Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Still Smokin’ After Ten Years

The Off the Grill branch along Brick Road of the Santa Lucia East Grand Mall in Cainta, Rizal

On rainy nights, frogs come out and make noise, but they can hardly be found now in highly urbanized Quezon City, only in the logo and bright sign of a prominent bar and restaurant along Timog Avenue. The owner said they saw many frogs when they were building the now popular night spot and decided to put them in the logo, one holding a bottle of beer, another a microphone and the other a fried chicken, showing what Off the Grill offers—drinks, live entertainment and food.
“Well, (we chose) frogs because of their unique sound, (which) can definitely attract people. Frogs bring in good luck,” added one of the owners and operation manger Jeremy Sy, who insists of being called Boojie.
Located at the corner of Timog Avenue and Scout Torillo Street, Off the Grill is a large bar and restaurant that assumes the look of a warehouse, a vestige of the 1990s when the warehouse type and industrial look had become popular among bars. It is cavernous inside, the steel frame embellished with faux vines, and plastic chairs and tables spread on the 800 square meters of dining area fronting a large stage. There is a fake waterfall at one end and a well-stocked bar at another. A room closed off from the bar is a family restaurant. Open six to nine in the evening, it is well-lit and has a better ambiance, but it has large glass windows so one can see the live acts. The whole place can accommodate about 700 people. There is an additional 200 square meters for the kitchen and 400 square meters for the parking lot with 30 parking slots.
Sy said the area had many “bentahan ng gulong” (stores selling tires) and Off the Grill (OTG) was one of the pioneers there. Now, Timog Avenue and Tomas Morato Street are studded with restaurants and bars, a popular dining and night strip.
“Looking back, we never thought this will hit the market,” Sy recalled. “We were just a group of friends who wanted to have a place where everything is cool—music, ambiance, food. I guess it’s that kind of ‘experience’ that has brought us to where we are now, and which the people or the public come back for—the Off the Grill experience.”
Off the Grill opened in 2003, sporting the characteristics the owners wanted in a bar—a homey, garden set-up serving good food and having live bands. Over the years, it has become popular, especially among the professional types with the median age of 35 years old.
“Those who can spend,” Sy said. “We cater to the buying crowd.”
The beer is at P65, the most expensive in the area. But the advantage is the safety, Sy added. The bar-restaurant doesn’t attract the rowdy crowds, making it almost safe to bring the kids, and some do. One can hardly find a bouncer.
A popular attraction of the bar-restaurant is the live acts. Every night, Off the Grill features different bands and performers. Sy boasted that the bar-restaurant pioneered in having live bands and acoustic performances. In fact, some of the popular and award-winning performers started in Off the Grill. 
“We are proud to say that some of our country’s top performers in the music industry started their stints here in Off the Grill,” shared Sy, “the likes of Side A, Freestyle, Paolo Santos, UrbanNation, Richard Poon. And they are still very much part of Off the Grill.”
Through the years, guest  performances from MYMP, K24-7, True Faith, Mocha Girls, South Border, Brownman Revival, Princess Velasco, First Five, Duncan, Jimmy Bondoc and Saia continues to add glitter to its nightlife experience. Chopstiks, 7th Soul, Joint with Pau Chavez, Flow, Retrospect, Fat Session, Part 3, Milan, Deep Projek, Fair Ground, Big Night Out, Malik, Gentry, Pedo, Bloomfield, Luke Mijares, Alamid, Moymoy, Retro All-Star, Twisted Pair and Overdose have also graced the Off the Grill stage.

