6 Restaurant Chains We Want in Manila

December 5, 2018

The recent influx of foreign restaurant chains opening in the Philippines is a godsend for those of us who can’t afford to fly out each time we want some authentic Korean fried chicken. The arrival of IHOP, Japanese katsu restaurants Saboten and Ginza Bairin, French bakery PAUL, and even Pepper Lunch from a few years back has made Manila a more exciting (albeit fattening) place to dine in. That said, it’s human nature to never be content with what we have, so here’s a list of restaurant chains we want to come to Manila.

1. In ‘N Out

Judging from the success of its very short-lived pop-up at Bonifacio High Street, there’s a high demand for In ‘N Out’s world-famous burgers. Apart from utilizing top-quality ingredients (for instance, they don’t use frozen beef) in their patties, what makes In ‘N Out so great is their Secret Menu. No, I don’t mean the not-so-secret one posted on their website. I mean the ultimate Secret Menu that includes the vegetarian “Wish Burger” (as in, “I wish this had meat in it), the “Animal Style Flying Dutchman,” their two-minute fries, and a seemingly endless list of other options.

However, for those now craving for a 2×4 with cold cheese, note that a Manila In ‘N Out is not likely, at least not any time soon. Despite what the pop-up may have implied, the company has been highly resistant to expansion and franchising beyond the West Coast of the US. The family-owned company wants to remain as such, plus their commitment to quality and freshness (all branches must be within a day’s drive of their distribution centers) makes expansion slow and costly.

This picture, coupled with that last paragraph, is causing me a actual, physical pain.

2. Shake Shack

The West Coast has In ‘N Out and the East Coast has Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack. Their burgers, once touted as the best in the city, have had customers lining up for an hour or more at their New York City branches since 2004. Crowd pleasers include the classic Shack Burger, the Shack Stack (a mashup of the Burger and the ‘Shroom Burger), the Shack-cago Dog and, of course, their Shakes. Like its West Coast counterpart, Shake Shack prides itself on the quality of their ingredients. They make their frozen custards in-house, they used to grind their 100% Angus beef at Meyer’s Eleven Madison Park, and they support artisan and fair-trade suppliers for coffee and chocolate. Fortunately for us, the Union Square Hospitality Group is a lot more open about sharing the Shack with the rest of the world. They have nine branches outside the United States, with the newest ones in Istanbul and London.


Actual. Physical. Pain.

3. Din Tai Fung

A growing number of Chinese restaurants in Manila are now serving the soupy Xiao Long Bao dumplings. However, those who have been lucky enough to try Din Tai Fung abroad will tell you that nothing available locally matches the Taiwanese original with its thin, translucent wrapper and porky, fatty broth. Even the vinegar, ginger, and soy sauce in Din Tai Fung are miles better than what’s served here, ditto for their porkchop fried rice. Rumor has it that the main barrier preventing Din Tai Fung from entering the Philippine market seems to be its high franchise fee. So until I or some other Xiao Long Bao purist wins the lottery, we’ll all have to get our fix in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia or Hong Kong.

4. Ippudo

The ramen-mad will be glad that Butao will soon be opening at SM Aura, but it’s no secret that the restaurant they all have been praying to set up shop in Manila is Ippudo. The Fukuoka chain’s bowls of Akamaru and Shimomaru are so in demand, that people have been known to wait hours in line for them, even in cities where the branches have been open for years. I cannot imagine how crazy it will get if Ippudo does open up a Manila branch to add to its New York, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong outposts. It will be chaos (but I’m sure I’ll be seeing all of you there anyway).

Many are hoping and praying for the day they can inhale this in Manila

5. Chipotle

Their burritos are known to be the best hangover food, but you don’t have to be recovering from a bender to appreciate Chipotle. While they are a fast-food joint, their meats and sauces are prepared the traditional, and, therefore, slow way. The guacamole is mixed by hand, their barbacoa is braised for eight hours, and their carnitas are marinated overnight. They also make sure to use high-quality and sustainably sourced ingredients as much as possible. This results in straightforward burritos, tacos, and salads that are delicious sober or otherwise. Unfortunately for us, Chipotle does not seem to have plans to expand to Asia in the near future. The only branches outside North America are in London and Paris. I guess that’s one more reason to visit the City of Light.

6. Nando’s

I think it’s one of the world’s worst injustices that Nando’s is available in 32 countries, but the Philippines is still left out. This South African import’s grilled peri-peri chicken is so good, it was reportedly part of Jay Z’s rider at the Brit Awards. The chicken is marinated for twenty-four hours and then grilled to order with the requested level of spice. The result is fresh, tender, and juicy chicken that may or may not burn your tongue. You can order the grilled chicken by itself, but the chicken is also great filling for their burgers, pitas, and wraps. But since the only peri-peri chicken restaurant in Manila has closed, I’m not sure how big of a local demand there is for Nando’s.

I can finally say I have something in common with Jay-Z

Are there any other foreign restaurants that you want to open in Manila? Do you have millions to invest in a Din Tai Fung franchise? Let us know in the comments!

Image Sources: MW Eats | Flickr | Don’t Ask Me To Smile | Foodpoi | Chipotle | I-S | Pics to Pin

Katrina Iriberri Katrina Iriberri

Katrina is a finance worker bee who would never say no to anything flavored salted caramel. When she’s not baking something with chocolate or cream cheese in it, she’s either reading Austen, or Googling the best places to eat in NYC or Paris. She dreams of watching the El Classico at the Bernabéu one day (with Real Madrid winning, of course) and of being adopted by Ina and Jeffrey Garten, if only to inherit Ina’s barn and kitchen.

