Food – Top Ten Oldest Restaurant in Manila, Philippines

Let’s talk about food!

When we were kids, my parents would bring us to a restaurant after the church services. Restaurant for us, native in a province, would be a typical place to visit each time we have a family gathering. Those fond memories! how worth remembering. Birthdays, baptisms, graduation, or a weekend family get-together – surely, we’d love to go to Manay’s restaurant that caters pansit, chicken and a lot family love atmosphere.

I was reading through news articles when I found this one interesting. Top 10 Oldest Restaurants in Manila by Yahoo News Philippines – thought of re-blogging this.

I have lived my college life in Sta Mesa, Manila while staying in a boarding house and exploring the best of old streets. My allowance won’t let me eat at finest restaurants those times as my budget would just be enough for the whole week. So since, I am now working, I am able to visit these restaurants, yahooo!

And, oh, most of these are Chinese food, classic, and chickenly!, that added to my desire to visit these.

This article is from Yahoo News, pictures from Google Search 😉 lists 10 restaurants that have so much history behind them.

10. SAVORY (1950) 201 Escolta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila with various branches Tel. no. 243-0336 Open from 9 a.m. to 12 midnight daily

It was established by Tony Ting, an emigré from Fujian, and his brothers, Mariano, José, and Vicente, who was the cook. Before the war, they opened Tops Café in Binondo which later became Savory in post-Liberation. The main attraction was the star anise-scented, mildly garlicky chicken, based on a Chinese recipe. They came in three sizes: spring, medium and regular at the price range of P4 to P6.”

Today, the descendants of the Ting brothers continue to run Savory, which now has various branches all over Metro Manila. The original Savory’s first branch, which is located at the foot of Jones Bridge, is still around. And yes, people still pronounce the name as “Sah-boh-ree.” The Savory Chicken (P170 for half and P320 for whole) is still its bestseller.

9. LITTLE QUIAPO (1949) 90 Malakas St. Brgy. Piñahan, Quezon City Tel. no. 922-4131 Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

In the old days, when somebody got a craving for ice cream he would think of the old Selecta restaurant on Dewey Boulevard. But for halo-halo, Little Quiapo on España Avenue, the place now occupied by a Shakey’s branch, topped the list of places to visit.

Up to now, people rave about the Special Halo-Halo (P110) here, served in a tall parfait glass with long-handled spoons, not in a bowl as some newer places do. And more likely than not, customers couldn’t resist ordering the other popular item here–the Pancit Palabok (P83).

Having built a reputation as a cool soda fountain, where courting couples dated, Little Quiapo has expanded its menu to include Filipino and Chinese dishes. The Quezon City branch has moved from Matino Street, near the Sulo Hotel, to a new location a few blocks away on Malakas Street, behind the SSS Building in Barangay Piñahan. There’s another branch in Parañaque City.

8. MAX’S (1945) Roxas Boulevard, Baclaran, Parañaque, Manila with various branches Tel. no. 832-1991 Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Yes, there was a guy named Max, surnamed Gimenez, a teacher educated in Stanford University, who started the “The House That Fried Chicken Built.”

It was probably all a matter of good-timing: It was 1945, with Manila newly liberated from the Japanese and much of it in ruins. As a break from mopping up duties, a lot of American GIs were around looking for a place to have a drink and some real home-cooked meal.

Max befriended some GIs who regularly visited him for drinks at his home in Quezon City. Soon enough they insisted on paying for the drinks. Meantime, Max’s niece, Ruby, would whip up some food from the kitchen–mainly steaks and chicken. The chicken was so good that it became famous through word-of-mouth.

It was Ruby who opened Max’s on Roxas Boulevard, Baclaran in Parañaque City. The menu has expanded through the years, but Max’s Fried Chicken (P161.70 to P476.30) has always been the restaurant’s centerpiece.

7. ONGPIN MANOSA RESTAURANT CO. (1940) 926 Ongpin Street, Binondo, Manila Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday, closes earlier on Sundays

This Chinatown institution’s most popular offering is not the usual siopao, mami, lumpia, pancit, or chicken dish. Their specialty is the Maki (P100 for a large bowl)–not the Japanese sushi dish–but a weird-looking gooey brown soup with chunks of tender pork topped with a sprinkling of onion leeks. (It’s deliberately bland so that you can season the dish to your taste.)Their meatball-sized Siomai (P80 for four pieces) is also quite a treat.

If Chinatown seems too crowded for you, there’s a branch on Banawe Street in Quezon City called the Mañosa Noodles, Seafoods, and Chops.

6. BOY CHING WOO (1939) 103 BCW Building, J. Rodriguez Street, Caloocan City Tel. no. 287-1430 Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

This restaurant is identified as “Caloocan City’s oldest Chinese restaurant.” It has become popular for specialties like its Buttered Chicken (P160 for a small half) and Lechon con Tokwa (P140 to P420).

Incidentally, even the menu insists on calling the specialty “Battered Chicken.” If it were pinikpikan that would be apt, because this Cordillera region dish is prepaped by first beating a chicken to death with a stick. Or if the chicken is coated with batter, much like a corndog would be. But the chiken dish in this restaurant is not that at all but breaded chicken cooked with butter. Not that the patrons mind the erroneous description of the chicken treat, which is absolutely delicious.

