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Where to eat in Cebu, as told by a local

Where to eat in Cebu, as told by a local

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  • From the no frills to the fabulous, here are some uniquely Cebu restaurants that everyone visiting needs to add to their lists

“Where should we eat in Cebu?” is probably the question I get asked the most by friends. Personally, that’s a loaded question. We have strong opinions about almost everything, but food is always taken seriously. Cebuanos take a lot of pride in our food culture, and all the recommendations we give out aren’t given lightly. 

I’ve, of course, done my due diligence and eaten at all of these restaurants at least thrice in my life. The first time to try it out, the second time to check the quality and consistency, and the third just because I wanted to. But basically, all these restaurants are on my rolodex of where to eat. 

This list contains a variety of cuisines, price points, and general vibes. But the one thing they have in common is that they’re all uniquely Cebuano restaurants. While some may be chains, they’re mostly only located in Cebu (with a few exceptions, of course). 

In case other Cebuanos are reading this, I’d also like to make a disclaimer. All of us have different tastes—which means we all have different go-to restaurants. While this is a personal list, I’ve also asked fellow Cebuanos for their input. And if a restaurant you love isn’t on the list, you can yell at me through my Instagram. 

And the consensus is, each restaurant offers something uniquely Cebu. There are quite a few on here, but you can start chipping away at it on your next visit. 

Dimsum Break

Multiple locations around Cebu
Facebook.com/DimsumBreak
Cuisine: Chinese fast food

The first thing I recommend to anyone visiting Cebu is Dimsum Break. It’s the fast food version of restaurants like Harbour City and everyone in Cebu has eaten here at least once during their school years. 

You have to try the steamed rice (which is actually brown rice with a savory, meat sauce topping), the siomai, and one of the fried options from the menu (my personal bet is the fried shrimp balls with sweet and sour sauce). 

It’s great value for money and really tasty. 

Sunburst

Multiple locations around Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro
Cuisine: Filipino comfort food and fried chicken

Sunburst has been around since before I was born, and their most famous dish is fried chicken. Before I found out I was allergic to chicken, my family and I would eat here after Sunday mass. It was something my parents particularly loved. Make sure to order their original chicken and the chicken skin. 

Silogan ni Gian

Multiple branches around Cebu
Cuisine: Carinderia-style Filipino comfort food

Silogan ni Gian is a no-frills eatery that serves mostly silog meals. It shot up to fame after I left for Manila, but it’s something I’ve tried since visiting home. You won’t miss the restaurant since their logo is literally a picture of a child (presumably Gian). You can’t really go wrong with anything on their menu, but the sisig silog is one of my favorites. 

Nonki

Multiple locations around Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo
Facebook.com/nonkiph
Cuisine: Japanese

My standard for Japanese food is—and just might always be—Nonki. The restaurant was opened by a Japanese expat, which means the food is as authentic as it can get.

They do the classics really well (they have my favorite udon in Cebu), and the price point isn’t too bad for quality eats either. My family still frequents this place, especially after my baby nephews started expressing their love for the restaurant. 

Luy’s Classic Teahouse

APM Square, Andres Soriano Ave., Cebu City
Open from Mondays to Sundays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Facebook.com/Luys-Classic-Teahouse
Cuisine: Chinese

I come from a conveniently Chinese family (read: we’re only Chinese when it’s convenient for us to be), but we love Chinese food. Luy’s is a staple for us if we’re craving Chinese food. The suahe (live, steamed shrimp) is my favorite thing on their menu. It’s sweet, always fresh, and has a great bite to it. Dipping it in the black vinegar sauce makes for the perfect appetizer. 

Café Laguna

Multiple locations around Cebu
Facebook.com/CafeLagunaPH
Cuisine: Classic Filipino fare

If there’s one restaurant Cebuanos millennials associate with Sunday lunch after mass, it’s Café Laguna.

It’s the quintessential Filipino restaurant that serves all the family favorites like crispy pata, calamares, pinakbet, and more. For dessert, you have to try their maja mais. It’s creamy, silky smooth, and has just the right amount of sweetness. 

Pearl Meat Shop

Multiple locations around Cebu
Facebook.com/PearlMeatShopnRestaurant
Cuisine: Korean barbecue

Cebu has a large Korean expat population. And they brought a ton of amazing Korean restaurants with them when they moved in. One of my K-BBQ favorites is Pearl Meat Shop. It’s a no frills type of place that serves different types of high-quality, fresh cuts of meat. You can enjoy it at the restaurant or have it wrapped up to go and have a K-BBQ party at home (which is what we usually do). 

