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Restaurants / Dining

About Restaurants / Dining in Philippines

They say that greeting someone with the words, “Let’s eat!” or “Kain tayo!” is uniquely Filipino, and this absolutely true. Filipinos love eating, and they consider food as an important blessing from God. As such, it is custom for them to invite other people, including strangers, to share something to eat with them as a gesture of goodwill and as a way to share the blessings they receive.

In addition to making friends or showing hospitality, the culture of sharing a meal in the Philippines is about bringing people together, especially among family members. In other countries, it is common for some families to eat their meals separately even in the comfort of their own homes. In a Filipino household, however, this may be frowned upon. It is must for children to join their parents at the table during mealtimes. Aside from using this as an opportunity for the family to talk among themselves, the belief that food is a gift from God is also being upheld in this act. For Filipinos, eating together as a family is a way of thanksgiving and celebration.

Of celebrations and “blowouts”

The significance of food and dining in the Philippines is so complex that eating in a restaurant can have a different connotation. If you invite a Filipino to eat out, you might get asked “What’s the occasion?” The term “blowout” is popular among Pinoys, which means buying someone a meal to celebrate an occasion. These events could range from birthdays and promotions to graduations and anniversaries. As restaurants pop up in the Philippines every year, you can expect to see families or groups of friends celebrating, with the celebrant picking up the check near the end. It is a tradition that has fueled the restaurant business in the country, and you can expect your experience of eating out to be centered on celebrations, togetherness, and thanksgiving when you are in the Philippines.

Some of the beloved restaurants in the Philippines

The Filipino palate is said to be one of the most misunderstood in the world. Filipinos love to eat, but it can be tricky to identify a dish or a theme that is sure to please everyone when in the country. To get an idea of what typical Pinoys would love to eat, it would be a great idea to look closely at the popular restaurants in the country.

The first restaurant that will come to mind when you think about the restaurants in the Philippines is Jollibee. It started out in 1975 as an ice cream parlor, but it also served regular meals and sandwiches alongside their cold treats. The owners converted it into a restaurant when they realized that their meals were more popular among customers than their ice cream. Today, Jollibee is the top fast food chain in the country, with over 1,000 branches nationwide and abroad. It attracts mostly children and the youth because of their sweeter flavor that is easy to the palate. They serve burgers and fries, but their version of the classic fried chicken remains their bestseller. The Jollibee Food Corporation is not only known for its flagship restaurant, but also for its other restaurant chains like Chowking, Red Ribbon, Greenwich Pizza, and Mang Inasal, which also draw in numerous customers daily.

Another popular place for dining in the Philippines is Max’s Restaurant. In 1945, it began as a restaurant frequented by American soldiers who were stationed in the country. Their chicken recipe was a hit among customers, and it didn’t take long for the restaurant to expand to different parts of the country. Branches in other countries have also been opened and current expansions are still taking place today. Fueled by their signature fried chicken, Max’s has become a staple in Filipino celebrations. Most of their branches have separate function areas, which can serve as venues for private parties like wedding receptions, birthdays, baptism, and even company events. In addition to their beloved fried chicken, Filipino dishes make up their menu like Pancit Canton, Kare-Kare, Lumpiang Ubod, Sinigang, and many more. Just like Jollibee, Max’s Restaurant is also one of the top food companies in the country. Also known as Max’s Group Incorporated, it manages several known restaurants in the Philippines such as Pancake House, Yellow Cab Pizza, Teriyaki Boy, Dencio’s, Krispy Kreme, and many more.

Another powerhouse among restaurants in the Philippines is Goldilocks. Since it opened in 1966, Goldilocks has been the go-to place for Filipinos when it comes to cakes and pastries. In 1969, the bakeshop began offering catering services, and it continued to branch out across the country as well as the United States and Canada. As years passed and with more branches all over the world, Goldilocks Bakeshop has been recognized as one of the top Filipino brands. In addition to attracting customers for their wide selection of cakes for any occasion, the bakeshop offers diners an assortment of tasty Filipino dishes. Some of the favorites are their Pork Barbecue, Lumpiang Ubod, and Dinuguan. For their cakes, their classics are Black Forest, Brazo de Mercedes, and Choco Roll. Their pastries are also staples at Filipino gatherings like Mamon, Polvoron, and Puto.

While Jollibee, Max’s Restaurant, and Goldilocks are already household names among many others when it comes to Filipino restaurants, a quiet establishment in Tagaytay took a different path. Over the years since it was opened in 2002, Antonio’s has been known as a must-visit destination for the best fine dining experience in the Philippines. It won numerous awards such as Best Restaurant in the Philippines by S. Pellegrino and the first Filipino entry included in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. It also ranked 17th in Asia’s Top 20 Restaurants by the Miele Guide in 2013. Because of its own farm in Tagaytay, Antonio’s has expertly incorporated the concept of farm-to-table into their menu way before it became a trend in the restaurant industry. Their dishes are made from their freshest produce, and some of their ingredients have been imported from the best suppliers in the world. Diners should prepare to spend considerably more when dining at Antonio’s, but food reviewers and experts have claimed that the money and the road trip are absolutely worth it. Aside from its fine dining restaurant, Antonio’s has other places where you can indulge in different flavors like a breakfast diner, and a bar and grill.

