The One-hundred-peso lunch for two at Kristina’s Carinderia


Was actually billed 101 pesos, but made tawar (haggled) the 1 peso. And a plate of rice was included.

Kristina’s Carinderia (facing the Jehovah’s Witnesses church on the western portion of Rizal St., and near the Iglesia ni Kristo) was Brandon’s find. Local senior citizens, families, office employees and policemen were fixed on their food when we arrived. You enter through a kitchen, (neat, btw) and point at your chosen items from among a see-through cabinet of noticeably freshly prepared viands.


Presko a baka (raw beef), also known as kilawen here, flavored with light papaitan, was delicious. The subtle use of seasonings such as sukang Iloko, salt, etc., let out the natural flavors of the main ingredients, like dinardaran was not overly sour, but rather naturally came out with that hint of sweetness (from the pig’s blood), and the katuday (katuray/corkwood flowers) salad was not too vinegary nor salty. I’m not sure, but I didn’t detect any use of MSG.

Yes, satisfying Ilocano food this cheap still exists.

Kristina’s Carinderia
Rizal St., Laoag City

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The 10 Best Places to Eat in Ilocos Sur

Festive Calle Crisologo

After posting The 10 Best Places To Eat in Ilocos Norte, the time has arrived for The 10 Best Places To Eat in Ilocos Sur.

Ilocos Sur and its capital city, Vigan, is distinguished by its fascinating, centuries-old history, where traditional and inherited dishes remain. Hinged on various opinions from in-demand tour guides, frequent as well as first time visitors in Ilocos, foodies from different generations, not to mention my own personal experiences as a food blogger (who has paid 95 percent of all the food that’s been featured in this blog), the restaurants that made the top ten list best satisfy the curiosity for Ilocano cuisine and beyond. Even the most basic, simple Ilocano pinakbet or dinegdeng requires art. But in an evolving world, it’s also not only just about plain bagnet nor longaniza anymore. It is also how these classics are being used to create yet unmistakably Ilocano food in character. And because eating out is also about bonding moments with family or friends.

Cafe Leona1. Cafe Leona. The restaurant is the first thing you see upon entering Calle Crisologo from the Leona Florentino statue and marker. Leona Florentino was an 18th century local poet in the Spanish and Ilocano languages. The mother of Philippine women’s literature was also given the title “bridge from oral to literary tradition.” You go inside the cafe and you might not like the tight, fusty setting that welcomes you, but the menu will reveal it cares about diversity. Pinakbet here is first-rate, and Vigan longaniza too, but fresh uni (sea urchin) and unagi (eel) teriyaki are also always available, and affordable. Native fish tamales, bagnet and ararosip (grape seaweed) salad  are among the mainstays in the turo-turo-style counter.


2. Kusina Felicitas and Cafe Uno. While these two are situated in Grandpa’s Inn and often interchangeable, Cafe Uno specializes in short orders like salads and pastas, upgraded poque-poque, coffee, and cakes with a homemade feel and taste (carrot cake and chocolate fudge here are winners), and Kusina Felicitas, on the other hand, is known for traditional Ilocano and Filipino food and Vigan specialties such as pipian with citrusy and minty pasotes and grilled chicken with tropical karimbuaya leaves.

lomo-lomo3. Cafe Bossa. Candon’s best kept secret is Cafe Bossa’s lomo-lomo soup with pork loin and liver. Haven’t eaten lomo-lomo like this ever. Topped with one whole egg, it is rich yet soothing. The creative twists to iconic Filipino food like tuyo and aligue, among others, make this cafe unique. They also have great desserts, and it transforms into a tavern by night. It occupies the first floor of an ancestral house tucked in the commercial side of the town.

