All is not lost in paradise

Some of the best restaurants of Boracay have reopened

From the people we care about, to our freedom to travel and gather, to our beloved haunts, the pandemic has taken away so much from us. Ironically, as the vaccines for the deadly disease have started to roll out in the Philippines, COVID-19 cases are spiking nationwide.

Almost 100,000 restaurants, especially the micro small and medium enterprises (MSME)s, have shut down permanently or long-term across the Philippines, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The economic chaos persists.

A GLIMPSE OF PARADISE The Western Visayan island today

Among the most hit by the health crisis is the Philippines’ prime tourist destination Boracay. Majority of the establishments are still closed. There are an exceptional few, however, that have stayed in operation or have begun to reopen. These brands prove they are the best in this tropical getaway, not only based on resilience, but also the quality of their food and service.

Tried and true

Those hankering for fine dining and authentic Castilian food in Boracay are surely familiar with Dos Mestizos, established in 1995 by Jose Carlos “Binggoy” Remedios. Traditional Spanish cuisine is elevated at this restaurant, which incorporates Filipino taste into the curated ingredients sourced locally and in Europe.

In general, the bacalao, albondigas, callos, salpicao de vaca, tortilla de patata, paellas, and technically everything else on the menu are worth trying.

A TASTE OF SUMMER Salpicao de vaca USDA beef cubes in garlic marinade

Having reopened since Dec. 15 last year, the culinary spot is now found along the main road of Station One, across Sea Wind Resort. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. | | @dosmestizosboracay

Sins of the white beach

Enjoy the sinful fares of Sunny Side Café group as two of its restaurants reopen today, namely the Supermagic Burgers and Ice Cream and the Sunny Side Café. The former resumes business, while the latter unveils a summer pop-up, exactly one year since these establishments closed due to the pandemic. While it used to be at Station 3, Sunny Side Café now joins its subsidiary brands Supermagic Burgers and Ice Cream, as well as Coco Mama at Station X.

Supermagic Umami Bomb (Photo from Supermagic Burgers IG)

Experience the ultimate breakfast on the island with the signature Bacon & Mango Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Ube & Cereal Milk Pancakes, Kitayama Beef Tapsilog, and last but a must-order, The Sunny Side Champorado. All of these are great paired with their specialty coffee, which is roasted in partnership with EDSA Beverage Design Group. Those who can’t go to the island are in luck as there is a pop-up at The Grid at Powerplant Mall, Stall 2, here in Manila. Some of its most popular items can be availed of until the end of April. | | @thesunnysideboracay

On the other hand, Supermagic Burgers and Ice Cream, home of the island’s best burgers, is back. Vacationers can try the delectable Kitayama beef seasoned with umami dust sandwiched in house-baked buns. Coming soon on the menu are buttermilk fried chicken, and fish & chips. | | @supermagicburgers

These brands prove they are the best in this tropical getaway, not only based on resilience, but also on the quality of their food and service.

Coco Mama is also open at both its original locations Station X and D’Mall Palengke. Its go-to vegan-friendly dessert, the Coco Mama coconut ice cream, is served in coconut shells with coconut strips, fresh mango, heirloom sticky rice, and pinipig. One can say the dessert is the most refreshing on the whole island. While there are no stalls in Manila, it is also available at La Union Union’s Surf Town in San Juan, at Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop and View Deck, right beside El Union Coffee. | @cocomamaboracay

BORA IN A COCO-NUTSHELL To try Coco Mama is reason enough to go to Boracay

After a long break, Spicebird Piri-Piri Grill at D’Mall will also reopen before the end of March. Best described as food that’s perfect after a swim in the sunny shores of Boracay, the Spicebird now has a stall at The Grid at Power Plant Mall, where some of the displaced members of the Boracay staff currently work. Spicebird’s signature Piri-Piri goodness is available in the city for delivery.

Alfresco dining is available for Spicebird from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the Sunny Side Café from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. along Lopez Drive every day, in Manila. | | @spicebirdgrill

Healthy meets pretty and delicious

“A young Filipino-inspired restaurant with a healthy-twist.” This is how couple and business-partners Patrick and Shria Florencio describe Nonie’s. The restaurant has never ceased operations despite the pandemic, serving good, clean, and Instagrammable dishes to the residents and vacationers of Boracay. The ingredients are 99 percent sourced in the country, particularly from local farmers in the Visayas.

The food, all in western-sized servings, is incredibly photogenic, as well as the healthiest option on the island. Try the bestsellers: the whopping Pineapple Pandan Pancakes (which comes with a vegan option upon request), composed of three fluffy pandan pancakes with braised pineapple, toasted cashew, and dulce de leche sauce, and the Chicken and Pork Adobo, a flavorful grilled chicken with 72-hour crispy pork belly a la adobong puti.

Nonie’s is also at Station X, Station 2 of the island. | @noniesboracay

(Photos by the author)