Ask around for the most popular places to eat in Bali, and frequent mention would be made of ‘warungs’ – simple roadside dining spots presenting their own specialty cuisine. Definitely not the modern restaurants that have borrowed and fused the word ‘warung’ into their name, simply for the sake of branding, these warungs are authentic. No doubt this list will cause debate but note that it is a breakaway from our list of trendy upscale restaurants, and it is more focused on those serving outright cheap and local food. We’ve also left out those that have shifted their market from local to tourists and somehow bloated their prices along the way.
These are all budget options with no fuss about fancy interior design, silver cutlery or cushioned chairs. If you don’t mind getting in line and practicing a bit of Indonesian (and Balinese!) body language in placing your order, then settling down in a non-air-conditioned space on plastic stools or wooden benches and tables, with toilet paper rolls for napkins, then you’re in for the ultimate local dining experience. The list will surely change in the future but here are our most popular 10 to date, each listed under Bali’s most favourite dishes to try while on holidays here.
- Quad or Buggy Driving Adventure & Tubing Excursion
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Sunsets and seafood galore
Whenever you are craving for some local style seafood, head to this fishing villlage south of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, which also serves as one of the island's main panoramic beaches to enjoy a dinner against beautiful sunsets. All of the restaurants lining the coast offer menus focusing on seafood, and some even have live showcases where you can take your pick and have them cooked to your preferences with a selection of barbecue sauces. There are a total seventeen seafood cafes to choose from with candlelit tables set out on the sand. Some even have French Fries, fried rice, chop suey and other western and Asian cuisine on their menus for variety, and even expand their seafood selections to barracuda, mahi-mahi and kingfish. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 15:00 – 23:00
- Location: Jalan Four Seasons, Muaya Beach, Jimbaran
Until noon only
A typical early morning sight on Pantai Segara in Sanur is a crowd patiently sitting around tables waiting for this small shop to open. This is Warung Nasi Bali Men Weti, where weekending locals and holidaying Jakartans love to brunch – on spicy nasi campur! Right by the coast, this simple warung has wooden benches and chairs around the footpath. Men Weti herself takes her time preparing her stall and in front of the hungry onlookers – she rules them. Her dishes commonly comprise Bali spiced roast chicken, betutu, deep-fried crispy chicken skin, Balinese chicken sate lilit, spicy chicken soup, half egg topped with hot tomato sambal, blanched cassava leaves, shredded coconut lawar mix, fried peanuts and a special sambal that consists of sliced shallots, chilli and salt. You’ll also have other selections of seafood to choose from. Closes by noon.
- Opening Hours: 08.00 - 12.00
- Location: Jl. Pantai Segara, Sanur
This humble ‘warung’ is another gem amidst the luxury villas and international restaurants on Jalan Petitenget. Warung Eny has all the features that make it authentic: fresh vegetables and spices in assorted displays at front, an open kitchen behind a food display, and friendly service by none other than the Balinese family owners. Being in the middle of an international audience, the spot has attracted guests from all over the world, mostly those who are simply looking for something authentically Balinese amidst the fancy Western diners. This warung serves nasi campur with a variety of side dishes to choose from, and you can ask for a watered-down version of the usually hot sambal sauce, which they’ll prepare fresh from the ingredients readily in stock at front. Warung Eny is also among the very few traditional, household style Balinese warungs that hosts cooking classes, sharing their valuable knowledge with anyone interested in learning to make and enjoy authentic, local homemade Balinese cuisine.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 22:00
- Location: Jalan Petitenget 97, Kerobokan
- Tel: +62 (0)361 736 892
On the outskirts of Ubud, there’s a local institution that serves nasi ayam or ‘chicken rice’, a similar dish to nasi campur. Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Bu Mangku is a favourite lunch stopovers among drivers, guides and staff of the neighbouring hotels in Kedewatan. Foreigners have acquired the taste and the place has caught on. There are many similar nasi ayam warungs along the Kedewatan road, but many locals refer to Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Bu Mangku as the original and the best. The place is clean and the Balinese owners have upgraded their venue to feature cosy and homey setups on their own traditional Balinese household compound. You won’t find this kind of authentic atmosphere elsewhere. Your standard rice dish consists of sauced chicken strips, deep-fried crackling entrails, half ‘pindang’ or sweet-boiled eggs, chicken saté, stir-fried snake beans in shredded coconut and the optional sambal.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 18:00
- Location: Jalan Raya Kedewatan No. 18, Ubud
- Tel: +62(0)361 974 795
Juicy chicken and duck
