Tag Archives: Mexican Food

BOXPARK MNL: Eating Outside the Box

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Welcome to District 1 (QC), BOXPARK MNL! To grace our ghetto district with a food park is a gracious gastronomic sign!

Northern foodies will finally have options other than Cocoy’s Pares, a Veneto and our string of lechon manok stalls.

For 2 consecutive Saturdays we scoured BoxPark MNL along Congressional Ave. for early dinner fares. Unfortunately we missed Cajita churros on both accounts—so 2 points for Mr. Diggins for being the consistent dessert provider.

Points also for the hasty service, Mr. Diggins, so we start off the gastro-journey with you.

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Mr. Diggins serves ice cream with waffles, with 4 topping/flavours to choose from. We consistently bought that Black Bay because it seemed like the best choice.

Come on, can’t go wrong with chocolate popcorn and syrup!

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I had tried the Great White as a novel choice, and whilst the pretzels did look pretty, my heart still lingers to the Black Bay. With the very filling waffle, cooked on-the-spot, a good deal at P95!

We normally eat at the Thai Food table, since it has a roof (#Nona) and that cozy corner garden ambience. This explains why most of the purchases went to this stall, but don’t get me wrong, they were all worth it—including the wait!

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We loved the Pad Thai since it was quite a steal at P100, had shrimps and loads of tofu. The flavour was acceptably Thai (and not too overwhelming), it was filling on its own and only gluttony would dictate buying from the neighbors. The Thai Fried Rice was the rice counterpart, but I really find noodles the more enjoyable carb option.

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The lady cooks the food upon order, which can take some time during peak hours. Luckily Mr. Diggins kept us company during those waiting hunger pangs.

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The chicken tenders came from 1957 Chicken Stop and had gravy and cheese dip choices. From the looks of the cheese dip, you could guess it was diluted Cheezee whilst the gravy is the normal one. The chicken tenders were, well, tender and fresh, and partially reminiscent of a slight KFC peppery flavour.

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Colonel Frank’s serves hotdog sandwiches with a twist, but my brother was not interested in any innovative venture and just wanted to enjoy a plain dog on the brioche. He got what he wanted (no idea how he communicated this plain jane request), but was not too happy with the bread (he was expecting French flair) and the hotdog (had better)—which is probably why Colonel Frank’s is best enjoyed with the mac and cheese on top.

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Pie Guys opened a bit late (or we came too early) so the Mashinator (Pulled Pork) came in during dessert time. With spuds and pie forming the crowning glory, it was comfort food variety that was really filling. We had to bring home the other half of the crown.

Last but not the least is the Mexican place with the longest name: Plaza de Taqueria Mexicana Cantina. The “Taqueria” held quite a queue one early Saturday afternoon because it was one of the few stalls open.

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The Taqueria, that day, was quite busy: the orders didn’t come at the same time (forgivable), the girl kept on referring to the enchilada as “chalupa” (so we thought it was the wrong order) and they forgot my fish tacos (but pretended not to).

While I have no idea how the back kitchen operates, I could imagine it was topsy-turvy with folks calling everything and each other “Chalupa!” Kaloka.

While the food items certainly looked lip-smacking delectable, they were more mediocre than their beautiful plating.

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The nachos were hmmm-kay and the fish tacos held tiny fish chunks and more salsa.  The salsa was spicy great, but the portion was on the pequeno side.

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The Quesodilla seemed pretty comfy in its wooden block, but when a slow eater finishes it in a jiffy—you know someone wants to have dessert ASAP!

While I haven’t tried everything in BoxPark MNL (Cajitas huhu), our initial verdict that that we shall come back for Thai Food’s Pad Thai! And if we have room for dessert (wait, we always do!) it’ll be Black Bay by Mr. Diggins.

Goodie, finally a QC foodie destination right along our ghetto Congressional Avenue! Finally a spot on the map!

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High Five: 5F Mega Food Hall

megamall food court

Stumbled upon this not-so-secret niche at the 5F of the Mega Fashion Hall. It’s not quite a hush-hush place, since it’s really spacious, but blame me for feeling lazy to get all the way up to visit the ice skating rink.

Megamall Food Hall

I bet Megamall frequent mallers will roll their eyes at my discovery, but let me roll my eyes in return:

The 5F Mega Food Hall is awesome, quiet and my favorite feature is that—you don’t reek of food afterwards!

