Jakarta. Before grilled cheese sandwich, people were content enough to have toasted slices of bread slapped together with all the fillings and toppings you can imagine – from kaya jam to canned corned beef. "Roti Bakar," the humble toasts, were the king of all midnight snacks in Indonesia.
These buttery, charcoal-y toasts are usually eaten to soak up the alcohol left in your system after a big night out, but they can also be enjoyed as an evening snack or as dessert after dinner.
The classic roti bakar mixes the sweet and the savory – chocolate with cheese – but newer vendors have been outdoing themselves with zany fillings recently (Kit-Kat? Rainbow-colored cheese?)
The Jakarta Globe explored both the classic and modern roti bakar from these early-hours' hot spots. Let the game of loaves begin.
Roti Bakar Eddy
You can never go wrong with Roti Bakar Eddy's old-school toasts and atmosphere. Eddy opened his first joint in the capital 48 years ago and since then generations of Jakarta kids have come to his tarpaulin-covered warung in Senopati to hang out and meet friends – and indulge in midnight snacks.
Eddy's cart is filled with bread slices stacked on top of each other. The bread is homemade and very soft, but the edges get crispy once the grills get to them.
Eddy's staff make some of the more popular flavors in advance before they're ordered and serve them on paper plates with plastic forks – the quintessential street food experience.
The menu at Roti Bakar Eddy has remained largely unchanged since it first opened. The standard chocolate and cheese roti bakar – with mountains of shredded cheddar on top – is still their best seller, but try their corned beef and cheese combo. It's as Indonesian as mac 'n' cheese is American.
Roti Bakar Eddy is only open in the evening so come early if you don't feel like having to share space with groggy nightclubbers.
Address: Jalan Raden Patah No. 11, Senopati, South Jakarta.
Opening hours: 6 p.m. - 2:30 a.m.
Dapoer Roti Bakar
When Dhenny Dhelanto, now 60 years old, was forced to close another home business for the eighth time in 2011, he and his son decided to make time to travel around Jakarta, then to Singapore and Hongkong, to take master classes on making homemade bread.
First opened in 2013, their Dapoer Roti Bakar ("Toasts Kitchen") now has five outlets and six franchises, and is getting a bit of hype for their unconventional takes on the humble toast.
A favorite at Dapoer Roti Bakar is a double-toast made with thick and soft bread encased in a crispy martabak outer layer and stuffed with melted rainbow-colored cheese.
The audible crunch of the browned martabak skin is a nice change from the usual soft, fluffy toasts you find at most roti bakar places.
They also have a "mystery bread" wrapped in banana leaves and then grilled.
When you unwrap the banana leaves skin, you might be forgiven for thinking it's a nasi bakar (grilled rice), the smell is so similar. But instead of rice, this time you find plump bread oozing out a cheesy waterfall inside.
The store is open 24 hours, seven days a week. Their corned beef, tuna, mozzarella and fried egg toast is perfect for early in the day. It tastes just like a breakfast sandwich, or a party in your mouth.
Address: Jalan Raya Pasar Minggu No. 15A, Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta
Opening hours: 24 hours, seven days a week
Roti Bakar Kemang
Owners Mohamad Fardiansyah and Miranti Hikmayudi started Roti Bakar Kemang in 2014 with a tiny tent out in the open.
But the roti bakar gods smiled at Mohamad and Miranti and after only a year they expanded into a two-floor shop (with a non-smoking section) that's open 24 hours, seven days a week.
At Roti Bakar Kemang, the toasts are done the traditional way. Slices of rather thin bread are immediately placed on top of a coal grill – deliberately placed outside the store so passersby are lured by the smell.
The staff move the toasts around with metal tongs and wave a woven fan to keep the coals burning.
When the toasts are delivered to your table, they sport those reassuring charcoal criss-cross marks and colorful jams spill out of their sides.
At Roti Bakar Kemang, the most popular thing on the menu is the green tea Kit-Kat toast. The neon green spread is sweet and thick, and pairs well with the heavily buttered white bread. The substantial filling and generous butter almost make up for the thin bread.
Address: Jalan Kemang Raya No. 69E
Opening hours: 24 hours, seven days a week