Country Chicken

Where to eat in Zamboanga: 10 restaurants you should try

I love Zamboanga City! Despite the many negative news that plagues this melting pot of people and culture, there is always something to be happy or look forward to in this city. Food is one. With its rich history colored with Spanish heritage (it calls itself the Latin City) peopled by Chinese merchants, Tausug traders, Christian migrants from the Visayas and other provinces of Mindanao, you are in for a smorgasbord of delectable dishes that you can only find here.

Having visited Zamboanga City countless times, I can say, these are the 10 must try restaurants.

Curacha smothered with Alavar's sauce is a must in Zamboanga City

Curacha smothered with Alavar’s sauce is a must in Zamboanga City

1 Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant

Alavar’s is perhaps the most popular restaurant in Zamboanga City with visitors and locals alike highly recommending this place. And their number one dish is steamed curacha smothered with the trademark Alavar’s sauce. The secret is the sauce that is coconut milk based with secret ingredients. So tasty that it’s finger licking good!

Other than the curacha, they have other seafood dishes, a paella like dish, durian shake and other grilled meat. They also have samplers that offer their popular dishes. It’s really a treat to eat here.

Don Alfaro Street
Tetuan, Zamboanga City
+63 62 991 2483

Busy Bee’s sumptuous fresh lumpia and a smaller serving of its popular arroz caldo. Both dishes are a must.

2 Busy Bee

I swear, Busy Bee has the best arroz caldo paired with fresh lumpia in this side of the country! Delicious, hot, flavorful rice dish while the lumpia is made from fresh ingredients from ubod (coconut heart of palm), wrapped in freshly made rice crepe and smothered with peanut and garlic sauce. I like having these two either for breakfast or for afternoon snacks.

READ MORE: The best arroz caldo and fresh lumpia in Zamboanga City

Jimmy’s Satti is highly recommended, delicious, filling and cheap

3 Jimmy’s Satti

Second to Alavar’s in terms of highly recommended places to eat is Jimmy’s Satti for their version of the Malaysian sate/satay. Pieces of beef or chicken, skewered and grilled and served in a plateful of tamuh, and swimming in their sweet-spicy sauce. Tamuh is rice cooked inside woven balls of coconut palm leaves akin to the puso (hanging rice) of Cebu. The place is popular with locals for breakfast.

READ MORE: Jimmy’s Satti, a must in Zamboanga City

Hai San is known for its delicious Chinese cuisine with freshl seafood that you chose to be cooked

Hai San is known for its delicious Chinese cuisine with fresh seafood that you chose to be cooked

4 Hai San Seafood Market And Restaurant

Hai San is one of the city’s well respected chinese and seafood restaurants. While most people consider it as rather expensive, such expense is well worth it particularly with the great and sumptuous food. Fresh seafood is displayed at one area and it’s what they will cook when you order.

The grilled squid is just cooked right, tender. Most of the dishes that we ordered were just delicious. The durian shake is also one of the best that I’ve tasted. Almost as delicious as that of Iliganon’s.

San Jose Road
Zamboanga City 7000
+63 62 991 5506

Barcode offers not only the usual Filipino comfort food but it also has Tausug cuisine

Barcode offers not only the usual Filipino comfort food but it also has Tausug cuisine

5 Barcode

For those going out at Paseo del Mar, Barcode is a popular hangout among locals. They have live bands at nights and offers not only bar chow but also meals. Although they have popular Filipino food, it’s the Tausug cuisine that they offer that makes this restaurant interesting. They have chicken piangang blackened with burnt grated coconut meat, tiula itum soup and beef kulma.

Paseo del Mar (first branch)
Rizal St. (second branch)
Zamboanga City

Keyo’s Little Kitchen’s roti tulul and curry dip is delicious

6 Keyo’s Little Kitchen

This little restaurant is kind of a surprise for me. Other than the usual Filipino popular fare, I was more interested in the Tausug and Malaysian cuisine that they offer too. For the former, they have food trays called latal that is traditionally served and usually contains beef kulma, piangang and tiula itum. For the latter, they serve delicious murtabak ayam, roti tulul and mee goring. I really love the curry dip!

