Eating out in the Philippines in the '80s and earlier decades used to be for the well-off only. Most Filipinos eat at home or buy a "paluto" for takeout from a carinderia. With the tourism boom of the '90s, restaurants started to appear like mushroom in different key cities of the country. Soon, highway restaurants in sleepy towns also began to appear to serve hungry diners en route for their target destinations. The choices range from the local fare to fusion, but standard Pinoy dishes are always the main feature.
Location: Roxas City, Capiz
Ask anyone in Roxas City where to indulge on fresh seafood and they will all point you to Baybay Beach where the eateries are. It's where tourists can best appreciate dining on seafood with a panoramic view of the ocean. For my visit of the city in 2014, I opted for the ambiance of Coco Veranda over other ordinary-looking food joints in the area because I was after an optimum experience for lunch and cleanliness was important to me. My orders included the seasonal diwal or angel wings clam, Adobong Takway, baked oyster, steamed crab, Cagaygay and many more.
Read more about Coco Veranda.
|Balay Cena Una|
Location: Daraga, Albay
It's no wonder that the word "daraga" in Bicolano dialect refers to a maiden or someone unmarried. There are a lot of well-maintained ancestral houses in the town of the same name in Albay where I once made a delicious visit. One such house was for my lunch venue during my tour of the province. Called Balay Cena Una, the restaurant means old house in Tagalog (from the term sinaunang bahay). It's actually a restored ancestral home that has been converted into a dining venue for intimate meals and events. Should you dine there, the Boneless Chicken Tinutungan is a must-order.
Location: Tabaco City, Albay
The newly-opened boutique hotel Facade in Tabaco City has its own restaurant called Bona's Kitchen which is a popular dining destination in the area for serving affordable Filipino cuisine-oriented buffet. The same venue is also offering set dishes for large group bonding over food. One set dish option among other options is good for 5 to 7 people for Php1,999 only. The largest group set dish package is available for 10 to 15 people and it costs Php3,499 only. There are a couple of set menu options to choose from and everything is handpicked by the restaurant's chef.
Read more about Bona's Kitchen.
Location: Makati City
Aptly called Kabila (the Tagalog word for "next door"), the innovative concept by Raintree Restaurants is just next to Museum Cafe and behind the Ayala Museum. Popular as an urban destination by cosmopolitans, Greenbelt has the new restaurant as a reliable venue for fresh Filipino-oriented dishes that feature local and straightforward home cooking. Frequented by business people in the busy Makati Central Business District, Kabila served my group of food reviewers its showcase of local flavors via dishes from different parts of the Philippine archipelago. Must-order are Fresh Lumpia, Shrimp Ukoy, Classic Kare-kare "Buntot" and Pancit Kabila.
Read more about Kabila.
Location: Davao City
Where to have an affordable seafood degustation in Davao City? Most locals will point you to Penong's because it has more than one branch in the city and its open-dining area concept makes its menu options cheap without compromising quality. Must-try are Sinuglaw and Seafoods Mandaragat.
Read more about Penong's.
|Grilla Filipino Cuisine|
Location: Pasay City
What started as a Filipino dining tradition in Antipolo City 19 years ago is now an exciting dining destination at the SM Mall of Asia By The Bay. Originally called Grilla Bar and Grill when it first became popular among students and young professionals along the frenetic Sumulong Highway, the restaurant is now rebranded as Grilla Filipino Cuisine. Diners from different parts of the country can appreciate the regional scope of its menu. When at the restaurant, you shouldn't miss its Grill-A-Palayok which I consider is its best option in its menu. It's a hot clay pot of mussels, clams, maya-maya fillet, beef short plate and pork belly.
Read more about Grilla Filipino Cuisine.
Location: Lucban, Quezon Province
Where to indulge on authentic Longganisang Lucban with a view of rural Quezon in Lucban? Check out Samkara Restaurant which is accessible along the highway leading to the town from Majayjay, Laguna. Must-try are its Prawn Pasta, Ginataang Kalabaw, Bicol Express and Rellenong Pata.