Red House Taiwan Shabu Shabu

Multiple locations around Cebu

Facebook.com/RedHouseTaiwanShabuShabu

Cuisine: Taiwanese-style hot pot 

I’d like to think one of my food soulmates is hot pot, and my favorite hot pot place in Cebu is definitely Red House. It’s a Taiwanese hot pot joint owned by a Taiwanese expat that serves different meat, vegetable, and seafood ball options, as well as fresh seafood. 

A few of my staple orders at Red House are the cuttlefish liquid meal (mashed cuttlefish that you can form into little dollops and drop in the broth), the premium beef, and the pork fried rice. The pork fried rice is the best fried rice in the city (you can quote me on that). They also have a DIY sauce area where I load up on the satay. When you visit, I suggest that you do the same. 

The Kitchen at The Reef

The Reef Island Resort, Vista Mar Ave., Vista Mar, Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan
Open from Monday to Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Facebook.com/TheKitchenTheReefMactan
Cuisine: Southeast Asian

Some Cebuanos may not be familiar with The Kitchen or The Reef, but I’m here to remedy that. The Reef is a boutique resort and residence located in Mactan, and The Kitchen is their restaurant that serves some of the best Southeast Asian fusion dishes I’ve had. 

This restaurant serves the most unique steak I’ve ever had. Dubbed “Crying Tiger,” it’s a more Asian take on steak that comes with lettuce leaves for wrapping. The seasoning on the steak is undoubtedly Southeast Asian and it’s something unexpected but wholly delicious. 

Gorliz Tapas y Vinos

2F Streetscape Mall, Paseo Saturnino, Banilad, Cebu City
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Facebook.com/gorliztapasyvinos
Cuisine: Spanish, tapas

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Spanish tapas until Gorliz came around. The restaurant serves traditional Spanish food from the Biscay region of Spain in the Basque territory. Some of the best tapas I’ve ever had are from this restaurant. 

Just a few of my favorites are the pulpo (octopus served with tons of garlic), boquerones (fresh anchovy filets in white vinegar and olive oil), and the salpicao. And make sure to sop all the sauce from the tapas up with the delicious freshly baked bread they serve. 

Olio

Crossroads Mall, Gov. Cuenco Ave., Cebu City
Open Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Facebook.com/oliocebu
Cuisine: International, steak

If you’re traveling with your fancy titas and titos, make sure to bring them to Olio. Steak, pasta, risotto, and other fine dining, steakhouse staples are what’s on the menu at this restaurant. They have promotions on their steak sometimes if you get lucky, which means you can have a fancy meal without making your wallet cry. 

Aside from the steak and the risotto (which my brother mainlines like a madman), the scallops gratin is one of the brightest gems on the menu. It’s pan seared scallop doused in this cheese and white wine sauce. The sauce alone is worthy of an encore plate. What I usually do is leave my bread in the sauce and come back to it a few courses later so it really soaks up all that good stuff. 

The Tinderbox

Multiple locations around Cebu
Instagram.com/tinderboxph
Cuisine: International, deli 

If Manila has Santis, Cebu has Tinderbox. Tinderbox has been everyone’s go-to deli ever since I came into consciousness. They serve classic international fare like pizzas, pastas, steak, and some of the best creme brûlée the city has to offer. 

An absolutely can’t miss item on their menu is their open faced, baked seafood tortilla (formerly known as rosti tortilla de mariscos on the menu). It’s loaded with cheese, scallops, squid, shrimp, and topped with a decadent sauce I can only describe as heavenly. 

La Marea

Multiple locations around Cebu
Facebook.com/lamareacebu
Cuisine: Cakes and pastries

As a big dessert fan, I couldn’t possibly leave La Marea off this list. La Marea is the classic go-to dessert place in Cebu. They rose to institution status thanks to their warm brownie cup—a favorite of mine and many of my friends from school. The warm brownie cup is served a la mode with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream laid on top. 

They also offer different flavors (like brownie cheesecake and peanut butter) so there’s something for everyone. Aside from the brownie cup, the apple crumble a la mode is worth the order. I’m personally biased towards it as a fruit pastry lover. 

Leona’s 

Multiple locations around Cebu
Facebook.com/leonascakespastries
Cuisine: Cakes and pastries

For breads and pastries, Leona’s was always my go-to bakery. For a lot of people my age, our childhoods were built around the sweet smell of the bakery’s loaf cakes, warm breads, and pastries. Leona’s used to be a stand alone bakery, but have since expanded into a full-service cafe serving meals. 

If you’re shopping for pasalubong, you can’t go wrong with their butter loaf cake. It’s a moist, rich buttery cake that comes in different sizes, so you can conveniently fit it into your carry-on when you travel back home. While you’re waiting to get your orders rung up, try their eclairs and cream puffs. It’s a light and sweet snack that’ll get you energized for whatever’s next on your itinerary. 

Nolisoli.ph © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.

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