Makassar's people are big eaters, and it shows: the city's restaurant scene is riotously varied, shunning only pork and making the most of the rest.
Most of the best restaurants are clustered within the city center; we had the good fortune to try the places on this list (and their most recommended dishes) as part of the Wonderful Indonesia #TripofWonders tour, and we pass the wisdom on to you!
Hot off the Grill: Ikan Parape or Grilled Fish
The Makassarese and Buginese peoples of South Sulawesi are expert fishermen, and as peoples of the sea, they provision their restaurants with only the freshest fish caught in local waters, among them sweetlips, milkfish, and red snapper.
These fish turn out really well when cooked Makassar-style, such as ikan kaneke (grilled sweetlips fish) or ikan parape (milkfish with Makassar spicy sauce). Ikan parape (pictured here) is particularly enticing for first-time eaters: a tenderly butterflied fish, roasted over coconut-shell charcoal. The flameless heat cooks the meat without charring it.
The Makassarese very rarely season or marinade their fish prior to cooking; instead, they prefer to add outside flavor just before eating the fish. Grilled fish ends up topped with parape, a sambal (chili sauce) redolent of onion and soya. Accompanying condiments like julienned green mango and kecap manis (thick sweet soy sauce) pair up excellently with each bite of the fish.
We had our fill at Rumah Makan Bahari, where the fish is always cooked fresh, with coolers of newly-caught fish in the front prove it.
Rumah Makan Bahari
JL. Monginsidi, No. 60, Kec. Makassar
Makassar Beats the Colonel: Sulawesi Fried Chicken
The Makassarese prepare fried chicken differently, with a mix of spices that taste way better than anything a Kentucky colonel might whip up.
Ayam goreng Sulawesi (Sulawesi fried chicken) won't be hitting fast-food joints outside Indonesia anytime soon, and that's to the dish's benefit. While the marinade traditionally uses a soy sauce base, the recipe's bumbu (seasoning) depends greatly on the tastes of the chicken joints making them, allowing you to hop from one ayam goreng restaurant to another and never quite getting the same experience twice!
To make the most out of eating ayam goreng Sulawesi, eat it with a dab of the local sambal (chili sauce) provided, the way they do it (and we did) at Ayam Goreng Sulawesi Baru near the city center.
Ayam Goreng Sulawesi Baru
Jalan Pattimura No.2, Ujung Pandang, Makassar
Decadent Banana Dessert: Es Pisang Ijo
This prominent Makassarese dessert is about as decadent as they come. Imagine taking a fried banana, enveloping it in an emerald-colored sticky rice dough, then smothering the lot in coconut milk and crushed ice. The resulting contrasts in texture and flavor turn this dish into a winner: you can't eat that without exploding in ecstasy!
The addition of pandan (screwpine) is what makes this dish so special. Pandan is a traditional flavoring agent used throughout Southeast Asia; it freshens the taste of rice, and its incorporation in the sticky-rice dough covering the banana does the same for this dish. You'll know it from the green flavor it adds to the rice dough!
We had a taste of this at Rumah Makan Muda Mudi, a traditional restaurant in Indonesia that serves plenty of other Makassarese favorites leading up to dessert.
Rumah Makan Muda Mudi
Jalan Rusa No. 45 A, Makassar
The Answer Is Pie: Jalangkote Meat Pasty
Rumah Makan Muda Mudi has two specialties: its first was just mentioned above. Its second, the Makassarese meat pie known as jalangkote, takes up a whole stall in front of the restaurant, where the pies form a veritable mountain for visitors to chew, er, choose from.
Unlike most pies, jalangkote crust tends to be thinner and crisper, enveloping a filling made of diced potatoes and carrots, bean sprouts, and halal meat (beef or chicken). While the jalangkote can be a meal in itself, their small sizes allow you to eat about three or four before you're really full up. They're better off as a side dish to many of the other staples listed in this article.
Rumah Makan Muda Mudi
Jalan Rusa No. 45 A, Makassar
What's Your Beef: Coto Makassar Soup
Pronounced choto, the Makassarese take on the Indonesian soto soup dish is simply divine. It's a beef soup with a thick broth derived from offal, managing to offer an excess of flavor and spices with an amazing lack of beef fat!
The flavor is derived mainly from the offal base, not the prime cut: beef brain, intestine, and tongue are boiled till tender, imparting a deeply savory flavor into the soup base that you simply can't get with other cuts of meat. A related dish, pallubasa, is made almost exactly the same way, using different bumbu, or seasoning.
Coto Makassar and pallubasa are available everywhere in the city. The former is served with ketupat, or compressed rice cakes; the latter goes with burasa, a coconut-milk-infused rice patty. Get your fill of this dish at Coto Nusantara Makassar, Coto Makassar's most famous proponent.
Coto Nusantara Makassar
Jalan Nusantara No. 32 Makassar