They say a great way to acquaint yourself with a new city is through your stomach. In the second installment of our Expat guide, we introduce the best food and drink haunts that Manila has to offer, from whisky and cigar bars to restaurants that elevate favorite Filipino dishes to commercial hits.
XO 46 Heritage Bistro
It’s no secret that Manila’s diners have a love affair with foreign food. Thriving at a time when the restaurant scene is brimming with imported food chains and the word “fusion,” XO 46 Heritage Bistro remains a longstanding–and award-winning–tribute to our own regional dishes. Complete the experience by ordering family style so you can try everything from the Batangas adobo and aligue rice to the gising-gising and lechon.
G/F Le Grand Condominium, 130 Valero St.
A restaurant that serves a local cuisine will usually do so in the general sense: with an amalgamation of regional classics. It isn’t often that you get a restaurant that dedicates itself to the best of just one locality. Victorino’s does just that, serving up authentic Ilocano dishes like poqui-poqui and bagnet. They deviate however with their Western desserts, but when they’re made by chef Heny Sison, it’s hard to complain.
11th Jamboree St cor Sct Rallos Laging Handa, Quezon City
Serving local is one thing, but sourcing local is another animal entirely. Locavore stays true to its name, offering Filipino dishes and drinks made only from what’s locally grown and produced. Their food ranges from sizzling sinigang na shortribs to street food platters, while their cocktails make use of elements like the local Don Papa rum and siling labuyo.
10 Brixton Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City
The Filipino dining scene is in a constant state of turnover, with diners quick to move on to the next best thing. It’s a testament to Abe’s staying power, then, that it remains popular over a decade since its opening. Named for Emilio Aguilar “Abe” Cruz, the restaurant’s menu features the artist and writer’s favorite dishes, particularly those from Binondo and Pampanga. Don’t leave without trying the binukadkad na plapla and the tamarind shake.
G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Level M3, Trinoma Mall, North EDSA, Quezon City
Japanese whisky has recently become the tipple of choice for many locals. The best place to enjoy it socially might just be Lit Manila, a cozy enclave that plays host to one of the most extensive Japanese whisky collections in town. But the best part of Lit isn’t that you get toshare Suntory highballs or Hibiki among friends — the barkeep themselves make excellent company, and will enjoy nothing more than to discuss with you their love of whisky.
G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
The Curator Coffee & Cocktails
Great bars are so beloved because they give a sense of community through a shared love of drinks; The Curator is one such place. What used to be a hidden door behind a wine shop, The Curator has extended to the front of the house, serving coffee and cocktails from morning to night. This is how The Curator becomes part of your day: your companion after a morning run, and the place to go to for a night cap.
135 Legazpi cor. Palanca St., Legazpi Village, Makati City
Of all novel bar entrances, Bank Bar’s is perhaps the most creative: an ersatz storage room at a 7-Eleven. What it leads to is a bar that is not quite a casual pub but is far from a nightclub. Bank Bar is the kind of place that evolves with its inhabitants. It’s the ideal pitstop for pre-dinner drinks, and transforms late into the night as a place with an almost-club lounge vibe for midnight martinis. When visiting at various points in the night, some drink are suggested: the Negroni for an post-work tipple and the Nutter Club (lemon-pistachio gin sour served up) towards midnight.
G/F RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 26th and 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
ABV Cocktail and Absinthe Bar
ABV is frequented by expats for a reason. Though compact in size, its dimmed lights, cozy interiors, and bottle collection display might quite the impact. Through an innocuous door at burger and hotdog joint Lazy Bastard, ABV serves up what might be the closest thing to an authentic speakeasy experience — the drinks, of course, are excellent. Best of all, ABV is the kind of place that will stay up as long as you will. The drinks will flow and the lights will remain on until the last customer taps out.
22 Jupiter Street corner Galaxy Street, Makati
Mandalay Whiskeys and Cigars
Opulent is perhaps the best word to describe Mandalay, a bar hidden in the confines of pub and restaurant Belle and Dragon. As the name suggests, it evokes a romantic balance between the East and West of the world, and you will find yourself enjoying a tipple with Chinese guardian lions, tufted lounge chairs, and even carved wooden panels that slide out to become private rooms. Mandalay’s cigar and whiskey collections are some of the finest in town, but beyond their drinks, their food menu should not be missed.
Palanca St. Legazpi Village, Makati
Art by Maine Manalansan