Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Grand Fiesta in Quezon City

             In recent years, the Maginhawa Street area in Quezon City has been the toast of foodies. Quaint cafes and restaurants with interesting concepts as well as good food and intriguing offerings have sprouted along the two-kilometer street, which stretches from UP Village and Teachers Village to Sikatuna Village in the district of Diliman, and its environs, drawing not only students and teachers from nearby universities such as the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Ateneo de Manila University but also food enthusiasts all over Metro Manila. 
            It was just a quiet neighborhood that you pass through going to UP or to Commonwealth Avenue, recalled Marge Santos-Roa, executive director of the staff of Speaker of the House of Representatives Feliciano Sonny Belmonte Jr., a mayor of Quezon City from 2001 to 2010, and a Krus na Ligas resident who frequently passed by the area.
            About six decades ago, the area was an empty tract of land, remembered amateur historian and former councilor of the city Alberto Galarpe. Presently head of the Liquor Licensing and Regulatory Board of the Quezon City government, he made a short report on the history of the area: One big project of the Philippine government to honor and benefit the teachers of government schools was the conversion of a vast tract of land bounded by East Avenue, Elliptical Road and Kamias Road as the Teachers Village in Diliman. It was developed by the Peoples Homesite and Housing Corporation in 1954. All roads in the village were named after the virtues and moral values of teachers such as Maaralin, Mapang-akit, Mahinhin, Malumanay, Masikap, Madasalin, Marunong, Maginhawa, etc. The national government through the PHHC developed the place as a housing project for teachers. However, it only awarded lots to teachers and government employees interested in the project. The Teachers Village is now considered a prime and fully developed community near the city hall with hospitals, schools, government and private offices, hotels and restaurants existing in a commercial area.
            Santos-Roa remembered Nanettes Snack Haus, which was known for its version of the burrito, being the first eatery to open along Maginhawa Street. She said that in 2009 or 2010, the food scene began to blossom. Now, there are numerous eateries operating in the area, most which are endemic, including Pino, Breakfast and Pies, Cool Beans Café, The Snack Shack, Burger Hub, Stuff Over Burger Café, Friuli Trattoria, Cocina Juan, Crazy Katsu, Gayuma ni Maria, Van Gogh is Bipolar, Don Day Korean Restaurant, Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace, The Breakfast Table, Leona Art Restaurant, Nuezca Café, Roberta Flavors of Asia, Sancho Churreria Manila, The Sweet Spot, The Iscreamist, Allys All-Day Breakfast, and Frosted Desserts.
            The city government of Quezon City has been planning to make the Maginhawa food strip a tourist destination, and it may well start with the food festival happening on October 11, 2014. Santos-Roa is heading the event, which is one of the highlights of the diverse line-up of activities and events for the 75th anniversary of Quezon Citys cityhood on October 12. According to her, the whole Maginhawa Street will be closed off to traffic, and people will be encouraged to walk the whole stretch. They are hoping to gather all of the restaurants in area, which will offer free samples, and the feel will be a veritable Filipino fiesta. Other activities will be mounted such as cooking demonstrations and live entertainment so that people will not be bored or get daunted walking the stretch of the street. Additionally, Quezon City Food Festival commemorative plates will be given to visitors.
            Joining the festival is another Quezon City district, long popular for a certain kind of food La Loma, which has several restaurants and stores selling the popular spit-roasted pig, the lechon. It will mount a boodle fight on Dona Manuela Street featuring 75 lechons for everyone to partake.
            The Quezon City Food Festival on Maginhawa Street is also an attempt to project Quezon City as a food hub of Metro Manila. The city actually has two milestones in recent Philippine culinary history. Jollibee, the countrys most successful fast-food chain, opened its first restaurant, an ice cream parlor then, in Cubao. Also, the popular Maxs Restaurant originates in Quezon City, on Roces Avenue in Kamuning. Named after owner Maximiano Jimenez, the first restaurant opened in 1946, serving fried chicken to the United States Army Liberation Forces encamped there.
            Any of the Maginahawa restaurants has the potential to be a well-loved and well-established dining haven. One day, we tried five Hillcrest Wellness Café, Roasterrific!, Jeks Ku-bo, RBys Steak and Shake, and Snow Crème which will be participating at the Quezon City Food Festival.

