Ghetto Grub: LoveliteNovember 22, 2013
- Adee de LeonWords
From food carts, to hole-in-the wall joints, we try out meals that literally test your intestinal fortitude. There may be flies on the counter, and the dishes aren’t always clean, but that big, hot bowl of what’s presumably food just looks so good. Yes, these are the places your mom warned you about. But it’s okay, we won’t tell if you won’t. Welcome to Ghetto Grub.
There’s never a shortage of places to get cheap grub near schools. Some of them even become popular enough to get airtime on TV. That’s probably why when famous university treats are mentioned, you think of UP’s FA siomai, Rodic’s tapsilog and Mang Larry’s isaw. My alma mater, UST, isn’t quite as popular in the same department, but it has its fair share of legendary eateries like Mang Tootz and Almer’s.
Ask any Thomasian what their favorite spot to score a cheap meal in is, and you’d get a lot of different replies. The notorious flood-prone street of Dapitan has plenty of places where you can play gastronomical Russian roulette. Among the most famous of its side streets is Asturias, dubbed the “hepa lane” because of the numerous food carts there selling everything from fishballs to deep fried isaw.
It’s in this dirty street that I first encountered Lovelite almost 7 years ago. The funny thing about them is their signage says copy center but you’d never suspect they offer photocopying services at first glance. Customers see and smell the food way before the ink and paper. There are always more students wolfing down a quick lunch in between classes compared to the ones there to have their books bootlegged. Unfortunately, there’s also a few street kids constantly hanging around.
Lovelite is your typical Manila hole-in-the-wall.
Obviously, it’s not the most comfy place to eat at in this street. The interiors look like your typical Manila hole-in-the-wall, with hung tarps pulling double duty as both menu and decoration. The tables and chairs are the plastic kind you often see at the kind of wake that spills to the street, minus the beer bottles and gambling drunks. Flies and street garbage are always nearby.
Lovelite offers an abundance of choices for the hungry Thomasian. They serve mostly sandwiches and rice meals, but they also have siomai and liempo. None of the dishes are really special, but all of them are cheap. It also helps that the food is always served hot and that the gravy is decent. For any cash-strapped student who needs their extra rice, that’s music to their ears.
They serve plenty of drinks, including fruit juices, milk teas, and pearl shakes, but I think you’re better off sticking with the fruit shake. The few non-fruit shake drinks I’ve tried were all a lame joke. Maybe it’s just the Manila heat and my nostalgia for my bygone college years, but I personally think the fruit shakes are arguably better than the actual food. Either way, no meal at Lovelite is complete without their (kind of) famous coolers.
Their heart-shaped fried eggs is probably where Lovelite got its name.
Everything on the menu is made-to-order. Just tell the cashier what you want, pay, and they’ll start cooking it. One quirky thing about this place is the way they serve their eggs, which are cooked in a heart-shaped mold. It’s probably why they’re called Lovelite. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a shot of them since I ordered the 2-piece burger steak, my go-to meal, which doesn’t include an egg.
It’s only 40 bucks. I remember it being cheaper then, but hey, inflation affects everyone except fishball carts (how can each piece still cost the same as in the 90’s? Sorcery!). Thankfully, the burger steaks are the same as they were when I was in college. They still taste a bit like the patties you get at Burger Machine, but slightly meatier.
Buying a shake is safer than gambling on Sampaloc’s tap water.
For drinks, I got the mango shake. You can’t go wrong with it, and it’s a great way to wash away the gravy taste in your mouth. At only Php 25, it’s better than gambling on your health by drinking Sampaloc’s tap water (even though I’ve always won that bet).
If you want to be amused, order any sandwich with an egg. Then, you can stare lovingly at the heart-shaped chicken embryo as it cooks slowly in the sizzling oil. Ironic, since high cholesterol is supposedly bad for your heart.
I would have ordered one of those greasy sandwiches but I didn’t want to get too full since I had a food tasting to attend afterwards. Still, just being back in Lovelite gave me a weird sense of satisfaction. I remembered all the times I used to go here when I was a student. I usually ordered a footlong hotdog or a ham and cheese sandwich because I needed something I could eat on the way to class (or the computer shops). It’s also near the place I went to for afterschool drinks. Good times.
If I were to be completely objective about the food, Lovelite wouldn’t even be in my top 5 places to eat in UST, but eating out isn’t just about the food. For me, the conversations and experiences you had in a place are almost as important. It’s in this area that Lovelite really made an impression on me. If you’re a student with limited allowance (or poor budgeting skills) like I was, it might be a place you’ll grow fond of, too.
Enough of my sentimentality. Should you visit Lovelite if you’re not a Thomasian or don’t live near Dapitan? Let’s see.
Ghetto Factor: 7.8/10
While Asturias street is dirty and filled with beggars, none of them pose a real threat. However, they do tend to be pesky. Don’t go here if you’re the type to get itchy each time a bum asks you for money.
Health Hazard: 2/10
Though very few of what they’re selling is made fresh, they do serve mostly pre-made meat products that were hopefully manufactured in more sanitary conditions. The fresh shakes and siomai never made me sick, either. Overall, I think it’s pretty safe health-wise. The place isn’t spotless, but it doesn’t look like a junk shop either.
Not recommended for sheltered kids who grew up in posh villages. The few conyo kids who study at UST have the carpark/mall for their eating needs anyway. Lovelite is for the young ones who need a cheap, filling meal that will still leave them enough money for an hour or two of League of Legends or billiards.