Top 15 picks for food: Baguio for foodies

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

ON THE occasion on the 105th Baguio Day, this piece will celebrate food! This mountain haven has evolved into a destination known for different flavors, making foodies abuzz with excitement.

Homegrown restaurants proved once again that the city is a center for culinary feasts with restaurants ranging from the classic to off the wall finds which will entice you to crave for more.

1. Hill Station at Casa Vallejo and Bistro by Hill Station at Camp John Hay. Hearty laughter and hearty meals – mention Mitos and these two things come to mind immediately! Mitos grew up in the kitchens of the women in her family, easily the most exclusive culinary education one could imagine. There she was initiated into the pleasures of food made with love. When Mitos began her own family, she chose Baguio to be the city in which to keep a hearth burning. This food maven now serves up delicious comfort food that pays tribute to Baguio’s place in history as one of Asia’s famed colonial hill stations.


Baguio’s early beginnings as a city are rooted in the two colonial eras of the Philippines. The Spanish colonizers first established a sanitarium in the Cordillera region in the 19th century. Europeans who traveled to the tropics in the 18th and 19th centuries found comfort in the pleasant climes of the mountainous regions. They established hill stations as places of rejuvenation and as enclaves for the European lifestyle in former Southeast Asian colonies. In these hill stations, the beauty of the landscape, the temperate weather, the rustic settings and good food combined to create a feeling of well-being for visitors and residents alike. Baguio was among the last hill stations to be established in Asia, during the Spanish and American colonial periods of the Philippines.

Mitos offers you robust dishes that blend the flavors of Asia’s hill stations with the tastes of Old World Europe and New World America. Here in her creations, these three worlds fuse harmoniously as never before, and a spoonful of history never tasted so good!

2. Baguio Country Club. Where food is involved, the BCC takes everything seriously, creating new recipes and taking advantage of the available fresh ingredients makes the kitchen here abuzz with activity.

The best of chefs concoct recipes taken from the freshest of suppliers, known for their seal of excellence and impeccable service, the BCC is right there atop the resto foodchain.

The famous raisin bread, already a legend on its own, now has an improved recipe making it more coveted for your breakfast and all day menu.

3. Le Chef at the Manor. Chef Billy King of Le Chef at the Camp John Hay Manor says he has never regretted setting up his business in the Philippines adding the Philippines is a country with a lot of rich flavors and a very enthusiastic clientele.

Chef Billy, who arrived here in 1986, relates the different flavors in the Philippines contributed to the morphing of his cuisine, with a playful combination of French, American, Italian and Filipino. He creates dishes which are surprisingly simple yet gastronomically pleasurable.

The restaurant also has a competitive pastry bar which bakes fresh bread, pastries and boasts of unique desserts.

Since the opening of Le Chef, Baguio has been given a fresh alternative for fine dining, but Chef Billy is quick to point out, “Anybody who wants to have a good meal here is welcome.”

In the next years Chef Billy still sees himself in the country and in the city, busy doing his creations, infecting people with his passions and hope that too will stay.

4. Luisa’s Café. Luisa’s Café, a Chinese restaurant, has been serving the city since the late 70s. Opened by the lady of the house, Luisa Wong, this old timer has since been feeding the Baguio crowd with authentic Chinese cuisine.

Now, the Café, managed by Luisa’s son, Roland, is a hub for journalists, businessmen and old folk who want to hang for conversation, gossip, current events and good food making the watering hole a Mecca for group huddles, meetings and now, a convergence of darting enthusiasts.

Luisa’s is famous for its siopao and chicken mami, the classic pillars for Chinese cuisine which Filipinos have come to love.

Roland, fondly called “Cheong Loi”, will engage you in conversation, a cup of coffee and at most of times, a friendship to last a lifetime.

5. Rose Café. This off the wall café at the back of Carantes Street will make you go crazy with how the lines can snarl as far as the streets. This café serves one winning dish, its guisado pancit, priced at below P70, a filling dish paired with chillies, special soy sauce and of course, calamanasi or a slice of lemon.

Everyone goes there to eat. I mean everybody, blue collared professionals, taxi and jeepney drivers, students, artists and politicians.

6. 50's Diner. Tsing Tsong Tsai, actor-athlete-restaurateur has been serving top quality diner food for decades. And think big servings and long lines as well when you come here. This diner has become a tourist destination on its own.

7. Grumpy Joe's. The newest place for pizza, pasta and sandwiches where the servings are a plenty and the price is affordable, Grumpy Joe’s will not leave you grumpy.

Grumpy Joe's opened early this year and has been packed ever since.

8. Slaughter. Aling Ester’s off the wall restaurant will not leave one unsatisfied.

Specializing in grilled pork with the highland exotic pork blood, the simple carinderia has become a legend. Believe me, the limited but superb choices at Aling Ester’s leaves all pots empty a little after lunchtime.

9. Jack’s. Owned by Jack Dulnuan, who now serves as a Board Member for Benguet, started the craze for filling rice meals.

Jack’s style rice is a combination of fried chicken, lechon, chopsuey, a cup of rice and topped by a sunny side up egg.

Legend has it the meal was coined when Apo Jack, in his younger days asked to be served a fast hefty meal from the kitchen using ingredients available. Customers from the adjoining table saw the feast and requested to be served the same thing.

The confusion started the tradition of serving “Jack’s Rice”, which has become a classic choice for the hungry. The really hungry.

10. Volante. Volante started as a takeout counter when the iconic Session Road Theatre closed down. Don’t miss out on their puttanesca pizza and their smoke salmon pizza. Pair it with their hot lemon grass tea and you’re set.

11. Vizcos. Vizcos has its main branch at the heart of Session Road, serving cakes and a wide range of meals. A house favorite is their classic cheesecake and the sundried tomato pasta.

12. Sizzling Plate. Owned and managed by the family of Edna Anton, Sizzling Plate has given Baguio folk their fill of steaks.

Sizzling dishes has become a family tradition for special occasions and their affordable price has given locals good food at it best.

13. Kung Fu Kitchen. Inspired by a movie, this resto takes you to China through the authenticity of their food and ambiance to boot. Bestsellers are the dimsum bacon rolls, chicken feet, pork siomai and their cute Piggy Pao for appetizers. Prices for dimsum start at an affordable P55 up.

Bestselling main dishes are the pata tim and kung pao chicken with their rendition of the Schezwan eggplant.

In the highlands, where seafood is hard to come by, Kung Fu Kitchen will give indulge to your cravings with their fresh catch cooked in the their signature Kung Fu secrets.

14. Katipunan (Katips). Native cusine at its finest, best taken by the courageous! Local food will make the Cordilleran food experience worth taking the challenge, with ambiance to boot. Katipunan has a unique interior and better home cooked food to boot!

15. Forest House. For the weary traveler, it becomes a refuge from the hustle and bustle of busy city streets, for the dissenting palate, it is a journey from familiar tastes to creative concoctions, and for the Baguio resident it is a proud landmark for having the distinction of being one of the Philippine Tattler's best dining places. Through the years the age-old bagnet has remained its top seller either as an "appeteaser" or as a main course along with staples of American, Japanese, Filipino and Korean dishes on the regular menu.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 01, 2014.

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