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Mar 7, 2006 03:28 PM

Manila Cafe Report - Springfield, VA

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Last Saturday we came across Manila Cafe at lunchtime. We were presented with a vertiable feast of what appeared to be authentic, homemade Phillipino food served buffet-style. Now, I've never had it before so that's a wild-assed guess on my part, but everyone there appeared to be Phillipino and the food just looked and tasted like someones mother was in the kitchen cooking.

The best offering was a whole roast suckling pig that was excellently prepared. I then went on to try more than a dozen more dishes, most of which I sampled without the benefit of name tags, which were affixed to a few of the offerings. I didn't like everything I tried, but the stews were generally very good if a bit greasy. I really liked some bean of the dishes and garlic rice. There was beef, pork, chicken, whole fried fishes, tripe, and other tidbits cooked in a variety of ways. One dish I tried I liked but knew it was something I would never have ordered turned out to be sliced pigs ear. I have no idea what it is actually called on the menu.

I took a carryout menu to see if it could help me after the fact, but there is no explanation for the names of the food, which other than Pork and Chicken Adobo and a few other items I've never heard of: Crispy pata, dinuguan, sizzling bangus, tokawa and baboy, etc.

Anyway, if you are in the area and looking for a real chow experience, this is a place to try. It is located at 7020 Commerce Street in a strip mall behind the shopping mall with the Trader Joes. Your best bet would probably be to try the buffet on a Saturday. It's worth the $12.50. I don't know if it's served the rest of the week. Oh, and don't wait to be seated. Just grab a table and serve yourself. Someone will come around for your drink order or you can grab a soda or San Miguel beer out of the cooler. Service is probably more organized when you order from the menu than when there is a buffet.

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  1. Thanks for the insightful report. Are you sure what you had was suckling pig (milk fed, etc) or might it have been a small porker?

    1. It's actually Filipino, not Phillipino. Philippines is one l, two p's. As for the food, 3 stars, not 4 (out of 5). It's not the best, but it's a pretty good sampling of what we love to eat. Pork & chicken adobo, tokwa at baboy, sarap. Don't forget to order breakfast off the menu, perhaps the only thing I order when I get there...specifically the tapsilog.
      Tap - tapa, marinated pork; si - sinag, garlic fried rice; log - fried egg. It's better at other places, but it's the best thing to eat at Manila Cafe with a side of eggrolls.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Carrleigh Parkway

        Please tell us any other suggestions or insights you have for Filipino food in the area. Tyler Cowen says that Filipino cooking isn't done well in this area outside of the home environment. Do you agree?

      2. Good report. I'm a Springfield foodie and I've heard about this place, but it just hasn't happened yet. Thanks to your report (and clarification from Carrleigh Parkway) I will probably give it a go.

        1. Thanks Ellen, being a Filipina, there aren't too many places around DC/NOVA for good Filipino food besides my Grandmother's house in Burke. But the buffet at Manila cafe is ok. Meat Stews get oily but still very tasty. The breakfast is the best bet, but I believe they only serve buffet style on weekends. On weekdays, for $6.95, you can get 2 dishes off the buffet and a heaping mound of rice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: CH2176

            Being a Filipina and do cook and eat lots of Filipino food, I have gone to this restaurant and I can definitely suggest the breakfast food being the best at this place. The buffet is decent and not bad as well. The only thing about Filipino food is that it is definitely best to eat from someone's home. Our food is best served fresh and sometimes in a buffet atmosphere, it just doesn't do it justice. And do not go there looking for the best service -- it is pretty much as Ellen stated - sit and grab something to drink in the cooler or wait for the server. It's one of the reasons why it is hard for me to eat regularly in a Filipino restaurant -- service can be very slowly.

            However, if you like on the go food -- go to Manila Oriental down on Columbia Pike/Route 7 area. It is a Filipino store, but they have a take out place at the back of it that you can point and choose what you want. It is definitely worth it for less than $6 - you get rice and 2 different type of dishes. They can also do short order for some of the food like lumpias (eggrolls) or lechon kawali (fried pork - so good). Note that the food section is close on Tuesday. Hope everyone can enjoy our diverse and delicious food choices! Feel free to ask me any question if you guys have questions about Filipino cuisine. :-)