Food, like politics and religion, inevitably warrants strong opinions from anyone you may come across with. Kids, tweens, yuppies or adults, you would surely have a different opinion of taste, texture, flavour and depth on every food on every menu of every gastro dining place you’d ask for.
Is the confusion worth it? For a foodie, YES. Why? Because it is through confusion that you are able to expect the unexpected. Cliché, right? Maybe. BUT in Davao, confusion is the clarity that gets your palates excited.
Food — ever evolving; always a need.
For years, we’ve seen the influx of restaurants, cafes and concept stores flock the streets of Davao. Of which, home-grown talents and local produce were raised on a pedestal for optimum recognition. Despite such, we, Dabawenyos, clamour for that particular something – until found, we move and resist to settle.
In Davao, the evolution of gastronomic dining places gave us a glimpse of the behaviour of the Davao foodie market. What we want: for dishes to be delicious according to our taste, affordable according to our budget and most of all, perfect for family gatherings or get together.
Ellen’s Tuna Queen
Address: 494 South Street, DBP Village, Brgy Maa, Davao City
Phone: 0932 986 3989
One of Davao’s best kept food secret, Ellen’s Tuna Queen is a quaint restaurant that serves lutong bahay meals that has since become favourites for locals and visitors alike. Of their many selection, their Paksiw na Buntot ng Tuna is a best-seller that will surely have you hungry for more. Though located in a residential area, many still flock the restaurant to taste Tita Ellen’s repertoire of delectable lutong bahay meals.
Over the years, the restaurant has introduced regional and national dishes to the delight of its patrons. When on a craving frenzy, do also try their Santol na Laing, creamy Kare-Kare and milky Halo-Halo. At Ellen’s Tuna Queen, food evolution in Davao has never been this melodic.
Address: General Luna Street, Davao City
You’ve never been to Davao if you’ve not had a bowl of Bulcachong…or so they say. For the most part, Bulcachong is known as an ‘after-drinking’ soup to soothe the soul. For others, a bowl of bulcachong is already an adventure in itself.
Bulcachong is bulalo made of cara-beef. Not a staple amongst household, carabao meat is a luxury to be considered. Though they still serve the same fatty laden dishes on their menu, you’d be shocked to know that many still flock their restaurant even during the wee hours of the morning. Why? Nothing appeases the soul like a hot bowl of comforting bulcachong. Just do not forget the calamansi and bird’s eye chili please.
Balik Bukid Farm & Resto
Address: Quimpo Blvd, Sandawa Park Ecoland Bucana, Davao City
Phone: (082) 296 4543
Redefining healthy eating, Balik Bukid pioneered and inspired the many other concept stores in the city. Fresh, invigorating and best for the body, Balik Bukid serves Filipino comfort foods prepared and cooked with a twist. Using a number of locally sourced and produced ingredients, you would be happy to know that everything you eat here is truly what your body needs.
Their repertoire involves a wide range of flavours and tastes that will transport you in an infinite selection of garden grown herbs and spices used for your meal of choice. Not to mention, Balik Bukid restaurant lets you settle in a conventional bukid set-up without having to leave the city.
Address: Palm Drive, Bajada, Davao City
Phone: (082) 227 6726
One dish – Lamb Kaldereta. Is one of Davao’s best kept foodie destination. Rustically comforting, Belito’s is a class on its own. With an unconventional set-up, you would surely not expect to be served the flavours of Spain and love it until the last crumb. For one, their menu is filled with Spanish meals cooked unapologetically with Spain in mind.
Though you would, to an extent, taste Filipino as an influence in their meals, you’d surely be amazed as to why you’d be drawn to their dishes in an instant. More so, it is at Belito’s that you’d appreciate the manga and bagoong on your plate. Familiarity truly does play a big factor.
Tiny Kitchen and Dulce Vida
(Tiny Kitchen) Address: F. Torres St, Poblacion District, Davao City, Davao del Sur
Phone: (082) 305 9232
(Dulce Vida)Tulip Drive, Ecoland, Davao City
One does not speak of Tiny Kitchen without mentioning Dulce Vida and vice versa. Elevating the ante on Davao gastronomic dining places, Tiny Kitchen mixes the taste of Spain and texture of the Philippines on their dishes. It truly is a feast with their plate of Paella Negra, Salpicao and Pepino drink every single time. Not to mention, the use of disposable place mat, that doubles as a scribble page, to catch your crumbs without fuss.
Dulce Vida is Davao’s dessert and cake haven. With their extensive selection of carefully prepared and baked cakes to pouches of delectably baked pastries to pieces of sugar-free sylvannas, you’d surely have a hard time selecting a cake that suits your mood. When all else fails, order a slice of their richly decadent YOLO cake munch on until you leave nothing. Yes, the YOLO cake.
The White House
Address: Camella Northpoint, J.P. Laurel Ave, Buhangin, Davao City
Phone: (082) 282 4540
Fine dining has never been this exciting. With the addition of The White House in the many other must visit restaurants in the city, you’d find that theirs is of a particular class unlike any other. I am not merely talking about the vibe of the place but more so, everything about it. From the location to the staff and of course, the food, you’d love to fall in love with Davao’s The White House.
Their menu goes beyond borders and simply translates the flavours of Asia onto your plate. Go ahead and experience the sea with their Trio of Oysters or embrace the highlands with a plate of their Hanging Tenderloin Steak on nights when you just want to reward yourself for no reason at all. While at it, never leave them without tasting their creamy yet not nakaka-umay Durian Cheesecake. You’d thank me later.
Ahfat Seafood Restaurant
Address: Bajada, Davao City
Phone: (082) 221 4688
Food timeline scene in Davao will not be complete without dabbling onto some dishes from Ahfat (or Ahfats as locals love to call it). Steamed, fried, saucy or not, this magnificent gastronomic dining place is perfect for how Dabawenyos love to eat – together. Made for big crowds, Ahfat lets you enjoy every calorie you put inside your body. Not to worry, they serve hot tea after the meal.
At Ahfat, every meal is made perfect by their in-house Cantonese chef that ensures everything that comes out of their kitchen is what you are craving for. Choose from their many dishes on their menu and don’t forget the Mango Sago at the end.
New Davao Famous Restaurant
Address: 401 Ramon Magsaysay Ave, Poblacion District, Davao City
Phone: (082) 227 2633
This is Davao’s reply to a restaurant that has stood the test of time in the city. Dating more than 10 years back, Davao Famous has since been serving and catering to the local’s clamour for cheap but affordable meals. The evolution may have been slow for them but certainly not for the Dabawenyos. What happened was the reverse… everyone seems to go back to basics and seek for delectably comforting dishes that soothes the mind, body and of course, soul.
Noodles, veggies, rice toppings and siopao – staples of every dining table. Their contribution to the Davao food scene? Their bowl of hot off the grill satemi that you won’t find anywhere else.
Hanoi & Tsuru
J camus st. Davao City 8000
(082) 225 4501/ (Tsuru) (082) 221 0901
With Davao’s emphasis on deliciously affordable dishes, you’d find that Hanoi and Tsuru, though of different flavours and taste, has etched its name inside the hearts of local and visitors alike. Why is this so? Hanoi & Tsuru offers a wide selection of close to authentic dishes that let’s you share them with your family and friends.
Hanoi’s bowl of Pho will not only take you to the streets of Vietnam but more so, bring you closer onto understanding the fresh taste of their cuisine. The mere inclusion of Vietnam cuisine in the many available restaurants in Davao is already an evolution in itself. Loving it is another story.
Tsuru, like Hanoi, highlights the crunchy yet clean flavours of Japan. Unlike Hanoi, Tsuru has a more familiar taste to many. Nonetheless, that did not stop it from being recognized as a definite must try Davao restaurant.
Cecil’s Snack Inn & Bakeshop
198 F. Iñigo Street (formerly Anda Street), Davao City
(082) 227-5305/ (082) 227-9865/ (082) 227 2085
An institution backed with years of creating delicious pastries, snacks and cakes, Cecil’s is Davao’s answer to everyone’s impending hunger for delicious food that’s always within the budget. Mami, pancit luglug, empanada, lumpia and a whole lot of beautifully prepared and cooked Filipino faves will keep you satisfied every single time.
Though, like the rest, only few inclusions were made, the sanctity of Cecil’s being a snack inn and bakeshop that caters to families and groups is reason enough for it to be loved by all – all throughout the years.