Bistro 23 Sapsapuriket4. Bistro 23. On the corner of Calle A. Reyes and Calle Salcedo stands Bistro 23, a newbie restaurant and bar with a mouthwatering start. “Comfort food at its best,” says sales reps who travel the north frequently. In the menu, you will find pancit and it turns out it is pancit loaded with fish ball slices and topped with a sunny side up egg. Undressed Vigan longaniza sits on a bed of poque-poque, and also on fried rice. Audacious eaters can bet on kansi and bloody sapsapuriket chicken soup. Tokwa’t bagnet sounds good and tastes good.

Bagnet with KBL, Chef Nic Rodriquez style5. Bistro Candon. Back to Candon at Chef’s Nic Rodriquez’s home ground. Bistro Candon’s claim to fame is its traditional Ilocano fare and desserts that we’ve grown up with like chocolate cake which has attracted food editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, leche flan and brazo de Mercedes. Try the rellenong bangus and bagnet with Chef Nic’s fragrant taburkik bagoong. The restaurant is inside a compound and closes quite early, so lunch is best.

Picture 9056. Comedor. The name alone suggests Spanish influence. Comedor is the main restaurant of the luxurious Hotel Luna, which is the only museum hotel in UNESCO World Heritage site Vigan. It tries to relive the affluent days with tapas and paella. Paella negra here doesn’t disappoint. Ditto with heritage dishes. Service is efficient and friendly.

Bigaa Gastropub7. Bigaa Gastropub. What used to be a dessert shop at the Vigan Plaza Hotel  has evolved with more in store for the younger palate. The divine sans rival is still as good. Along with traditional Bigueño entrées, hybrid dishes like rusangis (endemic only to Caoayan) and bagnet pastas and panizza capped with local ingredients tickle the palate. A pasta draped with provincial dinoydoy (mashed squash) is surprisingly bracing.

Kwekeng8. Sanitary Restaurant. The oldest restaurant in Vigan is still a crowd attraction. The little Chinese restaurant is always packed with locals enjoying lomi, mami or pancit Luzon with siopao or siomai. The menu consists of Chinoy-sounding food names peppered with Spanish terms like caldo and agre dulce. You can also find hongkue (Chinese stuffed chicken) in the menu, but has to be ordered in advance. It is said that a typical box of goodies brought out of the city contains bagnet, longaniza, royal bibingka and Sanitary’s famous ngoyong (ngohiong), a kind of Chinese meat roll flavored with five spices.

9. Lilong and Lilang Restaurant. The best Vigan empanada is shrouded in foliage, according to famished tourists checking out the Hidden Garden in the outskirts of Vigan. Lilong and Lilang Restaurant is the place to eat when you like restful natural environment. Ilocano favorites like dinengdeng, sinanglao, pinakbet with bagnet and warek-warek (grilled pork and liver mixed with mayo) dominate the menu. Down to presentation, local color is intensified. Buko and fruit coolers delight especially during hot Ilocos weather.

Pinakbet Farm10. Pinakbet Farm. The quintessential Ilocano food gets top billing in Caoayan, not too far away from the core of Vigan. A mélange of vegetables straight from the garden, alongside freshly-caught grilled tilapia (from its own pond), chicken and pork is the only food there is at this picnic pavillion maintained by the community. An authentic farm-style ambiance that perfectly personifies Ilocano simple living, complete with Ilocano entertainment, is an experience in itself.

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The 10 Best Places to Eat in Ilocos Norte

Laoag Chicharon

Based on firsthand  interviews with visitors who wind up in Ilocos Norte, they want to unruffle, enjoy the fresh air and explore the food.

Ilocano cooking is well-defined because it revolves around three key ingredients, namely native bugguong (fermented fish), suka (vinegar) and bawang (garlic).

The local cooking lexicon is peppered with everyday terms — naprito, linengta, naabraw, natuno, nalauya, na-salad, napakbet, etc.

Over the last few years, hyphenated dishes have lent color to an evolving food culture. The success of pinakbet pizza and its cousins has set a trend for more hybrids.

From a local perspective, certain names in the restaurant scene have become knee-jerk for special family bonding moments.

