Puerto Princesa, the capital of the Palawan Island is known for being a pitstop to the tourist hotspots of El Nido and Coron up north. But should you find yourself on a short stopover in this city, don’t waste your meals in your hotel restaurant, explore the city and its culinary scene. Though the number of restaurants here are not nearly as large as that of Manila, there are a few humble, unpretentious places to eat that locals love and return to for good reason.
Prepare to leave your shoes at the door, get comfy on floor cushions and dine on the freshest seafood and veggies at this long-time Puerto Princesa favorite. A few decades and several expansions later, KaLui remains the locals’ restaurant of choice when friends and family are in town for a visit. The quality of their delicious seafood and vegetable dishes (meat won’t be found on the menu) has never deteriorated, and its native-artistic ambience has developed along with the floorspace. The daily special is always a good choice, and they have among the best fruit shakes in town. Call in advance to make a (usually needed) reservation.
Another homegrown classic, frequented by locals for nearly two decades now, is Haim Chicken. Though the Filipino dishes filling out their extensive menu are tasty themselves, the true headliner that’s kept this establishment alive and thriving is their famous grilled Haim Chicken. A secret family recipe, the juicy, flavorful grilled chicken has made the restaurant a Palawan staple locals and visitors never tire of returning to.
Though there may not be a dizzying number of restaurant choices in Puerto Princesa, the best ones do stick around. Just like Kalui, Kinabuch’s has gone through several expansions in the long time it’s been in the business to accommodate its ever-growing clientele. This place specializes in Filipino food and they do it well. They’ve consistently served delicious plates through the years (among local favorites are Kanin ni 04 and salpicao) and they even serve Palawan’s most interesting delicacies to allow adventurous tourists a try: tamilok (woodworm) and crocodile sisig.
After the Fall of Saigon in the late 1900s, many Vietnamese fled the country in pursuit of peace and freedom. Thousands of refugees ended up in the Philippines, many of whom rebuilt their lives in Puerto Princesa. With the help of the local government and the Center for Assistance to Displaced Persons (CADP) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the refugees built Viet Ville, an entire community, from the ground up. From over a thousand settlers, very few now remain, but the church, temple, and community restaurant stay standing. At the restaurant, authentic Vietnamese food can still be enjoyed. And while Vietnamese Pho (locally referred to as “chao long“) has become an established local favorite leading to the emergence of many chao long restaurants all over the city, Viet Ville serves among the best. Must-tries here are their french bread, beef stew noodle soup, pork BBQ, and spring rolls.
La Terrasse proudly stands by using only quality ingredients for their French-Asian fusion dishes. And despite their long list of offerings, diners can be sure they’ll be eating well, whatever their order. Drop by La Terrasse for fresh takes on traditional dishes and ingenious ways of applying ingredients. The place is spacious and airy, and service is top-notch. Tip: try their crispy duck rolls to start and finish nicely with their Palawan honey nougat.
A little over an hour’s drive from the city center is Daluyon Resort’s Pawikan Restaurant on the beach of Sabang. This area is often visited for the Puerto Princesa Underground River just a boat ride away, but foodies will also enjoy a side trip to this fantastic little restaurant. Though pricier than most others in town, the restaurant offers hearty servings of Filipino classics with a twist. There also is a good number of international cuisine dishes for tourists whose palate’s have had ample Filipino food.
For a laid-back outdoor dinner of fresh seafood and savory grilled skewers, drop by K’na Boyet at the city Baywalk. Here, diners get to personally select what they want on their plates. They choose from the fresh array of seafood and meats laid out before them, which are cooked immediately, and served at their outdoor dining area. Add a scrumptious order of their sizzling crocodile sisig to your tab, a bucket of ice cold beer, and take in the city the best way possible: outdoors by the sea, cold drink in hand, eating great fresh food.