We Bet You These SoMa and UP Village Restaurants are not in your Maginhawa Food Bucket List YetJanuary 13, 2015
When talking about Maginhawa, usual names such as Friuli Trattoria, Ate Fe’s, Grill Queen and recently, Indonyaki constantly crop up. These places are popular and are always bursting at the seams with customers for a reason: most of these places put Maginhawa on Metro Manila’s culinary map. With several trips, it is easy to burn through the usual Maginhawa suspects (aside from the ones mentioned above): The Iscreamist, Crazy Katsu, Moonleaf, Cocina Juan, and many others. Some of the dinnertime crowd has also already caught a whiff of the action on Malingap Street, and are discovering what this exciting new food epicenter has to offer.
Yet, Maginhawa still has its old school charm and appeal. The older establishments are constantly reinventing their menus and are continually adding specials to their offerings to keep abreast with the competition. Also, more new restaurants have opened, which are barely on anyone’s food bucket list yet. These places breathe a new life to Maginhawa, an invitation to go off and explore off-the-beaten-track and lesser-known gems lurking in plain sight.
We scoured the entire length of Maginhawa, from Masaya Street in the north down to Sikatuna Village in what the locals call SoMA or South of Maginhawa (parodying the New York-ish penchant for truncations), to sample the best eats that have yet to make it to any discerning food lover’s radar. Here are some discoveries that ought to be on your list of must-try Maginhawa haunts:
1. Artsy Café
Artsy Café lives up to its name, its very kitschy interiors, high ceilings with exposed beams, brick-whitewash-and-faux-turf walls, a white picket fence surrounding its front porch and cute knick-knacks that accent the shelves in the back wall of the bar/counter area. The restaurant serves home-style cooking that is reminiscent of lovingly prepared Sunday brunches with the whole clan. They also offer several kinds of coffee brewed from beans from different origins.
Arsty Café, brainchild of the group headed by John de Silva, is still in its soft opening, with owners still road-testing the menu. Expect moderate to slow service during busy hours because word of mouth about the place’s pasta dishes like their Puttanesca (PHP 120), rice meals and desserts is catching on. The servings are quite small for the price points, but the food is tasty, well seasoned and dressed up to the nines. We recommend the Puttanesca, with a bright and acidic sauce of capers and tomatoes; and the Frutti di Mare Pasta, a creamy and satisfying seafood pasta dish.
Opened only last October, Maginhawa’s newcomer Dorissimo is slowly being recognized as a cutesy dessert place that also offers pasta dishes and rice meals. Ms. Emily David, the bubbly and hands-on manager and co-owner said that the idea behind the new restaurant was conceived by Ms. Doris Monsanto (one of the owners), an accomplished baker and businesswoman.
The friendly staff will direct your attention to their selection of teas that pair well with their incredibly delicious desserts. The mango cheesecake is delicate, light, zesty and just a tiny bit acidic, offering a well-balanced flavor profile. The first few bites were ambrosial. The pistachio sans rival cake, on the other hand, was not cloyingly sweet but still indulgent; it was just the right texture and ideal with a pot of freshly steeped Earl Grey that the staff will serve you in a pot and tea set of your choosing.
Address: Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City
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3. Cafféra Photo + Café
Cafféra might be compact but what it lacks in space, it makes up for with the consistent execution of its concept. The owners, a group of Entrepreneurship students from the University of Santo Tomas, developed the business model for the café as part of their requirements for their thesis, and they decided to continue the business when it attracted a following of photography hobbyists and professionals. Combining the owners’ collective love for food, coffee, photography, business and meaningful conversations, the place was conceptualized as the country’s first photography-themed café. The place is a mini gallery of the owners’ lens work. Customers can also doodle on the provided notepads and pin their own artwork in the boards.
Their baristas are well trained and knowledgeable. The espresso is strong, and serves a good base for their beverages, which, in keeping with the photography theme, are puns of photography-related terminology like Megapixel, Frapperture and Lomo Latte. They also serve their drinks in mugs that look like lenses for DSLR cameras. Their cupcakes, topped with cute fondant cameras, are too pretty to eat and are actually quite enjoyable.
