The sandwiches taking over Manila

IMAGE Sam Lim and Gabby Cantero

We shine the spotlight on four kitchens that take pride in making uncommon sandwiches. We promise you’ll be dreaming about these buns in your sleep.


Fowl Bread: Finally, a fiery chicken sandwich that hits all the right spots

This is what you get at Fowl Bread: two butter-infused buns, a steamy slab of chicken breast, Russian dressing, topped with fresh radish, pickles, and crispy chicken skin (spicy, if you prefer). That last layer of fried chicken skin aptly called the “chicken cracker” is the ingenious move that makes Fowl Bread’s sandwich crow louder than the rest.

What used to be a retail store on Bonifacio High Street has been transformed into an open kitchen, where they serve a very small menu of garlic egg noodles, potstickers, and the chicken sandwich. But what it lacks in options, Fowl Bread perfects in its flavors: greasy, tasty, hot and spunky—bursting with umami flavor but maintaining its simplicity (it is after all just a really delicious chicken sandwich). The layer of brittle chicken skin is the one that leaves a lasting impression, and makes the sandwich come to life with a little bit of naughtiness. Suddenly it’s sinful, something you want to reward yourself with after a long hard day; something you deserve. You have the option of pairing it with their garlic or salted fries (we recommend the garlic), and easily this meal will make your day.


Don’t be shy to try everything on their menu, too. The garlic egg noodles are light and simply dressed, but packed with lots of flavor. They’re perfect with the side order of potstickers.

But to complete your experience at Fowl Bread, everything should be washed down with their delicious homemade slushies. The strawberry hibiscus is floral and spicy, with an overpowering but surprising taste of fresh ginger. This is exactly the kind of drink you need to balance a meal as buttery as their food. Opt for the pineapple Yakult slushie instead if you’re feeling frisky— it’s creamy, and spiked with rum and orange liqueur. 

What we love about Fowl Bread is that everything is locally sourced—from its concept, to the recipes, to its eclectic pop design, and even the beer. Here is one of those places that you can proudly call your our own, with sandwiches you keep coming back to again and again.

Fowl Bread is at Building 3, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; tel. no. (02) 799-2571; [email protected] 

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Bao Manila: We’ve fallen in love with the modern take on these traditional Chinese buns

The underrated, open-faced brother of the siopao is the cuapao, filled with pork and veggies and sweet sauce. Unfortunately, this sandwich hasn’t yet gained the popularity of the siopao, which is available in most convenience stores in the Philippines. But when you find someone who can make an excellent one—you kind of keep them close to your heart. 

For Sherry Yap, founder of Bao MNL, working with this sandwich wasn’t exactly top of mind. “I actually don’t enjoy eating the traditional cuapao because I feel like it doesn’t have any texture, and it all tastes the same.” But when she was looking for a creative outlet for her cooking, she wasn’t looking for something easy. “That’s where the baos of Bao MNL take their cue from. I decided to focus on texture, diversity, freshness, flavor, as well as its adaptability to the modern society.”

Her baos answer all of your cuapao dreams. Each comes to life reinvented with its own personality. Like the Ebi + Kani Bao, for example—stuffed with a tempura shrimp and kani, topped with a bed of cabbage slaw in mango dressing, nori, corn, and slathered with wasabi mayo. Tempura in a sandwich? Brilliant. And that wasabi mayo is ridiculously delicious. Then there’s Sherry’s take on the traditional pork bun, the Bao’s On Crack—made with an oven-roasted pork belly cooked for two hours at various temperatures, producing an incredibly tender, flavorful meat with a crunchy skin. This is served with an Asian barbecue sauce and Sriracha mayo. 


It doesn’t stop with the savory too. Sherry offers as well a dessert bao: Kit Kat Green Tea gelato scooped onto two deep-fried mantou buns with a special black sesame glaze. It’s a literal ice cream sandwich best devoured on a balmy day.

