Eating out in Singapore seems exorbitant when you’ve been surviving on $1 plates of pad thai, but it’s actually relatively affordable compared to most other developed countries. Of course, that only applies if you pay attention and make sure your dining choices never cross the mid-range mark.
The price of upper mid range and high-end restaurants is now high enough to compete with other notoriously expensive cities. Paying $30 for a meal is now quite common at upper mid-range restaurants, and if you’re eating at fancier joints such as some of the more well-known restaurants at Marina Bay Sands, be prepared to set aside at least $50 per head.
If you want to eat cheaply, stick to the following types of eateries instead.
1. Hawker centres
A lot of people accuse Singapore of being soul-less. Well, people say hawker centres are the heart and soul of the country. Now that we’ve cleared up the location of these lost souls, it’s time to eat. Hawker centres are where the best and cheapest food is, where most people have their meals whey they have nobody to impress, where uncles and aunties drink Tiger beer with their friends.
Hawker centres are not to be mistaken for food courts, which are often managed by big companies and have been completely sanitised. At food courts, the cooking is often outsourced to foreign employees who do not retain local flavours. But hawker centres are less susceptible to this erosion of authenticity. Some hawker stalls have attained legendary status and sell out to long queues by lunchtime.
- Golden Mile (Beach Road) Food Centre (505 Beach Road)
- Maxwell Food Centre (1 Kadayanallur Street)
- Chomp Chomp Food Centre (20 Kensington Park Road)
- Chinatown Complex (335 Smith Street)
2. Food court
Food court food is like hawker centre food’s more tasteless, more expensive sibling. You pay more because food courts are generally located in air-conditioned shopping malls where rent is higher. They’re often operated by big corporations who then farm out stalls to tenants, and you will find more or less the same sorts of food you see in hawker centres, minus some offerings like satay.
Still, there are some decent food courts around, usually housed in older buildings. These food courts have not yet been taken over by big chains like Kopitiam or Food Republic, and still retain some of the original stallholders. Then there are modern food courts with a hipster twist, such as Timbre+ at One-North. However, expect to pay significantly higher prices.
- Food Republic at Wisma Atria (435 Orchard Road Level 4)
- Kopitiam at Plaza Singapura (68 Orchard Road #06-15-17)
- Food Opera at ION Orchard (2 Orchard Turn #B3-03/04)
- Asian Foodmall at Lucky Plaza (304 Orchard Road #B1-38)
3. Fast food
While fast food prices have risen significantly over the last decade, a meal at McDonald’s or Burger King still costs a lot less than one at even the most generic mid-range restaurant. Some of the many fast food chains operating in Singapore include Mos Burger, Carl’s Junior, Subway, Yoshinoya and Pizza Hut. You might not be doing your body any favours in terms of nutrition, but at least you won’t starve to death.
4. Family-run restaurants and food stalls
Long before Singapore became the huge money sink it is today, there were many humble family-run restaurants and food stalls, often operated out of shophouses. Those still around today offer some of the best value eats in town. You’ll be eating in humble surroundings, probably on plastic chairs and at hawker centre-style tables. But the food is likely to be pretty damn good, thanks to closely guarded secret recipes.
- Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant (181-191 Jalan Besar)
- Beach Road Scissors Cut Curry Rice (229 Jalan Besar)
- Yeo Keng Nam Chicken Rice (8 Braddell Road)
- Heng Heng Claypot Bak Koot Teh (107 Owen Road)
4. Local chains
’Murica has McDonald’s, Singapore has Ya Kun. We’ve got quite a few popular chain eateries that serve up affordable food from a standard menu. The most visible of these chains include Ya Kun, Toast Box, Killiney Kopitiam and Coffee & Toast, all of which serve up the classic breakfast meal of kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, and coffee.
There will usually also be some other local dishes on the menu like mee siam and laksa. If you’re not feeling confident about battling the crowds at hawker centres, these local chains, usually located in shopping malls, make things less exciting, but easier.
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