A Seat at Timeless Tables

Philippines

Amidst Manila’s rapid progress are food institutions that have held their ground for decades, marking their legacy in the city’s culinary heritage. To some local families, these well-preserved restaurants bring back memories of childhood, growing up in Manila, reaching as far back as a few generations. While your mom may make a mean home-cooked meal, a plate of fried chicken or a heaping pile of pancit (noodles) can come pretty close when done right!

  • Asian
  • Dine
  • Cafes & Restaurants
  • Gastronomy
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lemi

Updated a year ago

The Aristocrat Restaurant (Malate)

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Savor mom’s home-cooked meals at The Aristocrat where the love of Lola Asiang, “The Mother of Filipino Cooking,” lives on. From its humble beginning in 1928 as an eatery serving “merienda” (snacks) to students, Aristocrat withstood several transformations and periods of history (including a World War) to become an integral figure in Philippine culture. The star of their menu is their Chicken Barbecue, usually slathered in Aristocrat’s signature sauce, and paired with java rice.

  • +6325247671
  • 432 San Andres Street Corner Roxas Boulevard, Malate, Manila, Philippines

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Max's Restaurant (Malate)

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Starting out in 1945 as a cafe for American occupation troops to grab food and drinks, Max’s Restaurant is now a local institution where families gather for different celebrations. Dubbed as “The House that Fried Chicken Built,” it is revered for what many consider the golden standard in local fried chicken: skin that’s crispy even without breading, and meat that’s incredibly tender, juicy and tasty. It’s best partnered with their version of banana ketchup, a purely Filipino creation that sprung from a shortage its tomato counterpart during World War 2.

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Savory Restaurant (Escolta)

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Savory Restaurant’s special blend of Chinese spices earned its fried chicken and gravy a spot in Filipinos’ fried chicken hall of fame. Its Binondo home digs into its roots as the Ting brother’s post-war “panciteria” (noodle shop) built in 1950. Now, Savory Restaurant has become a go-to place for casual dining, done over a selection of Filipino and Chinese dishes.

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Ma Mon Luk (Quiapo)

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Ma Mon Luk is one of the oldest local Chinese restaurants, and is the creation of a Chinese immigrant locally known by the same name. In 1918, he arrived penniless in the Manila district of Binondo (also the world’s oldest Chinatown), and started selling his version of Chinese noodles in the streets. This dish, officially called “mami”, helped build the institution that is Ma Mon Luk. It prides itself as the inventor of “mami”, and is now a widespread local dish. The addition of hoisin sauce is what sets it apart from others, as it is also squeezed onto their equally famous steamed buns.

  • +6327337596
  • 545 Quiapo Boulevard, Quiapo, Manila City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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Little Quiapo (Quezon City)

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Quezon City, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Little Quiapo got its name in reference to the bustling Manila town of Quiapo, but its history reaches back to 1949—when a humble ice cream vendor decided to put up a food stand in a local university. The branch initially attracted parents, who eventually brought their children to enjoy the Halo-Halo (a Filipino shaved ice dessert). These children passed on the tradition to their own children, and the institution has received an inflow of customers ever since. They currently have two branches (neither of which are in Quiapo, incidentally), each one known as a go-to for reasonably priced and delicious Filipino food like their Halo-Halo and Pancit Palabok (noodles in shrimp sauce).

  • +6328075045
  • 90 Malakas Street, Diliman, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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Ramon Lee Panciteria

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

In 1929, a Chinese immigrant and humble waiter decided to open his own restaurant. His name was Ramon Lee, and he decided to open a panciteria, which back then people flocked to for food that combined Chinese, Spanish, and even Filipino flavors. One of the items on the menu at Ramon Lee’s Panciteria was the Fine Meal, which included Pancit Bihon (Filipino stir-fry noodles), Fried Rice, and Fried Chicken (which was back then a luxurious dish only eaten by the wealthy). Lee threw in some soup and a banana, and the rest was history. The restaurant remains to this day, with its staff and owners hard at work to maintain the quality and taste that gained a following almost a century ago.

  • +6327330642
  • 540 Ronquillo Street, Santa Cruz, Manila City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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New Toho Food Center

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

New Toho doesn’t look its age, but it’s the oldest restaurant in Manila. It’s old enough to have allegedly had Philippine hero Jose Rizal dine there as a student. Built in 1888 by five Chinese immigrant friends, this Binondo restaurant was originally named Toho Antigua Panciteria, until a fire destroyed the building in 1984. Asado (roasted pork belly cold cuts), Toho Soup (pork and vegetables in a heavy soup), Yang Chow Fried Rice (Chinese-style fried rice), Toho Beef (tender beef in special gravy), and Pancit Canton (stir-fried noodles) are must-haves on the table. For an extra sinful treat, bite into the buttery, fatty goodness of New Toho Food Center’s Camaron Rebosado (breaded shrimp and pork fat).

  • +6322414208
  • 422 Tomas Pinpin Street, Binondo, Manila City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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Cafe Adriatico Premiere

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Manila, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Cafe Adriatico is the result of a gamble that paid off in the hundredfold. In 1979, armed only with his own culinary and travel experiences, Larry J. Cruz abandoned his post as a journalist and opened a tiny cafe in the Manila district of Malate. Top-quality food and warm service helped word about this restaurant spread, until it became the new place to be for the Manila elite, from celebrities to politicians to business tycoons. Cafe Adriatico now operates in multiple locations, and continues to welcome swarms of families craving their Chicken Ala Kiev (chicken fillet rolled in butter), Salpicao Rice (beef salpicao on rice, topped with special sauce), and Spareribs Adobo (stewed spareribs). A perfect Cafe Adriatico meal ends with “Chocolate Eh,” a cup of authentic Spanish hot chocolate drink.

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Alba Restaurante Español (Makati)

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Makati City, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Senor Anastacio de Alba, originating from the Spanish town of Avila, opened Alba Restaurante Español in 1952, and it is today known as the home of traditional Spanish cooking in Manila. For decades, the restaurant has graced Filipino tongues since with their Castilian (locals from Central Spain) cuisine. Known to have the most extensive selection of “paella” (Spanish-style dishes) in Manila, it's always an adventure of flavor in Alba Restaurante Español. Take it easy with a plate of the classic Valenciana or get lost in modern concoctions such as Paella Negra (made with squid ink) or Verde (vegetarian paella). Charming Spanish lamps, decorative plates, and striking murals of Barcelona complete the experience of authentic Spanish dining.

  • +6328966950
  • 38 Polaris Street, Bel-Air, Makati City, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

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Boy Ching Woo

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Tanza, Philippines • Recommendation • 

Nicolas Woo found his way to the city of Caloocan, and opened a panciteria in 1939. It gained popularity, with people clamoring for the many noodle options. Nicolas’ son “Boy Ching” eventually took over the restaurant, and to this day this establishment enjoys a steady stream of customers. Favorites include their signature Battered Chicken, Chop Suey, and Roast Pork.

  • +6322837499
  • 103 General Luna Street, Poblacion, Caloocan City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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