Wide range of cuisines in the Philippines

Though often conservative and traditional, Filipinos can be adventurous when it comes to food. This is evident on the popularity of various kinds of cuisines in the Philippines. Much of the traditional Filipino food has been heavily influenced by the Chinese traders who visited the country in the old days, so you can expect to find numerous Chinese restaurants all over the country. The Philippines has the oldest Chinatown in the world, which is situated in the heart of the City of Manila. Also known as Binondo, its streets are full of market stalls, shops, and of course, eateries and restaurants that serve authentic food from the Orient like Dimsum and noodles. When going to malls or commercial establishments, you’ll find plenty of Chinese restaurants that are loved by Filipino diners like Gloria Maris, Lugang Café, Mongkok, Peking Garden, and many more.

Another favorite cuisine by Filipinos is Japanese. Perhaps the only time that you can make a Pinoy eat raw fish, aside from kilawin, is if it is served as sushi or sashimi. Japanese restaurants all over the country would typically have tuna and salmon included in their assortment of sushi and sashimi offerings, but the more adventurous diners would readily try sea urchin, octopus, and shellfish. Another favorite among Pinoys is tempura or battered shrimp that has been deep fried until crispy.

In addition, even with the warm tropical climate in the Philippines, Filipinos have learned to appreciate a bowl of ramen. Foodies often troop to several malls and to the commercial areas in Makati and Muntinlupa for some of the lauded ramen houses in the metro. Other Japanese dishes that Filipinos have come to love include Tonkatsu, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, and Shabu-Shabu.

The Philippines has also embraced Italian cuisine and has made it an important part of the wide variety of food choices in the country. Though Filipinos are more acquainted with the American version, ordering pizza and having it delivered is something that they have learned to do, just like the rest of the world. Pizza parlors are a dime a dozen all over the country, some of which have been strategically placed near residential areas to cater to deliveries. Some of the well-known restaurants are Pizza Hut, Shakey’s, Papa John’s, and the Filipino owned Yellow Cab. Aside from pizza, pastas are some of the choices for comfort food by Pinoys. The famous sweet spaghetti is a must-have at birthday parties, but Filipinos have opened up to trying out its original versions from Italian restaurants themselves. Some of the popular ones are Bellini’s, Carpaccio Ristorante Italiano, Amici, and Va Bene Pasta Deli.

The Philippines was not spared when Korean influences took over the world—in music, fashion, TV and film, and of course, in dining. There were already Korean restaurants in the Philippines in the past years, but certainly not as much as today. Even if their food is not as spicy as its Asian counterparts, Filipinos will be willing to face the challenge of experiencing the spiciness of Korean cuisine, led by its most popular side dish, Kimchi. Affordable eateries that offer unlimited Korean barbecue have been put up in different areas, while restaurants that serve Bulgogi, Bibimbap, and spicy chicken wings have lured in the youth because of its variety and distinct flavors.

The Philippines has pretty much an endless list of choices for restaurants as it attracts many tourists from all over the world every year. Aside from the popular cuisines, the country also has selections of French, Mexican, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian restaurants. There are also some establishments that have combined two or more cuisines into one.

When dining in the Philippines

The Philippines has opened up to worldwide influences and modified its standards to cater to the needs, not just of its citizens, but to its visitors as well. However, there are still many things that can be considered as uniquely Filipino when it comes to dining in restaurants. With that, here are some reminders about the common practices or situations that diners may encounter in the Philippines.

Firstly, Filipinos typically eat with spoons and forks and as such, when eating in a restaurant, you will be mostly likely provided with these utensils only. You may ask for other cutlery like steak knives or teaspoons. Chopsticks in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants are available.

In some Filipino restaurants, it is encouraged to eat with your hands, especially if you will engage in “kamayan” style or a boodle fight: It typically consists of a whole mound of rice on a banana leaf served with different viands like grilled meat and fish, adobo, vegetables, and condiments like soy sauce with calamansi. You may request for plastic gloves if you wish to keep your hands neat, but for an authentic experience that you will remember, it is highly recommended that you get down and dirty along with your fellow diners.

At restaurants, tipping is encouraged when the check arrives. However, take note if a service charge has been included in your bill. You can still choose to provide a tip if you wish, but it is not required in this case.

Lastly, Filipinos love celebrations, and if your birthday or anniversary is coming up, dining out is encouraged. Some restaurants also grant special requests like serving birthday cakes, complete with the birthday song sung by some of the restaurant’s staff members. Feel free to inquire about these services to make your celebration extra special. Some establishments may even offer special discounts or gifts for those who choose to celebrate a special occasion with them.