Hillcrest Wellness Café
            Located at the ground level of a small building at 48 Malingap Street, one of the side streets of Maginhawa Street, Hillcrest Wellness Café basically offers coffees, shakes, sandwiches, pastas, crepes and desserts, all declared to healthy. One of the owners, Baptist pastor Reuel Tica, said the café is about wellness both of the body and spirit.
            For the body because everything on the menu is healthy shakes, chicken, teas, coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables. All the sweeteners are made from coconuts rather than white refined sugar, explained Tim Kennedy, the American senior director of corporate social responsibility of Hillcrest Wellness Cafe and a missionary at the Hillcrest Family Life Baptist Church, the café’s partner whose headquarter is across the street. Wellness of the mind is seen in the atmosphere. Deep and beautiful art hangs on the walls to fill your eyes; gentle music fills your ears; over 150 quotes from around the world to fill your mind. The staff here is more than friendly; they will love you and listen to you.
            Kennedy came to the Philippines for missionary work but stayed behind after falling in love with the country, though there are several things that he cant get used to like the temperature. The opening of Hillcrest Wellness Café came as a blessing.
            I love the Philippines, however, it sure is nice to have a cafe just like home right around the corner, he said. The air is set to 28 Celsius from 7 A.M., when they open, to 1 A.M., when they close. They offer a strong Wi-Fi connection for free, great for UP students to kick back, chill out and study. Honestly, I find myself spending more and more time here. So if you see an American sitting at the Hillcrest Café, stop and say, hi.’”
            Like he said, Hillcrest Wellness Café is cozy. Artworks decorate the walls. Evangelical books line the shelves by the entrance, including Pat Robertsons, which can be uncomfortable and off-putting, remembering how he broadcast hateful and misinformed statements about the LGTBQ people. It may be better to concentrate on the food.
            Coffee is sourced from the Cordillera region, which they make into concoctions such as Coco Macchiato (P140 to P150) with coconut syrup and Moringaccino (P120 to P130), cappuccino with malunggay (moringa). Wellness shakes include the refreshing Berzinger (P130 to P160), which is a blend of green apple, cucumber and ginger, and the Moringanana (P145 to P165), which is a fusion of malunggay and banana. For a meal, try the pasta dishes herb pesto (P190), chicken pesto (P220), beef and tomato (P180) and tuna aglio olio (P200) or the sandwiches tuna tortillia (P160), chicken sandwich (P165) and foccasiadilla (P145). For dessert, their crepes, priced at P185, pair two ingredients/flavors: banana mango, strawberry banana and apple cinnamon.
            To cover the wellness aspect on all sides, Tica said the dishes are prepared with love and even prayed over. Also, part of the café’s proceeds goes to charities and ministries, which means you are helping out by eating here.

Hillcrest Wellness Cafe on Malingap Street

Beef tomato pasta
Chicken pesto pasta
        From the heavenly, heres something definitely sinful! But Valerie Chow contends that their lechon is healthy. She and her brother Jeff own and manage Roasterrific! on 152 Maginhawa Street in Sikatuna Village, and their most popular item is the Roasted Heb-a-licious Lechon.
        Valerie said the recipe was passed down from her grandmother, who used to cook the whole pig in a pugon, a brick or stone oven. Now, they use the modern oven, which is healthier. Also, the lechon is healthier because it is not fried but cooked in its own oil.
        The twice-roasted lechon is described to be a combination of the Cebu lechon and Ilocos bagnet, served chopped, sprinkled with herbs including minced lemongrass, and with rice and an addicting, homemade sweetish brown sauce, which has a spicy version. If the sauce becomes cloying, you can dip the pork in vinegar, which refreshes the palate. Perfectly roasted, it is one of the best pork dishes I have tasted!
        With a passion for food, Valerie started out and still participates in food markets and bazaars such as the Mezza Norte at the Trinoma Mall, where she sells roasted chicken, roasted liempo and Japanese lobster balls. Aside from the lechon, Roasterrific! also serves Peking-style roasted chicken, grilled liempo, pancit canton, chopseuy with lechon, daing na bangus (smoked milkfish), pork and fish sisig, hickory pork rib fingers and pork barbecue.
        Roasterrific! will soon open a stall at the food court of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. For orders and inquiries, call 881-6088 or 0923-7009716, or email at
Roasted Herb-a-licious Lechon!

