing food, eating and sharing whatever you have.

Zorlu's mother was a strict disciplinarian and prioritized family time over the dinner table.

"Seven o’clock at night you have to be at home, ready, sitting in the chair waiting for your food. She will lock the door when it's seven and you’re not in. You wait outside, until the dinner is finished. Snow, rain, summer, it doesn’t matter," he said.

Zorlu won't lock you out of his restaurant, but he does want his customers to respect the food they are served.

A portrait of Chef Zorlu's mother at Warung Turki. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

A Mezze platter at Warung Turki is perfect if you want to try out different Turkish appetizers. You get smooth and buttery Zeytinyagli Humus (chickpeas and tahini with organic extra virgin olive oil), sweet and sour Babaganuc (wood charcoal grilled aubergine, tomato, chili pepper, and garlic with organic extra virgin olive oil), and fresh wake-me-up mini salad Gavurdagi Salatasi (cucumber, tomatoes and walnuts with pomegranate sauce and organic extra virgin olive oil).

Tear a piece of fresh wood oven-baked Pide Ekmegi (bread with sesame) and dip it into these tasting plates. The Babaganuc is especially tasty, with just the right amount of piquancy.

A Mezze platter at Warung Turki. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

If you want Turkish comfort food, then go for the Soganli Tavuk, a Turkish chicken butter rice dish.

Chopped onion slices are caramelized with bay leaf, cumin powder and chilli paste, then stuffed into a chicken and boiled.

The rice is first sauteed with butter, then cooked with the chicken stock to produce a soft and savory companion to the dish.

This is Chef Zorlu’s favorite childhood dish. He tells The Jakarta Globe he makes his own spices and dries his own herbs. This gives his dishes an authentic homemade taste.

Soganli Tavuk: chicken with seasoned onion and butter rice at Warung Turki. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Though the place is called a warung, not all dishes at Warung Turki are simple to make. The lamb shank, or Meftune Kuzu Incik, is marinated with whole shallots, garlic and tomato paste for four hours and then simmered for eight to ten hours. It's served with butter rice.

Zorlu said this dish was served to Turkish Sultans back in the 15th century, and that's why each ingredient had to be carefully chosen and then slow-cooked to perfection.

Meftune Kuzu Incik: simmered lamb shank with whole shallots, garlic and tomato paste at Warung Turki. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Warung Turki is dedicated to the chef's mother, so he and his staff pride themselves on traditional homemade food.

"Home-cooking is always more delicious than fine dining. Especially for people like me who have lived their whole life eating home-cooked meals," Zorlu said.

Address: Jl. Kemang Raya No.18A, Kemang, South Jakarta.

Opening hours: 11:30 a.m. - 12 a.m. (Monday-Sunday)

5. Warunk Upnormal (2016)

Warunk Upnormal has gone from an upstart into a staple in less than two years, with almost 100 locations in major cities in Indonesia to date.

Restaurant manager Dwi Kurniawan said the restaurant's simple concept – combining common ingredients like instant noodles with outlandish toppings (salted egg anyone?) – has been so well received that it has been easy for them to expand.

Warunk Upnormal's concept is not new. The ubiquitous "Warung Indomie," a tent stall serving instant noodles (usually Indomie brand) and toasts with corned beef, cheese, or egg (or the lot) as topping or filling, is basically the Indonesian equivalent of the corner pub.

All Warunk Upnormal does is combine the Warung Indomie menu with a modern cafe setting (yes, they do serve manual brew) and voila, you have a runaway success.

Nasi Ayam Penyet Pedesnya Ga Nyante (Rice With Chicken and Too Hot to Handle Chili Topping), toasts with matcha and taro spread and iced coffee with palm sugar at Warunk Upnormal. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

One of Warunk Upnormal's bestsellers is Indomie Saos Keju (instant noodles in cheese sauce). We expected a thicker, more decadent cheese sauce. What we got instead was a steaming hot, slightly cheesy broth.

Chopped chillies give the dish an extra zing but it's quickly masked by the cheesy and milky broth. The single slice of rubbery smoked beef ham fails to improve things.

A bowl of Indomie with cheesy sauce at Warunk Upnormal. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

But what Warunk Upnormal is a place of convenience. The restaurant is almost half a co-working space, but with food. It has fast and free Wi-Fi, cool air-conditioning and power sockets littered all over the place to charge your devices.

As mentioned before, Warunk Upnormal has tons of locations, so make sure to look for the address closest to you.

Warunk Upnormal in Tebet, South Jakarta. (JG Photo/Cahya Nugraha)

Address: Tebet branch: Jl. K.H. Abdulah Syafei No. 45, Tebet, South Jakarta.

Opening hours: 7 a.m. - 2 a.m. (Monday-Sunday)