|Where Manhattanites go
for good, cheap Filipino food
|Author: Ronnie Alejandro
need not cross rivers to
Queens and Jersey City
to sample home-cooked
Filipino dishes. Right on
14th Street alone in
Lower Manhattan, there
are five eateries to savor
Filipino cuisine the way our mothers used to cook them.
From upscale dining at reasonable prices where you can bring
your boss to sample traditional Filipino food to the turo-turo
where you can pig out to your heart's delight--14th Street is the
area to sample various culinary delights of your childhood days.
Try Del Siopongco's Toppings (133 West 14th Street between
6th and 7th Avenue, tel. 645-9249, fax 352-3389) on weekends.
This bright, clean and spacious restaurant offers a buffet of
more than 15 delectable homecooked viands. Its all-you-can-eat
buffet is priced at $6.39. How can you go wrong with that? On
weekdays, it serves an international buffet at $3.69 a pound.
The husband-and-wife team of Lorenzo and Carmelita Montano
cook kare-kare, lechon kawali, beef caldereta, sinigang na
baboy, estofado, pork binagoongan, bopiz, ampalaya con
kare, among others. Its ginataang mais, though too sweet for
my taste, is heavenly. Toppings (the name came about when Del
opted originally to have a noodle shop with various toppings)
opens 7 a.m.-8 p.m. It has both American and Filipino breakfasts
to serve their multinational diners.
The 16-seat turo-turo at New Manila Food Mart (351 East 14th
Street, tel. 420-8182) behind the Filipino and Asian grocery is
14th Street's best-kept secret.
Lina Dryer and Aling Luming Guevara share their culinary
expertise in concocting dishes such as dinuguan, nilaga,
paksiw na bangus, humba, longaniza, inihaw na baboy at
pusit, among others.
The piece de resistance is the ginataan dishes which Lina has
mastered, she being from Bicol. Her ginataang manok is a
favorite of Sister Camille (Fe Madarang) of Our Lady of Good
Shepherd. The missionary house is just a few blocks away, and
this is the place where she goes when she is nostalgic of
authentic Filipino food.
Another outstanding dish is its ginataang bilo-bilo.
Two-dish combination with rice is $5.45 and one dish is $3.95.
Managed by the Fabilas of Zambales, New Manila Food Mart is
also a one-stop shop for Asian delicacies as well as Filipino
videos, newspapers and fresh tropical vegetables such as sitaw,
ampalaya, talong. It also has cassava cake, bibingka,
ensaymada and itlog na maalat.
A little upscale
If you want to bring a non-Filipino friend or client to sample
traditional homecooked dishes a little upscale from the humble
turo-turo, the place to be is Manila Garden Restaurant (325 East
14th Street, tel. 777-6314). Open for lunch and dinner everyday,
a la carte delicacies are priced from $7.50-12.50.
On Tuesday nights, it has an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring 10
main dishes, including rice, appetizers, soup and dessert for
$13.95. This is where Philippine Tourism Attach? Emma Ruth
Yulo entertains her foreign guests for Filipino fiesta food.
Diners also include doctors and nurses from nearby hospitals.
The resto has an unpretentious d?cor and a piano where Filipino
airs are played during Tuesday buffets. The chicharong
bulaklak, crispy pata, lumpiang sariwa and laing are excellent.
Service is cordial and sometimes oversolicitous.
Media's favorite is Elvie's (named after its founder Elvie Singco
from Samar). Framed features and reviews are visible in the walls
of this ''consistent-tasting'' joint, including the review of New
York Times food critic Eric Asimov.
Quite busy during lunch hours, the place has been visited by
former First Lady Ming Ramos. Manila socialites Maria Cristina
Valdes and Marla Yotoko Chorengel are regulars.
Here the sinigang na baboy and barbecue are to die for. Two
dishes in this turo-turo joint cost $5.75; one dish is $4.
With a name like Mandarin Grill & Coffee House (188 First
Avenue, tel. 673-3665), how would one know that it serves
Filipino dishes? It has morphed several times through the years.
It was impressive when it was known as Metro. The spacious
restaurant serves breakfast. Among the fare are tapsilog,
longsilog and tosilog as well as traditional Filipino dishes such
as pork sinigang, bulalo and kaldereta. It also features a
If your palate is itching for authentic Pinoy food, try these
cheap eats at 14th Street. Some caveats: make it a point to eat an
early lunch so the food is still fresh and the place is not too
crowded. Bon Appetit!