41 comments in this post SHOW

41 responses to “6 Restaurant Chains We Want in Manila”

  1. Llyann Itay says:

    In ‘N Out and Shake Shack MANILA please ♥ ^^

  2. Nico Goco says:

    i just ate and now i’m hungry again. 🙁

  3. Abbu Cabrera says:

    There’s a Portuguese guy in the Legazpi Sunday Market who does peri peri chicken but it somehow lacks in the flavor department.

    If I had a billion pesos, I’d franchise Chipotle here. I can’t get enough of their sauces and dips.

  4. Victoria Castillo says:

    I’d love to have Chipotle over here, but taco/burrito places never seem to hit the mainstream in Manila, not even Taco Bell.

    In-N-Out will always be close to my heart, but I admit Shake Shack makes the better burger. Wouldn’t mind if Shake Shack makes it here instead of In-N-Out.

  5. Claire says:

    Panda Express! I’m a sucker for cheap “Chinese” food!

  6. Tia Cruz says:

    If there was a Chik-fil-A, a Rubio’s (TACO TUESDAYS!!), a Cheesecake Factory (Do they have a Cheese here yet?), a L&L Hawaiian BBQ, a Panda Express, or a Sonic here, my inner-child would just squeal with delight. :3

  7. Elaine @ hungrybrownie.com says:

    They all sound sood! But for vegetarians out there, there is an awesome cheap-eats based in LA, named Veggie Grill. It might be nice to have something like this in Manila. I’m no vegetarian but I love their food!

  8. chitolimson says:

    Maybe Panera, a José Andrés place (he calls each location differently), Red Lobster of course and Eggpectation with their insane brunch.

  9. Johann says:

    Am lucky to have a Din Tai Fung and Nando’s very near my house here in KL. DTF’s lunch crowd can rival the lines in Yabu here (though its kinda losing its appeal already), while Nando’s is a dime a dozen here.

    I think the one thing going for DTF is their Michelin-star rating, but their Xiao Long Bao is as good as say, Lugang Cafe (IMHO). About Nando’s, yes, there is a need to open one in Manila. Apart from the chicken, they have a unique way of jazzing up the taste of their food.

  10. tralala says:

    cheesecake factory 😀

  11. Regine Rafael says:

    Umami Burger and Boiling Crab (both from Southern Californa) are two restaurants I’d looooove to see here in Manila! <3

  12. Jc Lim says:

    I agreee with Ippudo!!!

  13. Pebbles says:

    I don’t find Nando’s to be good. You need to use sauce on it to taste better. Aristocrat is better.

  14. Addi dela Cruz says:

    Definitely In ‘N Out! Also, Panda Express. 🙂

  15. April says:

    They should bring back Carl’s jr and Jack in the Box. I remember back in the 90’s, we had those in Manila.

  16. Carissa says:

    Grew up an island girl and would love to see an L & L drive in from Hawaii. They have em in Cali as well.

  17. Geh says:

    Panda express and Zankou, all the way from LA! Count In N Out too!

  18. Abby says:

    Taiwan should be listed as one of the places to visit Din Tai Fung. After all, it originated from Taiwan.

  19. Jose Angeles says:

    Shake Shack & Cheesecake Factory please!!!!! 🙂

  20. jack says:

    Cheesecake Factory,Le pain Quotidien,Casper&Gambini’s,Ruby Tuesday

  21. mojackomojacko says:

    Modern Toilet from Taiwan!

    I think it would be a hit here :p

  22. Guest says:

    Café de Coral from HK please!

  23. Carl Jandusay B. says:

    Café de Coral please!

  24. Miss Khee says:

    In n out, shake shack and boiling crab!!!!! Pfff

  25. Miss Khee says:

    In n out, shake shack and boiling crab!!!!! Pfff

  26. Ed Delgado says:

    In N Out and Five Guys.

  27. Miguel says:

    Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

  28. Dustin Hezron says:


  29. joekwan says:

    Ippudo is opening at new megamall annex. And if rumors were correct, shake shack is also opening at megamall new annex

  30. joekwan says:

    I want Denny’s

  31. joekwan says:

    Just a lil correction. Peri peri chicken branches are still operating. the original branch in greenhills has evolved into a more casual dining settings

  32. judeanauto says:

    Am I alone in trying to develop our own food and brand that could make foreigners come and ask for a franchise instead of scouting for new food joints and introducing them to our country? FYI: Many cattle and poultry in the Phil. feed on GMO feeds and that makes them inelligible to countries which are strict in the importation of frozen and processed food. In our country, sad to say, franchising is one business that does not really care about the quality of the product because the performance in sales shows the investor how he will gain in the end. An advocacy i want to promote is to ask the government to remove the EVAT on restaurant receipts because the quality is mostly affected when the resto calculateir pricing. Do not imitate china in faking eggs and vegetables and lacing MSG to open up your taste buds!

  33. joey garcias says:

    Just the regular “Shack Burger” and an ice cold diet coke @ NYC or Paramus NJ is all you need .. you’ll be in heaven. Ippudo NYC in 4th ave is a bit expensive but worth it.

  34. Hazel Agnes Uy-Go says:

    PLEASE franchise NANDO’s. It’s a must for those who love spicy food. This is the real deal. The local peri-peri chicken is disgusting. Nothing can compare to the original Nando’s sauce.

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