Among the list are tour guides’ recommendations,  a few personal favorites (based on consistent overall quality), two non-Ilocano restaurants that are a hit with locals and old-timey eateries that balikbayans can’t do without.

Dawang's1. Dawang’s Place. Known for its wicked dinardaraan (bloodmeat) with chicharon and smoky paksiw, this carinderia type of eatery has reached cult status ahead of the pack. Second-generation patrons chip in for tinuno and the diet-breaking dinardaran. No one, really, to my knowledge, has left the place unsatisfied.

Batac Empanada by Lanie's2. Batac Riverside Empanadahan. Agruably the best empanada in Ilocos can be found in Batac’s always crowded empanadahan. Lanie’s or Glory’s, with suka ken sili or banana ketchup, that orange thing, bursting with indigenous longaniza and papaya flavors, will inevitably make a visitor keep coming back for more.

Bergblick Pan3. Bergblick. One review (from an awarded journalist) at tripadvisor shared the same thoughts I have for this German restaurant in Pagudpud. I bring my guests to Bergblick because I know I won’t be embarrasesd. I’ve practically tasted everything on the menu, so it’s certainly low-pressure. Must-trys (besides German beer): Bergblick pan, sauerkraut platter, fish carpaccio, bihon guisado, German-style crispy pork leg, fried potato skins, and all the desserts.

Hakaw (Shrimp Dumpling) with Chili Sauce4. Red 8. Chinoys from Manila rave about the superior quality of hakaw, chicken feet and assorted congees at this tea house inside Fort Ilocandia. Locals reserve Red 8 for special occasions and meetings. Bump into government officials, businessmen, balikbayans and tourists. Other offerings: Cantonese and Taiwanese dishes and assorted roasted meat.

5. Saramsam. Their hybrid pizzas and pastas click with the younger crowd. Service is a bit slow sometimes, but amid a nice and cozy ambiance, it feels fine to linger in this global-eclectic house-turned-resto.

Katrina's6. Katrina’s. For tourists who don’t mind getting out of their comfort zones is a hole in the wall in the outskirts of Laoag. Located near the Laoag Cemetery and BJMP,  Katrina’s is frequented by Ilocanos who are strict with their food preferences, dyed-in-the-wool Ilocanos who won’t part with tradition. The house lauya a la libre go well with the dirardaraan with crispy bagbagis (deep-fried intestines), inbaliktad, dinakdakan and vegetable specialties.

Sinanglao7. Lidamero’s. According to stories, it’s the breakfast place for Laoag policemen. In this carinderia, there are more authentic Ilocano choices that won’t break your budget. Everyday access to lechon is s plus point.

8. Leinnie’s in Adams. No other place I know for fascinating mountain-grown food. Nostalgic picnic-style lunch in the midst of nature. Leinnie will whip uexotic Adams mealp an organic lunch at your request. A basic meal consists of  wild aba (gabi) cooked in coconut milk, balbalusa (wild eggplant) salad, boiled river fish, kinirog a udang (crawfish), adobo or tinuno. The lady will accommodate special requests such as buos  (red ants), tukak, ubog, tree ears pinakbet, depending on availability.

Evangeline's, Pagudpud9. Evangeline’s Beach Resort. A friend tour guide and I agree on Evangeline’s kind of cooking. Their pinakbet is different, but delightful, without leaving the bounds of authenticity. Evangeline’s is tucked away in a crowded resort area fronting the Saud Beach Cove. Nevertheless, the restobar is casual and warm with a relaxing beachy ambiance. Be ready to explore their binagoongang bagnet sa gata.

10. La Moda Panciteria. Something that will take you to downtown Laoag in the olden times DSC_1399are the eats at La Moda. Flat pancit guisado with pieces of lechon de carajay, fried chicken and pork chop (like your grandma cooked for you) are hot items on the menu. Highly recommended: the La Moda fried rice (with chicharon). Chinese eateries in Laoag like La Moda are on the verge of extinction.

Also, The 10 Best Places To Eat In Ilocos Sur

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