Iloilo City’s Dining Scene Offers International Cuisine Gems
Are you visiting Iloilo City for the first time? Any resident, visitor, or even any food story about the booming Western Visayas city would tell you that when you’re in town, you must try La Paz Batchoy, Pancit Molo, and Chicken Inasal. But there’s really more to Iloilo’s food scene than these local staples.
If you’re staying in the city for longer than a few days and would like to get to know the fast-rising Philippine city’s dining scene, look no further than this guide to some of their best restaurants offering cuisines from around the world.
If you’re looking for good Chinese food, every local will recommend Summer House, located at the ground floor of Iloilo Midtown Hotel along Yulo Street in downtown Iloilo City. Although it’s hard to tell with the name, Summer House offers an awesome selection of Chinese dishes that come in three sizes. Locals would recommend Summer House’s Buttered Chicken, Lumpiang Shanghai, Pata Tim, Pancit Sun Yat Sen, Sharksfin Soup, Siomai, Pork Asado, and of course their Yang Chow Fried Rice.
While not yet as popular because it’s fairly new, Spring Palace is arguably a better option when you’re craving Chinese food. The food is delicious! Their Buttered Chicken can give that of Summer House’s a run for its money: It’s exactly how you imagined Buttered Chicken to be—soaked in butter with lots of garlic. The Roast Pork Asado is another must-try, as well as the Hot and Sour soup—piping hot, spicy, with moderate acidity, and loaded with seafood, even shrimps. The pricing is reasonable, considering the portions and the restaurant’s posh ambiance. They likewise have three sizes for each order: small, medium, and large. Their small portions can already satisfy two to three persons.
Located at Dr. Rizalina V. Bernardo Avenue, across the parking lot of Riverside Boardwalk in Smallville, Spring Palace is brightly lit, grandly designed, and has tables for both large and small groups. They have several function rooms equipped with flat-screen TV and sound system if you want to celebrate a family occasion or hold a business meeting.
If you want to stick to local, Iloilo City has a lot of restaurants offering traditional Filipino cuisine, like Punot in Riverside Boardwalk. Here, you can get your fill of Filipino fare like crispy pata, sisig, adobo rice, pinakbet, and liempo. And then there’s Breakthrough in Villa, which arguably offers the best and freshest seafood in Iloilo in a restaurant that faces the sea (with a view of Guimaras Island in the horizon). That said, it’s best to go here for lunch or before sunset. You can’t go wrong with their Garlic Butter Crabs—you get to pick your crabs yourself and you can ask for extra garlic and butter when you order. You also have to try their lechon, native chicken, mangga with bagoong, and prawns cooked any way you like it.
One of Iloilo’s hidden gems is Bavaria, located along 113 Seminario Street in Jaro and conceptualized by a German national and his wife (now ex). This hole-in-the-wall German pub at the ground floor of Iloilo City Inn, located on a narrow street near the famous Jaro Cathedral, looks every bit how you’d imagine a typical German pub to be: with dark, almost medieval-inspired interiors, complete with a huge animal’s hide mounted on the wall.
In here, you can chug Dieselmass, Radlermass, or Bavariamass from 1L beer mugs. The beer goes so well with their selection of German specialties like sausages and schnitzels. If you can’t decide what to get, order the Sausage Platter, which includes a variety of authentic European sausages like Bratwurst, Schublig, and Hungarian, served with home-made pickles and German bread. Add a side of sauerkraut!
Al Dente, the Italian restaurant located at the ground floor of The Mansion (formerly Iloilo’s prominent Sarabia Manor Hotel), is a nice choice for dinner dates and business lunches. Their comprehensive Italian menu boasts of a wide range of Insalate (salads), Antipasti (appetizers), pasta, pizza, and classic Italian entrees. Try their Steak Florentine, tenderloin au jus served with garlic rice; Rotollo di Pollo, chicken fillet with creamy cheese filling wrapped in strips of bacon, with a side of mashed potatoes; and Grilled Fish Primavera, fish fillet with sautéed peppered shrimps and pomodoro sauce, vegetable confit, and garlic rice.
Curiously, you can find some of the Philippines’ best and more affordable Korean restaurants in Iloilo City. A favorite among the many Koreans who live in and visit Iloilo is Kogi & Vegi at Riverside Boardwalk, which offers delicious authentic Korean food. We recommend their Samgyupsal (Pork) and Woosamgyup (Beef), which come with lettuce for wrapping as well as a variety of banchan (refillable side dishes), including kimchi and anchovies.
If you want soup, try the Jjamppong Bap, noodles in spicy soup with vegetables and seafood, served with rice. If you don’t feel like grilling your own food, order Beef Bulgogi, whose delicious marinade made of soy sauce, honey, green onion, garlic, sesame seeds, and pepper is great best enjoyed with steamed rice. Also try the boneless Yangnyum Chicken that’s deep fried and coated with spicy, sweet, and sour sauce, good for two to three persons.
There’s also Jip Bab at the Festive Walk Parade of Megaworld Iloilo Business Park. The restaurant requires a minimum of two orders of their main dish to be grilled, like Samgyupsal, which the staff will cook in front of you on each table’s built-in electric smokeless grill. Each order comes with unlimited rice and side dishes (five pickled varieties). Enjoy your Korean meal with a bottle of ice-cold soju. Feel free to ask for some calamansi concentrate to mix with your soju for a refreshing shot.
Madrid, located at Ayala Land’s’ Atria Park District, is great for nights when you just want to kick back with some red wine and tapas. Try the Croquetas, made of potato, cheese, and chorizo, served with garlic aioli; and the Quezo Fundido, which is basically your warm and creamy cheese fondue with bits of chorizo, served with garlic bread. Madrid is also known for its Salpicao, sautéed in Spanish olive oil with lots of garlic. You’ll also love the Camaron (shrimps), the Solomillo (beef tenderloin), and of course their paella.
Meanwhile, fans of the Mexican-inspired restaurant Mooon Cafe, which became popular in Cebu and Dumaguete, can enjoy its delicious quesadillas, nachos, tacos, and margaritas at the branch in SM City Iloilo.
Troi Oi Vietnamese Street Food, also located at Riverside Boardwalk, is supposedly the best place as yet to offer decent Pho and other Vietnamese fare in Iloilo City, which is probably why it’s always packed during mealtimes. Their Vietnamese head chef from Saigon created their authentic Vietnamese menu using ingredients they import from Vietnam as much as possible. Their regular-sized bowl of Pho can be enjoyed by two—just imagine how much bigger the large serving is. Their tasty and aromatic beef broth with noodles is flavored with Vietnamese spices, herbs, bean sprouts, onions, cilantro, and mint, just like any good Pho.
Among their popular dishes are the Vietnamese Spring Rolls, which are deep fried and contain minced pork and shrimp mixed with herbs and spices, served with sweet-sour vinegar-based dipping sauce; and the Caramelized Chicken Wings marinated in Vietnamese fish sauce and spices that you can opt to have Mild or Spicy. Wash them all down with strong Vietnamese Coffee with condensed milk that you can enjoy either hot or over ice. And leave room for two of their desserts that have sweet Guimaras mango: the Sticky Rice and Tapioca Pudding.