Read more about Samkara Restaurant.
|Greg & Sally Tree Garden Cafe|
8. Greg & Sally Tree Garden Cafe
Location: Marikina City
Aromatic smell of garden herbs. Shade of age-old trees. Uninhibited breeze from different directions. These make up a pleasant dining experience that's not at all overwhelming to the senses. They let you stay for the meal and linger for the ambiance. In Marikina Heights, a neighborhood restaurant called Greg & Sally Tree Garden Cafe imbibes all these qualities of a homespun countryside dining destination, rain or shine.
Location: Pasig City
Calle Preciousa Seafood Restaurant and Garden Center is a Filipino-oriented dining destination that's also a special events venue. Formerly called Sophia's Villa Seafood Dampa Palutuan, it has now continued its tradition of serving only the freshest products prepared using its owners' precious family recipes at the city proper which is 5 to 10 minutes away from most city landmarks. Must-order are its Buttered Garlic Shrimp and the Grilled Salmon with Lemon Butter Sauce.
Read more about Calle Preciousa.
|New Iona's Refreshment Parlor|
Location: Infanta, Quezon Province
Now on its 39th year, New Iona's Refreshment Parlor is a full-fledged restaurant with air conditioning, well-trained waitresses, and a high-end dining area which is a far cry from its humble beginning in the once sleepy town of Infanta. Home-cooked viands can now be had as well as other interesting menu options like Pancit Mami and Panict Lomi. You can't leave the town without tasting its creamy Pancit Palabok and classic Halo-halo.
Read more about New Iona's Refreshment Parlor.
|Joyous Tangway Grill|
Location: Balanga City, Bataan
Owned by former Balanga City mayor, Celso Valdecanas, Joyous Tangway Grill is a dining institution in Bataan. For my recent tour, I made sure that I had lunch there as it was highly recommended by the city's tourism office. For lunch, I enjoyed its Sinigang Na Manok Sa Ayo (chicken dish; an alternative to using tamarind). Along with it was my order of Sisig Na Bangus and Grilled Liempo.
Read more about Joyous Tangway Grill.
Location: Magalang, Pampanga
Having started as a vacation home of the late writer, artist, and restaurateur Larry J. Cruz and wife Merle, it's also the source of ingredients for some of the LJC Restaurant Group's restaurants. The rich vegetation at the foothills of Mt. Arayat where the resort is nestled enables this organic process to easily happen for Abe's Farm. Must-try are its take on Gising-gising, the classic Kare-kare, Paco Salad, Sinuteng Baby Squid and the Betute or stuffed frog.
Read more about Abe's Farm.
Location: Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
Called Hapag Vicenticos, this restaurant is smack dab in the middle of Cabanatuan City. It's just a few minutes away from the city's hotels. In retrospect, I was fond of one of the restaurant's dining table which was actually a piece of sewing machine. The wall interiors were adorned with trinkets from the past, present, and future. The dining area design reminded of quaint provincial houses, but it was the food that was more memorable. Must-try are the Krispy Kare-kare and the Crispy Pata.
Read more about Hapag Vicentico's.
Location: Mandaluyong City
Run and operated by restaurateur and chef, Nick Pelaez, St. Nicholas Catering and Restaurant is now on its third year of serving Filipino foodies in Mandaluyong City where a glut of fast food is taking over the daily diet. Because of the intimate ambiance of the restaurant, diners visit at the odd hours of the day like brunch or late afternoon for early lunch or merienda, respectively. The busiest hours, of course, are lunch and dinner times. The usual guests are those who prefer clean and delicious home-cooked food over random finds at eateries. Must-order are the Boodle Fight, Hot 'N' Juicy Shrimps, Tinolang Manok Sa Pakwan (chicken dish) and the dessert called Temptation By Tablea a la mode.
Read more about St. Nicholas Catering and Restaurant.