Quezon City, the Philippine’s capital and one of the largest cities, celebrated its 75th Foundation Day last October 12, 2014, with all of the city’s six districts holding their own variations of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations such as various street parties along Roosevelt-Del Monte (District 1), Sandiganbayan (District 2), Araneta and Anonas (District 3), Maginhawa and Tomas Morato Streets (District 4), Quirino Highway (District 5), and Minanado-Tandang Sora Avenue (District 6); a huge Zumba party near the Quezon Memorial Circle; and the La Loma Lechon Festival.
Most of them seemed really interesting, but when I discovered the Quezon City Food Festival was happening along Maginhawa Street, I just had to be there bright and early to tick off the foodie haunts I had been wanting to tick off of my list before the place filled up with people. Serving everything from crispy chunks of lechon to delicate Taiwanese desserts, there were additional food stalls as well as carnival games set up along the roadside, ready to feed the public and entertain children. This was going to be a long day of eating and walking about – it was a good thing I came prepared!
To kick off the festivities, there was a lively marching band that cheered the crowd up but were offset by these very stoic-looking majorettes who really didn’t want to get their pictures taken. Look at all them sourpusses; They should have thought of that before signing up to be in front of a crowd filled with photographers. There was also a small brigade of Ati-Atihan dancers that brought in a curious gaggle of people.
Joining the parade was Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista, who spent most of his morning posing with his constituents and genuinely thrilled at the turnout of the Maginhawa Street Food Festival. After making his way to the main stage, there were a few opening remarks before he officially opened the Food Festival to the public. And what’s a better way to discover the ins and outs of Maginhawa Street than with a food crawl?
After popping into a lot of very full restaurants, here are 10 (count ’em!) of my favorites food discoveries along Maginhawa Street:
Moonleaf has a couple of franchises around Metro Manila already, with the sparse walls and white, green, and natural wood motif, but what I especially love about the one along Maginhawa Street is just how homey it is. No, really – the shop was once somebody’s home and has given the place has such a nice welcoming vibe when you walk in. After sweltering in the heat watching the parade go by, basking in the air-conditioned store and ordering a tall cold glass of milk tea is just what the doctor ordered.
The DIY artwork is always a nice touch to milk tea places, and this is no exception. I also love the ‘Good Vibes In a Cup’ mug that they sell to customer who opt for hot teas and want to save on the recycling as well.
I really wanted to take the pea green horse that was on display home if they’d let me. Two of my favorite drinks to order at Moonleef is the strong, earthy Oolong Milk Tea (Php 70) with an add-on of Nata (Php 10) or the tangy Passion Fruit (Php 55) with an add-on of Aloe Vera (Php 15).
I hiked up from one end of Maginhawa Street to the other, made a right at V. Luna Extension, and found myself at the popular food haunt, Gayuma ni Maria. The place was packed to the rafters, and I was lucky to have quickly found unoccupied seats as the place filled up really fast and there were people waiting outside for a table.
The Gambas with Black Rice is a special that comes out every now and then at Gayuma Ni Maria. A deconstructed paella that was absolutely brilliant! The brown rice has crispy bits of garlic with little bits of pork, and the bright orange sauce delivered the heat, mellowed only by the acidity of the calamansi juice. For dessert, I tried a slice of their Beats Sex Anyday (Php 90), a supposedly decadent chocolate cake with a thick coating of icing, but this just tasted like something I could’ve bought from one of the popular bakeries. I should probably just stick to the Pavlova (Php 95) next time, as I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about that.
The restaurant is filled with all sorts of whimsy, so while waiting for your meal to be served, one can check out the uncomfortable-looking itty-bitty male thongs on display by the Naughty Nook, shaped into all sorts of animal faces(from a parrot’s beak to an elephant’s trunk) to make way for your, erm, schlong. If that isn’t entrancing enough, the painting by the door of the boy crouched down is something you can stare at for hours, marveling at the brush strokes, the colors, and just how intense his eyes look, staring off into space.
