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Aug 4, 2013 11:14 AM

San Diego's most under appreciated cuisine type imo

Filipino food. San Diego, specifically National City has very good Filipino food and has had it back before gaslamp had tourists and yet nobody I personally know or heard of visits for the Filipino food. It's not just San Diego as well as I know some very good Filipino restaurants in Las Vegas and Los Angeles I frequent that are also under appreciated by non-Filipinos. Part of the reason I suspect is that Filipino food visually looks un-appetizing as well as has flavor profiles that may be too different for people to give it a chance but this doesn't change the fact that we have a culinary food scene that we can identify with San Diego while also knowing it's easily in the top 5 of a cuisine type. Oddly enough I have never seen a upscale Filipino restaurant ever nor a Filipino food truck except for I think a Filipino fusion in NYC.

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  1. I'd LOVE to read more about this- maybe a "primer" as to where to go and what to order?

    Help us out? Please?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Fake Name

      I know a buffet isn't typically the best quality food of a cuisine type but in this case where Filipino food has potentially unusual flavors where you don't want to end up ordering something you don't like and end up ruining your experience as well as having a large variety of dishes, it might be a good first choice. Conching's cafe has a lunch buffet but due to obvious turnover issues in a buffet due to lack of tourists finding/trying it, I'd highly suggest going on the weekend where it'll be busy and so the turnover of food will be high. As for good dishes, it'll honestly depend on your reaction to the flavors in general as well as possible apprehension to unhealthy stuff. The latter would be lechon and patas, lechon being most similar to chinese roasted pork(not bbq pork) but the difference being that the chinese version is known for the skin and the meat ONLY if it's the belly cut whereas Lechon is cut before frying so they are all tender/crunchy as opposed to just one cut(assuming it's cooked properly). Patas are large pig knuckles/hocks that I have no idea how it's done but it's crunchy on the outside with very tender tendon and meat on the inside. Sisig(pork) is like very small lechon with lime juice. They usually have beef adobo which is popular but not my cup of tea as it's a bit on the strong side of that flavor profile. Kare-kare is basically ox-tail in a peanut sauce, very delicious but due to oxtail costs, you won't see it at the buffet. The selection is pretty good so you'll be able to get a good idea of the flavors.

      Decor is non-existent, borderline worse than non-existent except for an out of place poster of sailor moon(wierd). There's two floor's and the top floor is the buffet whereas the bottom floor is ordering food though there's other places better for ordering(karihan,tita's kitchenette). Downstairs also has a dessert called halo-halo which ia very popular and is combined with magnolia brand ice cream but alas due to the proximity of Niederfrank's I never end up trying it. The buffet is $10 last I checked.
      It's located in a large two floor strip mall at the far corner away from the intersection.

      3400 E 8th st, suite 115, National City, Ca 91950
      (E 8th st and plaza blvd is said intersection)

      1. re: Fake Name

        I tend to recommend as well as take first-timers of filipino food to Manila Sunset (National City and Mira Mesa). Where it's not a sit down restaurant per se (you order at the counter and they call you when the order is ready, the presentation of the food is much "nicer" than your typical San Diego cafeteria style restaurant (called point-point or in tagalog, in point what you want) and the food tends to be "safer". They are known for their pancit malabon, a rice noodle dish with a shrimp-based sauce topped with sliced eggs, chicharrones and green onions, as well as their bibingka, a dessert baked rice cake, cooked to order that is really good. I tend to get these two items as well as daing na bangus and eggs, my favorite filipino breakfast. It is a vinegar/garlic marinated fish, fried and served with rice and fried eggs.

        I haven't tried everything there but one thing I do not care for is their fried lumpia. Totally forgettable.

        1. re: Fake Name

          As a recent convert to Filipino food, here's my highlights:

          Manila Sunset - Longaniza plate, pork sticks, bibingka
          Fredcel's - Lumpia!! All day long. Adobo and afritada are good too.
          Tita's - Tinola and coconut chicken curry. I'm not really a fan of their bbq, it's too... big. Sinigang is good, basically all their soups are really meaty and generous.
          Lisa's - Fish sisig! If you ask and give them 10-15 minutes, they'll make up a fresh sisig for you with the fried milkfish they have on display. It's the best.

          When I want a Filipino feast, I basically have to drive all over town to collect my favorite items, but it's worth it. :)

          1. re: esquimeaux

            I'll have to try LIsa's. The sisig at MFFD, R&B, Conchita's and Tita's have all left me disappointed.

            By the way, the Bulalo at Blitztorte is great, everything else not so much.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Pork sisig from Fredcel's when they make it fresh is pretty good, if a little heavy on the white onions. I should really ask for less onions. Some days while I'm eating it, I can't help thinking, "I'm eating pig pico de gallo. Pigo de gallo."

              1. re: esquimeaux

                Pigo de gallo.

                I'm stealing that one.

        2. I agree.

          Every time my friend of Filipino descent comes to town, a trip to National City (and other areas) are always on the itinerary.

          1. I don't know much about Fillipino food except that when I want a quick snack, I sometimes go to the place on the other side of the "park" in Linda Vista. Dirt cheap, very tasty lumpia.

            16 Replies
            1. re: DoctorChow

              I went over to this place the other day intending to try something other than their lumpia, but they were closed for vacation. I peered through the window on the door and on the post-up menu it said the place is called "Olga's". I never noticed that before, and it doesn't say that outside the restaurant (just "Filipino - Lumpia"). Has anyone ever had anything other than the lumpia here? It's a tiny, tiny obscure little spot adjacent to an equally tiny Mexican grocery. Don't know when they'll be back.

