Often referred to as “the McDonald’s of the Philippines”, this fast food giant has over 1000 branches all over the country, and hundreds more overseas. Through its four decades in the business, Jollibee has managed to create a place of comfort for Filipinos, so its food has become closely associated with milestones and good times with family and friends. This is also why the company is rapidly expanding in countries abroad where many Filipinos work and live — because it is able to give Filipinos the familiarity of home they so miss.
Though often mistaken for a foreign chain, Yellow Cab actually started in the bustling city of Makati, Metro Manila early in 2001. 17 years later, their New-York-style pizzas have never waned in quality, and there are now over 100 branches nationwide. Get a box of their best-selling Original Dear Darla Pizza on your next movie night in — who knew rolled thin crust pizza dipped in chilli oil could be this good?
Another comfort-food go-to is nostalgic Pancake House. Around for nearly half a century now, this restaurant holds a lot of good memories for Filipinos, with its bright interiors and fluffy, whipped butter-topped pancakes. For a full meal of their most popular menu items, order the House Specials Set, which includes their famous spaghetti, pan chicken, and hard-shell taco.
A popular quick meal fix in the Philippines is roasted chicken. Stalls and kiosks of rotisseries are a common sight in malls and even roadside. Locals will buy a roast, take it home (where there is always cooked white rice, ready to go with any meat), and they’ve got an easy meal for the family. While Baliwag is especially known for their lechon manok (roasted chicken), other favorites are their liempo (grilled pork belly), crispy pata (deep-fried pig trotter), and pork BBQ (grilled pork skewers).
Nathaniel’s is both a snack stop and a popular take-out joint for anyone attending a potluck get-together. Customers are known to order boxes of siopao and siomai (the two products that pioneered the business) at a time, but its their luscious buko pandan salad that became their claim to fame. Cold and creamy, this refreshing dessert is always a hit at Filipino parties.
Considering the country’s long trade history with China (the Philippines’ Chinatown in Binondo is actually the oldest in the world), it is no surprise Filipinos have taken a liking to Chinese food and flavors. Another massive fast food joint in the country is Chowking. They serve Chinese dishes like dimsum, fried rice, and noodle soup – albeit with a Filipino taste – but they also make a tasty halo-halo, which is one of their most favored menu items among locals.
Chicken inasal, an especially tasty and juicy grilled chicken, is another well-loved local dish. Mang Inasal took this and Filipinos’ absurd love for rice, gave the public what it didn’t realize it wanted, and became an instant hit. Aside from perfecting the inasal taste, this food chain began a gimmick that was impossible for locals to resist— unlimited rice. Thus began the brand’s inevitable road to success.
One of the most successful local bakeshops in the country, Red Ribbon has grown tremendously since its beginnings in 1979. Now with over 400 branches in the Philppines and the US, Red Ribbon and its fluffy and moist cakes are growing increasingly accessible to more and more Filipinos. Must-tries include their Black Forest cake, Choco Mocha crunch cake, and melt-in-your-mouth varieties of mamon.
Another sweet-tooth treat, Goldilocks has been delighting Filipinos both in the country and abroad for over 50 years. Filipinos who have migrated abroad will almost always put in a pasalubong request to visiting family members to bring over some of their classic polvoron or fluffy mamon — a request to which Filipinos will gladly oblige because they know nothing quite measures up to Goldilocks.
Zark’s Burgers began with a man’s mission to bring affordable, quality hamburgers to Filipinos. And this he did, starting with a small hole-in-the-wall in 2009. Zark’s burgers hit all the marks in taste, portion size, and price, and it quickly expanded. Its resistance to any pretence and focus on improving its products and growing its menu is one of the main reasons locals continue to love the chain.