Roasterrific! owner Valerie Chow

Jeks Ku-bo Bulalo at Ulo-ulo
        Maginhawa residents coming home from work too tired or too lazy to cook pass by Jeks Ku-bo Bulalo at Ulo-ulo on 77 Maginhawa Street in UP Village and take home a meal. Jeks Ku-bo is also popular with students who want good home-cooked food in a turo-turo place.
        Like many restaurants in the area, Jeks Ku-bo is a home converted into a dining place. The bungalow can accommodate about 50 diners. The front porch is converted into an alfresco dining area. When there are many customers, they can be accommodated in the garage.
        The restaurant is named after the owner, Jessica Frayco, popularly called Jek, a barangay councilor who is a resident since 1967, and Kuya Boy, Jeks brother who helped her start the business, which opened on May 12, 2012.
        The home-cooked dishes are laid out in a glass counter, where diners can point out the dishes they want. Menu changes every day, said Frayco, but there are mainstays, the favorites of diners, which include the bulalo (P150), the sinigang na ulo ng salmon (P130), salpicao (P95), adobo flakes (P80), Vigan longganisa (P80), tapa (P80) and daing na bangus (P80). On some days, they serve kare-kare, Bicol Express, dinuguan, pork binagoongan, chicken curry, callos, pork sisig, fried tawilis, fried catfish and dishes of vegetables in season.
        For orders and inquiries, call 434-7362.
Jek's Ku-bo Bulalo at Ulo-ulo

Pork binagoongan
Owner Jessica Frayco with son Miguel
Fried tawilis
Sinigang na ulo ng salmon

RBys Steak and Shake
        Wedged between small restaurants which were apartment units, RBys Steak and Shake is owned by sisters Rowena Zapata-Vera and Bernadette Zapata-Acuña, thus the name. Zapata-Vera has stayed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and decided to bring here its iconic regional fast food, the Philadelphia cheesesteak or the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. They use grilled sirloin beef in seven-inch Italian roll and garnished with caramelized onion and cheese. The classic variety, which uses cheese spread, goes for P160, while the hoagie (with American cheese, lettuce and tomato) sells for P190, relatively cheaper that other restaurants, apt for their clientele composed mostly of students.
        Decidedly American fast-food in concept and offerings, RBys Steak and Shake also sells burgers, hotdogs and milkshakes. The steak burgers, with seven varieties, are made with 100 percent lean ground beef. A favorite is the KnockOut Steak Burger (P195), a quarter pounder with bacon, fried onions, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato. RBys take pride in their specialty shakes (P165), which has 12 flavorsbanoffee, choco hazelnut, Rockin Rocky Road, Oreo cookies and cream, choco peppermint, salted caramel pretzel, tiramisu, strawberry cheesecake, choco mallows, strawberry-banana, nutty caramel, and choco Chips Ahoy.
        RBys is at 152-A Maginhawa Street. Call 0917-3159481 or 966-2798, or visit Web site
RBy's Steak and Shake
KnockOut Steak Burger

Pink lemonade

Snow Creme
            In a building with mostly food joints at the corner of Maginhawa Street and Makadios Street, Snow Crème offers Taiwan desserts, drinks and light snacks. The restaurant is owned by architect Bryan Kho and Michelle, who are newlyweds. A trip to Taiwan inspired Snow Crème, whose main offerings are flavored and milk teas and smoothies in myriad flavors. An interesting item is the shaved ice dessert, smooth and delicious, which is topped with different ingredients such as grass jelly, chewy taro, sweetened beans, diced fruits, sweet potato balls, mocha balls, rainbow crystals and coffee jelly, and drizzled with purees and syrups, reminiscent of halo-halo. The shaved ice, which is light as feather, is the best alternative from the heavy desserts like cakes and pies.
Snow Crème is at Unit 2A, 189 Maginhawa Street corner Makadios Street. E-mail at

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