That is like food hall Heaven for the likes of me! Of course I don’t expect you to feel the same.

SM Mega Food Hall

With an array of tenants that could please even the pickiest eater, I say, any trip to the 5th floor is worth it and warrants a comeback.

Mega Food Hall Tex Mex Nav

Of course I had my cheat sheet beforehand and knew my first destination: Tex Mex. A sucker for anything Mexican and a lover of all things salsa, a taco lunch was necessary.

Tex Mex Mega Food hall

Mexican food megamall

We had the Chicken Taco Salad and Nachos. The Chicken Taco Salad whose name I couldn’t even remember (but I could swear it has the word “pollo”) was okay. I say “Okay” in a sense that when you look at it, you already know how it tastes like.

That’s exactly how it was, mediocre and the straightforward taco salad.

Mega food hall mexican

The Nachos were multicolored and I requested that the beef be separated—a simple request that took some time to process—but at least they got it right!

Despite the overwhelming mix of primary and secondary colors, the entire dish was bland including that awfully yellow cheese sauce. The only flavor that stood out was that of the olives and good thing, olives are friends.

Mega Food Hall Nav

Nav is a neighboring Thai restaurant that serves turmeric! How can you say “no” to that? But I already had the Tex Mex conditioning so I only spied 2 Nav dishes on the spread.

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 Pad Thai and Squid (with steak rice, supposedly). The pad thai looked delectably seasoned and the noodles just chewy enough to make you eat slowly and delightfully. The squid tasted like Bon Chon and the rice was devoid of steak. The egg was a curious deep fried presence but sweetened at some point—so some dabbing was involved. Sorry about that.

However with the price range and assortment that the 5F Mega Food Hall has to offer, well, 1) I will be back, 2) I will return, and 3) I shall bring a friend!

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Hijo D’ Pita: I love cursing my food!

Z compound malingap

One change in the vowel sound and I’m doomed to censorship. Hijo D’ Pita’s name is such a bitch, since I’m always prone to saying the bad word—which admittedly I already am prone to doing on a daily basis.

the zone compound teacher's village

Hijo D’ Pita is in that Z Compound along Malingap St. which is the new hub for cheap street eats. I returned to the Z on a Sunday with high hopes of trying out Meshwe, which was disappointingly closed, so we ended up in the neighboring Hijo D’ Pita. The switch from Lebanese to Mexican was not that bad, since I had planned on ordering some kind of pita anyway.

UP village malingap st

Most of the menu items are pita-based, so we had the Classic Hijo Chili Beef Pita and the Hijo D’ Pita Chicken. Despite the impending darkness, it was wise to read through the menu, since the other chicken pita serving had bacon! Pita me!

Beef Chili Hijo de Pita

Chicken Hijo de Pita Malingap

So the basic Chicken Pita was mixed with its special sauce + condiments and tons of cucumber. The pita is more of a sandwich than a wrap, so expect it to come in a sandwich plastic bag and none of that foil-twist packaging. The side condiments come in the “sweet” side, even that dark sauce which I initially thought was hoisin.

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The Nachos are drizzled with substances that I found too hard to identify in the dark! I remember cucumber and carrot cubes and at least 3 sauces, plus nacho chips that were friendly to the bite.

NACHOS + PITA make the indefatigable combination, so I can’t complain, except that next time around, I would really like proper lighting, so that I would not have to use “flash” on my food.

They say that candle light dinner is romantic but I say that’s Hijo D’ P***!

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Chihuahua Mexican Bar: Dog eat Dawg

Salad make your own makati

Dawg. Live like a gangsta, might as well speak like one, ayt? But that title hits the restaurant spot on—everyone knows what a Chihuahua is, right? When you’re eating at Chihuahua Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar (Greenbelt 2)—you got it—you’re gonna be eating like a dog, un perro.

Like the doggie bowl, concave metal contraption when Taco Bell’s little best friend eats from, if he has a home, well that’s where they serve your grub at Chihuahua.

Greenbelt 2 bar restaurant

I’m not one to complain though, since we’re gangsta. Heck, if you make me eat with my hands—uh oh, I’ve got my limits—no gracias. I like my utensils clean and spiffy but that gigantic metal bowl –cum-chamber-pot, why not?

It’s Mexican food and lo siento, I forgot my poncho-bib.

