FRIENDS have often remarked on how lucky I am to live along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.
Not only is our place near enough to walk or bike to the UP Campus, but the number of really good eating places nearby makes for a very good excuse not to cook.
Whether it’s a quick lunch or snack, a family dinner, date night or a late-night drinking session with buddies, Maginhawa Street has it all. From a resident who’s been here for over a year now and a frequent visitor to the area five years before that, here’s a sampling of favorites along the street that has become a late-blooming food destination.
Tomato Kick. 55 Maginhawa St. Good for: snack, dinner, drinks/bar chow. Price range: P200-P350 per person
With a distinctly artsy vibe, Tomato Kick has attracted students and yuppies in the area looking for good food to enjoy over drinks. While the place can get pretty crowded and noisy towards the end of the week, the food is worth the wait. Favorite dishes include Salsa Pork, Seafood Salpicao, Beef Fajitas and the Seafood Pesto Pasta, a tasty blend of mussels, shrimps and squid topped with fresh pesto. Though they’ve expanded to a separate dining area beside second-hand bookstore Bookay-Ukay, meals are best enjoyed with an ice-cold bottle of beer in the al fresco area overlooking the street.
Friuli Trattoria. 79-A Maginhawa St. Good for: snack, dinner, delivery. Price range: P200-P400 per person
Named after an area in northeastern Italy, this Italian pizza place serves perfect home-cooked pizzas and pasta dishes. Current favorites include their Margherita pizza (garlic and herbs smothered with two layers of mozzarella cheese topped with fresh tomatoes) and bestseller Tre Formagi (topped with mozzarella, cheddar and blue cheese) as well as the very savory Pasta Puttanesca. Because the restaurant closes relatively early and they don’t serve beer (and pizza just goes so well with beer), we usually have the pizza delivered and camp out in front of the TV for movie night. I’ve also brought a couple of Friuli pizzas to pot luck parties and they’ve always been a huge hit. Pizzas cost from P169 to P229.
Delish. 103 Maginhawa St. Good for: lunch, dinner, drinks/bar chow. Price range: P150-P400 per person
It has the look of a a fine dining restaurant, with banners advertising fresh oysters flown in daily and roast turkey, but Delish serves reasonably-priced meals big enough for sharing. Generous portions of Bagnet with Laing, Crispy Binagoongan, Crispy Fried Hito, Kare-Kare and Chicken in Cream Sauce range from P150-P220, and are good for two (if you’re not so hungry). Their budget lunch meals (that only cost P80-P100) served from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. are excellent for the quality of the food and meal options. Special mention goes to their bestseller: baked oysters topped with spinach and mozzarella cheese (P240) and decadent chocolate cake (P145).
Sancho Churreira Manila. 122 Maginhawa St. Good for: coffee and dessert, dinner. Price range: P200-P350 per person (for meals), P100 for coffee and cake
Since all its staff previously worked at Dulcinea, Sancho Churreira offers a good assortment of pastry choices that make it an ideal place for holding short meetings or having a light snack. Pastries like cream puffs and éclairs are inexpensive at P25 each, while their bestseller Churros con Chocolate costs only P80. I haven’t had the chance to sample a lot of the main dishes, as one taste of their tender Beef Salpicao (P170) has me ordering this every single time I eat here.
Umbul Satu Cuisine. 154 Maginhawa St. Good for: lunch, early dinner. Price range: P150-P400 per person
The spot along Maginhawa that used to be Taby’s, one of our former favorite drinking places, is now occupied by Umbul Satu, which means “number one” in Tausug. According to the staff, it’s the only halal restaurant in the area. The cozy Asian-inspired resto serves Moro cuisine (dishes are unique to Southern Philippines, particularly Sulu), catering mostly to Muslims and South East Asian visitors. Their bestsellers are the Tiyulah Itum (hot and spicy beef black soup), Satti (skewered beef/chicken with rice cubes and hot sauce) and Piyanggang Manuk (a spicy chicken dish). The Kahawa Sug (Sulu coffee) and Tofu Furai (fried tofu in oyster sauce) are pretty good and only cost P40-P80. They also sell packaged delicacies such as Sulu coffee, sambal sauce and balou (Asian mini-cakes). Operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday except Sunday.
Van Gogh is Bipolar. 154 Maginhawa St. (inner courtyard). Good for: special occasions, tea after 10 p.m. Price range: P500-P1,000 per person
This unique house/restaurant/living and breathing piece of art deserves a write-up of its own. Owned by travel photographer Jetro Rafael, the eclectic restaurant serves “mood-altering food” meant to ease depression and anxiety. While admittedly the meals (like fresh salmon, turkey, lamb and black mountain rice) can be pretty expensive (set meals cost P555), the ambiance is perfect for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day. High demand has caused Jetro to limit the number of diners inside the restaurant, though al fresco tables set in the courtyard area can accommodate more guests.
Black Soup. 154 Maginhawa St. (inner courtyard). Good for: lunch, dinner. Price range: P200-P400 per dish
Formerly located in Cubao Expo, another cool enclave, and now just across Van Gogh in the same Maginhawa courtyard is Black Soup Café, which doubles as an art gallery. A collaboration of ten artists including (Kuya) Bodjie Pascua, the restaurant is decorated with artworks.
Comfortable seats are lined with mismatched pillows, old photographs under a glass panel make the tables more interesting and the wall décor constantly changes depending on the current exhibit. Pasta dishes (ranging from P115-P200) top the bestseller list, including the Vigan Longganisa Pasta, Black Soup Pasta (squid, fish egg with nori and Japanese mayo) and the “You won’t be single for long” (vegetarian pasta with onions and vodka). I recommend the Twice-Cooked Chicken Adobo (P150) which can double as pulutan minus the rice, while waiters say the Lamb Chop with Asparagus (P250) and homemade guyabano (sour sop) ice cream (P80) are also very popular. Black Soup is open from 12 nn-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-11 p.m. daily except Sundays.
Good Burgers. 162 Maginhawa St. Good for: snack, light lunch, delivery. Price range: P150-P200 per person
Good Burgers serves some pretty interesting burgers, some filled with stuff you would normally find on pizzas. But who’s complaining? Personal favorites include Margherita (tomatoes, basil and mozzarella), Bacon Mozza Melt (bacon bits, mozzarella, mayo) and Herb Delite (basil and cottage cheese). You can choose the size of your burger (good, better and best) and choose between lean chicken or veggie patty on whole wheat bread (prices range from P60-P120 per burger). The Vegetarian Salsa Mex was named PETA’s best burger “on-the-run” last year. Their natural potato wedges (P35) are also so much better than fast-food fries.
Other great restaurants to check out within the Maginhawa orbit are Pino Resto Bar (39 Malingap St.) for Pinoy fusion food and Chef Tatung’s (17 Matipid St.) for organic home-made gourmet meals. Pino Resto has delicious dishes such as kare-kareng bagnet, red wine adobong tadyang and kalamansi beer, as well as vegan options like veggie lasagna and tofu and eggplant miso in Pipino, their vegetarian spin-off right above the main restaurant. Expect to spend about P300 per person there. You can also enjoy a romantic meal in the quaint home and garden of Buddhist Chef Myke Sarthou, more popularly known as Chef Tatung. A four-course meal that consists of soup, salad, a main dish (choice of fish, poultry, pork or beef) and a dessert (menu varies depending on the Chef’s inspiration) costs about P500/person.