Whether you discovered it on a trip to Asia or in a local café or restaurant, we can all agree that Filipino food is delicious. Luckily, Chicago is home to many great places owned and run by first and second generation Filipinos eager to share the exciting flavors of their cuisine. Here are 10 of the best.
In the heart of River North, Sunda is a hip restaurant with a cross-cultural Asian menu, blending cooking techniques and flavors from all over the continent, including the Philippines. The vast and wide-ranging menu has dim sum, Asian grill items, poke bowls and signature sushi, and the atmosphere buzzes with many large groups and an after-work crowd. They also have happy hour deals and a carry-out menu.
Open from 5 am to 3 pm on weekdays and from 6 am on the weekend, Uncle Mike’s Place is the best spot in the city to grab some Filipino breakfast. Alongside standards including pancakes, omelettes, and breakfast sandwiches, there are Filipino specialties such as marinated skirt steak, anise wine-cured pork shoulder or chorizo, and pork chops, all of which will please meat fans. Service is fast and friendly, and portions are generous.
The Jeepney buffet at Little Quiapo Restaurant | Courtesy of Little Quiapo Restaurant
Little Quiapo Restaurant in North Park, a fixture in the neighborhood since 1979, promises newcomers a taste of the Philippines and Filipinos a reminder of home with its authentic Filipino cuisine buffet. From Tuesday to Sunday, the lunch and dinner buffet—served on a Jeepney, a popular form of public transportation in the Philippines—offers a chance to try almost everything on the menu.
Lincoln Square’s Isla Pilipina Restaurant is well liked due to its cool atmosphere, friendly staff, and traditional menu of Filipino favorites. The extensive menu features deep-fried pork knuckle, whole red snapper in sweet and sour sauce, green mongo beans, and Filipino chicken and rice porridge, and you can catch some Filipino cable TV while you eat. It’s recommended that you make a reservation, and don’t forget it’s BYOB.
Bacolod Chicken Haus’s specialty is Inasal, a grilled marinated chicken dish originally from the Philippine city of Bacolod. There are plenty of other Filipino delights on the menu though, including Batchoy, a famous noodle soup, and Kare-Kare, beef oxtail cooked in peanut sauce. Its other specialty is Boodle Boodle Dining, or a “Boodle Fight,” when a large group is given a table full of food and encouraged to fight for their share.
A new and improved Smalls smoke shack opened earlier this year in Albany Park, continuing to offer its famous Filipino-influenced barbecue but with more traditional Filipino items featuring smoked meats as well. Joaquin Soler, the owner and a native of the Philippines, has said that the new menu will rotate with different dishes available depending on the day, but staples will include smoked brisket, pulled pork, glazed ribs, and smoky tofu.
Authentic and family owned, Lola Tining’s Cuisine has a typical Filipino restaurant atmosphere and offers generous portions of fresh and delicious food. The staff at the cafeteria-style counter are known for their excellent service, taking the time to explain the dishes on the menu and help you find something to try. It sits in Oak Park about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of the city and is definitely worth the drive.
In a simple, unassuming café out in Jefferson Park, you can find some of the best traditional Filipino food in the city. Kawayan’s opening hours of 10 am to 9 pm means there are breakfast, lunch and dinner options, including sauteed bitter melon, marinated milkfish, shrimp paste-sauteed squash, as well as soups, rice, and noodles. What it lacks in décor, it certainly makes up for in service, flavor, and authenticity.
Stopping by the Three R’s Filipino Grocery and Cafe means you can grab a meal from the café and buy some hard-to-find Filipino products to make your own at home in one handy location. It’s been in the Horner Park neighborhood for over 40 years, but it’s still a hidden gem, popular with lunch crowds looking for adobo pork, empanadas, and pancit noodles.
Jollibee is a Filipino chain of fast-food restaurants with 34 locations across the U.S. After a long history in Asia, the first location in the U.S. opened in Daly City, California in 1998, and it has continued to grow, offering fast food with Filipino flavors. Fried chicken, spaghetti, burgers, and noodles are all on the menu with Eastern twists, setting them apart from other chains.