Betutu is Bali’s pride, on par with the babi guling – whole roast pig. In olden times, with its arduous preparation and cooking process, these two dishes were meant only for religious purposes and temple anniversaries. Betutu comprises chicken or duck, stuffed, marinated and wrapped in banana leaves with rich Balinese spices, then slowly cooked covered in coal for hours. The meat is succulent, and easily slips off the bone. The main ingredients include almost all the spices known in the Balinese kitchen: chilli, pecans, onions, lemongrass, galangal, nutmeg, turmeric, lime leaves, ginger and coriander, a bit of sugar and salt, and other few variations – extremely spicy, so beware! A few local businesses have harnessed the technique to serve betutu on a daily basis. One of them is Ayam Betutu Gilimanuk, which has branches in Denpasar, Kuta and Nusa Dua. There are many other Balinese delights on its menu that you can try too, such as crispy fried paddy eels, ‘lawar’ and traditional ‘ares’ soup. After this fiery experience, you’ll find relief in their soothing coconut ice creams.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
- Location: Jl. Raya Tuban No. 2X, Tuban
- Tel: +62 (0)361 757 535
Legendary Sanur soup
For a typically Balinese bouillabaisse, ‘sop ikan’ locally, head to Sanur where there are several warungs that serve rice dishes with their tasty soup made from fresh catches of the day. First to come to mind is Warung Mak Beng, right before the sand on Jalan Hang Tuah. This warung opens late and closes early, offering a limited menu of fish soup, fried fish and an assortment of sambal, but draws many to its humble venue. The stock used is a spicy infusion, served hot. If that’s too much for you to handle, go for the fried selections. The queue usually gets long during lunchtime, and don’t be surprised to see people waiting for others before them to finish. The warung is a Sanur legend, being in business since 1941. With its longstanding success, Mak Beng has managed to retain its humble setting. The high spiciness levels match its sometimes hot setting – no air conditioners, only fans and seaside breezes.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00
- Location: Jalan Hang Tuah 45, Sanur
- Tel: +62 (0)361 282 633
Another institution in Denpasar that has its own unique offering is Tipat Tahu Gerenceng – a name that simply gives it away. The local favourite dish comprises ketupat rice dumplings that are boiled in square woven coconut leaf packets, ‘tipat’ in the simplified Balinese tongue, and tofu – served with a delicious peanut and sweet soy sauce, bean sprouts and rice crackers. The locals consider it a filling treat apt for lunch, or an afternoon snack. The small warung on the intersection of Jalan Soetomo and Gajah Mada in Denpasar has been serving the dish for years, and Denpasar locals know it well. Cheap and simple but tasty, to wash them down there’s bottled soft drinks, hot or iced tea, and ‘soda gembira’ or condensed milk with sugar syrup and soda water on ice.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00
- Location: Jalan Dr. Soetomo, Denpasar
Traditional snack haven in Denpasar
To Denpasar locals, this is one of the culinary treasures, one that answers their craving of heritage Balinese cuisine. Warung Rujak Gula Bali serves varieties of traditional favourites. Among them is rujak, a fruit salad that comes in different types but with typically spicey characteristics. Other delicacies are tipat cantok (similar to the dishes at Tipat Tahu Gerenceng), bulung or seaweed salad served with thin fish stock, and numerous Balinese desserts such as kolak or sweet gelatinous boiled bananas, bubur sumsum smooth rice porridge, daluman glass jelly drinks, and mashed steamed cassavas served with thick palm sugar-infused coconut milk.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
- Location: Jalan Merdeka II, Renon
- Tel: +62 (0)361 248 848
An acquired taste
We’ve mentioned ‘lawar’ among the offerings of several warungs above, “but what is lawar?” you may ask. It is one of the traditional Balinese dishes with varieties named according to the dominant meat it comprises. The original recipe called ‘red lawar’ involves shredded coconut, snake beans and chopped pork with… fresh blood. But with time, ‘white lawar’ – a vegetarian version has become commonplace, and some include meat other than pork such as duck, known locally as ‘kuwir’. Lawar is an acquired taste, even among the young locals, and the foremost place to try it is Lawar Kuwir Men Sono, a warung in the village of Sangeh that is a rustic setting apt for a culinary adventure. A serving consists of a plate of rice, saté, lawar, and jukut ares vegetable mixes with duck meat. It’s a great stopover on the way to Sangeh Monkey Forest. Open in the morning, the warung closes once the stock is finished – usually around noon.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 12:00
- Location: Sangeh, Abiansemal, Badung
Balinese iconic dish
Bali’s favourite dish – babi guling – whole roast pig. You might have heard about ‘the best babi guling’ in Ubud, but if you ask the locals, they’d just frown at how touristy and overpriced they have become. But there’s one that strikes a balance, and which locals often mention: Babi Guling Pak Malen is one of the best choices due to its strategic location in Seminyak, which is a touristy area, but nevertheless where it keeps its identity as a true warung, catering to locals and interested Westerners. Right on the traffic light corner of Seminyak’s Sunset Road, Pak Malen has become a landmark for hungry diners. Very busy at lunchtime, you’ll see the main display of the usual roast pig together with all the succulent trimmings. You can wait for your portion before heading to your seat, or sit down and let the wait staff take your order, along with a beer, soft drink, glass of tea, or crushed orange. Your plate comes with a serving of centrepiece rice, surrounded by pork meat and crispy crunchy skin (the best part!), pork sate, succulent sayur urap – snake bean and shredded coconut salad mix. Usually you also get a bowl of pork soup with young jackfruit slices, but they run out of stock even before lunchtime, with everything sold out by early afternoon.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 15:00
- Location: Jalan Sunset Road, Seminyak