10 Unique Heartland Finds in Singapore’s Central That One-Up Town, Like Cheap Banh Mi & Bike Cafes

Unique heartland shops in Singapore’s Central

Singapore is truly the land of shopping malls, with new malls springing up like bunnies every year. Yet with the same repertoire of supermarkets, bakeries, BBT shops, and food courts; you’d be hard pressed to find anything truly unique to do in most malls.

Instead, why not look towards the heartlands to spend your free time? The Central region of Singapore is more than just the glittery CBD and town – the heartlands are a treasure trove of eateries, cafes, and more – there’s even a discus farm to check out. 

Check out these 10 heartland shops in the Central when you’re slightly sick of regular town.

1. UNO Beef House

Black Pepper Ribeye
Image credit: @sedapsutra

In the mood for steak but payday is still one week away? Head over to UNO Beef House instead, where you can get a comforting cast-iron hotplate of Black Pepper Ribeye ($16) or Sirloin ($14) at wallet-friendly prices. 

It’s not just the wallet-friendly prices that make it worth the visit though – a quick Google search will easily reveal that the place has pretty glowing reviews too. Each hotplate comes served with a generous heap of black pepper gravy, along with baked beans, a slice of tomato, and a cheesy potato croquette. 

Chicken Cutlet
Image credit: @suivezcheryl

If beef isn’t really your thing, UNO Beef House offers other Western-style dishes, such as classic Chicken Cutlet ($6) or Fish & Chips ($6) sets. Each platter comes served with the usual sides of crinkle-cut fries, coleslaw, and baked beans.

Address: Blk 51 Lor 6 Toa Payoh, Singapore 310051
Opening hours: Sun – Tue 12PM-9PM (Closed on Wednesdays)

UNO Beef House Facebook page

2. Just Baked

Assorted muffins
Image credit: Just Baked

Satisfy your sweet tooth with Just Baked’s selection of sweet and sinful baked goodies. Snugly located in a sleepy Toa Payoh HDB building, this Halal-certified bakery boasts more than just the usual cafe favs like muffins ($3 each), cupcakes ($4 each), and cheesecakes (from $5.50 per slice)

Assorted kueh and Malay-inspired cakes
Image credit: @just_bakedsg

True to its Muslim roots, Just Baked also blends traditional Malay pastries with modern ones to create Ondeh-Ondeh Tarts (from $18 per bottle), Ondeh-Ondeh Cake ($60), and Lapis Cake (from $50 for a 1.2KG cake). Come Hari Raya, expect to see classic Malay pastries such as ondeh-ondeh, putri salat, and kueh bakar luak on the menu as well.

Address: Blk 79D Toa Payoh Central, #01-55A, Singapore 314079
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 11AM-7PM (Open for appointments on Sundays)

Just Baked website

3. Viet9 Baguette

Bánh mì Pate Cha lua set ($5.50)
Image credit: Viet9 Baguette Facebook

With travel restrictions back up, flying to Vietnam to indulge your bánh mì craving just isn’t possible right now. This is where Viet9 Baguette comes in to fill the void with its indulgent menu of bánh mì

Nestled right below a shophouse in central Toa Payoh, Viet9 Baguette is well known for toasting its baguettes to perfection – crispy on the outside yet light and fluffy on the inside. They’re also pretty generous with their serving sizes, offering ¾-footlong subs from just $5.50 each.

BBQ Pork Bread (Banh Mi Thit Nuong)
Image credit: Viet9 Baguette Facebook

To keep things simple, Viet9 Baguette has just six different types of bánh mì on its menu. For starters, try out their bestselling BBQ Pork Bread (Banh Mi Thit Nuong) ($5.50). To complement the char-grilled pork filling, you can request for more crunchy greens and even fresh chili vinaigrette to give each bite a hearty punch.

Special Vietnam Bread (Banh mi Dac Biet) set
Image credit: Viet9 Baguette Facebook

Zhng your bánh mì by going for the Special Vietnam Bread (Banh mi Dac Biet) set ($6.50), which gives the delish ham, jambon, and pâté filling an extra oomph with a generous serving of chicken floss.

Address: Blk 183 Toa Payoh Central, #01-280, Singapore 310183
Opening hours: Mon – Sun 9AM-9PM

Viet9 Baguette Facebook page

4. Make Your Own

Craft a quaint terrarium with bae through Make Your Own’s workshops
Image credit:

If you’re tired of visiting the same few cafes and aimlessly wandering random malls with bae, check out Make Your Own’s workshops in the heartland of Aljunied to breathe new life into your dates. Make your own terrariums, sand art and floralscapes, or simply engage in an art jamming sesh from just $38/pax.

Image credit:

Make Your Own’s physical studio is also designed to put your mind right at ease the moment you arrive with its minimalistic decor and collection of indoor plants. As physical workshops are only conducted by appointment, be sure to book your slot at least two to three days in advance on their website to avoid disappointment.

