If Anthony Bourdin had Ivan and Claude to show him around Manila… we had aspiring chef Toni Esteves and her family to show us how the restaurants scene has evolved in Legaspi. Toni is as passionate as her mother Beth when it comes to food. I am still very grateful to them for being such gracious hosts. Their newly re-opened “Hotel Victoria” along Rizal road is a place I would highly recommend. I was quite impressed with the home-grown restaurants that have been modernized. These outlets have concepts, standardized menus, use industrial kitchen equipment, follow sanitation practices, and have friendly trained staff. And and compared to Manila…eating out in Legaspi is so inexpensive. I couldn’t believe the menu prices!
Biggs Diner is a home grown fast-food chain located at Pacific Mall. Decor was probably inspired by those American diners but the flavor profile of the food is very Filipino. They serve pinoy burgers, fries, pasta, barbecue, and their fried chicken is quite close to Jolibee’s chicken joy.
DJC Halo halo is another local favorite located across Gaisano Mall. It is loaded with leche flan, halayang ube, and what makes it unique is it is topped with grated cheese. Also try the “Pancit Bato” which is thick homemade noodles.
Smalt Talk Cafe has a funny name. It is Toni’s favorite and a dating place for the young locals. The menu I would describe as Bicolano Fusion. I tried Pinangat Pasta, spareribs, and the quite authentic adobong puti (Adobo with coconut cream). This place I would recommend to the not so daring tourists. In fact I was surprised to find out that it is listed in the “Lonley Planet”.
Colonial Grill - I went to try for their unusual ice cream flavors. I tried Sili or chili ice cream (yes it is spicy!), malunggay ice cream (tastes grassy), and tinutong (yummy -tastes like latik), kalamansi ice cream. Haha! Food trip experience!
La Mia Tazza is their local version of Starbucks. I tried the Pili nut coffee. Kudos for using local ingredients on their menu.
We came during Magayon festival which runs the whole month of April. Sponsored by San Miguel, they have a live band with different food stalls and booths. Well we had to try the hardcore stuff like fried breaded intestines, grilled pork tongue (yummy!), fried chicken neck, and grilled pig’s eyeballs. It was like a scene in “Fear Factor”. Hahaha!
Grilled Pig’s Eyeballs
For the super hardcore foodie one must try Alamo’s Eatery for authentic Bicolono food. It is known to the locals as the “Hilton”. Where and how to get to the “Hilton”? I don’t know. I just remember it is near the Embarcadero de Legaspi Port and then we asked a tricycle driver to take us to the “Hilton”. It is called “Hilton” because of the irony of its exclusiveness. The locals know where it is located. You can also say “kay capitana” because the owner and cook is a former barangay captain. She makes wonderful lechon kawali (deep fried pork), bicol express, crabs in coconut milk, and cocido. Well at least that is what I tried… If the word “umami” also means leaving a lingering sensation…I still remember how the lechon kawali tastes like until now. Yummy!!
The path to find the eatery
Well the funny thing about this restaurant is (1) the difficulty of finding this hole in a wall, and (2) when you enter you will discover it is a house! Once inside we had to pass thru their living room where family members were actually watching television. Then thru their family dinning room or den were other members were busy doing their household chores and they totally ignored us! The restaurant is located in a small room at the back. It has mix and matched chairs, absolutely no ambiance, and the food is in a display counter (turo-turo style). Again surprisingly, the place gets quite full during lunch time! I have to mention that the owner practices a socialized pricing scheme so the richer you “appear” to be the more expensive your food becomes…and that rule applies also to the folks living in Legaspi. Alamo’s is such an experience!!