In Memoriam: Our Makan Places Lost to Time
Top image: Stephanie Lee / RICE file photo

It’s not uncommon for Singapore’s F&B landscape to shift in an almost rapid and unsteady fashion. Some businesses morph and transform, closing and reopening spaces to keep up with changes.

And then there are the places that are simply lost to time. These are forever etched in our memory, with a pang of hunger to top off the bittersweet aftertaste.

We ask readers to share their eulogies for the food places they still remember: from the McDonald’s at Raffles Place to the humble hawker stalls of their childhoods.

“As a secondary school student, I loved socialising with my friends at cafes, but as expected, I was also perpetually broke.

The 50 percent off happy hour deals from Cafe Cartel were a safe haven for my friends and I on most weeknights. My usual order would consist of an Iced Butterscotch Latte (for the caffeine) and criss-cross fries (for fun!). Our wallets felt emptier than if we had chosen to hang at a hawker centre, but our hearts felt full.

There was just something about the Al Fresco ambience at the Tampines Mall outlet that made good times and conversations last a while longer. No local cafe hits quite the same after Cafe Cartel closed stores islandwide.”

— Syaza, 27

“I had many fond memories at Just Acia at Dhoby Xchange, so it felt like the end of an era when they closed that outlet in 2021.

In my JC days, that was the place for an affordable meal in town. You could get Western and Asian fare—I remember it wasn’t far off from food court prices—and top up a couple of dollars for free-flow drinks and ice cream.

I’d go there after movie outings with my friends. We even studied there a couple of times, making full use of the free-flowing drinks. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have hogged the tables, but pigging out while studying made it less torturous.”

— Kimberly, 28

“Splash n Decker. I know it’s just Four Leaves in a school setting, but there’s just something about getting a simple freshly made sandwich as a student that makes you feel a bit better about yourself (compared to vending machine sandwiches or a comparatively pricey Subway).

I’d graduated by the time it closed in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and it wasn’t as though I had any plans to visit just for the sandwiches. But it was still sad all the same to see it go. And then it reopened at Orchard under a new name. And then it closed again. Times are tough for businesses, eh.”

— Julio, 26

“I miss the Banquet at Parkway Parade. My parents used to drive me there after school for lunch. I always ordered the nasi padang and the fried ice cream.

It was a massive food court I associate with good memories. Not sure what has happened to Banquet, but it was a large part of my childhood!”

— Hykel, 26

Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE file photo.

“There was an old-school Western food stall, originally at 308 Clementi Avenue 4, which holds fond memories for 90s kids who grew up in the West.

It had very simple Western fare like fried chicken wings, french fries and grilled chicken chop—there was nothing special about the menu but there’s something very comforting in food that brings everyone together.

The stall eventually moved to Ang Mo Kio in the 2010s. My friend and I attempted to locate it after it moved, but unfortunately, we came on a day when it was closed, and we’ve not been back since (life gets in the way). The last I read, from a Mothership article, it shuttered for good last year. I still think about their fried chicken.”

— Sarah, 30

“My favourite Singaporean dish, chicken rice, was food that I got to know (and obsess over) through two food places I remember: one stall at the Kopitiam food court at Plaza Singapura circa 1999, and the other at Seletar Hawker Centre, which has long made way for Greenwich V since. The food court at Plaza Singapura still stands, but I wouldn’t go as far as to assume it’s the same stall owners operating there.

It wasn’t so much the food itself—however exquisite—that makes me reminisce and miss them, but rather where these stalls were located. The Kopitiam food court was adjacent to an arcade, one I remember the most for its life-sized Jar Jar Binks statue—totally dating myself here—and its foreboding, black-and-red House of the Dead machine.

The Seletar Hawker Centre, on the other hand, was just across from a video rental store where, after much begging to my parents, I would go and borrow videotapes to bring home just down the road. The food was just the perfect icing on top of each trip.

Also, a big shoutout to the Raffles City McDonalds. Everyone who’s spent a late night there knows it’s not about the food (which you can get anywhere else in Singapore) but its easy location and generous opening hours. If you were someone who used to go to The Substation (RIP) for hardcore punk and metal gigs, this place was the treasured post-moshpit rest stop before catching the last train home.”

— Daniel, 31

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