I wasn’t expecting much (which is typical of me). Tagging my mom along with some of my favorite travel buddies may seem odd but it worked pretty well. Our long weekend getaway in Tacloban was a perfect blend of a no-itinerary-kind-of-trip plus ultimate food critiquing; everyone can be easily persuaded. No hardcore bully; such a bummer.
Firegrass Tavern Restaurant
Ironwood Hotel, Burgos St., cor. Juan Luna St., Tacloban City
Pasta, Pizza, Burger, Baby Back Ribs and more. I was wide-eyed when we were given the menu for that late afternoon snack. I was tasked to choose for the group and it was confusing so I asked for the house specialties. I hate surprises, but this one.
Firegrass Tavern is one of the dining options at the newest hotel in Tacloban City, Ironwood Hotel. It was a scorching hot afternoon and after a round of what-to-see around town, we went back at the comforts of our home in Tacloban and were treated to a lovely afternoon snack (bordering to early dinner). .
And then one by one, our food arrived. Resting on wooden cutting boards, the Grilled Baby Back Ribs looked gorgeous while the combo of Queso de Ajo Margherita and Chicken Bruschetta were so tempting. The Baked Prawns served on a bowl dish was savory and while me and my buddies were busy taking snaps of the food, my mom took a sample of the bruschetta with her unapologetic, sheepish look.
The pizza was oozing with cheesy goodness and at first bite you could feel the freshness from the tomatoes, garlic and basil. It was so good that I forgot about my fixation with all-meat pizza.
Chicken Bruschetta was next. The grilled herb chicken blended well with mango salsa that nothing was overpowering anything. But this isn’t my favorite among the bunch.
The Baby Back Ribs with special barbecue sauce and veggie side dish were so tender and tasty. I was itching to get some carbo but no, I restrained. Again, I am no rib-person but this one’s pretty much tried to convert me.
And now we go to my favorite one, the Baked Prawns. I super love seafood (crustaceans being on top of the list) so let me be biased on this one. The tiger prawns that were drenched on a special citrus sauce may look modest but when I tried it, the flavors exploded in my mouth. I was trying to dissect its elements but didn’t go as far as one ingredient before I grabbed another bite. The fresh prawns and the tangy citrus sauce was heavenly but would be really perfect if it was spicy.
P. Gomez Street, Tacloban City
Fancy diner feel, funky decors and appliques, strange food elements, and feel good cafe. We checked out from our hotel and went out to look for a nice lunch place when we spotted this picturesque resto/cafe in town.
It felt like I was on a wonderland of some sort. Mural paintings and a rustic wooden house in shades of aqua blue, pink and yellow were like a painting against the clear blue sky. It was magical at noontime, I could imagine it at nighttime.
We entered Chew Love and gasped for air (especially my mom). It was cute, girly and sweet; very anti-me. But you know what? I never hyperventilated nor had one of those panic attacks. It wasn’t over the top cheesy and girly. It just ain’t my thing but I was quite comfy with it. So let’s go to the food.
My Kare-Kare rice meal looked pretty with its heart-shaped steamed rice. I smothered the creamy peanut sauce over the rice which was delicious as it was. The shrimp paste was good, but not as good as my mom’s – biased, and the crunchy greens brought just about the right amount of texture. The meat (innards and stuff) were tender and not gamey at all.
The hot and spicy chicken pops were oh so great. It could rival my favorite fastfood’s version. The new twist on siopao was my favorite! The pork asado filling was so tasty and not that sweet. But the winner for this round was the Halo-Halo. It was so yummy that my mom stole it from us after we had a few spoonfuls.
I don't dig desserts much which makes me the perfect critic on desserts. Right? Oh well. The halo-halo was so creamy and
sinful heavenly that it deserves its bragging rights. The
secret, I guess, was on the shaved ice which seemed to be infused with creamy I-dunno-what-it-was. My mom figured that
one too while screaming that Gold Digger is the best halo-halo she had so far.
