[Penang] Hawker/street food options at City Rio Cafe

City Rio Cafe on the corner of King Street and Bishop Street in George Town’s old quarter used to be well-known for its anchor stall: an Indian vegetarian one operated by Munisawar Lal and his gypsy-looking wife who’s always in her trademark floral head-scarf. Their stall was there for over 50 years until they decided to retire in 1997.

Nowadays, City Rio Cafe has only 3 food stalls, but all produced pretty respectable renditions of their respective offerings.

  1. Wantan noodles - old-school Cantonese noodles, tossed in soysauce-sesame oil and BBQ pork drippings. The noodles were topped with “char siew” (Cantonese-style BBQ pork), shredded chicken, blanched “choy sum” greens and pickled green chilis, and a small bowl of soup with wantan dumplings. Average-tasting.

  1. Char koay teow - good rendition of the classic Penang-style flat rice noodle stir-fry. The hawker still used a charcoal-fired brazier, which imparted a smoky flavour to the noodles.

  1. Mamak mee goreng - best dish we had at this coffeeshop. But its location here, near the famous Hameed Mee Sotong just 5 minutes’ walk away at Fort Cornwallis, and Seeni Mee Goreng at the Sri Weld foodcourt, also 5 minutes’ walk away in the other direction, meant stiff competition abound.

The mee goreng was spicy, eggy and replete with tofu and Indian fritters.

Mee rebus - also a tasty rendition, with the same ingredients, but the noodles were blanched before being drenched with a tomatoey-spicy gravy.

Penangites often don’t bother to get off their motorbikes when they do take-aways of their favourite street food - rather, they just stopped right in front of the stall and wait.

The coffeeshop retained an old-world feel, and offered typical “kopitiam” beverages like kopi (rich-tasting, local brewed coffee, which is usually pre-sweetened) and chilled drinks like teh peng (iced, sweet milk tea).

City Rio Cafe
64-I, Lebuh King, 10450 George Town, Penang
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 7.30am to 3pm. Closed on Sundays.


You’d got my attention at this point.

I see this is another building with the elaborate columns and balcony on the first floor. What I now understand to be a classic design.

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Singapore used to have a lot of traditional coffeeshop buildings like these, but virtually every single one had been demolished or pulled down to make way for modern skyscrapers and bland glass-and-steel structures - all in the name of progress. :slightly_frowning_face:

Penang’s old buildings are “protected” in the sense that its state capital, George Town, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, so none of the buildings in the designated core zone can be demolished or renovated without getting approval from the local authorities.

Spot on!

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