Here are 7 Reasons Why We Believe Iloilo is Set to Be the Philippines’ Next Food CapitalApril 1, 2020
- Fruhlein EconarWords
Iloilo City has been undergoing an awakening of sorts these past couple of years. Exciting new establishments are cropping up; its changing landscape a sign of progress and prosperity. Already on the map for its beauty, historical significance, and classic Ilonggo cuisine, Iloilo is finding a surprising upswing of restaurants bent on showcasing their own take on comfort food. From third wave coffee to locally-sourced meals, the city is slowly becoming a hotbed of culinary creativity.
Of course we can’t talk about the new kids on the block without paying our respects to the old institutions. A visit to La Paz Market is a must for first-timers eager for an authentic experience. Netong’s, an old favorite, is deep into the heart of the market but well worth the trouble. Its famous La Paz Batchoy (a dish that they originated, as local lore would have it), with its rich but well-balanced broth, is often lauded as the very best.
Just beyond the corner of Netong’s is Madge Café, another city icon standing the test of time. Both locals and tourists alike frequent the coffee shop for a taste of their native brew (its beans harvested just in Northern Iloilo), prepared the way it has always been prepared for over sixty years. These institutions stand in stark contrast to the new school of restaurants and cafés that are characterized by well-crafted interiors and fusion cuisines. But both serve its place in the increasingly complex local food scene. Here are some of the best new eats in Iloilo:
1. Brewery Gastropub
With its formidable selection of commercial and craft beers, Brewery Gastropub is slowly schooling Iloilo in the ways of beer and food pairings. From savory combinations such as their Beer Can Chicken paired with a nice Paulaner Beer from Germany, to sweet combos such as Red Velvet Cake and a Timmermans Dessert Beer, Brewery Gastropub takes great lengths to make sure great beers highlight great food. It’s the first bonafide beer bar in the city stocked with a rotating selection of imported and local beers, introducing die-hards and newbies alike to a wealth of local products such as the Guimaras Mango Wheat Beer and the Negros Pale Ale. Cool, dark wood interiors and its beer bottle lined-windows lend a very relaxed atmosphere to the place, making this an ideal spot for some long, steady nights with some good company.
2. Deo Optimo Maximo (D.O.M.)
According to chef and owner Dominic Dulalia, D.O.M. is a modern seasonal restaurant born out of an utmost respect for food, and a belief that the best dishes can only come from the best ingredients. Firmly committed to highlighting the local ingredients of Iloilo as well as expanding the locals’ understanding of what ‘comfort food’ really means, Dominic writes: “We try as much as possible to utilize local produce and present them in a way that highlights their seasonality.” D.O.M’s menu is continuously displaying the creativity that comes with working with seasonal ingredients. Bestsellers of their current menu include the Egg Dip, a 64 degree egg that floats atop a honey dashi broth and garnished with our homemade Sriracha Sauce (the dish comes with their Whole Wheat Sourdough Baguette Toast and their Smoked Bacon), and Yogurt Chicken, grilled chicken dressed in curried yogurt sauce that sits on a bed of Turmeric Rice and garnished with crispy onions, toasted cashews, and raisins.
3. Bistro Carcosa
As a part of the local bar scene for a couple of years now, the owners of Bisto Carcosa have been witnesses to the changing food trends in Iloilo. As Ilonggos’ palettes have gotten more and more receptive to different kinds of dishes, Bistro Carcosa was established to be a kitchen-oriented restaurant with a focus on providing exciting food and a laid back, convivial atmosphere. Its rustic urban-inspired interiors definitely lend a laid-back vibe to the place, making it perfect for intimate date nights. Bistro Carcosa is especially proud of their artisanal, freshly baked bread and homemade ice cream. Diners are particularly excited about their Ginger Caramel ice-cream and alcoholic options such as the Rum n’ Raisin. If there’s still room for dinner, you’ve got to try their Big Boy Ribs and Beef Shank with Red Wine Sauce.
4. Dova Brunch Café
Brunch has arrived in Iloilo in the form of the very chic Dova Brunch Café. Chef and owner Miguel Cordova, also the pioneer of the well-loved Afriques, seems to have another hit on his hands as Dova serves one impeccable plate after another. Apart from the sumptuous breakfast fare (from classic dishes such as Eggs Benedict to slightly more adventurous pairings such as Cornflake Fried Chicken and Waffles), what makes Dova special is its ambiance. Tucked into a quiet corner in the city, regulars love the place for the privacy and quiet it affords them. Spend a relaxing weekend at Dova, and comfortably take your time sipping on your coffee and scarfing down some fluffy pancakes and waffles.
One of the sure signs of a burgeoning food scene might just be a third-wave coffee shop. Although specialty coffee is still a predominantly foreign concept in Iloilo, locals have been really receptive to Fuel.ph’s offerings. Because the dominant view is still centered around instant coffee or commercial coffee chains, Fuel.ph is making a strong case for locally produced beans and well-crafted beverages. Fuel.ph is anchored on the idea that a good environment enables great conversations. Its interiors are cozy and reminiscent of art galleries. It’s all about creating a space conducive to collaboration and creativity. With Iloilo’s star quickly on the rise, Fuel.ph encapsulates the city’s young energy—its zest for empowerment, social responsibility, and passion.
6. Live by Healthy Kitchen
Having just opened late April of this year, Live by Healthy Kitchen is the newest establishment on the list. With the recent health boom in the country, it couldn’t have come at a better time. There is a mural on one of its main walls saying: “Promoting healthy living through healthy eating.” Live is committed to creating dishes that not only deliver on health but also on flavor. With dishes like Chicken Teriyaki in Mushroom Sauce and Pan Seared Tuna in White Reduction Sauce with Glazed Vegetables & Beetroot Mashed Potato, there is absolutely no need for compromises. Not only is Live committed to helping people eat healthily in-store, it wants to aid healthy eating in one’s day-to-day life by offering a weekly, guilt-free meal plan customized according to your daily calorie requirement. It also serves as a one-stop-shop for a variety of health products, further encouraging people to take on the healthy lifestyle.
7. Midway Fresh Market and Restaurant
If you want a retreat away from the busyness of Iloilo City, Midway is the perfect respite from the chaos. Its blend of Filipino and European-inspired interiors perfectly reflect the philosophy behind the food, which can be considered a fusion of Asian and Western flavors, but crafted using locally-grown ingredients. In fact, it might have literally been picked in their backyard. Part-restaurant and part-garden/market, Midway has a variety of produce growing in the land surrounding the restaurant. Visitors may even opt to purchase some of them after their meal. Midway’s dining area opens out to a view of its sprawling green backyard stretching out to the horizon, making the place an ideal escape and a surefire way to calm the mind.