READ MORE: Interesting find at a Zamboanga City restaurant

Palmeras is popular for its knickerbockers and Filipino cuisine

Palmeras is popular for its knickerbockers and Filipino cuisine

7 Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant

This was one of the first restaurants I’ve eaten the second time I came back to Zamboanga City and I really loved the Filipino food that they serve. The lechon kawali was just delicious, less fat and with a crunchy skin. But the restaurant is also known for its dessert, the knickerbocker, sliced fresh fruits, squares of jelly, cream and topped with a scoop of ice cream. So popular that other restaurants are copying it.

Pasonanca Road
Barangay Sta. Maria
Zamboanga City
+63 62 991 3284

Seafood paella of Country Chicken's Spanish-Filipino cuisine.

Seafood paella of Country Chicken’s Spanish-Filipino cuisine.

8 Country Chicken Restaurant

It would be a disservice if you just think of this as another chicken house in the city but enter the restaurant and you will be in for a surprise. First, Country Chicken Restaurant is one of the old and well regarded dining places in the city. Second, the interiors are cozy, and rustic with decors that lend a homelike vibe. And third, you’re in for a treat with their good food.

Although the menu is a bit of everything, from American, Filipino, pizza and pasta as well as Spanish-Filipino, you would be hard pressed on what to chose. But the seafood paella is highly recommended. It’s savory, delicious and found me eating a lot! The callos is superb also with melt in your mouth pieces that can be memorable. The thin crust pizza is also good as well as the crispy pata.

Pasonanca Road
Barangay Pasonanca
Zamboanga City, 7000
+63 62 991 1852

KIng's Balbakwa's con miki

KIng’s Balbakwa’s con miki

9 King’s Balbakwa

I love balbakwa and one of the best places to have this popular Visayas-Mindanao dish is at King’s Balbakwa along Sta. Maria Road. The broth is just good, perfect for the rainy days, the tendons and skin gelatinous and very sating that when I do crave for one and I’m in this city, I just hail a tricycle and eat here. Their con miki, literally, meat and broth with noodles, is also a good alternative to the rice and balbakwa combo.

READ MORE: King’s Balbakwa: comfort food in Zamboanga City

Tsokolate's chicken barbecue and desserts are quite popular. It also has an eclectic interior.

Tsokolate’s chicken barbecue and desserts are quite popular. It also has an eclectic interior.

10 Tsokolate

Tsokolate is not only about desserts but they offer meals too. Their chicken inasal is quite popular and so are their different kind of breads and desserts, from pies, cakes to pastries and paired with bottomless iced tea. It also has an interesting interior where old sewing machines form the base of tables. Curiously, one longer table has an aquarium with live fishes in it too. They also have merienda (snacks), and serve good brewed coffee. What I also like? Cheap food.

Valderosa Street
Zamboanga City
+63 62 992 5168

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

30 Comments

  1. Estan Cabigas (@EstanCabigas)
    February 11, 2015 @ 13:36

    Where to eat in Zamboanga: 10 restaurants you should try: I love Zamboanga City! Despite the many negative new… http://t.co/2gVRKWP1Xy

  2. queenie casimiro
    March 19, 2015 @ 16:55

    [email protected] will be added to the list of “Must try/Must visit” in Zamboanga City. =)

  3. @WonderMudra17
    March 19, 2015 @ 21:47

    Where to eat in Zamboanga: 10 restaurants you should try http://t.co/9cal4sp20V

  4. @harvbinger
    March 19, 2015 @ 22:52

    entraw el Country Chicken! WOOOO http://t.co/2WoHlDl2sy

  5. @bagengmacrohon
    March 20, 2015 @ 1:46

    Babs Ika Luy , bene kome ya kita…. http://t.co/xTmPcM4Duv

  6. Sandra
    March 20, 2015 @ 3:06

    alavar’s the best!

  7. @thadz_love
    March 20, 2015 @ 3:13

    Where to eat in Zamboanga: 10 restaurants you should try http://t.co/dfwArtpNpE

  8. Gada S. Ahalul
    March 20, 2015 @ 5:37

    Park-In One Stop Shop @ cabato road,tetuan should be one of the ten Restaurants you should visit in Zamboanga.

  9. @alvinrexlucero
    March 20, 2015 @ 6:00

    I experienced dining at 8 out of the 10 listed. Never been ( rather not familiar) with King’s Balbacua and Keyo’s… http://t.co/pIpWnuu47b

  10. sophia lee
    March 20, 2015 @ 11:28

    i would rather recommend morning sun satti, better taste and ambiance, plus its the original..