              1. re: DoctorChow

                It's Olga's Food Place. The husband, named Rocky is Filipino. His wife Olga is actually Cuban. They used to serve Cuban food on Friday's and Saturdays when Olga's Mom worked the kitchen.


                1. re: KirkK

                  Thanks for the link! That's the sort of thing I've seen in there but never ordered. Do you have a current recommendation for something that's especially good there (other than the lumpia)?

                  1. re: DoctorChow

                    I'd like to get some insight into this place also, we have driven by it for years but the name and location were so odd even I wouldn't bother trying it. Now I am ready!

                    1. re: MrKrispy

                      Can I just be diplomatic and say it's the best Filipino food in Linda Vista? The lumpia is not bad.....

                      1. re: KirkK

                        haha. Well, I went by last night and they didn't have anything besides lumpia. Which was ok, 4 for $1.

                        1. re: MrKrispy

                          I went by yesterday around 2 pm and they were still closed. They must have just returned from vacation and were just getting things fired up when you stopped in.

                  2. re: KirkK

                    Just wondering, what are your go to Filipino joints these days?

                  3. re: DoctorChow

                    A few days ago I was driving along LV Blvd. in the early evening, and there was a flashing neon "Open" sign in the window here. That's the first I've seen this place open in the past half year, and I've gone over to check many times. There was a freshly painted sign in front that now includes "Olga's" on it, not just "Filipino". I didn't go in but will be interested when I do to see if they've made changes. It used to be, as KirkK said last summer, "the best Filipino food in Linda Vista".

                    1. re: DoctorChow

                      I went over to Olga's today and finally, after all this time, they were OPEN. So I got a few lumpia -- four for a buck and fried fresh when you order. Small, tasty treats. I also had a home-style stew with ground pork, potatoes, carrots, peas, etc, in a nicely-flavored sauce, and left happy.

                      The people behind the counter here are so wonderfully friendly, and it really feels like you're in someone's home while eating in the small adjacent room.

                      1. re: DoctorChow

                        any insight to the hours? Still random for everything but the lumpia?

                        1. re: MrKrispy

                          The currently posted hours are 11 - 6 except Sun,Mon.

                          In the past, I confess that all I ever had there was the lumpia, and I've only been this once (today) since they "re-opened". So I don't know how random the food in the trays is, was, or will be. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

                          They had five or six trays today. All were pretty full except for the pancit. (That's about the only Filipino dish I recognize; the woman ahead of me got the last of it.) I'm definitely novice when it comes to this cuisine, although when I go again, which I will, I think I'll recognize if the food in the trays is the same or different. Wish they had labels for the trays.

                        2. re: DoctorChow

                          Lumpia was invented by Satan. My work partner and I frequent Filipino Food and Bakery at 28th and Main. We always buy 3 lumpia for the car ride to our bike office. Our current goal is to make it to at least near the Gaslamp area with at least one lumpia still to eat. This has not happened yet.

                          1. re: Dagney

                            Yeah, it's hard to stop eating them...

                            Sinful stuff!

                            I used to get eight of them when I went to Olga's!

                              1. re: Dagney

                                I know. But that's what I frequently used to get. For $2.

                                Luckily, the lumpia at Olga's are pretty small.

                                I'll post a picture next time.

                  4. I wholeheartedly agree....but I am a bit biased being Filipino! Andrew Zimmern said a year or two back that filipino food would be the next big thing in food. I'm hoping that he's right. There is so much to be appreciated.

                    A number of years ago I went to a restaurant in NYC called Cendrillon that was very nice. It was an actual, nice, sit-down restaurant. I do know that it closed years ago but opened in a new location and a new name called Purple Yam. I have not been there so can't comment on the food but the website looks interesting ;)

                    1. Actually there are many Filipino Food Trucks in LA & OC: @WhiteRabbitTruk, @TapaBoyLA, @PogiBoyTruck (OC), @ManilaMachine, and @ButtermilkTruck. Actually, the owner of the @ButtermilkTruck, Filipina Gigi Pascual, makes American-style breakfast fare starring her Red Velvet Pancakes. (If you want to try her RVPs, Richard Walker's Pancake House in San Diego serves them, or you can buy the mix at Sur La Table, Bristol Farms, and Surfas in LA/OC.)

                      Maybe San Diegans need to either encourage them to expand south or we have some Filipino trucks of our own.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: terree

                        Manila Machine was a great Filipino food truck run by Marvin Gapultos. It went off the streets in April 2011.

                        Marvin wrote a cookbook, The Adobo Road, released this year. It is excellent in explanation of methodology of the Filipino cooking and flavors that Marvin wants to pass on. He took all the (excellent and beautiful) photographs in the book. I was fortunate to have met him at a book signing in Pasadena in June.

                        He still writes his food blog which includes recipes as well as information about his cookbook. It really has been an excellent reference for me to learn about Filipino flavors, methods of cooking and a bit of history.

                        1. re: Cathy

                          Thanks for the link, what he seems like he's doing is quite admirable in that instead of americanizing the food, he's comparing in to more popular dishes that people can say 'hey if it's just like meatloaf and I like meatloaf, then I'll try it'. Great way to entice those that are timid to trying new cuisines while also learning the history behind it and realizing it's not as wierd as people may think it is.