A little down the way, we came across The Breakfast Table, a shabby chic restaurant in all shades of blue that has seemed to have brought the garden indoors with their upcycled shovels for wall lights and buckets for lamps. Look for the bright turquoise door and walk right in.
Their menu serves up all kinds of local favorites and gives a Filipino spin Continental classics, like the Eggs TBT (Php 195), their version of Eggs Benny made with two poached eggs, smokey tinapa flakes, a slightly sour Pinoy hollandaise on Challah served with a side salad.
I would have ordered more, but there were so many other restaurants to visit, I got a big bottle of Mango Juice Concentrate to take home instead. I will definitely come back here and try some of their other popular dishes like the Adobo Omurice and Breakfast Pizza, not to mention the Tablea Pudding and Calamansi Cupcake!
On the second floor of the 189 Maginhawa Restaurant Cluster, right above The Breakfat Table, is Snow Creme, a Taiwanese-based snow ice shop that also serves milk teas makes for a great place to hang out and get away from the heat. It’s been a while since I had had one of these creamy bowls of icy cream, the people who live around the area are so lucky that this place is just a short commute away.
It still fascinates me whenever I see them make the thin, wispy, creamy ice shavings before topping your dessert off with whatever tickles your fancy. For those who aren’t too fond of chocolate, the Taiwan Shaved Ice (Medium – Php 130, Large – Php 180) with Chewy Homemade Taro Balls would be a good option. I prefer the nutty and chocolate-y Peanut Butter Banana Foster (Medium – Php 120, Large – Php 170) myself.
Over by Malingap St. sits one of Chef Ed Bugia’s newer restaurants, π Breakfast & Pies. This place, for me personally, is really something special that shouldn’t be missed. Serving Chef Ed’s take on heart-stopping (yet gob-smacking!) breakfast dishes along with slices of make-your-knees-weak pie, it’s not surprising that this place is constantly full.
Tucking into a comforting bowl of Dark Chocolate Champorado (Php 155) was perfect for when I had to hide out from the drizzle that afternoon. Made with tablea and a Japanese dark chocolate, this bittersweet, thick rice porridge is served with a dollop of cream cheese and cereal milk on the side.
Before leaving, got myself a few pieces of Crazy Cookies (Php 45 each) to go. The cookies are made out of what I’d like to presume are leftovers from Chef Ed’s snack cupboard, each dense circular treat containing everything from chocolate chips, pretzels, cornflakes, and maybe even parts of the kitchen sink. Who knows really – all I know is that these not-so-little buggers are addicting.
If you have a soft spot for pies, this is definitely the place to be! Delicious Banana Cream π with tons of whipped cream and a lovely graham crust’ a Candy Bar π that tastes like the Crazy Cookies in pie form with an Oreo base and topped with chocolate; a thick slice of Apple Gruyere π that would be simply divine à la mode’ Crack π that tastes like brown sugar on steriods, Choco Raspberry π, which was fudgey, gooey and absolutely heavenly, and a personal favorite of mine, Key Lime π!
A short walk away from Breakfast and Pies along Malingap Street is Hillcrest Wellness Café. Focusing on simple, healthy food made upon ordering and only using the fresh ingredients that have been locally sources, this is the kind of place that feeds the soul as well as the stomach. Owned by pastors of a nearby parish, it comes as no surprise that the people that hang out here are generally the happy, feel-good types. Get motivated by the inspirational quotes that line the walls or peruse their library of uplifting books (and maybe purchase a couple) while you wait for your order to arrive.
The café serves up comfort food, and for most people this includes dishes like the simple Beef and Tomato Pasta (Php 180) that goes well with a tall glass of Berzinger (Php 150), a healthy shake made from cucumber, ginger, and green apple. It’s interesting to note that they make it a point to infuse their beverages with healthy additives like moringa, astaxanthin, and other herbs and boosters. The café also serves coffee and teas sourced from the Philippine Mountain Province, therefore making an effort to support the local community.
