Think of this place as a bar, not a cafe!
I’ve held a vendetta against Junk Cafe on Chulia Street for years. The first time I visited, I made the mistake of treating it like a nice place for lunch and everything went wrong, to the point where I stormed out. This time around, Mark convinced me to give it a second chance and we would just go for drinks.
Ambience & Amenities
Outside on Junk Cafe’s patio, two wobbly tables look out onto the busy Chulia Street. They are partially screened by plants on the roadside, but nothing on the sidewalk side so you’ll constantly have pedestrians passing behind you. There are also two squishy armchairs right next to the entrance of Junk Cafe. You’ll still have passers-by walking over your outstretched legs, but these are much more comfortable seats if you want to sit outside. You’re far enough from the road to not be breathing exhaust the whole time, but there are only side tables next to these chairs, so only sit here if you’re not getting food.
Inside is rather dark and cavernous, with no natural light except for what streams in through the door. There are all sorts of random, crazy crap on the walls that will catch your eye if you let it wander. At the back near the washroom is a space with beat-up couches and coloured lights that makes you feel like you’re in someone’s basement. A hip, feel-good American teen movie kind of basement where everyone is having fun and drinking, not the kind where a poltergeist tries to kill you.
For such a popular bar, the washroom is surprisingly just a room with one toilet and sink. A queue will inevitably form, and there is no escaping the impatient glare of someone in the queue once you finish, nor will that person be able to escape any smells you’ve created. If you’re shy about such things, this is not the place to move your bowels or spend twenty minutes dry heaving over the toilet bowl from drinking too much.
The menu is a large wooden board with an extensive list of drinks on one side, and a much more limited selection of food on the other. Junk Cafe seems to present itself as more of a boozy watering hole instead of a cafe, as alcoholic drinks alone take up three-quarters of the drinks side, whereas there are just about twenty options for food.
We got our Caipirinha (RM28) with Strawberry flavour (extra RM4) in an attempt to make it less sour. The strawberry helped, but the lingering sourness made it harder to drink than our other beverage.
The Junk Tiki-Junk (RM32), true to its name, was served in a cute tiki idol. Sticking out of the top was a cinnamon stick, burning slowly as if it were incense. It’s a neat effect, but it gets ash all over and inside the beverage if it’s left in. Snap a photo of the drink, then take out the flaming stick otherwise you’ll certainly burn your face when taking a sip. This is a much sweeter drink if that’s what you’re looking for – a true beachy cocktail.
Okay, so I had a much nicer time at Junk Cafe this time around. I would consider returning the next time I’m in Penang, maybe even trying their food, but only if the patio is free. I dislike the vibe inside – in such a sunny place like George Town, why sit in a dank room? The prices are also too expensive to be a regular drinking spot, so for me, it would have to be a “once per trip” sort of place.
Drinks for 2 Pax: RM64.00
Junk Tiki-Junk: RM32.00
Strawberry Caipirinha: RM32.00
Junk Cafe, George Town
401 Chulia St, George Town,10200 Penang
Daily: 12pm – 3am
Alcohol Served: Yes