Enough gangsta talk, since I’m already getting a headache from the misspelled red-underlined words.

jenina gonzales food blog

Chihuahua Mexican Grill is a Mexican joint where, when you enter, you see the strangest folk, corporate beagles playing Uno Stacko—and having a crap of fun out of it. They must have been there way too early, so they were probably wasted as well. I like to go with the latter theory because getting high on wooden games and posting photos on social media as if this was the most fun thing on Earth, is not really NOT a fun thing to do on Earth.

Now if the guy at the next table were to photobomb their wholesome game with his unwholesome finger, now that deserves a “Like!” from me.

No, it did not happen though. Boo.

Greenbelt bar mexican

Now I have to talk about the food because it was what we went there for, not the games or photos of weird people flooding the walls or those pretentious sluts. Stop talking. Concentrate. Food.

The food is served Chipotle or Ristra’s style, the one where you fall in line and order what you want. The create-your-own Mexican meal so that if your food sucks, you have no one to blame but yourself.

It’s kind of pricey from an average worker point of view, but the restaurant has to pay off a lot of entertainment and leisure costs to get Uno Stacko loving weirdos to keep on coming back. Now if it were poker night. Hmmm..

Mexican hang out makati

Since it was a late dinner, I opted for the Chicken Salad.  As simple as that. That doggie bowl comes with fresh lettuce topped with guacamole, queso, pico de gallo, salsa, beans, corn kernels and lean marinated chicken.

It’s the condiments table that makes up for the flavor and aye carumba! experience – jalapenos, pico de gallo, all sorts of chili and tomatillos! Oh yes. I could live with that.

tacos nachos mexican greenbelt

And then we have Nacho Grande: A colossal mound of nacho chips topped with queso, chili, guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, and jalapeños.  Good enough for one and happy enough to forego the burrito.

I’d say, if I had a second time around, I’d choose a lazy lunch hour for that Mexican visit – with daylight to see my food, more time to burn off the carbs and ample idle time to enjoy those tomatillos!

B-ADDENDUM: I did manage to return to Chihuahua for that lazy lunch hour. Unfortunately the chillin’ part backfired as we were met with equally languid service and lack of pico de gallo and other condiments. It was like the place was wiped clean (or kitchen bare) the night before and we were left with chicken scraps (literally) and an absence of fresh produce. With this uncool experience, I have learned to make my own nachos at home. Mexican food craving, solved!

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The Ristras Rampage

A delusional descendant of Speedy Gonzalez, it has become my lifetime quest to honor my inanimate forefather by finding decent Mexican cuisine in Manila. While there seem to be a handful, they’ve been quite the letdown, serving crusty tortilla wraps, scrimping on salsa and forgetting that pico de gallo and guacamole are actually part of the Spanish vocabulary.

It is no wonder that whenever I suggest Mexican food when dining out, people just stare at me as if I’ve gone loco. But no, it’s just that: Tengo mucho hambre! (I’m very hungry!)

This hunger was ultimately solved by this little joint along J. Abad Santos St., near P. Guevara: Ristras. At first glance, people may find it quite tedious to read the exhausting menu, but once you get the hang of it, the order process can be strangely interesting. I have learned the difference between a fajita and burrito (it’s the beans, hombre) and realized that these two can be ordered naked. If dining with la familia grande, giant nachos and burritos are likewise in the menu listing for all those hungry hermanos y hermanas.

Best of all, each item is wrapped-created on the spot, which gives way to customized creations and less of OMG-what’s-this-in-my-burrito? situations.

Nine Layer Dip and Nachos

Nine Layer Dip and Nachos P255

While I’ve lost count of the nine items that comprise the dip – let’s see, cheese, jalapeno, beans, guacamole, okay I give up – it was Cloud Nine nevertheless. All nine flavors come in harmony and create that Mexican masterpiece to complement the chips. Nothing overwhelmingly stood out to steal the show and it was nacho heaven sitting on this cloud nine dip.

Chicken Quesadilla

Chicken Quesadilla P320

This grande serving is meant to be shared (by a family even) but this was mine to enjoy and finish to the very last salsa bit. And I did. The chicken looked like tofu cubes in the creation process but once tasted, burst with savory seasoning that my taste buds will forever crave. The chicken, cheese, pico de gallo and onions melted together into this wonderful que-sa-di-ya. The tortilla wrap was chewy and “fresh”, and so were the guacamole and salsa. Eaten together, messed up and splashed all over the paper plate, this was perhaps the closest that I could ever have to a Mexican fiesta. (Unless of course I do get to go to Mexico. Ole!) It was rather on the expensive side, but this trip to Mexican food heaven merited a couple of satisfied burps and for that, I shall return.

