Homecoming is one of the best things about the holidays. Thousands of Filipinos from all over the world save up for an entire year just to be able to spend Christmas in the Philippines. For most OFWs and their families, this is their way of “recharging” before another year of being away from their loved ones.

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Of course, what is homecoming without having their Pinoy food fill? Here are some of the best and the newest restaurants in Manila (and two from nearby provinces) that serve amazing Filipino cuisine for a taste of home-cooked nostalgia.

Manam Comfort Filipino


Mesa Filipino Moderne


After a decade of operations, Mesa Filipino Moderne now has 40 stores (as of February 2019) and for good reason. Their affordable food is not only delicious, it’s authentic and imaginative at the same time. The familiar flavors of Filipino cuisine come alive with their best-selling Crispchon, but make room on your table for their Inihaw Sampler (grilled chicken, squid, liempo, pork bbq, bangus belly, mussels, and shrimp), Swahe on the Rocks (river shrimp or ulang cooked tableside on top of hot rocks), Crispy Boneless Tilapia (with their four house-made sauces), delicious and fuss-free Crispy Boneless Pata, and Laing Two-Ways (their signature wet and dry take on Laing). Multiple locations. (Photo: Mesa Filipino Moderne/Facebook)

Milky Way Cafe


There’s a reason why this ice cream parlor-turned-restaurant has stood the test of time: The food is just so darn good. Milky Way on Arnaiz Avenue even has function rooms where families and groups can share a meal in privacy. If you’re going to dine at one of the oldest restaurants in Manila, make sure you try their award-winning Kare-Kare (lauded for its intoxicatingly rich sauce), Crispy Hito with Atchara, Baby Crispy Pata, and Pancit Palabok (or Luglug). For dessert, it’s a no-brainer: the signature Halo-Halo and/or homemade ice creams. 9900 Milky Way Building, Pasay Road, Makati. +632 88434124 (photo: Milky Way/Facebook)

Sentro 1771

44 Known for their bold take on Filipino food, Sentro 1771 is one of the first “modern Filipino restaurants” in the metropolis. Their signature dishes Sinigang na Corned Beef, Rated GG (Galunggong ?llets fried in garlic oil and topped with browned garlic.), and Fried Kesong Puti made them famous, but give their other signature dishes a try. Some of the best are Beef Ribs Binagoongan (beef short ribs and beef shoulder stewed with garlicky bagoong), Sugar-free Humba (traditional humba that uses coco sap as sweetener), Keso Plan (a no-crust cheesecake served with queso de bola and salted egg), and Coffee Pie (chocolate-cashew crust with coffee ?llings topped with cream cheese and toffee sauce). Their breakfast selections are also excellent. Multiple locations. (Photo: Sentro 1771/Facebook)

Talisay Garden Cafe


Bench Cafe
One of the posters at their flagship store in BGC reads “old ways won’t open new doors” and Bench Cafe is well on its way to blazing a new trail of Filipino food. Their selections are not necessarily authentic but the essence of Filipino food — the comfort, the flavors, the warmth — is definitely there. You will understand once you try their Tinapa Cones (tinapa mousse in lumpia cones topped with pico de gallo), Binagoongan Caesar with Dilis, Tortang Talong, Sinigang sa Santol, Adobong Baka, Sisig Pancit, and Crispy Pata. Their desserts are also exceptional! Order a cup of their Halo-Halo and a slice of Salted Egg Cheesecake made from Laguna. Pro-Tip: Their Instagrammable stores make it ideal for endless picture taking with the family. Make sure to check out their set meals called “Bench/to”, a play on the Japanese bento meals. Multiple locations. (Photo: Bench Cafe)
Owned by three Ilocanos, this Quezon City spot has earned its rightful reputation as one of the best. if not THE best, Ilocano restaurant in Metro Manila. It’s homey and warm, making it the perfect spot for family gatherings. Just make sure you make reservations because they’re almost always fully booked. Every diner at Victorino’s must try their signature Ilocano classics like Lomo-Lomo (beef broth soup with egg), Authentic Bagnet with KBL (Kamatis, Bagoong, and Lasona or small red onions), Kinirog (Ilocano-style fried rice with longganisa and crispy salted fish), and Sinigang nga Bangus ti Bayabas. Their desserts are made by Filipino culinary icon Heny Sison, so you better make room for a slice or two of Mango Chocolate Tort and Cashew Sansrival. 114 Scout Rallos Corner 11th Jamboree Street, Sacred Heart, Quezon City. +632 834147465. (Photo courtesy of Heny Sison Culinary School)
Lampara Neo-Filipino Bistro
Their name should tell you: Lampara serves its own new take on Filipino cuisine. You definitely won’t find your mom or grandma’s style of cooking here, but the familiar flavors of home are present. Their restaurant, though located in the trendy district of Poblacion, is still warm and homey and good for families (especially families of adventurous foodies). Must-tries include the Tanigue (a hefty slab of tanigue with the flavors of bistek in various forms), Dinuckduckan (chopped duck cooked sisig-style on a bed of egg floss), Short Ribs (reminiscent of garlicky salpicao), and Melon Milk for dessert that will remind you of creamy melon juice from the summers of your childhood. 5883 Enriquez St, Poblacion, Makati City. Mon-Sat 6pm-2am. +63917 1735883. (Photo: Ching Dee/GMA News)
Hapag MNL
Hapag started as a private dining kitchen but has bloomed into a full-service restaurant. Hapag MNL is a place that challenges one’s concept of Filipino food because while Hapag’s dishes look nothing familiar, their flavors will bring back memories. Must-tries at this newly minted spot in Katipunan include Oyster Bonete (homemade bread stuffed with fried kangkong, torched oysters, adobo aioli, and mulberry reduction), Kare-Kare ni Lola V (a deconstructed version of traditional kare-kare served with peanut sauce, fried vegetables, smoked eggplant puree, and their homemade bagoong-oxtail flakes combo), and Apahap Mayonesa (local sea bass, malunggay and calamansi mayonesa on a bed or squid ink rice). 201 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.+63947 5601853. (Photo: Hapag/Facebook)
Cafe Fleur
Celebrity chef and author Sau del Rosario’s passion for Kapampangan cuisine has given birth to two restaurant concepts in Dycaico Ancestral House in Angeles, Pampanga. Cafe Fleur offers avant-garde Kapampangan cuisine fused with Western and Asian influences, but if you’re feeling Filipino classics made with fresh produce from the backyard farm, check out while 25 Seeds, which is just a floor away. Both places feature Chef Sau’s signature creations are must-tries: Crispy Shrimp Okoy, pictured here, Tinapa Truffle Mousse, Creamy Rellenong Bangus, Bulanglang (Guava-soured sinigang), Salted Egg Fried Chicken, Sisig Paella, and Macadamia Kare-Kare with Crispy Pork Belly. 2F Dycaico Ancestral House, Barangay Sto. Rosario, Angeles City. +63905 2577149. (Photo: Ching Dee/GMA News)
Veranda at Taal Vista Hotel
A short drive from Manila is Tagaytay City, a favorite showcase destination among locals for their balikbayans and visiting friends. Taal Vista Hotel’s buffet hall Veranda is one of the best and most affordable, too! Veranda is perfect for family reunions because it’s spacious, it’s got lots of options, and the service is excellent. Besides, who wouldn’t want to dine with a gorgeous view of Taal Lake? Aside from their numerous selections of classic Filipino dishes (whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner), weekends at Veranda are extra special because of the special cultural presentation by the Bughaw Dance Troupe featuring the regional dances of the Philippines. (Photo: Taal Vista Hotel/Facebook)