Cafféra Photo + Café
4. Cool Beans Café
Cool Beans Café opened in late 2013 to hawk specialty Philippine coffees, and to pioneer the concept of melding a library with a coffee shop. Walking into the cafe, one is greeted by the sight of shelves upon shelves of books and some really cozy seating that makes use of traditional weavings from the Mountain Province as an accent.
Owners Scott Lleva and Lot Deleste envisioned the coffee shop to be a neighborhood hangout where students and young professionals can plop down with their books and magazines, and linger for hours. The coffee shop has no WiFi, and we’d like to think it is better that way because when you have a big library of novels, nonfiction titles, comics, coffee table books and art books, who needs the distractions of the Internet? Cool Beans offers a selection of specialty highland coffee from the Cordillera region. They also have student-friendly rice meals, panini and all-day breakfast options.
Cool Beans Café
SoMa’s answer to Cool Beans Café is Antiteasis, with its modest interiors and quaint atmosphere that is ideal for lounging around with a book or a board game with friends, while enjoying their wide assortment of teabags and loose-leaf teas. Upon settling down in the store, the attentive staff will show you an iPad where you can browse their extensive list of teas and herbal infusions. They also serve light snacks such as doughnuts, sandwiches, bagels and cakes to pair with their delicate brews and other drinks.
The place has quite a selection of novels, coffee table books, magazines, and other literature that customers can browse through and read while dining in. Students and professionals can sit on the floor and study or read with beanbags and throw pillows within their quiet indoor space that is conducive to productive work. Groups can also have animated discussions outside, in the front porch al fresco seating.
6. Gerry’s Jeepney
Gerry’s Jeepney came up with the brilliant idea of combining the things that are iconic to Filipino culture: the jeepney, good food, and the spirit of community that is demonstrated by our favorite boodle fight or kamayan setup. We’re not sure if the owners based the concept on New York’s Jeepney and Maharlika restaurants that have recently earned praises from non-Filipinos who visited the place (or it could be the other way around), but as long as there is boodle-style Filipino food in this quirky Maginhawa joint, we are sold.
The place is decorated with witty and hilarious signs that every commuting Filipino should be familiar with. Phrases like “Basta sexy, libre. Basta chubby, doble” (Sexy girls ride for free, chubby girls pay double) are done in iconic neon color schemes reminiscent of the signboards that barkers and drivers brandish around to call their passengers. Their group meals named after main jeepney routes (Monumento, Ayala, Quiapo and Cubao,) are set up on banana leaves, inviting diners to get in there with their hands. If you have ever fancied eating inside a jeepney, you can reserve the one at the back for your group.
Address: 154 Maginhawa St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
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7. Wicked Kitchen
Though Wicked Kitchen is hardly new, with it’s first branch opening its doors to the public back in 2008 and with another branch in Mother Ignacia Street, it is still one of the most underrated restaurants in Maginhawa. The owner, Kooch Laxamana trained in the Center for Culinary Arts Manila and gained experience in Australia before coming up with the restaurant’s fun menu of Western and Australian favorites such as bangers and mash, beer-battered fish and chips, sandwiches and desserts. Their surf and turf keep customers coming back for more.
A lot of thought went into the development of their menu, especially their sinful desserts, which are aptly named after the seven deadly sins. We tried Greed, which is basically a deconstructed S’mores dessert with chocolate and torched marshmallow slowly melting in a hot skillet. Greed is served with Graham crackers. We recommend washing this evil epilogue to a good meal with their Fresh Kiwi Juice, which washes your palate with hints of tartness and acidity.
Address: Unit 2H, Maginhawa cor. Makadios St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
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8. Abdul the Cool
When you are craving for something smoky, meaty and comforting, Abdul the Cool, which only recently opened its doors to its hungry customers, is a purveyor of good shawarma and other Persian favorites such as koobideh and keema.
