Food

The Best Diners in Manila to Eat and Unwind In

No-frills, but we just keep coming back for more.
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/ @fillingstationbarcafe @ritchiesdiner
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Dinersthey’re a wholly American institution that to us, Filipinos, usually mean retro-style interiors, greasy food, and bright neon lights. Historically, these chrome-covered fast food havens are more than that. Often open 24 hours a day, diners offer a respite for people coming from a late night. They’re dependable food stops with classic, straightforward dishes that people keep coming back for.

Paste magazine takes it a bit further, describing diners as “a place where people from all walks of life can stop. It is a home away from home for most people.” A place to seek comfort. A safe zone. 

Our list of diners in Manila combines these two definitions of “diner:” the thematic kind, with the all-American retro aesthetic, and the functional kind, the dependable comfort food places that many a Filipino has enjoyed throughout the years. While each of these boasts of a different dining experience, they all ensure their customers come out with satisfied, happy bellies. And at the end of the day, that’s all we’re really looking for. 

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1| Elbert's Diner

Photo by Kai Huang.
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Remember Elbert Cuenca’s sandwich shop? It shut down a few years back only to return revitalized as a diner. This retrofitted restaurant in Rockwell boasts towering stacks of hamburgers, freshly cooked crisp fries, fior di latte mac and cheese, and juicy hotdogs. Some favorites from Cuenca's other restaurants have also made their way to the menu, including the famous salpicao. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Truffle Mushroom Melt
  • Sheboygan Quarter Pounder Beef Hotdog
  • Ribeye Tapa

R2, Power Plant Mall, Makati

 

2| Big Boy’s Diner

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @bigboysdiner.

What Big Boy’s lacks in space (it can only accommodate around 15 people at a time), it makes up in personality. True to diners of yore, Big Boy’s interiors are littered with nostalgic knick-knacks, from old Coca-Cola adverts to 45 vinyl records plastered on the walls. At night, the place is lit up in neon, like a beacon for many a late-night customer. Its menu includes the usual suspectsbreakfast, fried chicken, pastaplus a short order selection for those looking for something that’s lutong bahay.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Chicken and Waffles
  • Tapa Breakfast
  • Crispy Kare-Kare

128 Sto. Domingo Avenue corner Sta. Catalina Street, Siena, Banawe, Quezon City

 

3| Filling Station Bar and Cafe

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @fillingstationbarcafe.

If Filling Station’s wall-to-wall explosion of '50s-themed décor feels very authentic, its because the man behind it is a former chief cook for the U.S. navy. Upon deciding to stay in the Philippines when his base contract wasn’t renewed, he thought of putting up a place similar to American diners back in the day. Over 30 years later, Filling Station stands as one of Poblacion’s long-running dining establishments. Guests from the Royal Bellagio Hotel and Pob regulars alike can drop by Filling Station anytime (it’s open 24 hours) to fill up on American/Filipino comfort food or to fill their Instagram quota for the day by posing in the restaurant’s many ‘grammable nooks and crannies.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Power Breakfast
  • DeSoto (Tenderloin Steak)
  • Fajitas Combo

Royal Bellagio Hotel, 5010 P. Burgos, Makati

4| Denny's

Photo by Majoy Siason.

Denny’s came to local shores at a time when many other American chains were coming in and taking a chance on the Philippine market. But among its closest competitors—Applebee’s and IHOP—Denny’s is the only one left. Whether by luck or by strategic strength (the first Denny’s in the country, after all, is a 24-hour joint right next to The Palace, a great stop for recovering barflies), Denny’s seems to be going strong. Serving generous helpings of its signature American dishes alongside local faves, Denny’s is a reliable spot for many a hungry diner.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • The Original Grand Slam
  • Ultimate Omelette
  • Moons Over My Hammy

dennys.ph/location

 

5| Hackensack

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @hackensack.ph.

Hackensack, New Jersey is the city that is home to Hackensack, New Manila’s inspiration: White Manna Hamburgers. Hackensack, the diner, which just opened last December, aims to serve classic, American burgers like White Manna has been doing for over 80 years. It’s particularly proud of its Deluxe Cheeseburger, made of Angus Beef patty that’s been smashed to the grill to create a mildly charred, crust-like exterior for a crunchy bite. 

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Esquire Recommends

  • Deluxe Cheeseburger
  • 10-inch Beef Hotdog
  • '50s Hamburger

Devour Food Hub, 1216 E. Rodriguez Avenue, New Manila, Quezon City

 

6| Pancake House

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @pancakehouseph.

