The other side of Labuan Bajo
Breathtaking views on lush green mountains, pristine valleys, and smiling locals. All that is distinctive for the island of Flores in Western Nusa Tenggara. Once you arrived in Labuan Bajo you will immediately feel the positive vibe and feel home within the first steps on the soil of Flores. While many people come to Labuan Bajo to enjoy the world-class diving in the pristine Komodo National Park waters, or to admire the dinosaur-like Komodo Dragons, there is a third reason to visit the upcoming town Labuan Bajo. We want to share the best food options in Labuan Bajo and suggest great places for a perfect sunset drink or relaxing dinner.
The variety of food options
Labuan Bajo offers an unexpected variety in cuisines. Of course, there is traditional Indonesian food, which is one of the most vibrant and colourful cuisines in the world. It is full of intense flavour, and is influenced by the different races that left their stamp on the cuisine – Indian, Chinese, Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Dutch.
Besides local food, there are numerous restaurants that are specialized in Italian food. Italian food is bold and satisfying without being heavy. It’s rich and textural and uses a whole palette of flavours. Enjoying Italian cuisine is more experiential, not intellectual. It comes from a more emotional place that’s very evocative.
If you are not feeling like Italian or Indonesian food, there is always the option to go for the exotic flavours of Tex-Mex food. Mexican food is delicious, fresh and fun. It is also colourful, spicy and uses an amazing array of chilies, both fresh and dried.
The last two options that Labuan Bajo has to offer are the Japanese cuisine, which offers an abundance of gastronomical delights with a boundless variety of regional and seasonal dishes, and Indian food, with all its exotic ingredients, unfamiliar dishes, and tongue-tingling flavours. The Indian cuisine can be both exciting and intimidating.
Are you looking for a restaurant that doesn’t just offer one cuisine? Then you might be interested in one of the international restaurants, they offer splendid coffee in combination with an interesting variety of worldwide food options.
Which restaurant options are there?
Set above Labuan Bajo’s main street, this wooden restaurant is ideal for those who wish to dip their toe into local food. The wide range of vegetables are cheap, but paying by piece for the rest adds up. Portion sizes are smaller than more authentic warung you find along the road, but you’ll rub shoulders with fellow travelers at communal tables. Daging rendang (dry beef curry) is their signature dish and definitely worth checking out.
This upstairs and mostly green-painted warung is located above the lovely Cafe In Hit, and offers simple fried fish, squid and chicken dishes, as well as the inevitable nasi goreng.
Artomoro offers nothing extraordinary fancy, but prices are acceptable for a solid feed. Artomoro is justifiably very popular with local tourists, and if you’re looking for local fare a step up from the night market, this is a good option. Flores-style sambal is made with tomato and chilies and is rather reminiscent of good Mexican salsa, including the fiery kick.
There are plenty of Padang restaurants at the southern end of Jl Soekarno Hatta (the main street in Labuan Bajo), but Garuda is for most expats their favourite go to. Point-and-order from the stacked window display: beef rendang, jackfruit curry, fried chicken or fish, tempe, egg and – if you’re game – offal. Load up with garlicky sambal from tabletop jars and enjoy the local taste of Flores.
If you have a predilection for local food, seek out this family-run warung with pink and blue walls. There’s no English menu, but pictures on posters help you with translating the exotic sounding dished into understandable dishes. Juices are half the price of the local market and sop buntut (oxtail soup) is the house specialty.
This lavish Italian restaurant is known for thin-crust pizza and fresh pasta. Sit in a stylish, semi-open dining room or air-conditioned cellar with river-stone walls. All the ingredients are imported from Italy and grown on restaurant-owned organic farms. Recently a bottle shop opened on-site and offers most western liquors. For a luxury experience, inquire about the Culinary Journey island boat trip.
An authentically Italian restaurant based on the main street, La Cucina is always bustling and the restaurant is almost always close to full. Featuring a cozy atmosphere styled and decorated like you’re in the Mediterranean alongside a little terrace overlooking the busy harbour, La Cucina serves up great pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and focaccia.
Mediterraneo’s goal is to create a space with a timeless European atmosphere, serving modern creative cuisine using spices, and traditional elements of the Mediterranean basin. The Italian influenced dishes are deliciously uncomplicated and beautifully presented. They combine classic Italian and Mediterranean inspiration, contemporary imagination and fresh ingredients both imported and delivered daily from fresh food local markets.
Sharing a sea-view rooftop terrace with Bajo Bakery is the town’s only Tex-Mex restaurant. Upstares there is a cozy vibrant atmosphere with beautifully made artworks on the walls. The tortillas are homemade and the fish tacos are some of the freshest you’ll taste. For vegetarians there’s also a great variety of options, don’t miss the barbecue jackfruit tacos.
Owned by an Italian couple, this homelike restaurants combines a high vibrational food experience with a cozy atmosphere. They serve Japanese, Fusion and Rustic Organic dishes from early morning to late night. Happy Banana plays creatively with different food concepts from around the world to create delicious, and unforgettable food.
Their core food philosophy is simple; to bring fresh & healthy food in a spirit of sharing and abundance. They use fresh locally caught fish, and cook with sea salt, nutty olive oil, and bright green herbs; delicious flavours and creativity that promise to tantalize your taste buds, filling your belly & soul. Happy Banana loves Vegans and Vegetarians and has many tantalizing options!
Across the street from Happy Banana, you will find another Japanese restaurant. While the menu is comparable and equally delicious to their neighbours, Bistronomy does offer a different vibe, they cater more to the upper class. Their spacious setup, elegant interior, and garnished food will give you the feeling of a proper night out. Overlooking the beautiful Labuan Bajo harbour also makes it a great place for an early sunset dinner.
Ahoy Bar & Cafe
This newly opened Indian restaurant extends the range of dishes already to be found in Labuan Bajo. The exotic flavours, unfamiliar dishes, and tongue-tingling flavours will never disappoint anyone who is willing to try something different. Complimentary to their impeccable cuisine they offer maybe the best sunset location in town, in combination with their ‘Bring your own food’ concept’ it can also be the cheapest option for a sunset dinner.
Sit in white cane chairs and admire the hand-painted wall map while enjoying all-day breakfast made with vibrant ingredients from local farms. Booster juices and cold brew coffee accompany smoothie bowls, eggs, toasties and, whole foods.
Cafe In Hit
Labuan Bajo’s answer to Starbucks, this casual coffee house serves ice-cold frappes alongside strong wi-fi. People-watch from above the street or browse shelves of local beans and second-hand books. Order from the giant blackboard which offers a variety of coffees and snacks.
Owned by a Frenchman, this young and hip hotel restaurant caters to the needs of the millennial crowd. Famous for their pizza, hamburger or taco deals, depending on the week. They also offer basic tex-mex food and one or two Indonesian dishes they will fill every hungry stomach. A big plus is their top deck with a view over the Komodo bay and movie night screen.
In conclusion, it’s safe to say it doesn’t really matter what your food preference is in Labuan Bajo. There are options for every taste, from exotic southern flavours to more simplistic western dishes. If you want to know what Labuan Bajo has to offer next to diving this is the way to go.