By Nicholas Koo and Rafidah Raffi
SICK and tired of the same old food in school? Switch it up with some of Pioneer North’s best-kept secrets – all within a five-minute walk from NTU.
Located at the Nanyang Community Centre, The Playground Coffee is a small, but cosy, café that opened in early 2017, delivering delectable food like donburi and açaí bowls, and specialty coffee.
“We were hoping that our location in the Pioneer North area would entice some of the students studying nearby to patronise our café,” said Mr Zayden Chiam, co-owner and barista of The Playground Coffee.
Despite being just a short walk from the NTU campus, the 24-year-old remarked that so far, NTU students are not their main customers.
“Students tend to go straight to Jurong Point that is located next to the train station, or just stay in school to eat,” he said.
“We hope to introduce more donburi in our menu, I would say that they are one of our best sellers,” he added.
The Playground Coffee is not the only the only food stop near school that students miss out on.
Known to most students as the “Extension”, the NTI Food Court is a popular supper spot located just outside school, opposite City Harvest Church.
What students may not know about, however, is the existence of a stall selling delicious mee chiam kueh, which are Chinese-style pancakes.
The inconspicuous stall is open only in the morning, from 6 a.m. to about 1 p.m.
As most students frequent the area at supper time when the stall has closed for the day, it is often mistaken for a tray collection area.
The stall has remained under the radar due to its relatively smaller signboard, and also because it goes by a simple name: Pancake.
The owner of the stall, who only wanted to be known as Madam Koh, says they do not usually get NTU students as customers in the morning.
“Our customers are usually young students who get breakfast here before heading to school,” said the 55-year-old in Mandarin.
The stall is closed on Wednesdays, however, and those looking for a quick snack fix may turn towards another coffee shop just five minutes away.
Best Coffee Pte Ltd, nicknamed “Extension Plus” by some NTU students, offers a variety of local and foreign cuisine, ranging from assorted breakfast kuehs to authentic Chinese scallion pancake.
“The nasi lemak and hokkien mee are a must-try,” said Caleb Wong, a first-year student at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information who lives just a block away in Pioneer North.
“They don’t open late, but there’s a lot of variety here that isn’t available in school or even at the nearby supper spots.”