In 2011, Harry Ong’s family bought the restaurant Green Flavors on Taft Avenue, Manila, from his aunt’s friend. Ong, a hotel and restaurant management graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, left his job at Teriyaki Boy and took over Green Flavors. He had it renovated and changed the name to Orange and Spices.
“My vision was to have a straightforward restaurant serving student-friendly meals. We wanted to serve affordable and delicious food. My idea of Orange and Spices is, when you come to our restaurant, your favorite dishes are there, parang niluto ni tita na super sarap.”
For nine years, Orange and Spices, at EGI Taft Tower, was a favorite of students from nearby De La Salle University (DLSU), De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and St. Scholastica’s College. They would go to the restaurant (and even line up) for the bestselling chicken tenders, Cajun chicken tenders, buffalo chicken, pork sisig and grilled pork belly.
Then the pandemic happened. Classes were suspended, leaving restaurants around campuses with no customers. And with no certainty of when students would head back to class, how do campus eateries survive?
While the restaurant cannot have dine-in customers, Ong is determined to make Orange and Spices continue to serve its student-approved food. “We are pivoting into selling takeout trays and packed meals. We offer party trays for celebrations at home and office. We can also cater packed lunches for hospital front-liners and office workers.”
Ong hopes that students, former students and teachers who miss Orange and Spices will order from them. Of course, they would like to find new customers, too.
Ong said Orange and Spices will serve its greatest hits, like the Cajun chicken tenders. “This is what made us famous at DLSU. It’s mildly spicy, the chicken meat is juicy and tender, and it’s paired with our honey mustard.”
The pork sisig is also a campus favorite. “It has sentimental value for me. We researched and created a sisig recipe that is similar to sisig Kapampangan since my mom is from Angeles City.”
The chicken teriyaki is consistently good.
There are new items on the menu, too, including the baked spaghetti (it’s great comfort food) and the baked sushi line.
Ong remains hopeful but it hasn’t been easy. “The restaurant is operating at a loss,” he said. “We need at least 20 to 40 orders a day to survive. Sometimes, we risk to stay open despite not having incoming orders. Hopefully, the Metro Manila market will support me. We have delicious food to offer that will not break your wallet.”
The food is delicious and affordable—a 10-piece order of chicken tenders that’s good for two to three people is just P180. The sisig? P190. Grilled pork belly? P230. Rice meals start at P95.
Orange and Spices accepts orders through Facebook (facebook.com/orangeandspicestaft) or text (tel. 0917-8341726). It’s open 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day. It accepts same-day orders but, Ong says, “Preordering a day before is advisable.”
Payment can be made through BPI and Metrobank transfers, Paymaya and GCash, and customers can use Lalamove, Grab Express, Angkas for pickup. “We will also have a delivery service called the Taft Express soon, with all the homegrown businesses at DLSU. We will be promoting it soon. It will be cheaper than the usual delivery apps,” Ong said.
Taft Express is the result of the Taft Initiative, a student-led operation that aims to help beloved eateries on Taft Avenue during the pandemic. Orange and Spices is one of the restaurants that the group, headed by Euson Go, is trying to support.
Ong said, “Their main mission is to help homegrown businesses in Taft survive. With this delivery service, we can do batch orders, lessening the delivery fees for customers, maximizing our profits enabling us to survive while also providing jobs for riders who need income.”
Ong also plans to open a satellite kitchen in his home in Quezon City for orders in that area. He has a message for customers who continue to order and enjoy Orange and Spices’ food: “Thank you. Your help means a lot to me and my employees. Helping me means helping my employees also survive this pandemic.”