With Bao MNL, different and exciting are the key to its flavors, and you appreciate that so much thought and detail has gone into making a sandwich. These cuapaos are so good, that sadness starts to fill you when you realize you’re nearing your last bite. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a keeper.

Contact [email protected] for orders.

Alley: This secret sandwich place fulfills high ambitions to great results.

There are more than sandwiches at Alley. There's breakfast, there's pasta, there's rice, there's a stunning matcha-flavored financier that will make even the most averse to sweets weak in the knees. But it's the sandwiches that reveal the solid dedication of this little bistro. Conceptualized by 20-somethings Butz Tenchavez and Chef Thirdy Dolatre, their everything-from-scratch approach signals the ambitions of free-thinking and determined entrepreneurs.

An alley in the sense that it's intimate, almost hidden and evasive, this restaurant tries to replicate the feeling of the outdoors with bistro lights, wall art, and an overall cheery vibe. Plain white loaves are shunned here and Chef Thirdy makes sure that every sandwich is given the right stage to shine: brioche for the chicken sandwich, potato buns for the Caprese, pan de mie for the bacon and eggs, molasses bread for the Reuben. This level of customization allows them to come up with the perfect flavor formula. What's even more impressive is the size of Alley's kitchen and oven.

The resourcefulness in how they prepare everything shows in their flavors. Alley's sandwiches aren't particularly overwhelming in terms of size (only the corned beef bursts at the seams), but in no way does it lack in impact. Especially when you end it with one of their smashing desserts.

Alley is at The Grove by Rockwell, 117 E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, Ugong, Pasig City; tel. no. (02) 532-3928.



Pepi Cubano: The world's It sandwich is hardly overrated.

Susan Dalmacion has been toting Cubanos in a little sidewalk shop on Dian Street long before Hollywood turned cheesy flat sandwiches into a gastronomic star–since 2006. She fell in love with the sandwich in the States and decided to recreate it when she returned to Manila. Business began as a weekly habit in Salcedo Market until she eventually made pick-up and delivery services available. In 2015, her son, Toti, and his wife opened an actual brick-and-mortar shop in a much more accesible side of Makati, making fresh-off-the-plancha Cubanos available to a wider market. 

An impressive demonstration of balance, the Cuban bread is stuffed with slow-roasted pork loin, pickles, ham, and mustard. Rica and Toti kept Susan's original recipe: eac bite is at once savory, salty, sharp, tart. The abridged version, the Media Noche (a combination of ham, pickles, and mustard), is just as satisfying. Local flavors fine their way between the buns, too. There's is the Pan de Lechon, where the succulent promises of the revered roast pork are brought to life by a lather of tangy mojo. A take on a beachside favorite, the Tito Choripan is extra herby thanks to the addition of chimichurri. That the sandwiches are pressed crispy before they're served only helps amplify the carefully developed contributions of the fillings.

Pro tip? Pepi Cubano can be ordered from neighboring bar, The Bon Bon Club, as well as tapas favorite Bar Pintxos. 

Pepi Cubano is at Unit 17, G/F Tropical Palms Condominium, Gallardo Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City; tel. no. (02) 880-0389.


An overloaded sandwich goes best with an ice-cold fizzy drink. Here are our recommendations.


TBGB Turon Ginger Beer

Who knew we could dream up such a thing? This version is sweetened with banana and langka. An odd combination that tastes oh-so-good.


Maeloc Apple Cider 

Why isn’t cider a thing yet in Manila? With 5% alcohol content, this crisp apple cider is a good replacement for beer.


Stanford & Shaw Ginger Ale 

As opposed to ginger beer, ginger ales are infused sodas, making them lighter and
subtler in spice, but still very refreshing. This local brand is a favorite.


Coo Aviation 

A part of EDSA BDG’s craft soda line, the COO Aviation is not overwhelmingly saccharine, with an interesting floral note from violet blossoms.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the editors. 

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Kara Ortiga
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Sasha Lim Uy
Sasha eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She also recently participated at the Madrid Fusion Manila as curator.
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