Pancake House is perhaps the closest thing the Philippines has to a homegrown diner. Its iconic orange and white interiors are virtually everywhere, ready to serve signature dishes that have stood the test of time. Ask any its fans, and they'll tell you they already know their order even before settling in Pancake House’s booths. While some plates have changed in size (surely, the Best Taco in Town wasn’t this small before?), the flavor remains the same. A dose of the familiar in these ever-changing times is always a welcome sight. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Best Taco in Town
  • Classic Pan Chicken
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

pancakehouse.com.ph 

7| Whistlestop

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When it changed its look from the friendly green and red to a sophisticated black and white, Whistlestop became more of a nighttime haunt than the all-day food joint we’ve known for over four decades. But the menu is unchanged, with all-time favorites still making up most of its already stacked list of dishes. Perhaps the more things change, the more they stay the same?

Esquire Recommends:

  • Whistle-izzas
  • Buffalo Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing
  • Whistlestopper

Bonifacio Global City, Makati, Alabang, BF Homes, Paranaque

8| Recovery Food

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @recoveryfood.
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For a concept literally named as a reference to hangovers, Recovery Food practically screams diner. It offers 24/7 comfort food, mostly rice bowls, for anyone and everyone looking for a warm meal to eat. For its rice bowls (named “rice-a-bowls”), Recovery Food offers its customers the option between a regular size and the Full Recovery, depending on just how hungover or hungry you are.

Esquire Recommends

  • SST
  • Tapa de Morning
  • My Mami

facebook.com/recoveryfood

9| Kanto Freestyle Breakfast

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @kantobfast.
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Kanto Freestyle has come a long way from its carinderia roots in Plainview, Mandaluyong. Its simple dishes, which range from Filipino breakfast staples to a wide variety of pancakes and waffles, have garnered numerous fans, helping it spawn multiple branches all over the Metro. Its success just goes to show that food doesn’t need to be fancy to be a hit. 

Esquire Recommends:

  • Chocnut Champorado with Tuyo
  • New Zealand Beef Tapa
  • Honey Garlic Chicken

instagram.com/kantobfast 

10| Rodic's Diner

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A UP Shopping Center (RIP) institution since it opened in 1949, Rodic’s serves affordable Filipino dishes that have stood the test of time. Its famous tapa, a family recipe, was tweaked in the '80s to become the flaky, tender goodness that we know and love. Customers love the tapa so much, recalls co-founder Lola Pacita Ariola Tecson in a 2018 ABS-CBN interview, that they would order in bulk to take home. Today, even though the first location has burned down, Rodic’s multiple branches all over the Metro keep its legacy alive.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Tapsilog
  • Kare-kare
  • Sinigang

facebook.com/Rodics-Diner-197307480431111 

11| Bigg's Diner

Photo by Sasha Lim Uy.

Two name changes and three decades later, Bicol’s favorite diner finally decided to expand in Manila. Despite much success in the province, Bigg’s decided to wait for the right place and the right time before opening in the capital. Expect the massive plates of its signature comfort foodfried chicken, burgers, and friesbut you might not see the usual Bicol fare (the older Bigg’s branches serve laing, silog dishes, and arroz caldo). The fairly young branch is still feeling out its market, and has decided on sticking to the classics for now, but we hope it quickly adds the full menu later.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Crispy Chicken with Rice
  • Bigg’s Baby Back Ribs
  • Tenderloin Tips

SM City Fairview, Quezon City

 

12| GoodAh!!!

Photo by GoodAh.

Another Filipino institution, GoodAh is known to be quite creative with puns and namespagkaing good for every all” and “open 25 hours” are synonymous with the more than 30-year-old food chain. The chain also claims to have invented the word “tapsilog,” perhaps the handiest dining portmanteau we have to date. Language invention abilities aside, GoodAh is known for its beloved Goto Special. A warm bowl of porridge topped with meat, eggs, and crunchy chicharon, what’s not to love? 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Goto Special
  • Tokwa’t Baboy
  • The Original Tapsilog   

goodah.com.ph/branches

 

13| Ritchie’s Diner

Photo by INSTAGRAM/ @ritchiesdiner .

Ritchie’s bright yellow and white interiors give off a sunny vibe, ready to welcome guests for breakfast. Aside from all-day breakfast, its menu offers a wide range of comfort food, from sandwiches to burritos, pasta to burgers. Open from 7 a.m. to midnight, you can be sure to find something to your liking at any time of day.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Steak and Eggs
  • Buen’s Sardines
  • Pinoy-Style Grand Slam Breakfast Sampler (bistek Tagalog, pork tocino, pork longganisa with garlic fried rice, and two eggs)

Aguirre Avenue, BF Parañaque, Robinsons Place Las Piñas

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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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