Brownman Revival
First Five

Princess Velasco
Paolo Santos, Jimmy Bondoc and Duncan
South Border
Saia with Duncan
True Faith
 Another aspect Off the Grill is proud of is the food. The menu is actually comprehensive for a bar with ample choices for appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, desserts, drinks and others. Popular chows are included as well as Filipino regional dishes, many of which are not offered in other bars. Additionally, they have their signature dishes labelled “OTG,” which Sy said are selling well along with their bestsellers such as the grilled tuna belly, the grilled squid, buffalo wings, sisig and crispy pata.
Among the appetizers the buffalo wings (P195) is the bestseller but they also recommend the cheese sticks (P95) and the French fries (P115). Aside from that, choices include buttered corn (P140), calamares (P195), chicharong bulaklak (P220), chicken wings (P160), crispy crablets (P150), crispy molo (P150), crispy tenga (P160), dinakdakan (P195), fish finger (P210), dried pusit (P175), garlic mushroom (P140), kilawin tuna (P220), kilawin tanigue (P220), lumpiang shanghai (P140), mashed potato (P65), nilasing na hipon (P230), onion rings (P150), peanuts (P80), potato wedges (P110), spicy tofu (P150), sugba’t kilaw (P275), tokwa’t baboy (P170), and vegetable sticks (P120).
This can be the entire menu for another bar but just a section in Off the Grill’s. In the soups, the bestselling is the classic bulalo (P320), but they also have clam chowder (P120), cream of asparagus (P120), cream of mushroom (P75), cream of wild mushroom (P120), nido (P75 per cup or P290 per bowl), nilagang baka (P195), papaitan baka (P135), seafood (P235), sinigang na baboy (P195), sinigang na hipon (P215), sinigang na salmon belly sa miso (P245), sinigang na tiyan ng bangus (P245), and sotanghon (P65 per cup or P200 per bowl).
Their vegetable dishes include ampalaya con carne (P165), Bicol Express (P155), broccoli with garlic (P170), broccoli with oyster sauce (P175), chopsuey (P180), kangkong lechon (P140) which is the bestseller, sizzling or adobong kangkong (P140), kilawing puso ng saging (P155), laing (P) and the Japanese stir-fried vegetables called yasai itami (P140) which is recommended. Filipino noodle dishes are aso offered—bihon gisado (P175), the bestselling birthday noodles (P195), lomi, (P175), pansit canton in seafood or pork (P195) and sotanghon gisado (P175)—as well as pasta (carbonara, P250;  grilled chicken diablo, P250; linguini in clam sauce, P280; and pesto, P280) and pizza (Hawaiian, P240; OTG, P250; pesto, P240; puttanesca, P240; and Supropia Fiesta de Pizza, P250). For sandwiches, they have the popular OTG (P210), cheeseburger (P140), clubhouse (P200), hamburger (P120), roast beef with fresh asparagus (P210) and Philly cheese steak (P220).
Seafood items are popular in Off the Grill such as the bestselling baked oyster (P240), ginataang plapla (P265), kilawing talaba (P160), shrimp and mushroom (P265), the bestselling Spanish gambas (P265), steamed fish filler (P250), steamed oyster (P215), steamed plapla (P195) and sweet and sour fish (P195). Sizzling plates have never become out of fashion, and they offer several varieties—chicken (P250), beef and mushroom (P255), pork sisig (P195), tuna sisig (P190), gambas (P285), salmon belly (P260), squid (P245), tokwa (P145) and hotdog (P105).

Crispy pata
Grilled tuna belly
Grilled pusit

Bulalo steak
The stars of the menu are in the Favorites and Grilled sections. The Favorites include adobong pusit (P160), bangus ala pobre (P160), beef caldereta (P250), beef salpicao (P280), binagoongan (P170), buttered chicken (P285), chicken cordon bleu (P205), crispy hito (P180), crispy kambing (P270), crispy pata (P490), crispy plapla (P190), patatim (P480), crispy squid heads (P), crispy tuna buntot (P295), fried chicken (P270), gising-gising (P260), kalderetang kambing (P280), kare-kareng baka (P270), lechon kawali (P225), lengua estofada (P280), pinaputok na plapla (P260), seafood kare-kare (P245), sweet and sour pork (P195), and salt and pepper spare ribs (P195). In the Grilled section, they have blue marlin (P135), boneless bangus (P235), chicken barbecue (P140), chicken inasal (P135), hito (P160), plapla (P60 per 100 grams), pusit (P90 per 100 grams), pork barbecue (P85 for two sticks), liempo (P180), pork spare ribs (P215), tuna panga (P85), salmon belly (P95), tuna belly (P95), tuna buntot (P85), chicken wings (P140), chicken tail (P140), chicken gizzard (P140) and chicken liver (P140). 
To go with these, they have rice cooked in different ways (P45 to P195) and salads (P95 to P180). Drinks include juices, shakes, tea, soft drinks, coffee, beers and different cocktails. Desserts range from halo-halo (P95) to ice cream maki (P80).
Sy said they will expand international cuisines offerings because many customers are asking for them. Actually, there will be several developments as the bar-restaurant celebrates its tenth year. One of the major ones is the establishment of branches, adding to its one branch along Brick Road of the Santa Lucia East Grand Mall in Cainta, Rizal.
“This year, we would like to spread some more, targeting to have five more branches, south-based, so that more and more people can get to share the Off the Grill experience,” Sy revealed, who dreams of expanding outside Metro Manila, particularly to Cebu, Davao City and Baguio City, in the next three years.
For the original bar, it will undergo a renovation because “it is already an old bar,” Sy admitted. The family restaurant will be turned into a fine-dining one, and there is plan to put up a dessert bar and a mocktail bar. A counter will be created for take-out orders.
They are now in intensifying the promotion of their catering services and “opening our prospects for franchising, which is our next big step,” Sy said.
With these developments, Off the Grills hopes to leap to greater heights and continue to make noise for another 10 years and beyond.

Off the Grill is at 69 Timog Avenue corner Scout Torillo, Timog, Quezon City, with telephone number 426-9773; and Brick Road, Sta Lucia East Grand Mall, Cainta, Rizal, with telephone number 571-7531.

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