Beyond the usual durian and grilled fare, sprouting restaurants, bars and cafés make Davao City an exciting food destination to look forward to.
Huckleberry Southern Kitchen Bar
Locals and yuppies (and titas!) head to “Huck” for drinks and good food whether it’s a weekend or not. The place is home to “contemporary tastes of the American South” and highlights comfort food on its menu. Specialties to look forward to include the Slow-roasted Beef Belly, Southern Fried Chicken with Corn Muffins; Nashville Hot Chicken Wings, and Pork Belly with Apple Salad and Mashed Potatoes.
Beer fans will also enjoy Huckleberry’s draft beer and handcrafted beers, made in small batches in Iligan. Huck’s syrups take the spotlight in the craft cocktails available on top of the flavor-infused rum made from local Davao fruits and ingredients. Favorites include mangosteen, pineapple, mango, ginger, sili and cacao.
The brains behind Huck’s menu and exciting weekly specials is multiawarded Executive Chef Kenneth Villaluz, owner and chef of Tiago, a progressive Filipino restaurant in Quezon City. The Philippine Tatler included Huck, the only one from Mindanao, in its 2016 best restaurants list.
Stre3ts is a pub geared towards a younger market, as emphasized by its urban inspired interiors. Draft and flavored beers served in “macho mugs” are no-brainer choices of its loyal clients: university students and partyphiles who make every night a Friday night.
Ready-to-drink flavored shooters like Kleiner Klopfer (knock it on the table or anything hard before taking the shot) and elaborate cocktails and mixed drinks for sharing (like the Stre3ts beergarita) make getting buzzed more social. Selfies are optional.
Stre3ts also serves craft beer on tap, featuring different brewers monthly.
(Located at Door 10, JJ’s Commune, Loyola Street, Bo. Obrero, Davao City; Facebook.com/STRE3TS)
Burgers & Board Games
Burgers & Board Games is run by young entrepreneur Julia Alvarez who wants diners to drop their smartphones and actually start talking to each other when eating together.
“All our burgers are made of 100 percent pure beef patties that are grilled to order,” she said.
Her burger place houses a growing collection of over 60 board game titles—from Monopoly variations, Scrabble, Uno, The Oatmeal’s Exploding Kittens, Jenga, the infamous Cards Against Humanity and more. There’s Wi-Fi but that’s a secret (oops!).
Instant favorites on her menu are the Taboo Burger, Boggle Bacon Burger, and Cranium Burger (with overwhelming bacon, mushroom, cheese, and caramelized onions).
(Located at Damosa Business Center Unit 5, Damosa Complex, Lanang; Facebook.com/BxBPH)
The Fat Cow
Young chef Patrick Co wants to surprise foodies in his bistro.
The Fat Cow doesn’t have a menu, but instead has a specials board that changes weekly. The staples include steak and pasta but there are also unwritten entrees.
Soft shell crab salads, lechon kawali crab fat pasta (this is where we said OMG), US-certified Angus steak variations, and New Zealand lamb racks in—surprise, surprise—kare-kare broth served with bagoong rice are just some of dishes to look forward to. Dessert is available in his dessert spot (called Dairy) adjacent to the bistro. Slices of cakes complete the heart-stopping food experience.
(Located in V. Mapa Street, Poblacion District, Davao City; Facebook.com/TheFatCow2016)
Ice Cream & Cookie Café
The range of homemade ice cream in this small no-fuss ice cream place’s freezers keeps sweet tooths excited.
Cream cheese-based ice cream scoops are a must-try—they’re creamy and just so good. Lighter, milk-based, sugar-free, and nondairy options are also available. It is difficult to choose a favorite flavor but their menu shows customers a checklist.
Ice cream sandwich creations can also be customized with handcrafted cookies and syrups (which come in syringes). S’mores, coffee revel bar, ube swirl, cookie monster, chocolate brownie and cotton candy are just some of the flavors that should have priority on your list.
(Located at A. Mabini Street, Davao City; Facebook.com/icecrmcookiecafe)
Chef Karlo Mercado brings street food experiences from his travels to Street Grub. He serves food bowls, wraps, burgers, sandwiches and appetizers devoid of anything elaborate—there’s only good food in his menu.
Instant favorites are his steak fajitas (pan-grilled ribeye steak), ribeye skewers, and coffee rubbed BBQ ribs. (“They’re ribs marinated with southern spices and a mix of ground coffee,” Mercado said. “The sauce for the coffee ribs has coffee, too, for some kick.”)
For January, Mercado has in his specials board fried cajun shrimps, three cheese pasta and meatball burgers. If that doesn’t make you full enough, order his mozzarella burger, candied bacon and Canadian poutine.
(Located at Unit D Paseo Uno Building, Ruby Street, Marfori Heights Subdivision, Davao City; Facebook.com/streetgrubdavao)
Shatter Persian Kebab
People keep returning to Shatter for a number of reasons: The kebab dishes are varied, good and cheap (rice meals start at P85) and you can have as much white garlic sauce as you like, and hummus and baba ganoush are addictive.
Savory kebab mains are always juicy and always come to your table steaming hot. The original koobideh kebab can be ordered on its own, or with extra spice or with cumin. Shish kofta beef kebab (with seven signature spices) is also a must try. There are also chicken kofta and chicken joojeh kebabs (thigh parts) for those who don’t want beef.
(Located at F. Torres Street, near Yoh Froz, Davao City; Facebook.com/shatterkebab)
This farm-to-table restaurant literally gives you a break from the busy city without having to leave Davao’s downtown. The interiors simulate a bukid experience.
Balik Bukid is dressed up with earthy fixtures and details from an old house in Calinan, a southern district of Davao. There are woven baskets on the ceiling, an old cold iron (and an ironing board), tires, a sewing machine from 1913, banig wallpaper, wooden crates, and recycled bottles around the place.
A must-try is its filling Balik Bukid salad with fresh kesong puti and quail eggs. Fish dishes in the menu come in different forms: grilled, cooked with coconut milk, fried (and served with spicy tomato salsa). Rice even comes in different colors! There’s blue rice that’s cooked with blue ternate flower; yellow rice cooked with butter, turmeric, and bell pepper, and organic brown and white rice. More favorites include the Binalot na Adobong Dilaw and Paksiw na Pata.
The absence of soda is made up for by fruit wines from Agusan del Sur and fresh homemade juice that vary every season. The Nicaragua Rosel (a passion fruit and flower infusion) is a hit every summer. Sikwate, organic coffee and tea are also available.
A Super tip when getting your check: Ask the waiter to tell you a classic Filipino alamat. You’ll feel like a child again.
(Located at Quimpo Boulevard, Davao City; Facebook.com/balikbukidako)