The food scene in Singapore has evolved drastically since yesteryears. In the olden days, hawkers used to line the streets, shouting and selling as they walked. Today, there are brightly-lit hawker centres, coffee shops, well-designed food courts and top-class restaurants.
Hawker centres are open-air and large halls, with rows of stalls totalling about 50 in a single complex. Food is at its most most affordable, S$0.80 for a cup of kopi or coffee and S$3-4 for standard street food rice or noodle dishes. While indoor food halls invariably come equipped with over-zealous air-conditioning units, hawker centres stick to the more modest fans. These are often high-powered and can get rather blowy.
Hawker centres are touted to serve the most authentic food, as stall holders are usually aunties and uncles who have decades of experience in cooking. The variety is also immense, with Chinese, Malay, Indian, Fusion and Japanese food stalls under the same roof. Lau Pa Sat and Newton Circus are popular, but somewhat touristy and rather expensive hawker centres in the Financial District and near Orchard Road, respectively.
Coffee Shops and Food Courts
Coffee shops are a miniature version of hawker centres, with a central seating area. Food courts are the modern version of hawker centres, with air-conditioning, bright lighting, design elements and sometimes even a curry-stained sofa couch or two. Food courts have been morphing continuously into edgier concepts.
Food courts are a sterlised and squeemish-tourist friendly version of hawker centres. They come in two varieties; themed and non-themed and can be found in every shopping centre throughout Singapore. One of the more interesting themed food courts is the Food Republic at Wisma Atria shopping centre. In a non-themed food court, prices are from S$3, while the themed ones start from S$4.50.
Restaurants are typically air-conditioned, indoor and with the option of al fresco dining. Generally, the food is good and the area always clean and bright, like in Din Tai Fung and Spizza. Restaurants are abundant in the city center. Further afield, most districts host a number of good quality restaurants as well.
Holland Village, a vibrant expat area, and Dempsey Hill have fancier and more expensive restaurants such as Bistro Petit Salut and Samy's Curry, respectively.
If you do decide to opt for the restaurant experience be warned; there is a significant cost difference between eating at a hawker, coffee shop or food court and eating at a restaurant. Expect to pay around five times the price and factor in the 10% service charge and 7% GST that are whacked onto the final bill. Ironically, these jacked-up service costs often result in rather lacking service. You may decide this dining option isn't worth it; especially if travelling on a budget.
Children and Kids
Most eating venues provide high chairs, while several fast food chains sell kids’ meals. Japanese ramen chain Ajisen also has children’s meals served in an attractive airplane set.