Looking for great food with a homey atmosphere?
The restaurant industry is among the most affected by the pandemic. Since 2020, countless restaurant closures have occurred globally, with even seemingly successful brands having to shut down due to unreasonably high rent or unmanageable debt. Yes, all restaurants were affected in some way, but it’s the local mom and pop restaurants, which are family-owned establishments without the sizable budgets of bigger restaurant corporations that we feel for the most. These are the type of small business where you go for consistent, honest food and the homey atmosphere—not necessarily to be seen like the latest fashionable concept in BGC or Makati malls.
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While many of these mom and pop restaurants had little choice but to shut down, some have persevered through a combination of good fortune, grit and a loyal customer base. These are some of our favorite mom-and-pop restaurants in Metro Manila:
I stumbled upon this place by accident sometime in the pandemic—one of the greatest accidents I’ve had. Mor Thai is located in an eerily quiet mall called Met Live, a stone’s throw away from MOA. Mor Thai has some of the best Thai food I’ve tried in Manila and is possibly my favorite Thai restaurant in town. It’s run by a Thai family and the food and atmosphere will transport you straight to Bangkok. Some of the best things there are the larb, somtam, Thai omelet, pork neck salad, and the mango sticky rice. You can ask for it spicy (Thai level heat) if you want the real deal. They also have a small grocery where you can pick up items like Thai beer or condiments or instant noodles.
Shawarma Snack Center
This Ermita institution has been around for a while and for very good reason. There are a couple of other branches around town but this is the one you have to visit. The place attracts a mix of locals and Arabs; they’re known for their biryanis, hummus, kebabs platters and, you guessed it, shawarmas. The latter isn’t the Filipino-zied kind you’ll find at mall food courts—Shawarma Snack Center makes proper shawarma, the Middle-Eastern way with good quality meat and pita bread. They also have a daily buffet of various dishes like Lebanese roast chicken and various delectable-tasting stews. This place is truly a gem.
LSQ Chinese Home Cuisine
You might have noticed that mainland Chinese joints are spreading throughout the metropolis like wildfire, but LSQ Chinese Home Cuisine has been around for well over a decade. If you want high-quality but affordable Sichuan cooking, this place is a formidable option. While Chinese restaurants in Manila are traditionally more southern Chinese or Cantonese, LSQ does traditional Northern Chinese fare in the heart of Makati.
Aling Lucing’s may have invented sisig, but Trellis is among those to truly popularize it. This Diliman establishment has been around since 1980, yet the core menu and quality has remained mostly the same. Ordering the sisig is a no-brainer here, but don’t overlook the rest of the menu at this cozy Filipino spot—the fried chicken, inasing hipon, pancit, and crispy liempo are sleeper items you should definitely put on the list.
This Chinatown institution is an amazing brunch option or an ideal first stop on your Binondo food crawl. Order the century egg congee or beef noodles and an assortment of dimsum. Worth the calories; you’ll walk it off anyway.
The falafel sandwich, sabich and hummus are the main highlights in this Israeli-owned hole-in-the-wall just off Makati Ave. The falafel is crunchy and savory and is some of the best I’ve tried anywhere in the world.
The list wouldn’t be complete without a traditional Pinoy carinderia. This turo-turo joint along the Manila-Makati border has been featured by the likes of Mark Wiens. It draws a flood of locals daily, including many office workers on lunch break. We recommend going at 11AM before the lunch rush, when the food is at its freshest. Some Aling Sosing’s favorites include the inahaw na liempo, pinakbet, grilled tilapia and pork adobo.
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Words Art Vandelay
Banner Image Paulo Correa