Where to eat when Manila is asleep
Nighttime is more fun than daytime. It just is. We do things we don’t ever do in daylight—open our doors to friends and friends of friends, pour our best liquor, talk to strangers, jump in a cab somewhere, have another drink, spend a little too much money, canoodle—because there’s no work tomorrow and what the hell. Or there is work tomorrow but what the hell. And the best part of night is late night. This is because late at night, the rules change. We’re hopped up on the energy of being with friends or we’re exhausted and staring into the fridge, and in both cases we’ve had the bourbon, and suddenly we’re eating pie or an enormous cheeseburger or some shawarma or a sandwich we just invented, and it tastes fantastic. Whatever it is, it is exactly what we needed. Late night is the easiest time to eat like a man, because eating like a man is about pleasure and very little else. It’s about fun. More fun than you’ve ever had eating when the sun is out.
THE BEST LATE-NIGHT FOOD IN MANILA
The call center epidemic has turned our metropolis into a 24-hour, energy drink-fueled creature for good and for bad. There are a ton of places to grab a bite when you emerge blinking and bleary-eyed from the bar or the office, but when you've reached the night's darkest point, you don't want just another box of nuggets from a fast food joint, or those greasy balls that have been on heavy rotation in the convenience stores. Here's where we suggest you satiate those late-night to early-morning rumblings.
The Truffle Fries at The Blind Pig
If you’ve never been here, don’t try to find this place when you’re blind drunk, unless you can miraculously read giant braille with both hands. If you’re just nearsighted, the menu, written in ant-sized fonts and illuminated only by dim candles, will frustrate you. So engrave this in your heart: truffle fries baked with parmesan cheese will soothe those munchies like only decadent comfort food can. Open till late. The Blind Pig is at 227 Salcedo Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.
The Mezze Platter at Ziggurat
Floor pillows, gold tablecloth, and hookahs, what wonder-land is this? At the junction of Euphrates and Tigris—streets, that is—lies a 24-hour tower of Middle Eastern cuisine, a good place for dinner but an even better place for post-drinks grub, especially if you try and hop on a trike to find your way through this labyrinthine corner of Makati’s red light district. Sop up pita bread slices with a selection of mezzes like hummus, mutab-bal, tzatziki, and other exotic spreads. Good for a group who would like to take their conversations far into the night. Open 24/7. Ziggurat is at G/F Sunnette Tower, Tigris Street corner Euphrates Street, Makati City.
The Fondue at Old Swiss Inn
This place has been around since forever, your grandparents probably stopped in for a late-night fix themselves. Go for the classic cheese fondue, with bread cubes dipped in melted Gruyere and Emmenthal taken up a notch with kirsch. The classic Swiss inn surroundings are sobering and cozy and will reassure you that all is right with the world. Open 24/7. Old Swiss Inn is at G/F Olympia Building, Makati Avenue corner Sto. Tomas Street, Makati City.
The Pollo Iberica at Cerveseria
The Spanish eat really late, so chowing down on tapas or even a whole Iberian chicken, slow-roasted with lots of garlic, won’t seem that indulgent, in a spot dripping with candles, books and chande-liers, but indulgent enough. Open till 2 a.m. Cerveseria is at G/F Greenbelt 3, Makati City.
The Chicken Wings at Wingman
Contrary to what it might seem, Wingman is frequented not only by B-Side hipsters (who actually don’t really eat) but wing lovers far and wide who are keen to challenge their beer-numbed tongues with hot-sauce drenched Buffalo Wings set on Pinaka (the highest spiciness level, after Apocalyptic). Customers are known to spontaneously combust, so wear a bib. Open till 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, 2 a.m. Monday to Thursday. Wingman has branches at The Collective, 7274 Malugay Street, Makati City; UP Town Center, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City; and Acacia Town Estates, Taguig City.
The Nachos Grande at Chihuahua
With a location along Makati Avenue, Chihuahua gets all kinds of late-night visitors, from refueling clubbers from Time next door, various ladies of the night and the men who love them, and post-event media people who just don’t get filled up on free canapes. The nachos grande is slathered in the most nuanced chili this side of the border and comes in a large, idiot-proof metal bowl, which seems absolutely perfect at two in the morning. Open till 3 a.m. Chihuahua has branches at Greenbelt 2, Makati City; and Crossroads Building, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
The Cable Car Fried Rice at Cable Car
Though not quite at its original location, the food will always conjure memories of when you were in high school and got trashed on neon-colored shots and just had to have a plate of chicken and pork fried rice topped with an egg and an extra dousing of soy sauce before you made it home, already way past your curfew anyway. Open till 5 a.m. View a list of Cable Car branches.
The Tapa at Rufo's
Before it became an establishment with take-out and delivery and lit signage and a menu, it was a corner with wooden benches and ratty stray dogs which occasionally made you question the tapa’s provenance. But the tapa, now “famous,” was delicious and saucy and hit all the right spots after a night of heavy drinking. Rufo’s remains the great equalizer. Open 24/7. View a list of Rufo's branches.
The Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup at Borough
A slice of Brooklyn in the mall. The man-sized grilled cheese comes in homemade buttery brioche bread oozing with cheddar and mozzarella. Dunk it in the small pot of slightly sweet roasted tomato soup, and you’ve got your carbs, your proteins and your veg, all in one gooey bite.Open 24/7. Borough is at G/F Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
The Octopus at Top Dish Korean Restaurant
A veritable hole-in-the-wall, this Korean joint is one of those best kept-secrets, fronted by a sari-sari store, a massage parlor, or whatever else one tends to find in the P. Burgos area. The appetizers alone can fill you up but try the Daro Kukbob, a spicy beef soup, for restorative goodness, or the grilled spicy octopus, which also goes well with the night’s last Hite beer. Open till 3 a.m. Top Dish is at 4890 Durban Street, Makati City.
The Hainanese Chicken at Whistlestop
Whistlestop 2.0 is a nicely designed restaurant with retro touches, much different from its original cowboy-styled incarnation, and the menu has been streamlined to match. But classic favorites remain, and the chicken rice is as good as it gets. Anyone born before the ‘80s will have a late-night Whistle Stop story or two and should come back for the memories. Open 24/7. Whistlestop is at 28 Jupiter Street, Makati City.
The Shawarma at Shawarma Snack Center
The shawarma will outlive food trends and foodies and the great reckoning of 2012. It is a perfect pocket-sized food that can be eaten with one hand, walking, if you don’t mind the garlicky goodness of white sauce dripping down your arm. With three shawarmas for P120, a lively open-air atmosphere with actual Middle Eastern customers, your Manila-area late night food problem is solved. Open 24/7. Shawarma Snack Center has branches at 485 R. Salas Street, Ermita, Manila; Presidents Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque City; 316 El Grande Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque City; and Waltermart, A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City.
The Supper Menu at Tim Ho Wan
The Tim Ho Wan at emerging Uptown Place Mall stands out from the rest of the pack. It features the chain's supper menu, a special late-night selection tailor-made for odd-hour enjoyment. Think congee (with sliced abalone, chicken, mushroom), beef brisket noodles, wontons, and dim sum. Easy to love and easy to enjoy, especially after a beer or two. Available from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tim Ho Wan is at G/F Uptown Place Mall, 36th Street corner 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
The SST at Recovery Food
The best part about Recovery Food is how everything on the menu is available all day, every day. Styled to look appropriately messy (just enough to look worn-in and welcoming), RF is a trove of comforts in a bowl. Their rice bowls are a must so if you're looking for a late-night energy boost, you'd do well to haul your ass to any of their outlets. Open 24/7. Recovery Food has branches at UP Town Center, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City; Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City; BGC Stopover Pavilion, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; Newport City, Pasay City; Molito Commercial Complex, Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
The pancakes at Kanto Freestyle Breakfast
This is a story of the little karinderya that could. Kanto Freestyle Breakfast used to be a cherished secret among students from UA&P and folks who live nearby. Styled like a sari-sari store complete with foldaway windows and a resident mingming, it served the most unexpectedly picture-perfect breakfast meals: delicately drizzled strawberry syrup over pancakes, a gorgeous swipe of chocolate sauce beside toast, perfectly cooked tapa. With branches all over the Metro, it upgraded its former street-side charm, but the food is still pretty top-notched. Open 24/7. View a list of Kanto Freestyle Breakfast.
The bingsu at Mr. Park's
Targeted to the most specific of cravings is this Korean bakery that fills you up with bread and pastries round-the-clock. This underrated nook comes complete with caffeine (you know the night is still young), desserts (who doesn't love bingsu?) and specialty bakes. Open 24/7. Mr. Park's has branches at 200 Aguirre Avenue, Parañaque City; Doña Soledad Avenue, Better Living Subdivision, Don Bosco, Parañaque City.
The sashimi at Nihonbashi Tei
If you've been to Japan, then you know that the tired working folk make it a habit to enjoy a little izakaya before hitting the hay. Nothing compares to some late-night, pre-bedtime Japanese. Nihonbashi Tei is an excellent and budget-friendly way to cap the evening. The menu is a catalogue of Japanese favorites—sashimi, sushi, bento, ramen, and more. Sweet dreams. Open till late. View a list of Nihonbashi Tei branches.
The Grand Slamwich at Denny's
International pancake chain Denny's opened at 6 a.m. today, October 7, and won't close its doors, apparently forever. The 24/7 diner is the ultimate spot for buckling down and loading up. The Grand Slamwich is the great equalizer for all of life's dire situations. This combination of scrambled eggs, crumbled sausage, bacon, shaved ham, American cheese, and potato bread is tops as an early-morning energizer, an effective hangover, or even just a midday snack when life gets too dreary. Denny's is at Uptown Parade, 36th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City (read about our Denny's favorites).
This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Esquire Philippines. Updates have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.