I miss Naga City. I miss Camarines Sur, I miss Bicol. It was one of those days when I just pined to be in these places for it has been many months, almost a year to be exact that I haven’t been back. And because of this yearning, I decided to make some posts about Naga City and surrounding environs. To start, I am making a list of food places that a foodie should try.
Part 1 | Part 2
Naga City is a cosmopolitan city. It is thriving and the food scene is something to be happy about. There are lots of restaurants around, from old reliables who have been there for several decades to interesting ones who have become established for a few years already to greenhorns trying to make a mark. The food industry can be fickle. Some are there riding on a fad but will just fade later but there are also others who have stood the test of time and have become well loved favorites. And maverick ones who are introducing new twists to well known dishes.
The goal of this series of posts on Naga City food places is to list the restaurants and diners that I’ve tried over the years of visiting and worth recommending, from cheap kinalas shacks to high end restaurants and good ones in between. There will be a maximum of 10 restaurants to be featured per post and this is Part 1. Where to eat in Naga City? Read on…
Kinalas is the quintessential Naga City noodle soup dish. A hearty broth, firm noodles, boiled meat usually from the head, a slice of hard boiled egg, scallions, a gravy like topping and optional brain slices. The first time I tried this one, I was in noodle heaven, downing a hot bowl with additional chicharon cracklings while perspiring as the afternoon was also hot and humid, only to be mitigated by a cold bottle of Coke.
There are many kinalas diners around the city but I’ve been to three which are all highly recommended: Kinalas Twin is my first and favorite, Cha Ced Kinalasan is just near the river and is also a good vantage point for observing the Traslacion of the Ina during the Penafrancia Festival and as it is near the Basilica, popular with morning joggers, and Cha Kamot Kinalas which our friends from Naga X (Naga Excursions) swear by this one. These three are worth visiting.
Naga Garden Restaurant
Hands down, one of the reliable restaurants for good, homecooked Bicol dishes. From laing to Bicol Express, from their own version of toasted siopao, which is bigger, to there very delicious beef mami. As in wow! I remembered coming here the first time I visited Naga City several years ago, when the restaurant was still not airconditioned and I had the noodle and siopao combo. It packed a punch that I just have to visit again and again.
READ MORE: Mami! Mami! Mami! At Naga Garden Restaurant
3N Bakery is quite popular for its toasted siopao which started in the town of Libmanan. So popular that they have many branches not only around Camarines Sur but even outside of it and in Manila. I love the flavorful taste, the compact bread that whenever I go back to Makati from Naga City via bus, I always buy around 10 for my baon during the long trip at their branch infront of the bus terminal. At just P8, its really cheap but good. It also has become a habit that whenever I’m near Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao, I also drop by their bakery along EDSA. But nothing beats eating toasted siopao at its home turf.
Crown Park Restaurant
Crown Park Restaurant is popular with Naga City denizens, especially their main branch at the ground floor of Crown Hotel at the old city center infront of the Quince Martires Monument. I love their dimsum and while walking in SM City, I stumbled at their branch there. I tried the hung ma rice (the hung ma bread is another local favorite) and just love it for its flavorful and very tender meat. Simple yet filling and delicious.
READ MORE: Delicious hung ma rice in Naga City
The most popular homegrown fastfood chain in Bicol and I always make it a point to drop by whenever I’m in the area. I go there either for its sumptuous breakfast meals or lunch or dinner. The introduction of the Tower Burger a few years ago made some buzz and we just have to try. Challenging to finish but good. The Magsaysay Ave. branch has nice and thoughtfully made interiors with good ambiance. I always patronize Biggs Diner in lieu of either Jollibee or McDonalds. Their arroz caldo is also good.
READ MORE: Biggs Dinerâ€™s THE TOWER BURGER!
The restaurant is located at the ground floor of Andrew and Hillary Hostel which is also a heritage house near the cathedral. Massive wooden posts that support the old house can be seen at the restaurant. They serve typical Bicolano and Filipino food which is also good. But what made my dining here memorable was tasting their leche flan with a hint of rhum. It was so delicious, the velvety creamy flan melting in your mouth while the hint of alcohol chasing the sugary taste.
READ MORE: Relaxing dining experience at Calle Barlin
Bob Marlin Restaurant & Grill
Bob Marlin Restaurant & Grill claims to have the best crispy pata and they’re really proud of it. The restaurant is quite popular with locals and visitors and can get crowded during peak times for lunch and dinner. Celebrities and our group of travel bloggers are immortalized with signed white plates that are hung at the walls of the restaurant. The crispy pata is darn good. And so are the Bicol dishes here. Their rasta paling is their signature drink which packs a heavy blow but pretty and colorful enough to admire if you’re not a drinker.
Although we were just there for snacks of good pansit, it was the different kind of pili shake that I always remember. While some cafes in Naga City have their white version, Ranchero Grill’s included the violet pulp of the pili nut, thus imbibing its darker color. It’s delicious and refreshing too. I think its better than the white ones in the city.
Bora Hut 2
Another popular weekend gimmick hang out, it’s known for its good food and drinks. It’s a great place to unwind and savor the pulutan and meals. It can get crowded during weekend nights. The sizzling squid is especially recommended as its really fresh and tender.
READ MORE: Where to drink and eat in Naga City
Lake Buhi Resort
Although not part of Naga City but located in Buhi town, I was enamored with authentic Buhi food that was served to me at the Lake Buhi Resort. The dishes are typical Bicol but with an added local flavor. It is also where you can taste sinarapan, the smallest freshwater fish in the Philippines which is only found in Lake Buhi and some smaller lakes near it.
READ MORE: Good Bikolano food at Lake Buhi Resort