The anatomy of a good taco, according to Vengo

Building a brand out of the love for food

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When Ted Manotoc and his wife Abee Sy couldn’t find the particular tacos they liked in the Philippines, their solution was to make their own. And from their love for tacos, the initial flagship of Taco Vengo was born, quickly expanding to a number of branches in the north, and then finally reaching the Makati demographic. “We wanted to reach a different community,” says managing co-owner Gerard Cancio.

Al Pastor is your classic pork carnitas on a homemade soft tortilla

While the former Kapitolyo address had been their claim to fame, their extension to different parts of the metro allowed them to experiment with different markets, price points, and ingredients.

Vegetarians can finally have tacos, too with the shiitake mushroom tostada: shiitake, fried shallots, jalapeno and sour cream on top of a crispy tortilla

With every Cinderella success story in this fickle industry, Vengo started from an honest passion for food. “We never focused on marketing. It was through word of mouth that we became known,” Cancio says. “Vengo is our take on Mexican favorites. We focused on the food and I think that speaks for itself. We just started with wanting to make a good taco.” The anatomy of a good taco, according to Cancio, includes three elements: a good tortilla, properly cooked ingredients, and balance.

Mexican spice chicken: fried tostadas, grilled chicken, spiced pineapple, roasted salsa, and cilantro garlic fried rice

The kick is in mixing up the ingredients with something new yet relatable, creating a unique product. Take for example their shiitake mushroom tostada. Familiar ingredients are cooked right, layered on top of a homemade deep-fried tortilla, and made into their vegetarian rendition of a tostada. Of course, the classics are always mainstays in every menu: Al Pastor taco with carnitas and the Mexican spice chicken rice meal.

Love, Rosie: a layered drink of bobba, rose essence, milk, espresso, and ice

Vengo, the Legaspi extension, pretty much sums up everything the owners expected the Makati CBD crowd to want in the dining scene.  This was also their chance to venture into a café space. Walk inside and you’ll quickly notice the marriage of retro and industrial elements in the taqueria. Follow the terrazzo tiles into the space next door and you’ll find their café space, Neighborhood Café. “People don’t go into a restaurant looking for coffee. They go into a café looking for coffee,” Cancio notes.

Vengo’s restaurant interiors are a mix of industrial and retro elements
Through the wooden frame: Neighborhood Cafe’s interiors are lighter and brighter for a more cafe vibe

And so, a holistic coffee program resulted in that quaint café partitioned from the rest of that dining area. It works for everyone. The café highlights the product and allots an area for the over-caffeinated, and the coffee is actually fantastic. Love, Rosie is an unexpected bestseller. An intoxicating mix of rose essence with the comforts of a great espresso shot creates a gradient of flavors and colors with bobba pearls awaiting at the bottom.  Neighborhood Café also allows the crew to adjust operational hours, opening as early as 7 a.m. (Vengo opens at 9 a.m.) and to introduce a brunch menu.

A pretty San Junipero for brunch, please. Find tequila mixed with lemon juice, rose syrup, and egg white in this Vengo signature cocktail.

Then, there’s Vengo’s slew of drinks. From frescas and horchatas to classic and signature cocktails, Vengo attracts another market: those thirsty for well-made refreshments and libations. Cancio tells me they operate until 3 a.m. mostly because there is a late night crowd prowling about.

Try not to miss this facade along C.Palanca street

Still warming up to the Makati crowd, Vengo has a pretty stable foundation. The team behind  Vengo teaches us that without an unadulterated love for food at your restaurant’s core, you don’t make a lasting mark in the palates of the Filipino people.

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TAGS: bars in makati best coffee makati cafe legaspi village makati eats Neighborhood cafe taqueria vengo where to eat in makati



WHY GO?

Go for the tacos but stay for the coffee. If you loved Taco Vengo in Pasig, you'll enjoy its Makati reincarnate.


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