Address: Blk 4 Upper Aljunied Lane, #01-06, Singapore 360004
Opening hours: Mon – Wed, Fri & Sat 11AM-6PM (Closed on Thursdays and Sundays)

Make Your Own website

5. Bricks Play

Image credit:

If you’re an avid trading card player or collector, Bricks Play is one hobby shop you don’t want to miss. Bricks Play is a purveyor of many trading card game (TCG) franchises, including big names like Magic The Gathering, Pokémon, Flesh and Blood, and Bushiroad in its inventory.

Bricks Play’s January 2022 events for Flesh and Blood
Image credit: Bricks Play Facebook

And if you actually play the TCGs, you’ll be happy to know that Bricks Play frequently hosts competitions where you stand to win rare cards and free draws. If you’re new to any of the TCGs available at Bricks Play, fret not: its owners Victor and May are chill folk who’ll be more than happy to guide you through your first decks and rounds of play.

Address: Blk 183 Toa Payoh Central, #02-278, Singapore 310183
Opening hours: Mon, Wed – Sun 1PM-8PM (Closed on Tuesdays)

Bricks Play Facebook page

6. House of Chinchilla

Say hello to LarkShey, a female Touch of Violet (TOV) chinchilla.
Image credit: @houseofchinchilla

Looking for a pet but dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters don’t quite make your heart flutter? Then a furry, cuddly chinchilla might just be the companion for you. Joining the cluster of pet shops over in the Serangoon North locale is House of Chinchilla – a chinchilla speciality store that lets you familiarise yourself with these little critters before committing to your new pet.

Loreena, a female ebony white chinchilla.
Image credit: @houseofchinchilla

This store lets you get to know the temperament of chinchillas by first playing with them and learning how to care for them. From here, if you feel that chinchillas are the perfect fit for you, you can then consider bringing one home from $2,340 each

Image credit:
House of Chinchilla

Chinchillas are not the only furry cuties you can find at House of Chinchilla. If you prefer their cuddly distant cousins, you can also check out the Syrian hamsters available at the shop. Coming in a variety of colours, these critters are sure to capture your heart with their teddy bear-like appearance.

Address: Blk 154 Serangoon North Ave 1, #01-406, Singapore 550154
Opening hours: Tue – Sun 12PM-6.30PM (Closed on Mondays)

House of Chinchilla website

7. War Games

Image credit: M L

Although many video game stores have migrated online, some old-school shops like War Games continue to physically operate out of HDB estates. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming storefront too – these guys are meticulous in keeping up-to-date with the latest game, console, and TCG releases.

Pokémon TCG packs and box sets are available for purchase at War Games
Image credit: War Games on World Orgs

If you’re late to the Nintendo Switch game, you can pick yours up from War Games from just $299 for a Lite Console or $429 for a regular one. The latest OLED models are also available here, starting from $529 for a neon set

While these prices are pretty standard for game consoles, War Games periodically drops the prices of games from the previous Playstation generations. Its latest price drop announcement on Facebook sees PS4 games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR and Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker going for sale at just $20 each

Address: Blk 720 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6, #01-4112, Singapore 560720
Opening hours: Mon – Sun 12PM-9.30PM

War Games website

8. Willow. Bike. Art. Cafe.

Image credit:
Willow Facebook

Willow. Bike. Art. Cafe. is not your ordinary bicycle specialist shop. Like its name suggests, it also doubles as a hipster cafe and an interesting HDB find – take a look at its storefront and you can see the cafe and bike shop operating side by side.

The Ragley Big Wig Willow
Image credit: Willow Facebook

If you’re a bike enthusiast, then Willow is the right place to go as it specialises in professional brands like Ragley, SixSixOne, and Nukeproof. As these are higher-end brands, expect prices to be on the expensive side – a Ragley Big Wig Willow, for one, will set you back $3,550, while a Nukeproof Scout Willow costs $4,150.

Image credit:

Over on the cafe side of things, Willow offers standard cafe fare in a warm, classy setting. While you’re here, order their Waffles ($3.50) and pair these with ice cream of your choice ($8.80 for two scoops, $10.80 for three scoops)

If you’re not feeling too peckish, you can simply settle for a drink or two, such as Hot Earl Grey Tea ($4.80), Hot Cocoa ($5.50), and Syphon Long Black Coffee ($5.80)

Address: Blk 456 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, #01-1570, Singapore 560456
Opening hours: Tue – Fri, Sun 12PM-8PM (Closed on Mondays and Saturdays)

Willow. Bike. Art. Cafe. Instagram page

9. Elsie Departmental Store

Image credit:

If you love crocheting, knitting, or quilting, look no further than Elsie Departmental Store for all your crafting supply needs. 