  11. Dods Toevsky
    March 20, 2015 @ 18:04

    Should be more than 10.

  12. shadowdancer
    March 21, 2015 @ 7:57

    they forgot to mention RAVA’S specialty goto. the business is almost 20 years than a newbie king’s balbacua.

  13. Norbert Hölter
    July 8, 2015 @ 20:40

    Das Restaurant Don Vincente in Zamboanga darf nicht fehlen…Crispin Atilano St., Tetuan,
    Zamboanga City
    Der Inhaber ist auch Mitglied des Stadtrates von Zamboanga City.

  14. estan
    July 11, 2015 @ 20:59

    Thanx for the suggestion Norbert. Will check this out when I get back to Zamboanga City.

  15. Gen
    August 15, 2015 @ 14:26

    Try south avenue diner and grill

  16. estan
    August 15, 2015 @ 21:03

    Thanx for the suggestion Gen. Will try that one when I get back to Zamboanga City

  17. dolly Herrera
    October 18, 2015 @ 6:15

    Alavar and palmera is best!

  18. marian
    October 18, 2015 @ 7:15

    Other recommended places to try BAY-TAL-MAL in Tetuan for authentic tausug food beside LM hotel, John’s Grill for fresh grilled fish in canelar, mano mano and la casa maria both in sta maria. 😉

  19. Alvin Rex Lucero (@alvinrexlucero)
    October 18, 2015 @ 7:57

    I ate in 9 out of the 10 in the list. http://t.co/L6lOVWxcII

  20. Nicole
    October 18, 2015 @ 10:38

    I recommend Chinito’s Cafe!

  21. Thresh
    October 18, 2015 @ 12:41

    I think Busy Bee doesn’t deserve to be here. Ate there several times and the arroz caldo is not as good as before,like busybee durring he 90’s. Bsk lugaw is better.

    King’s balbakwa also doesn’t deserve to be here. The sanitation of king’s balbakwa is the worst. Ester’s balbakwa is better considering the taste and the sanitation.

  22. Thresh
    October 18, 2015 @ 12:59

    I read several comments and agree with most of them.
    South Avenue

    Don Vicente
    Rava’s
    Morning Sun Satti(btw Jimmy’s satti is the original)
    Andy’s satti (better sauce)
    Fat monk
    Ester’s balbakwa
    Fellini bistro
    Hanazono
    Lotus restaurant
    Abalone seafood restaurant
    Times restaurant
    Johns place

    I disagree 👎 thaat park in should be included in top ten. Maybe top 100. Never heard of that place. Sounds like a convenience store 🏪

  23. @YvnnYng
    October 18, 2015 @ 13:56

    3 & 10 😔http://t.co/EfRhsEn1zT

  24. @antimany
    October 18, 2015 @ 16:54

    haay bien sabroso bolbe na casa… http://t.co/SIozljyDMq

  25. Renzo Lee
    October 19, 2015 @ 7:19

    Yous should check out RED RESTAURANT in pasonanca
    If is a New restaurant that serves chinese and fil food and also hat KTV. It has the best ambiance in Zamboanga city. You will be surprised zamboanga has a place like this.

    You will love thier boodle fights! Affordable and servings are very generous.

  26. estan
    October 20, 2015 @ 0:35

    Hi Renzo, will definitely check that out when I will be back in Zamboanga City :). Thanx for the recommendation.

  27. sabs marquez
    October 20, 2015 @ 23:51

    Samurai!

    Best Japanese Resto in ZC. Along Cabato Road in Tetuan. You should try it.

  28. Malahksmi
    April 23, 2016 @ 10:31

    Times Restaurant must try also. Located at Climaco ave., with its mouth watering Special Lomi, Fried Rice and Buttered Chicken.. whew! Muy sabroso!!!

  29. estan
    May 7, 2016 @ 8:24

    Thanx for the recommendation. Will surely try it when I get back to Zamboanga City. Medyo matagal na kasi hindi ako nakakabalik. 🙂

  30. estan
    May 7, 2016 @ 8:27

    Thanx, will try that when I get back to Zamboanga City

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