Pre-pandemic, I was always curious about the best places to eat in the metro. When I’d see a friend or influencer’s foodstagram post, I get a serious case of the #FOMO. Of course, all that changed when the pandemic hit and my culinary curiosity migrated to online. I’d order in from all these online food ventures and then promote them with my own shoddily executed flat-lay in lieu of our “Support Local” esprit de corps. Now that I’m based in Pangasinan, I’m fortunate enough to sample some of our best new culinary finds this side of the region, or at least reignited my love for some of them. Without further ado, I present to you the 4th District of Pangasinan’s top 15 culinary eats of 2021.
1. Vampiro Birrias
Nestled in the urban conclave of Barangay Buenlag, Mangaldan is the newly opened Bwag ala Malastog which in Filipino means “lamon ng mayabang” or eating with pride. I got to sample all their thoughtfully calibrated Mexican offerings but the dish that really tickled my imagination was their Vampiro Birrias, a fusion between a taco and a quesadilla. Mouth-watering! Cool and hip interiors, too!
Facebook: Bwag Ala Malastog; Instagram: @bwagalamalastog
2. Dirty Horchata
The spot is an artist enclave along Tondaligan Beach, Dagupan that gained creative traction after the recent opening of the Tondaligan Boardwalk. It curates hip and flavor-forward pop-ups that really zero in on the collab culture that permeates most artist communities. One of my favorite pop-ups which has since become a regular is 2400 Cold Brew where I usually order their Dirty Horchata. Just the right amount of sweetness and earthiness!
Facebook: 2400 Cold Brew; Instagram: @2400ColdBrew
3. Fried Pesto Pasta Rolls
I had no expectations when I drove over to the newly opened La Simp’s Cuisine and Pizzeria in Barangay Malued, Dagupan. But walking up to the two-storey barangay eatery bedecked in local artist Joel Pangan’s colorful and creative murals, I got to try the best and out-of-the-box Fried Pesto Pasta Rolls that juxtaposes a crunchy exterior with a gooey interior. It’s the perfect afternoon snack!
Facebook: La Simp’s Cuisine & Pizzeria
4. Melon Soft Serve on Wafer Cone
What’s a Scooby Doo Mystery Van-like contraption doing parked near the Tondaligan Boardwalk? Well, Stay Stoked is a new community fave that serves a rotating roster of soft-serve ice cream flavors. My favorite is the melon which is really just the perfect foil for a hot summer day!
Facebook: Stay Stoked
5. Carnivore Pizza
Attend the tale of three former food hubs that rose and fell immediately in the city of Dagupan. Cut to its sole survivor, Olivia’s Pizzeria, a stall I laid eyes on way back when for their uncanny branding, packaging, but most importantly, their food. Now it’s a two-storey establishment in Barangay Pantal that serves the best Italian cuisine in the city, and with al fresco dining to boot. Sink your teeth on their protein-powered Carnivore Pizza! Muy delicioso!
Facebook: Olivia’s Pizzeria; Instagram: @oliviaspizzeria
6. Caramel Macchiato
Situated in the upland barangay of Lipit Tomeeng is the beautiful and picturesque Highlands Café in the Sky. It rose shortly after the creation of the Buensalido Architects-designed Biker’s Den. The latter is a hop and skip away from the cafe where hundreds of bikers flock to every weekend. Experience the view while sipping on their delicious Caramel Macchiato. Breakfast staples abound!
Facebook: Highlands Café in the Sky; Instagram: @highlandscafeinthesky
7. Taro Milk Tea
A 20-minute boat ride from Poblacion Oeste along Pantal River shall lead you to the island barangay of Pugaro where the recently opened and increasingly viral Bueracay Beach Café is located. It’s adjacent to Pugaro’s virgin beach but the tourism pedigree of its proprietors has eruditely found its way into the place’s rustic sensibilities. Have a burger but definitely have their refreshing taro milk tea!
Facebook: Bueracay Beach Café; Instagram: @bueracaybeachcafe
8. Chicken Inasal
Tucked away in the coastal barangay of Nibaliw Magliba is the rather cozy yet scenic Inasal ni Manang Shelly. Best known for their own version of chicken inasal as envisioned by its chef and proprietor, it’s a nice escape if you’re looking to get away from life’s hustle and bustle.
Facebook: Inasal ni Manang Shelly
9. Crispy Pata
Crispy Pata Dagupan City is known for many a culinary establishment. After all, it’s becoming increasingly known as the Kitchen of the North. But one of its crown jewels is the breathtaking Ciudad Elmina in Barangay Bacayao Norte which serves a mouthwatering array of Filipino favorites, including their oh-so-delicious crispy pata. Enjoy the live music and do some fishing while you’re at it!
Facebook: Ciudad Elmina Restaurant
10. San Fabian’s Best Tupig
While biking along the San Fabian Highway leading up to the Biker’s Den in Inmalog Sur, be sure to drop by the rustic stalls in Barangay Tiblong to sample San Fabian’s Best Tupig, a delicious and sticky Filipino rice cake with a smoky flavor, originating from Northwestern Luzon. New variants are now available, including ube and bucayo!
11. Sea Salt Burger
Just a stone’s throw away from The Spot along the Tondaligan Boardwalk is Sea Salt Café, a charming restaurant with beautiful interiors and even more delicious contemporary cuisine. Their famous Sea Salt Burger is a local favorite though I always get the Red Velvet Milk Tea!
Facebook: Sea Salt Café; Instagram: @seasalt.dagupan
12. Malunggay Ice Cream
Yup, you heard that right! A best-kept secret of Barangay Baritao in the pilgrimage town of Manaoag, Reydel Ice Cream is known for its quirky yet delicious ice cream offerings and has been delighting Manaoageños for decades. My favorite is the malunggay ice cream, a sweet and creamy concoction but also worth trying are their ampalaya and gabi flavors!
Facebook: Reydel Ice Cream
13. Kare-Kareng Bagnet
A staple when making the three-hour pilgrimage from Manila to visit Our Lady of Manaoag, be sure to whet your appetite at the verdant Hardin sa Paraiso. They serve straightforward yet memorable Filipino dishes but be sure to try their kare-kareng bagnet with a dollop of bagoong.
Facebook: Hardin sa Paraiso Grill & Restaurant; Instagram: @hardin.sa.paraiso
14. Campfire S’mores
Gooey and with just the right amount of sweetness, the campfire s’mores of Doughry Bakery Dagupan is a must-eat when staying at the famed Sierra Vista Resort in San Fabian, or when dropping by the newly opened coffee shop Kopi in Barangay Cayanga along the highway. Experience its perfect pairing with the caramel kopi and you’ll have the most Instagrammable and delicious afternoon delight.
Facebook: Doughry Bakery Dagupan; Instagram: @doughrybakery
15. Pancit Guisado
Conveniently located along the main road in Barangay Capaoay in the agritourism town of San Jacinto is Ralph and Roy Restobar and Grill. The place is very rustic and homey but its true star is the muy delicioso pancit guisado. Get ready to have three or four servings of this baby.
Facebook: Ralph and Roy Restobar and Grill