At Singapore’s best local restaurants, don’t expect fine dining – this is all about fantastic flavours, low prices and an authentic dining experience. As Singapore is made up of a large percentage of expats, trying to pick out where locals go is more complex than in most other places in Southeast Asia. One thing is for sure: local Chinese-influenced (Peranakan) restaurants have stood the test of time, despite the influx of Japanese ramen restaurants and American burger joints.
In Singapore, everyday local food is anything but ordinary. With restaurants often run by the same family for generations, the recipes have been honed throughout the years so they specialise in exacting dishes that can match more swanky places in terms of taste, and smash them when it comes to the cost. These are the restaurants, hawker centres and food stalls where Singaporeans go to get their fix of genuine local flavours.
Also check out the Best Hawker Centres in Singapore for more ideas on the best budget dining.
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Pork bone tea is a classic local dish in Singapore, and there are plenty of restaurants specialising in this stewed pork rib dish. Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh, an iconic restaurant that has been around since the 1970s, is one of the most successful due to the peppery yet balanced broth and succulent meat. It has been so successful, in fact, that they now have six branches, with plans to open more. The best branch to try the Teochew-style dish is Havelock Road, which is accessible from Tiong Bahru or Clarke Quay.
- Opening Hours: Tue, Thur 11:00 - 02:00; Wed, Fri & Sat 11:00 - 03:00 and Sun 11:00 - 22:00 (closed on Mondays)
- MRT: Tiong Bahru/ Clarke Quay
- Address: 593 Havelock Rd, Singapore
- Tel: +65 6235 7716
Swee Choon is an ageing dim sum joint that opens throughout the night, so it’s the perfect post clubbing feed. The unusual opening hours for a dim sum restaurant (this is traditionally a breakfast and brunch food) attracts a lot of end-of-the-night groups coming in to feast on dim sum to try and ward off the impending hangover. A full range of steamed dumplings are on offer, and most cost around S$2 for a delicious and affordable meal. After midnight, the varied clientele offers some excellent people watching, too.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 06:00 (closed on Tuesdays)
- Address: 191 Jalan Besar, Singapore
- Tel: +65 6225 7788
Centrally positioned on Serangoon Road, with an easy-to-find corner location and an almost gothic-like red and grey colour scheme, Khansama Tandoori Restaurant makes our list for its utterly delicious Tandoor oven-cooked delights. Buffet lunches, which are mostly meat-based, start from around S$12, while a whole leg of marinated lamb, cooked for two hours, can be enjoyed if you come with friends (S$99). The smoky infusion that Khansama Tandoori Restaurant produces is second to none; certainly a unique flavour that can only be properly produced by using the huge brick oven, reaching temperatures of over 260°C.
- Opening Hours: 11:30 – 22:30
- Address: 166 Serangoon Road, Little India
- Tel: +65 6299 0300
Closed to traffic at dusk, Smith Street takes on a gregarious personality to the delight of visitors. Traditional Chinese lanterns light the streets, and the busy area has a genuine buzz to it thanks to the crowds who come for supper, sitting on the small plastic stools that line the road. Navigate your way through more than a dozen stalls under iridescent neon lights and take your pick of popular street favourites. There’s plenty to pick from: fresh seafood, wok-fried noodles, crispy duck and steamed dim sum, among others. Not only is the food extremely tasty, but the prices are extremely affordable (starting at S$3 a dish), so you can try a bit of everything.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 - 23:00 Daily
- Address: 335 Smith Street, Singapore
Locals often tout Long Beach Seafood Restaurant as one of the best local places for a plate of Singapore’s national dish – chilli crab. The crab is fresh and the flavours are spicy, just as it’s supposed to be. This beachfront diner is simply decorated and packed with Singaporeans on weekends. The menu is comprehensive: you’ll find a full range of seafood on offer, with many options for frying, boiling or barbequing available. Plus, the relaxed setting makes a nice change of pace from the downtown hustle.
- Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 - 00:00, Sat & Eve of & Public Holidays 11:00 - 01:00
- Address: #01-04 East Coast Seafood Centre Singapore 449881
- Tel: +65 6448 3636
This famed chicken on rice stall in Maxwell Food Centre made headlines around the world when it was included in the Michelin guide in 2016 and 2017. Already busy, this made the crowds swell even more, with more and more tourists joining the long line of locals waiting to get their fix of steamed chicken on oily rice, with a chicken broth served on the side. This is the equivalent of a PG family movie – everyone can enjoy the simple flavours and it’s healthy for all ages. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 20:00 (closed on Monday)
- MRT: Chinatown
- Address: Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street
This colonial shophouse serves some of the best nasi lemak in Singapore. This spicy Malay chicken dish is served with coconut rice, anchovies and peanuts and is often topped with a fried egg. It’s the only main dish on the menu (and, at S$12.80, it’s not exactly cheap), but Coconut Club also serve tea and coffee. The interior is bright and modern – perhaps not what you would expect from a ‘local’ restaurant in Singapore, but it has proven a big hit with locals, expats and inquisitive travellers.
- Opening Hours: Tue - Sat 11:00 – 15:00 (closed on Sundays and Mondays)
- MRT: Telok Ayer
- Address: 6 Ann Siang Hill
- Tel: +65 6635 2999
Kaya Toast cafés are a mainstay of the Singapore local dining scene, and serve one of the most popular breakfasts in this thriving city state. A typical serving consists of thick toast with kaya jam (a mix of sugar, coconut milk and butter) liberally applied, with some soft-boiled eggs on the side, which you are expected to crack into a bowl and then dunk the toast into. Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a popular franchise in Singapore, but at this China Street branch, you’ll most likely be surrounded by old aunties and uncles getting their morning fix of kaya toast and strong tea or coffee.
- Opening Hours: 07:00 - 19:00
- MRT: Telok Ayer
- Address: 18 China Street, #01-01, Far East Square, Singapore
- Tel: +65 6438 3638