The Herbed Chicken Sandwich (Php 165) was pretty straightforward, a warm sammie with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber between rosemary olive whole wheat Focaccia bread. For those who want another form of carbs with their herbed chicken, their Chicken Pesto (Php 220) is a pretty good alternative.
All of the artwork on the walls of the restaurant is part of Tabang Katawhan Art + Relief where a good chunk of the proceeds go to the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. The paintings I gravitated to were made by Atsuko Yamagata, a Japanese painter living in Manila. She uses mainly acrylic for her artworks and also creates art pieces by doing live paintings with live music, and this unique style produces spontaneous art. The Yellow Sky & Two Lotus (Php 31,200) and Lotus in the Center Painting (Php 31,200) are two pieces I can definitely imagine decorating my wall.
I seen RBy’s Steak & Shake on the hike up towards one end of Maginhawa, and by the time I got there I was parched. Their Pink Lemonade (Php 35) is refreshing and reminds me of the Country Time brand, but what I especially took to was the sweet and creamy Banoffee Specialty Shake (Php 165) with a thick caramel and chocolate drizzle.
Inspired by their time in Philadelphia, the owners brought their love for Philly cheeseteaks to Maginhawa Street, and their Cheesesteak on the Dog (Php 170) is their version of Philly meets the Philippines – a grilled frankfurter is served in a bun and covered with thick slices of beef and white sauce and finished off with hot melted cheese on top.
While walking around, I came by a quaint little place tucked in the corner called Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace. A cozy cafe that serves Filipino cuisine and your usual assortment of pastas, desserts, coffees, and teas prepared by a well-traveled filmmaker-chef. At night, the space also serves as a venue for more artistic endeavors like mini concerts, photo exhibits, poetry readings, and movie screenings.
They are also the only café I know of in this country that practices suspended coffee culture – you can opt to buy an extra cup of coffee along with your own and the barista gives it to someone who really needs it. This practice has taken off in Italy – where an espresso is the most important part of breakfast – so it’s really cool to see this is starting to happen here. And at Maginhawa Street, of all places.
Outside the restaurant is quite a sight – all sorts of shoes and slippers have been upcycled, painted white, and turned into an art installation. There’s an outdoor table for those who want to chill out and enjoy the weather, the view, or the installation.
One of my biggest surprises at the Quezon City Food Festival was discovering the hole-in-the-wall called Roasteriffic that serves what I can only describe as a Filipino version of porchetta, but better. The Herb-a-licious Lechon Fiesta Treat Meal (Php 150) makes for a quick and filling meal, served with rice and a glass of iced tea. The lechon hybrid tastes something between a lechon Cebu and a Vigan bagnet, which is positively addicting, so if I were to come back I’d get just the Herb-a-licious Lechon (1/4 kilo – Php 140, 1 kilo – Php 300) and maybe a Peking-style Roasted Chicken (Half – Php 140, Whole – Php 300).
One of the non-food places along Maginhawa that’ll make you want to take a peek is Bookay-Ukay , a second hand bookshop that sells everything from old medical journals to a coffee table book about the Beatles. It may not sell Maginhawa eats, but this is definitely something fellow bookworms would want to check out.
Make it a point to pass by The Daily Jusa before ending any eating excursion along Maginhawa Street. A refreshing bottle of Code Red (Php 150/ bottle) hits the spot, with the taste of refreshing watermelon, tomato, and grapes, with the earthy undertones of bell pepper and beets all helping to cleanse out my system after one of the most belly-filling food crawls I’ve ever experienced.
Walking around Maginhawa Street during the Quezon City Food Festival made me realize how this unassuming place reminds me so much of Brooklyn, with its thriving art scene and a mix of really interesting restaurant options. I will definitely back to try the likes of Tomatokick, Cool Beans Library Cafe, Van Gogh Is Bipolar, The Porch by Casa Verde, Meshwe, Leona – Art Restaurant, and Gerry’s Jeepney.