Jo’s Chicken Inato Milagrina
241 P. Burgos St., Tacloban City
It was dinnertime and someone suggested a cool grill house in downtown; everyone’s too tired (blame it on a full day Tacloban– Palo, Leyte excursion) to protest so we followed through.
Jo’s Chicken Inato brought back some good memories from my childhood days. They had a branch in Quezon City way back when I was younger and it was a favorite after-church place for the fambam. It closed for good after years of giving grilled happiness to me and my family.
Jo’s Milagrina is a branch of Jo’s Chicken Inato in Tacloban Ciy. Flashbacks went on as we entered the open-air dining area with unique chicken decors around. The aroma of freshly grilled fares was enticing. I had in mind what I wanted, quite odd for women.
I had Super Inato Combo of Paa + Pork Barbecue (P125) and Mixed Fresh Fruit Slush (P95) For sharing, we had Sinuglaw (P180), Pinaputok na Bangus (P210), Crispy Dinuguan (P180), Fried Kangkong (P110), Turon with Ice Cream (P180), Mango/Buko Pandan (P80) and Buko Halo (P130). We’re really hungry like that.
I initially wanted grilled chicken breast and wings (Pecho) but arriving a few minutes before the closing time prevented me to do so (read:sold out). Being left with no option introduced me to the succulent leg and yummy thigh part of the chicken. It was grilled to perfection that my soy+lime+chili dipping sauce was left untouched. The grilled pork was equally tasty and tender.
The fried crispy kangkong was also a hit. I have tried a few versions of this before but nothing comes close to this one. It was crispy, crunchy and not too oily. The Pinaputok na Bangus was devoid of bones and fishy taste. It wasn’t my favorite though.
I’m biased with Sinuglaw. Imagine my two favorites combined into one amazing dish (Sinugba = Grill | Kinilaw = Ceviche). The vinegar-based sauce perked up the freshness of the tuna. The grilled pork balanced it out bringing the perfect texture to the tenderness of the fish meat. It was delish!
But my ultimate favorite was the Crispy Dinuguan. It was so delicious that I’ve been dreaming about it lately. The crispy fried pork bits were incorporated on the thick pork’s blood dish that’s one of my all-time favorite Pinoy dishes. I hate that it was so good; hate that Tacloban is a 1-hour plane ride away from Manila.
Across Ironwood Hotel, Tacloban City
It was our first night in Tacloban and after battling Metro Manila’s crazy traffic and the now becoming routine delays at the airport we arrived at Ironwood Hotel in one piece. It was around nine in the evening and after checking in we set out too look for our dining options. We were so hungry that when we saw this sidewalk filled with diners and foldaway chairs/tables with a smoky booth on a corner we knew that this would be our dinner place.
It was simple. We had to choose our skewered happiness (pork/chicken, innards, sausage, etc.) that were priced between P5 to P25 and let them grill it for you. We had to wait for a table to be available and were assisted by a staff on securing one. It was filled and people were patiently waiting for their turn.
After waiting for a few minutes, we were given some plastic gloves (no spoon and fork, eat with your hands), steamed rice, a huge bottle of soda and the grilled fares. We indulged and almost finished everything in a flash and ordered some more.
It was just okay. I loved the chicken wings but not the chorizo. I liked the isaw but not as much as the best isaw in the Philippines. But you know what? It was a delightful dinner as we get to immerse into a Taclobanon’s typical night. Oh by the way, we spent around P300 for this simple feast, quite pricey eh?
Timo Romano’s Lechon
Brgy 60, Sagkahan, Real St., Tacloban City
It was two hours past lunchtime and we had a mission to try Tacloban’s bet for the best lechon. So we went at Real Street (famed area for lechon sellers) and spotted Timo Romano’s Lechon. It was late and what was left was a slab of boneless lechon. We ordered half a kilo and feasted (P400 | one kilo).
Sadly, the roasted pork’s skin was tough and the meat was chewy. I was kinda frustrated. I wished that a regular lechon was available ‘coz I heard that it was really lip-smacking. Maybe next time.
Check Tacloban City accommodations here