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.
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
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.
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: Jimmyâ€™s Satti, a must in Zamboanga City
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
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)
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!
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.
Barangay Sta. Maria
+63 62 991 3284
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.
Zamboanga City, 7000
+63 62 991 1852
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.
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.
+63 62 992 5168