The restaurant also has a branch in Malabon City.

5. ARISTOCRAT (1936) 432 San Andres St. cor. Roxas Blvd., Malate Tel nos. 524-7671 to 80 loc. 225 or 230 Open 24 hours daily

The main branch on Roxas Boulevard in Malate, Manila, has long earned its self-conferred title as “The Philippines’ Most Popular Restaurant.”

You can see that even in the wee hours when the place is typically still abuzz with hungry night owls having favorites like chicken barbecue, kare-kare, chicken honey, crispy pata, pancit canton, dinuguan, and lumpia – more often than not taken with java rice.

Doña Engracia “Aling Asiang” Cruz-Reyes, wife of Justice Alex A. Reyes, started it all as a mere snack mobile operation, which to this day many greenhorn entrepreneurs are venturing into, especially around business districts.

The operation has since grown to a food network with branches all over Metro Manila, along with allied concerns such as a the Aritocrat Bakeshop (right behind the main branch) and the Aristomart, a 24-hour convenience store.

This restaurant has the distinction of making what was then considered everyday fare so attractive that people would dress up and leave home for some home-style cooking.

4. RAMON LEE’S PANCITERIA (1929) 540 Ronquillo Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila Tel. no. 733-0642 Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday

Here’s another classic establishment from the days when going Downtown meant going to the Sta.Cruz-Quiapo districts of Manila.

The more modern pink-walled interior hardly gives a clue to the restaurant’s long history. But as the neon sign proclaims it: “Since 1929. First among the best. Tender, juicy, tasty.”

Like other enduring restaurants, Ramon Lee built its reputation among customers with simple dishes that most Filipinos love like its famous Pancit Canton (P170). The restaurant is on Ronquillo Street in Quiapo, Manila.

3. MA MON LUK (1920) Quezon Boulevard, Manila Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Anyone who has gorged on the famous siopao-and-mami combination, with maybe some siomai on the side, knows that the peculiar aroma of the place is a big part of its ambience. You can take someone here blindfolded and he’d know where he is.

For many balikbayans who have been abroad for years, Ma Mon Luk is one the Pinoy things they wonder about, along with Choc-Nut and the like: “Is Ma Mon Luk still open?”

The younger generation may not be aware of this, but the founder of the restaurant, Ma Mon Luk, was a Cantonese school teacher who immigrated to the Philippines. He has been credited, though with some dispute, as the inspiration for the word mami, said to be a grafting of his name, Ma, with miki, the noodles. Mamiki. Mami for short.

In the days when Ma was still peddling his goodies on the sidewalk, as an ambulant vendor, he would use a pair of scissors to cut the noodles and chicken, so that the dish came to be known as gupit, which is the Tagalog verb for cut.

Only Ma Mon Luk branches survive now–one on Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo, Manila, a few doors away from the original site, and another located on Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. The Quezon Boulevard branch’s signage is not easily seen when you’re on a car or jeepney speeding along the main road. So, make sure you look closer. The place is just a few meters away from the Quiapo Church. While Masuki, operated by Ma’s descendants, is slowly making a mark with the younger set, nostalgic foodies will still go for Ma Mon Luk’s Special Mami (P95) and Special Siopao (P55).

2. AMBOS MUNDOS (1888) 750 Florentino Torres Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila Tel. no. 734-1160 Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

The restaurant used to be on Echague (now Palanca) Street but it has since moved to Florentino Torres Street near Azcarraga (now Recto Avenue).

As the name suggests, serves the best of both worlds. That is, East and West, or Spanish and Filipino-Chinese cuisine. So you can have Spanish favorites like Paella Ambos (P569 for the smallest serving), as well as well-loved snacks like their Asado Roll (P65).

The menu tags the restaurant as the “Philippines’ oldest,” which if accurate, means it’s just a few months, or maybe just weeks, older than the top restaurant in this list.

Despite its new location, the restaurant gives an Old World aura, mainly because most of its old narra furniture from the Echague place and its Quezon City (Banawe Street and Santolan Street).

In his Walk This Way blog, popular tour guide Carlos Celdran describes the menu as “definitely Rizalian” and the interior design as “Nick Joaquin chic.” Patrons will be amused to see a black pig lounging near the entryway of the establishment. The staff says the pig is there for luck.

1. NEW TOHO FOOD CENTER (1888) 422 Tomas Pinpin Street, Binondo, Manila Open 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Five Chinese friends set this up in Binondo, Manila, where the restaurant still stands, in a newer structure also on Tomas Pinpin (formerly San Jacinto) Street which was built after a fire razed the wooden building back in 1984. That explains the slight change in the name. It used to be called the Toho Antigua Panciteria.

After awhile, four of the owners decided to return to China, leaving the place to Tai Tang, whose seven children eventually took over the management, followed by his grandchildren.

The Pancit Canton (P90) remains a favorite, along with treats like the Kikiam (P50 for one piece that’s about the size of a jumbo hotdog). The best thing about the place is that you can decide what goes into your pancit. We asked them to just add shrimp instead of pork cutlets to our pancit canton and they gamely complied, serving us a plate heaped with perfectly cooked, shelled shrimp.


In my next blogs, I hope to write about my visits in these restaurants. So far I’ve only tried Max’s and Savory