Top 5 Local Restos in Manila That You Should Definitely Try
No travel is ever complete without trying out local food while indulging in the rich culture and history of the country that you’re visiting. It’s like you’re missing out on something if you enjoy everything else in full but limit your taste buds to fast food options or the staple pizza and soda. While it’s scary to try new flavors, nine times out of ten it always ends up as a win.
The Filipino Food
The Philippines is composed of 7,641 islands making it the fifth largest island country in the world. That’s why Filipino cuisine is not only local but also highly regional. That means that there are so many individually different dishes which generally have the same concepts but different preparation methods and even names.
The flavors usually center around combinations of sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Although there are specific regions like in the Bicol and the Cordilleras where spicy flavors are considered the base of cooking flavor.
Aside from that, it’s important to note that there have been several foreign influences that successfully mixed with indigenous cuisine. There’s the Chinese cuisine brought along by many traders as well as Mexican influences from galleon trades. And in the long history of the Philippines, it was colonized by the Spanish, Americans, Japanese, and the British which also shaped the different Filipino dishes today.
Top 5 Local Restos in Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and home to a mix of Spanish colonial architecture and contemporary designs. In the heart of Old Manila, you can find the walled city of Intramuros where the baroque 16th century San Agustin Church and the storied citadel Fort Santiago stand.
Here are must-visit local restos in Manila that will definitely make touring these places even better. We made you a simple itinerary from breakfast to dinner that you might want to try when you visit Manila!
📍 Manila Hotel, 1 Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila, 0913 Metro Manila
Cafe Ilang-Ilang sits inside the oldest premiere hotel in the Philippines built in 1909 and officially opened on July 4, 1912 in commemoration of the country’s independence from America.
It is the perfect breakfast spot if you want to enjoy a luxuriously extensive breakfast buffet with selections including Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Western, Asian, and of course must-try Filipino dishes. Aside from the historical and classic interiors of Hotel Manila, the Cafe itself boasts of 8 live cooking stations (open kitchens to ensure that food is fresh and high quality) and an impressive dessert station.
You can try out their home-baked breads, fresh pastas, hand-rolled sushis, artisanal ice cream, healthy green salads, Halal food options, and many more. You can also request food from the chefs and as long as they have the ingredients, they’ll cook it for you. No big deal.
The place can be very busy during the weekends so if you’re planning to go by then, it’s best to book a reservation. You can also enjoy lunch and dinner buffets here.
📍 1790 M. Adriatico St, Malate, Manila, 1004 Metro Manila
In 2019, this cafe celebrated its 40th anniversary. A trendsetter of its time back when it opened in 1979, Cafe Adriatico pioneered the ‘bistro’ dining experience which offered reasonably-priced food cooked in home style in a cozy atmosphere that will definitely make you feel relaxed.
This French-Mediterranean inspired structure which sits at the corner of Adriatico Street and Remedio Circle started as a place where Larry J. Cruz (founder) and his friends can enjoy conversations over good food and wine. It helped usher in the cafe culture which took off in the 1990s and eventually it grew with 3 different branches in Quezon City and Pasay.
After breakfast, you can indulge in this place with some Suman sa Lihiya with Salabat, a combination of sweet sticky rice with coconut jam and ginger tea. This is one of the most iconic cafes in the modern Malate area which you should never miss to visit.
📍 2436 Leon Guinto Street corner Kapitan Ticong Street, Malate, Manila
If you’re craving for chicken, then this is the best place for you. And as a lunch place, we’re definitely recommending it as well. Aside from their signature Sinugbang Manok, chicken inasal flavored sweeter than traditional styles using homemade sauce, it also serves a lot of different meals from Negros Oriental.
A taste of Dumaguete (capital of Negros Oriental), the place is known for its fresh seafood dishes alongside Filipino favorites like Humba, and Sizzling Pochero. They also offer snacks and desserts featuring the famous Silvanas. Once you try these mouthwatering Filipino frozen cookies with two cashew-meringue wafers (coated with cookie crumbs) and a layer of buttercream in between, you will definitely crave for more.
It’s a very popular university favorite which offers affordably-priced food. You should definitely try this out.
📍 398 Cabildo St, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila
La Cathedral Cafe sits beside the famous and historic Minor Basilica of Immaculate Concepcion or more commonly known as Manila Cathedral. It opened as an indoor dining restaurant back in 2018 serving pastries, coffee-based drinks, and other beverages. But they started to gain attention when they opened their roof deck dining in November 2019.
The roof deck offers a magnificent and picturesque backdrop of the Church. Additionally, they decorated the roof deck with hanging lanterns in ambient lighting which mimics a scenic capture from a romantic movie in Paris, Milan, or Spain.
The best time to visit this place starts from sundown. Enjoy the night lights of Manila Cathedral mixed in with the majestic sunset hues and a combination of Filipino comfort food and a cup of coffee. Due to its popularity, the cafe is usually packed during this time of the day so they offer seating on a first-come, first-served basis.
5. Ilustrado Restaurant
📍 744 Calle Real del Palacio (Gen. Luna), Intramuros, Manila
Ilustrado is the Spanish term for “enlightened ones” or “erudite” or “learned”. This was the group of Filipino educated class in the late 19th century during the Spanish colonial period. They were known as the middle class who were privileged to be educated in Spanish as well liberal and nationalist ideas.
Inspired by that term, the Ilustrado restaurant founded by Rose and Boni Pimentel in 1989 offers world-class Filipino cuisine with a Spanish flair in an old-world setting. Located in Intramuros, this Hispanic-inspired space is composed of a neo-classic main dining room, a Spanish garden courtyard, and a cafe filled with art and art posters.
Now under the management of Beatrice and Chef Bernice (daughters of Rose and Boni), they are bringing a refreshed style for Ilustrado with signature Asian flavors blended with modern classics. You can enjoy a fulfilling dinner here with lots of food options like their Bagnet Kare-kare, Sinigang na Bagnet, Callos Madrilena, and Chicken Curry with CousCous.
And of course a bonus treat: Dessert
📍 Plaza San Luis Complex General Luna Street, cor Real St, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila
If you’re still up for some dessert, then you should definitely visit this place. Batala Bar which was named after the supreme god of the Tagalog offers ice cream, coffee, and craft beer proudly handmade in the Philippines. They don’t serve food here but you can try pairing your choice drink with some popcorn.