It’s been almost a month since I got back from my vacation in the Philippines and I was able to visit a lot of places while I was there (more on that on my next travel posts) and Baguio was one of them. I can’t believe that we have not done an article about Baguio in the entire lifetime of this blog especially since Janelle and I frequent that city because our roots are from the Northern Luzon of the Philippines. My brother is currently finishing his degree there and every time I go home for my annual leave, Baguio is a staple destination for me. I also realized that at this moment, the Panagbenga Festival (Blooming Flowers Festival) is ongoing there, highlighting the best season for flowers in the city. So in honor of Baguio’s festivities, allow me to share with you the places where I had memorable bites in Baguio City!
For the uninitiated, Baguio is known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines for its wonderfully cool climate all year-round due to its geographical location, which is up in the mountainous Cordillera region of Northern Luzon. It is a famous getaway for every person in Manila and the rest of Luzon to escape from the heat and humidity of the lowlands. In addition to that, recent road constructions through the mountains in the past years have made it super easier for people to drive to Baguio from Manila in four hours or less. In fact, Baguio has been too famous and too accessible in the last two years or so that residents of the area are starting to complain about the overcrowding of tourists during long, non-working holidays. Baguio is highly urbanized and quite crowded on its own already and the exodus of tourists coupled with the virtually an all one-way street for every route, hot tempers arise despite the cool weather.
More than that though, Baguio has a very rich culture. The indigenous tribes of Benguet has influenced most of its cultural landscape along with a beating art scene and a varied food-o-sphere. In my stay there earlier this year, I managed to chance on some amazing food establishments that come highly recommended from me.
I am naming them in no particular order:
Cafe by the Ruins DUA
Cafe by the Ruins is one of the most iconic restaurants in Baguio City, if not the most loved. It almost closed its doors a couple of years back and when loyal patrons of this restaurant learned of it, they all joined efforts in reviving it once again. When I went back to Baguio this year, I was happy to see that a second branch has bloomed in Upper Session Road. It was a bigger and more modern take on the Ruins, but it still maintained the same spirit. Local artists are also able to exhibit their work there and recently, they have also started selling local, organic produce as well.
Cafe by the Ruins have a long list of well-loved items. Most of the time I went here, I only came for some bread and coffee like their Qeso de Bola Ensaymada and Kamote Bread+Kesong Puti with Basil. Please don’t ever leave Baguio without visiting the Ruins Dua at Upper Session or the main branch at Shuntug St.
Cafe by the Ruins
Ketchup: The Food Community
Like I’ve mentioned, Baguio has a vibrant food scene and there’s just about anything for anybody. That’s where the Ketchup Food Community based their concept of a small “compound” – if you may – housing five different restaurants in one location. Visitors can hop around and order from the different restaurants and take a seat in a crowd of happy foodies.
Located along Romulo Drive, (right across Wright Park) you won’t miss the big sign and the bustling crowd of locals and tourists alike, lining up for their favorites. Word of caution though, during peak season, it might take you forever to get a table at your preferred restaurant. Case in point, my brother and I wanted to eat at “Canto” probably the most popular joint in the KFC (they serve more of burgers and ribs). But the line was long and we were hungry, so we ended up at Rumah Sate, a Indonesian-inspired restaurant instead. We didn’t regret it though, their food was yummy!
My brother and I were quite satisfied with our orders, with a hearty laksa soup perfect for the cold weather and the delicious chicken sate that was very barbecue-y and tender. We also tried their Mi Goreng, but wasn’t to thrilled about it. Not that it wasn’t good, but I guess we were just expecting a different taste.
Other restaurants to find there are Rancho Norte (Filipino food), Happy Tummy (Thai food) and Green Pepper (Gourmet) .
Ketchup: The Food Community
My brother was never a fan of this place to begin with, but my love for cupcakes obliged him to take me there. And I don’t know about him, but I loved their cupcakes! For me, the standard of a good cupcake store is how they make their Red Velvet and it was lovely! Granted it was no Magnolia’s Bakery levels, but still pretty good for a local bakeshop.
Glyco is a quaint little corner inside Compound Access Road, probably a five minute walk from the Victory Liner Bus Terminal. Their cupcakes are at 35pesos a piece, but for less if you buy a dozen.
Chaya would have to be Baguio’s best open-secret when it comes to Japanese food. It’s a serious home-slash-restaurant serving close to authentic Japanese food in a class of its own courtesy of its chef, Sonoku Taguchi – a Japanese lady married to a Filipino. Its location is on Legarda Road and it’s literally the same place where the owners live (they do have security guards on duty for safety purposes). Tasteful foodies flock this place for a special Japanese food treat. They have utilized their huge house and dedicated a portion of it to be transformed into a dining area for lunch and dinner. Reservations have to made in advance here and make sure your cab driver knows how to get there. It’s quite a challenge to look for it on your own, on foot.
Price-wise, it’s in the above-average scale of say, 500 pesos per person. The maki platter was a real value for money and my brother chomped away on these. Their Gyudon was pretty good too but maybe I’d order something else next time. As for the Kani Salad, I’d order that again for sure! Service was notably good as well.
For Reservations, call: +639164394141
Is it just me or every country on Earth has a Korean Palace somewhere? And they all have an eat-all-you-can buffet service! Haha. Luckily, I found this h-e-a-v-e-n in Baguio since I have been craving for some really awesome Korean food for some time. Baguio, by the way, is heavily populated with Koreans, so it seems legit to have this place serve what I my tastebuds have been longing for. For 399 pesos per person, dang I had to fast before going there because I was going to break them for my money’s worth! LOL.
As you can see, each table is equipped with your own electric grill pan where you can grill as much meat and bulgogi as you’d want. There is also the unlimited kimchi (among other appetizers) and as usual, my brother’s favorite, sushi maki! The Korean Palace offers their eat-all-you-can all week-long. Just be mindful if you don’t have your own ride going there because it’s not a usual route for cabs so you’d have to be willing to wait a couple of minutes until you’re able to hail one.
South Drive, Baguio City
Reservations: +63 74 446 7557
Before I end my post, there are two more notable food joints that I can’t miss telling you about:
Oh my gosh, I can’t. Even. Haha! I adore this place for the great food at affordable prices. Sure it’s nothing fancy, but if you’re looking to heartily feed a group of four on a budget, then this is the best choice for you in Baguio. Don’t forget to order their signature Buttered Chicken! Located at Carino St. nearby Burnham Park. Every local in Baguio knows where it is, so I don’t think you’d have trouble finding it.
Also check out: Backyard Grill (they have this delicious strawberry+greens salad), Grumpy Joe’s (for the experience and their mind-blowing hot sauce) and my brother’s favorite: Game and Grub Boardgame Cafe for burgers and unique board games (Hell yeah, Cards Versus Humanity!).
Last but not least, I present to you, a staple Baguio favorite. It’s one-of-a-kind and you can only find this there. You can hear it being shouted from the hills from morning til noon. Make your Baguio experience complete with a cup of Strawberry Taho! For 20 pesos only. 🙂
Actually, there is an endless list of possibilities of where to eat in Baguio. This is but a nibble from the ever growing food-o-sphere in the City of Pines. I simply shared those that I’ve tried in my recent vacation. I’m sure when I go back there later this year, there’d be more food and restaurants to explore!