Steak Burrito

Steak Burrito P340

Not mine, but it was fun to watch the meat-eater endeavor to finish this carbo frenzy of a wrap. As if the choice between cilantro rice and chorizo rice was difficult enough, but to down this giant creation, it needed more than just a Coke and a Hail Mary. Flavorful as it is colorful, I believe Mr. Burrito will go for the que-sa-di-ya the next time around – but of course sharing is another option.

Ristras served us a rather glorious food fiesta, to make up for the faux Mexican joints that have been flooding Manila and their nasty fares that rely on Quickmelt cheese, butter and canned tomato sauce. At least at Ristras, everything was natural, fresh, authentic and well, mucho gusta! Gracias!

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Andale, Baja Mexican Cantina

In preparation for my much awaited escapade at Baja Mexican Cantina (Greenbelt 3), not only did I brush up on my rusty Spanish, I also summoned my faux Latin roots (having once believed we were related to Speedy Gonzalez) and managed to perfect pronouncing quesadilla with the ethnic twang, “It’s que-sa-di-ya, entiendes?

Just this night, I was the Perezosa Negra Gata (Lazy Black Cat in Spanish) who was and still, mucha hambre!

The excitement died down, even before I could bring out my bolero, as the place became a Baja Siesta Fest.

Service was rather slow, as if exemplifying the siesta time. This lazy pace at 7 in the evening though made me consider blaming the time zone difference but then realized that perhaps their “Tia Maria” cook was still tossing the dough for the burritos. If I could only scream, “Andale, andale!” like my ancestor Speedy, then maybe things would’ve gone better. But since this is Manila, I wouldn’t want spit on my salsa.

The food came in long and irregular gaps, which in turn gave my companions their gossip break, and as for me, space out time.

Frozen Iced Tea
Cheese Quesadilla

Cheese Quesadilla

Slap in the right amount of cheese in between flour tortillas, grill and voila! Nothing could go wrong with this Mexican appetizer. Baja’s sauce on the side provided the much-needed flavor and spice. However we found the wrapper a tad too thick, thus engulfing most of the cheese. There’s a reason it’s called Cheese Quesadilla and not Quesadilla con Queso.

Nachos Supremo

Nachos Supremo

With gigantic balls of whipped cream, salsa and cheese, this one’s the appetizer champ. The toppings are finely placed and additional orders of salsa, cheese or guacamole are available at less than P50 per topping. The only fare that has been met with appreciative nods and lip-smacking praise, I believe should I return to Baja, it will be solely for this nacho fiesta.

California Burrito

California Burrito

A beef-filled entree, I watched as slivers of French Fries erupted from the sliced Americanized burrito. The ground beef was everywhere, too tedious for me to pick, and so I left this fare to the meat-eaters. They ate in the Mexican fashion, slow-paced but not engaged in the meal. It seems that the Hamburger-cum-Burrito was not welcomed by their discriminating taste, or perhaps the hybrid attempt simply did not satisfy either genre.

Fish Fillet Vera Cruz

Fish Fillet Vera Cruz

This fish went from “fresh catch” to “gone in 60 seconds”. The fish was fresh and if it helps, so white, I just couldn’t stop shoving pieces in my mouth. The batter was also mildly Mexican, not overwhelming or irritatingly greasy. Whoever  Vera Cruz is, well here’s our message to you: Muchas Gracias, Senora! Unless it’s Tio?

Wet Burrito (with Chicken)

Wet Burrito (with Chicken)

The rice was placed on the side (as requested) and inside, it was 90% beans and 10% chicken (and chicken skin). The chicken was literally bathed in purple, and for a minute I thought I was eating dinuguan and ube (both of which I do NOT eat) in one mighty wrap, devoid of vegetables. If I could rename it, it would be the Fat-Wrap Bean Burrito. In grade school science class, we learned about the 3 Gs of Nutrition: Go (carbs), Grow (protein) and Glow (vegetables). Simply put, this burrito’s so wet, it’s lost all its glow.

With other more enticing and conveniently located Mexican joints in Manila, it’s “Adios!” to Baja Mexican Cantina in the meantime. Should you decide to have a fish taco-nacho buffet in the future though, count me in!

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