Restaurants and Coffee Shops Around Banda Aceh

The lack of tourism infrastructure is really evident in the scarcity of restaurants, outside of hotels, that a tourist would feel comfortable in. It's not that there aren't any restaurants. This is Indonesia, after all, where most people eat outside the home, but few places will have an English language menu, or staff that can cope with the language. Still, there are enough place where you can probably cope that you won't go hungry, or end up eating in your hotel every night.

Fried Rice
Indonesia Fried Rice with chicken (Nasi Goreng Ayam) from Tower Coffee

Most places serve mainly Indonesian foods. I only spotted one restaurant serving non-Indoneisan food (Italian) but didn't get a chance to try it. Of course, if you absolutely must, there are some western fast food chains around town, such as Pizza Hut and KFC.

The best area to look in is around the “Five Corners” (Simpang Lima) district, which is the traffic circle just across the river from the main city mosque. Close to the circle you'll find several coffee shops and restaurants, as well as several fast food places.

Coffee and snacks
A typical coffee break at one of Banda Aceh's coffee shops.

No discussion of dining in Banda Aceh would be complete without mentioning the coffee shops. Banda Aceh grows its own, sought after, coffee, and there are several coffee shops around town. Coffee here is brewed the old fashioned Asian way, with a large cotton cone filled with ground roasted beans that is left to soak in a large pot. When a customer orders a cup, the cone will be lifted out of the pot, sometimes high in the air, and a fresh ladle of hot water is poured into it. The often thick strong coffee is allowed to drain into the cup for serving. The other thing to note is that you'll always be served a plate, or two or three, of snacks, which may be both sweet and savory. You don't have to order them, and if you don't eat any you won't be charged. A cup of coffee will set you back less than 10,000 Rupiah (0.60 USD).

One last important note is about alcohol: You'll find very little of it around conservative Banda Aceh. Most restaurants won't have any of it all. Some hotels might stock beer, but most likely won't have anything else. This is decidedly not a party town.