I’m not kidding—when I heard about the Boracay closure, my first thought was, “But what about Sunny Side?”
I fell in love with The Sunny Side Café several trips ago, seduced by its delicious all-day breakfast meals, killer champorado and foie gras toast.
Since then, each trip to the island meant multiple trips to the café. I’d eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner if my companions would let me.
I had one last bowl of its champorado—made with Malagos chocolate and is so good—in April before the shutdown.
“It was probably one of the most difficult things we had to go through,” Nowie Potenciano said. He runs The Sunny Side Group with wife Odette.
The other restaurants they run were affected: Spicebird, which offers grilled food done Piri-Piri style; Supermagic Burgers and Ice Cream; Popo Teahouse, which serves Cantonese-style dishes; and Coco Mama, the vegan-friendly coconut ice cream joint.
Three days after the announcement of the closure, the couple drove to La Union. “We talked to Mia Sebastian of Flotsam & Jetsam Hostel. She graciously offered us space to do a popup.”
The Sunny Side Café and their other restaurants had pop-ups in Alabang and Makati— which became popular and helped keep them afloat.
Now The Sunny Side Group is back in its beloved Boracay, with new dishes, “with an increased focus on seafood, Filipino or locally sourced ingredients.”
The new items include The Sunny Side Cafés Arroz de Marisco and Popo’s Typhoon Shelter Crab, using heirloom rice from Banawe and beef from Kitayama Farms.
There are also more options for vegetarians and vegans (Spicebird now serves Piri-Piri Falafel). Likewise on the menu are new breads and pastries.
“We’d like to promote more Filipino food, and one underserved area are Filipino breads and pastries using Filipino flavors. We’ve come up with Dark Chocolate Ensaymada, Ube Velvet Cake, piaya and Champorado Cookies,” Nowie said.
I tried chef Bernie Tan’s chocolate ensaymada and wanted to take home one box of it.
One thing Spicebird fans must not miss is Sexy Sauce No. 5. It’s crazy good, I want to put it on everything.
Available soon is the Sunny Side Brew, a craft beer that Pedro Brewcrafters created for the place. It has bright notes of calamansi and orange, and will be sold in all their restaurants.
Risa Chocolates has created The Sunny Side Café chocolates, made with Philippine cacao —Dark Chocolate with Dried Pineapple & Mango, and White Chocolate with The Sunny Side Blend Coffee. They’re absolutely delicious.
Chefs Pat Go and Him Uy de Baron, and David Ong of The Curator will be in Boracay soon for a special collaboration to “help establish Boracay as a culinary destination,” Nowie said.
“We’re continuing some of the initiatives we’ve started before the island closed, such as a full shift to metal straws, partnering with Plastic Battle for free water refills in all our restaurants to reduce single-use plastic bottles, and avoiding the use of plastic for take-away packaging.”
Nowie and Odette know they have a little more waiting to do. “If you look at the beach, things are great. Banning vendors, tables and chairs on the beach, and even lights in the trees have brought in a peaceful atmosphere. And these are changes that I welcome,” Nowie said.
“But we’re still very worried about how soon tourists will return to the island… It may take a while before we get customers again. In the meantime, we’re already paying rent, utilities and our staff, so it will be very rough until we’re finally able to recover.”
I’ll be doing my part by grabbing a table at my favorite The Sunny Side Café soon. I’ll order the new Adobo Eggs Benedict and Tiramisu Cold Brew. I might even go for the Matchamporado, a green tea version of my beloved champorado.