Despite Palawan being a major tourist hotspot, its capital city, Puerto Princesa, has only recently undergone major waves of commercial development and expansion. In many ways, especially to the locals, it still very much possesses a homey, ‘small town’ feel. You won’t find a Starbucks in every neighbourhood (or in any, for that matter), but instead there are a few well-loved cafes frequented by locals for different reasons. Here’s a guide to knowing the Puerto Princesa cafe scene.
Pancakes breakfast plate | Courtesy of Eightynine Cafe
Along one of the main stretches of the city centre sits a quaint cafe perfect for some downtime. Eightynine Cafe, though one of the newer spots in the city, is already frequented by locals for its relaxing ambience and interesting drinks. They have things like glittery coolers, latte art, and ‘rain coffee’ (cotton candy suspended over and melting into a hot cup of Irish coffee). The food items on their menu are also hearty and appetising should anyone drop by for a meal. Their operating hours are long so it’s the perfect nook for an early breakfast or post-dinner night cap.
Cafe Olé during the holidays | Courtesy of Cafe Olé Bakeshop and Coffee Shop
Within downtown Puerto Princesa, along the busy one-way street of Valencia, nestles the hideaway that is Cafe Olé. Contrasting its bustling neighbourhood, this coffee shop’s interiors are calm and inviting. Many locals come in for their breads – it’s one of the few places in the city that bakes an extensive range of quality breads – or simply some quiet time with the daily paper to go with their cup of coffee and croissant. It’s a top choice for breads and desserts but their menu, though short, also boasts some tempting dishes.
On the quiet end of Manalo extension, an unpretentious little cafe serves the unlikely yet authentic French pastries and desserts. Puerto Princesa, though a city, is still quite rural in many ways. So entering a shop with a display of Paris-Brest, Opera cake, and praline mousse can come as a pleasant surprise. Drop by for treats that bring the taste of France to this small part of Southeast Asia.
Having been around for over a decade now, Itoy’s is a Puerto classic. It was the city’s first Starbucks-esque coffee shop where high schoolers would come by and spend too much of their allowance on a sweet, whipped-cream-garnished ‘frappe’. They serve good coffee and house many tables, indoors and outdoors, to accommodate a lot of customers. But what locals really keep coming back for is their sizzling bulalo. Despite their extensive menu, Palaweños normally go straight for the sizzling plate of creamy beef shanks and vegetables, which they do exquisitely well. It’s not exactly the type of meal you expect served at a cafe, but it will definitely have you coming back.
The Gypsy's Lair Art Cafe Facade | Courtesy of The Gypsy's Lair Art Cafe
When it comes to ambience and design, The Gypsy’s Lair takes the cake. Attentively styled to resemble a gypsy caravan, this cafe-restaurant transports you to a different realm. Enjoy a delicious brunch amidst cozy interiors and quirky art, or even stop by at night for some outdoor cocktails and live music, when they invite some of the best local musicians. A standout in the city’s cafe scene for its alluring eccentricity, The Gypsy’s Lair is a must-visit on your trip to Puerto Princesa.
Eggs Benedict and coffee | Courtesy of Sweetcorner Cafe
Right on a corner of one of the busiest intersections in the city, which one might say is the heart of Puerto Princesa, is Sweetcorner Cafe. Though a young establishment, Sweetcorner has already won over many locals and even visiting travellers – not only for its convenient location, but also for its bright and welcoming atmosphere. Come with a bit of an appetite and indulge in a plate of their much raved-about eggs Benedict. For a lighter bite to go with your cup of joe, their freshly baked croissants and bagels are popular choices, too.
With three branches already set up in the city, Heavenly Desserts is an obvious popular pick. Upon entering either of its two shops or its smaller mall kiosk, it’s not very difficult to see why. Its subdued pastel walls and dainty decor give off a whimsical charm and incite a childish urge to have tea time with friends. But more than just eye candy, Heavenly Desserts delivers in their moist cakes and cupcakes that are big hits among the locals. Aside from sweets, this cafe also gives a plethora of options for the hungry diner. Its range of entrées covers everything from Asian plates and Filipino favourites to burgers, hotdogs, and tacos.