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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Oh-so-good Pizza Hut parchment Seafood Supremo!

I tried Pizza Hut’s Seafood Supremo, fettuccine with squid, shrimp and scallop in creamy tomato sauce topped with capers and herbs, baked in parchment paper for sealed in goodness, and I must say — it was a gastronomic pleasure! It had everything I was looking for in a pasta dish — al dente noodles, rich-but-never-cloying flavors and delightfully hot and filling. The serving’s quite large, enough for two, but, oh boy, I ate every last bit of it!

Pizza Hut Robinsons Ilocos Norte, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte
Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Food notes: Under one hundred peso thrills up North

Enjoying great local food on a shoestring budget…

  • Batac empanada by the Riverside in Batac. The crispy shell is made of rice flour and filled with grated young papaya, mongo beans, egg and longaniza. I personally love Lanie’s (renamed Joza’s). Her pinais made from empanada shell dough, and tokneneng (deep-fried battered quail eggs) are just as tempting.
  • ‘Now you see papaya, now you don’t  because it’s cabbage’ empanada by Mildred’s, one of the oldest empanadahans in Laoag, located west of the Laoag Supermarket. I complained one time that mine had cabbage and Mildred says that she substitutes when green papaya is out of season.
  • Butter ravioli made by Italian expat Mino of Mino’s Pizza. If you’re a “Mino’s virgin”, and not a Badoc local, but passing by the town of Badoc, a stopover at his home-cum-resto in Badoc is worth trying.
  • Manang Cely’s no-frills homemade siopao and empanada with menudo filling. The Chinoy lady peddles around downtown Laoag between 3:00-5:00 PM. I can eat 2 of her large siopaos in one sitting,  believe me.
  • Banana cue and crispy turon from the food stalls in front of the Rizal Park in Laoag. The caramelized sugar coating is generous and crunchy.
  • A hot bowl of the best paksiw ever in Ilocos Norte. Paksiw is  soup made from beef innards and papaitan, and what makes Dawang’s the best is  its  smoky flavor. The best time to go is not later than 9:00 AM. Dawang’s Place, National Highway, San Nicolas.
  • Yummy fifty peso tapsilog at the tapsilogan near the Earthquake Disco. Be forewarned that it is within the red-light district of Laoag.
  • Imbaliktad and paksiw at the carinderia along Caaoacan Road, north of the Laoag Cemetery. The name, I can’t remember. Gosh, so sorry. I’ll update this when I get the name.
  • Hi-bol, made from paksiw and Ilocano pancit guisado at Franklin’s along Nolasco St., Laoag.
  • Tayamen’s Isaw and Fishballs. If you’re alone, or chipping-in, you can’t consume all of your violet bill.
  • Bistro 51 Tapa Rice, which I had just today. At P95, and with cool live band music to go with the dinner, definitely a steal! B51 is in Nangalisan, Laoag.

  • The original “spaghetti by Sarah” at Tita Sarah’s Fine Foods, F.R. Castro St. Laoag City. It’s not Italian, it’s not Filipino, I just know that her spaghetti recipe is so original.
  • Cuapao, a Chinese sandwich with a filling of braised pork, preserved mustard leaves and ground peanuts. It’s only Macy’s Diner who makes it here in  Ilocos Norte.  Macy’s is at the ground floor of the Tiffany Hotel, Gen Segundo Ave., Laoag.
  • Lomi with kikiam and fishballs from one of the oldest existing panciterias in Laoag, Oriental Grill, along Rizal St.
  • Tinuno at Leader’s Eatery. I haven’t tried, actually, but a friend always talks about it, so I hope to check it out one of these days. P. Gomez St., Laoag.
  • Tamago sushi at the Fort Ilocandia’s Delicatessen Shop. The last time I went, a  six pack cost me less than fifty pesos.
  • Either el cheapo curbside native halohalo, available in the summer, or the year-round Chow King halo-halo.  Chow King stores are located in Laoag and Batac.
  • Candied fruits like santol, tamarind and kamias from the Laoag Carmelite Monastery, P. Gomez St.
  • Cupcakes with marshmallow icing at P4.50 each from St. Annibale Bakeshop, F.R. Castro St., Laoag.

Not really homegrown…

  • Pick-me-up Almond Roca chocolate drink for P95. More to choose from at Coffee and Crepes, Level I, Robinsons IN.

  • Old-fashioned chocolate eclairs, English toffees, gummy bears, jelly beans and more. Grab then at Pick & Mix, Ground floor, Robinsons IN.

  • Really chewy mozarella balls from good ol’ KFC. P50 per order of Chewy Cheese at KFC, Robinsons IN

  • Max’s Fresh Lumpiang Ubod or Frozen Fruit Salad. If you order both, P100 isn’t enough. Max’s Restaurant, Gen. Segundo Ave., Laoag.
  • Melt-in-your-mouth fresh pastillas de leche and chewy macapuno balls from Red Ribbon, 365 Mall, San Nicolas. Forget the snooty store manager who wouldn’t allow me to take photos — the very antithesis of sweet.
  • McDonald apple pie, yes, still charming as ever. They have McDo stores  in Laoag and San Nicolas.

I’m sure there are a lot more in Ilocos. Please leave suggestions, if you have any, so I can try them out and feature them in the future.

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED