Food & Drink

The Best Ribs in Manila: Spicy, Sweet, Tangy, Smoky

The best ribs in Manila are smoking.
IMAGE Kai Huang/Sam Lim
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This list has been done and debated many times over. The best ribs platter in Manila has always been a contentious topic for a country of meat lovers.

Where are Manila's best ribs? 

Finding the best ribs in Manila depends on who's looking. Some opt for spicy, some like sweet, others tangy, others prefer smoky. There are, after all, multiple sauces available to cater to everyone’s preference. But the consensus on ribs is not really found in how they taste, but how they fall.

“Fall-off-the-bone” is oft used to describe a perfect rib, when the meat is so tender that it literally falls off the bone. The best test is when you don’t need a knife. If you can simply tear, pull, or pluck the meat from the bone, you know you’re about to enjoy a really good plate of ribs. It's like going back to our most primeval roots.

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It’s no surprise that our country has a lot of excellent rib places, each of which with something unique to offer. Smoked, baked, grilled, homegrown, or internationally franchised, you name it, we have it. Here are some of the best ribs in Manila (unranked, depending on your preferences):

1| Holy Smokes

Nestled in Makati’s bustling food-filled neighborhood, Poblacion, Holy Smokes is a casual, pay-as-you-order joint that serves slow-cooked meats. Juano Gutierrez and Maisa Acosta believe that the secret to the best ribs in Manila depends on the wood you smoke them in. They worked hard to find the optimal wood for the smoker and ended up with locally-sourced kaimito and santol wood, which they say gives off a similar flavor to what applewood gives meat. The result is juicy, incredibly tender meat: a review on its Facebook page even said the beef brisket “melts in your mouth,” a descriptor often used for a certain candy-covered chocolate, but the visual works surprisingly well for meat, too.  

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Tasting Notes: Holy Smokes’ ribs come in both pork and beef, but the latter is available only on weekends.

Matilde Corner Jacobo Street, Poblacion, Makati City; 0917-503-6544

2| Rib Shack

Rib Shack is one of the south’s youngest and most promising joints, with ribs so tender, you’ll want to use your hands. Part-owner and chef Ernest de Jesus (who co-owns with wife Twinkle) was encouraged by a friend to serve his ribs to a bigger audience. For Rib Shack's delicious ribs, he braises the meat for tenderness before setting them on a grill to get that required smoky flavor.

Tasting Notes: Rib Shack’s ribs come in three sizes: Single with one side and one rice; In A Relationship with two sides; and It’s Complicated, three sides. Customers can choose from four sauces: Original, Honey BBQ, Peppercorn, and Smoked Chipotle.  

Pilar Village, Las Piñas, 0917-887-4225; BF Homes, Parañaque, (02) 782-2383; and Commune Hall, Evia Lifestyle Center, Daang Hari.

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3| Mighty Quinn’s

IMAGE: Sam Lim

From Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to Manila’s Megamall, NY-born Mighty Quinn’s has come a long way since co-owner and pitmaster Hugh Mangum shelled out a week of his paycheck and began cooking meat in his East Village driveway. Mangum’s traditional method of cooking over wood and fire, learned from his father, he says, has created many a fan, including the New York Times, which called it a “conversational stopper.” Mighty Quinn's is a New York favorite,  and now it serves some of Manila's best ribs. 

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Must-try: Brontosaurus ribs

Mighty Quinn's branches

4| Rub Ribs & BBQ

Rub, named after the method used to season meat (i.e., “dry rub”but the place allows you to choose between a dry or wet rub, depending on your preference), was already known in 2012 to have the juiciest, tastiest ribs in Kapitolyo. Flash forward to seven years later, Rub is now available in many areas in the Metro, catering to long lines of people patiently waiting outside its doors. Not only does it serve some of the best ribs in Manila, Rub has a lot of heart, too. Its owners have allowed people with special needs to work in its restaurants to expose them to the world and enlighten the rest of us.

Manong Manuel, an online shop that offers ready-to-cook meals, offers Rub‘s famous ribs in frozen packs for superfans who want to have Raki’s ribs or Rub’s pork ribs at their fingertips.

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Must-try: Raki’s BBQ Ribs, which comes in Singles, Super Duo, or Family Brunch sizes

Rub Ribs & BBQ branches

5| Smoking Joint

IMAGE: Kai Huang

“Slow and low barbeque” is Smoking Joint’s mantraa reference to the way its meats are cooked, and also to the time and effort it patiently exerts in creating its masterpiece. When this resto famously closed its doors in its BF Parañaque, the team behind it (husband-and-wife co-owners Tony and Reza Fernando and Chef Dino Dizon) took its time to improve upon its offerings, making the dishes a bit more Pinoy.

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Eventually, Smoking Joint opened with a bigger menu at a bigger space: Green Sun at Chino Roces Extension, Makati. Fans felt the difference: The new version was somehow better tasting and higher quality, despite the fact that it continued to use the old smoker from its previous location. We may never know the secret, but with juicier, more flavorful meat, Smoking Joint became BF’s loss and Makati’s gain. Wherever it may be, it's doing something right by serving some of the best ribs in Manila.

Tasting Notes: Smoked ribs are served in three sizes: single, half, and full.

Green Sun, 2285 Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati; (02) 4235514

 

6| Gringo’s Chicken, Ribs and Friends

This locally made Tex-Mex resto is on the fast track, opening 16 branches in just three years. Talk about a Manila rib invasion. Each dish leaves customers satisfied, especially the eponymous chicken and ribs. Its baby back ribs are cooked for hours, to achieve optimum meat tenderness, in the restaurant’s signature marinade and served with a slightly sweet barbecue glaze.

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Tasting Notes: Gringo’s ribs are served in three sizessolo, amigo, and muchos, with the option of having sides or no sides at all.

Gringo's branches

7| Racks

When Pinoys think ribs, the first thing they usually think of is Racks. Serving families its famous flame-grilled ribs since the '90s, Racks (which apparently stands for Real American Country Kitchen Stylewho knew?) has become quite the institution, consistently delivering mouthwatering, juicy rib goodness every single time. Its long-time success as one of go-to places for the best ribs in Manila has even spawned a younger concept in SM AuraRackshack.

Must-try: Racks Baby Ribs, Racks Classic Pork Ribs

Racks branches

8| Big Daddy Jay’s All American BBQ

The “Jay” in Big Daddy Jay’s refers to owner Ada Cruz-Lopez’s American brother-in-law, from whom its recipe comes from. His style is a little different from the other rib restaurants in Manila. Big Daddy Jay's Southern take on ribs has no marinade. Instead it applies a dry-rub twice before letting the meat sit overnight. The restaurant closes on Mondays to smoke its meat, a six-hour process that uses custom-made smokers. The result is 1.5 kilograms of meat charred to dark, tender perfection, with a smoky, woodsy flavor so tangible you can imagine the strands of smoke wafting in your mouth.

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Tasting Notes: BDJ’s original smoked ribs are available in Solo Plate, Half Slab, and Full Rack

61B 17th Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City; 0917-300-8435

9| Casa Verde

Fans of this beloved Cebuano joint rejoiced when it finally opened a location in Manila. Its version is baked pork served with a sweet and tangy piquet sauce. It has so many fans that the menu confidently describes its bestseller with a seductive “once you taste me, you’ll never forget me…,” a testament to how popular this dish has become.

Must-Try: Brian's Ribs

UP Town Center, Katipunan, Quezon City, (02) 364-4154; SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City, (02) 212-1212

 

10| Original Hawaiian Bar-B-Que

Like Casa Verde, Original Hawaiian Bar-B-Que originated from outside Manila. From Boracay’s Station 1,  it has now become one of Manila's best ribs. From Happy Ongpauco-Tiu’s Happy Concept Group comes a menu that’s colorful and diverse, inspired by cuisine by the Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Polynesians, Portuguese, and of course, the Hawaiians. It offers four kinds of baby back ribs, but its most famous has to be the Original Hawaiian Baby Back Ribs, a sweet and tangy bite rendered so by Hawaiian barbecue sauce.

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Must-try: Original Hawaiian Baby Back Ribs

Mother Ignacia Avenue, near Tomas Morato, South Triangle, Quezon City; (02) 374-3798

11| Fat Daddy's Smokehouse

Originally from Marikina, this restaurant is a meat haven dedicated to the delicacies that can come out of a smoker. The Versoza siblings come from the family behind iconic catering service Josiah's and they know how to create a good impression with their food. Fat Daddy's pork ribs are cooked eight hours inside that locker to create fall-off-the-bone meat that requires no utensils. It's finished off on the grill for those delicious charred bits.

Tasting Notes: These dry-rubbed ribs come in three sizes for all types of customers

UP Town Center, Katipunan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City; (02) 717-4482

12| Smoke'n Sweets

Smoke'n Sweets is a cultish, little-known stall at the Sidcor Sunday Market best known for its bacon subscription service and its jovial owner Jack Ruivivar, who has a penchant for dressing up as a strip of bacon. The menu changes every week and the Ruivivars upload it on their Facebook page regularly. 

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Tasting Notes: Nearly everything on Smoke'n Sweets menu is delectable and runs out early. Make sure to set your alarm and drop in first thing on Sunday morning. 

Smoke'n Sweets Facebook page

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About The Author
Monique Therese Avila
Monique Therese Avila is a self-proclaimed woman-child with a lifelong obsession with chocolate. Her attempts at staying fit are hampered by her part-time gig as a professional food taster.
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