A hunk of meat is always roasting on the spit, perfuming the place with a heady smell of meat broiling in jus and spices. The doodle wall with its tongue-in-cheek illustrations of celebrities and political figures welcomes customers into the joint, making it a quirky and Instagram-worthy hangout.
Abdul the Cool
Address: V. Luna Extension, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
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9. Caution: Hot Noodle House
We tried Caution: Hot with the masochistic and steely resolve of going for the hottest variant of their Chinese-style noodles on our first visit. Man, was that a bad idea. This is the place to go if you want to get owned by a bowl of noodles.
If you don’t have the tolerance for five-alarm chilies ground up in your soup, skip the Ultimate and initially test the waters with First or Second Degree for your “Burn”. Caution: Hot lets customers DIY their noodles, offering different kinds of soup bases and meats. You also decide on the spiciness of your broth, so tread lightly, or else you will end up downing glassfuls of their kickass all-you-can-drink soya cooler to quell the napalm-down-your-throat sensation. We mean this in a good way; Caution: Hot is not messing around with their chili peppers.
Their kuchay dumplings are also mouthwatering, either on their own or when tossed into the noodle bowls. The servings are good for sharing, and are worth every penny. Avoid the dinnertime crowd and visit on a slow afternoon instead as the place already has a massive following.
Caution: Hot Noodle House
Address: Magiting St., UP Village, Quezon City
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10. The Porch by Casa Verde
Cebuanos are very proud of their homegrown Casa Verde, with its famous Brian’s Ribs and The Mighty Ton burger making it one of the most talked-about institutions in Cebu City. Manilenos who have been to Cebu and sampled their dishes twittered with excitement when Casa Verde opened a branch in UP Town Center in Katipunan.
Unbeknownst to many, it also opened a branch in Sikatuna Village, under the name The Porch. We couldn’t calm down about how big the Mighty Ton burger was. It could feed an entire family.
Diners order at a counter window, which also offer a peek into the busy kitchen. After paying, a number is given and diners settle in the comfortable chairs. We tried the surf and turf, which was a nicely done and well-seasoned steak served with shrimps and rice.
The Porch by Casa Verde
Address: 113 Anonas Extension, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
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11. Ta-As Café (Food + Art + Culture)
Ta-As Café recently opened its doors to serve as a creative art space and a venue for artists, musicians and performers to show off their craft. The cafe will be the future host of gigs, poetry readings, art shows and interactive performances.
It also has a roof deck area where patrons can unwind and relax with live music and a cold glass of beer. They serve Filipino appetizers and pulutan, as well as full meals such as burgers, pasta and viands with rice.
Address: Anonas Extension, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
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12. The Good Shelf
The Good Shelf is an ecostore, a deli, a restaurant, and a multi-purpose space that advocates healthy, organic food and artisanal fare. Sash Marigomen envisoned the place to become a community where vendors can consign their locally sourced, handmade and small-scale products, such as processed meats, grains, superfoods, vegetables, breads, cheeses, and vegetable and fruit preserves. Health-conscious shoppers can drop by their store for the freshest products. The café also serves local dishes that focus on local and sustainably produced, organic ingredients.
Aside from food, The Good Shelf sources environment friendly toiletries, cleaning products and skin care products in a profit-sharing model with their producers. The space upstairs also allows the ecostore to host events and classes such as yoga, pilates and healthy lifestyle seminars. After sweating and stretching in their healthful floor exercises, spoil yourself with a bite of Malagos Dark Chocolate from Davao, a world-class single origin chocolate experience with 65% cacao.
The Good Shelf
Address: 136-B, V. Luna Extension, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
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One-of-a-kind hole-in-the-walls make up most of the restaurants and food joints in Maginhawa, and they come and go ever few months or so, contributing to the ever-changing landscape of the street. Exciting new discoveries crop up every now and then, giving customers more reasons to keep coming back to this food strip.