Dubbed the friendly neighbourhood knitting supplier by its long-time loyal customers, Elsie boasts a staggering array of yarn and cross stitching supplies with prices from as low as $1.80

Shelves upon shelves stocked full of colourful yarn and other supplies
Image credit: noryati abd rasid

It’s easy to get lost in the store’s myriad of colours and supplies, but don’t worry: the owner is always up for a good chat and will be more than happy to help you navigate her store and find what you’re looking for.

Amigurumi are available for sale at Elsie.
Image credit: Elsie Lin

Even if you’re not into crocheting, you can swing by to purchase Elsie’s collection of amigurumi or 3D crocheted toys, ranging from teddy bears and unicorns to dolls and rabbits.

Address: Blk 709 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8, #01-2607, Singapore 560709
Opening hours: Mon – Sun 10.30AM-7.30PM

Elsie Departmental Store website

10. Chai Discus Farm

Image credit: @crisstobal_aqua

Known as the “King of the Aquarium”, the discus’ reputation is well-earned indeed: this tropical fish’s striking neon scales light up any aquarium it lives in. And Chai Discus Farm is proud to specialise in the sale and care of these beautiful fish.

Image credit:
Chai Discus Facebook

Walk into Chai Discus Farm and you’ll immediately be greeted by tanks upon tanks of brightly-coloured discus fish of all shapes, sizes, and colours – truly a mini S.E.A. Aquarium in its own right.

Owner Albert Tan is a certified discus expert, having won international discus show competitions in Singapore, Germany, France, and Taiwan.
Image credit: Ryo Watanabe

Check out the glass display cabinets above the tanks and you’ll see an impressive lineup of trophies and medals for various international discus show competitions. 

All these stand as testament to owner Albert Tan’s deep expertise in the care of discus – you know you’re in the right hands if you are interested to rear these exotic fish at home. From water temperature and acidity to flow volume and sediments, Chai Discus Farm will guide you on the proper care of discus. 

Some discus even take on an albino hue.
Image credit: Ryo Watanabe

Even if you’re not looking to get discus, you can simply swing by Chai Discus Farm and be mesmerised by their vivid reds, greens, yellows, and blues as they glide through the water. 

Address: Blk 505 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8, #01-2672, Singapore 560505
Opening hours: Tue – Sat 10.30AM-8PM | Sun 10.30AM-5PM (Closed on Mondays)

Chai Discus Farm Facebook page

Bonus: Bugs Bunny Barber Shop

Abdul Kadir posing in front of Bugs Bunny Barber Shop
Image credit: Energy Market Authority Facebook

Bugs Bunny Barber Shop is very likely a familiar name to many of us. Dating as far back as the ‘70s, this retro barber shop is nestled in the heart of Toa Payoh, delivering clean cuts to customers both new and old.

Whether you’re looking for a smooth fade or just a simple trim, Bugs Bunny Barber Shop charges you a cool $8 per haircut. Mr. Abdul Kadir, a longtime barber working at the shop, is even credited for having shorn Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen’s locks. 

Address: Blk 94 Lor 4 Toa Payoh, Singapore 310094
Opening hours: Mon – Thu, Sat – Sun 8AM-7PM (Closed on Fridays)

Discover Central heartland gems with Heartlands Festival

Central Singapore is so much more than the CBD and town. Move past the shiny skyscrapers and expensive bars and head for the heartlands instead – here, you’ll find a collection of unique shops such as a discus farm, a bike-cum-cafe, and even a chinchilla-focussed pet shop waiting to be discovered.

Instagrammable photo spots are also aplenty in our Central heartlands. Ang Mo Kio boasts a retro dragon playground set from the ‘70s, while Toa Payoh captures the essence of Chinese Buddhist culture with scenic locations like Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery and Toa Payoh Town Park.

Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery in Toa Payoh.

With so many things to uncover and explore in the Central heartlands, it’s safe to say that you’ll never run out of ideas of what to do when you’re here.  

And while you’re trawling the Central heartlands, be sure to check out the ongoing Heartlands Festival, live from now until 18 Feb 2022. If you don’t know where to start, simply pick a curated heartland trail or a heartland tour and get exploring with bae or a few friends and family members.

You can also embark on a supermarket sweep across the heartlands – simply spend a total amount as close to $80 as you can possibly get and stand a chance to walk home with your purchases, a $100 NETS FlashPay Card, and other prizes worth up to $380!

If you’re a foodie and up for a challenge, sign up for the Ultimate Food Challenge. Be the first person to hoover up an enormous hawker platter to win a $500 NETS FlashPay Card

Every spend of $10 during the festival nets you an entry for the Heartlands Festival Lucky Draw, where one lucky winner* will win cash and prizes worth up to a whopping $3,388. So be sure to stay up to date with the latest happenings in the Heartlands Festival by following the @heyheartlands Instagram page.

Find out more about the Heartlands Festival here

This post was brought to you by the Heartlands Festival.
*Terms & conditions apply.

Kelvin Eng

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