Best for grilled seafood. This restaurant is owned and ran by Nestor Evaristo, a Manileño who came to Bacolod and loved it so much he decided to stay. He started Aboy’s as a small turo-turo (eatery) in Burgos market in 1992, then expanded in 1996 to its current site in Singcang.
Favorites. I like the grilled blue marlin marinated in vinegar and soy sauce, and grilled scallops cooked with garlic and annatto seeds. Must try are the melt-in-your-mouth adobo squid fat cooked in vinegar, squid ink, garlic and onions, and pangat, Bacolod’s version of laing or taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and chilli. Compared to the usual laing, this one tastes like a sweet dessert. Grilled dishes here are best dipped in sinamak sauce or vinegar with garlic, red chilli, and langkawas, a type of ginger. For drinks, Aboy’s serves homegrown tarragon tea with mint, fresh cold coconut juice, and colas. Aboy’s is also known for its homemade rice cake snacks such as bibingka and puto bumbong, served year round.
Setting. Modern Filipino with colorful Bacolod maskaras (face masks) on walls.Aboy’s has private function rooms and a spacious al fresco dining area and parking space. Furnishings and accessories include antique chairs and tables, railroad ties and windowpane made of capiz shells. It also has a beautiful landscaped garden with koi pond.
Dishes are from P120 (about US $2.55). Aboys, Liroville Subdivision, Singcang Bacolod, tel +6334 435 0760.
2 Bernadette’s Chicken Inasal
Home of the original chicken "inasal" or Bacolod-style barbecued chicken. Owner and chef Bernadette Posadas is the daughter of Urbano Velez, the man who wrote the original chicken inasal recipe in 1946. This is the same recipe passed on to Bernadette, who set up Bernadette’s Chicken Inasal in 1983 in Manokan Country, an area where there’s a concentration of inasal eateries. Bernadette herself personally takes charge of marinating the chicken in vinegar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, seasoning and salt. The chicken is left to marinate for five hours then grilled in charcoal.
Favorites. My favorites are the chicken inasal and steamed oysters. Other must-try dishes are pork belly inasal or grilled pork belly marinated in soy sauce, calamansi (local lime), garlic, sugar, salt and pepper; and grilled chicken wings, skin, liver and intestine. Grilled dishes are best with soy sauce, chicken oil and sinamak, a spiced vinegar concoction. Drinks are mostly colas and local beers.
Setting. Nothing fancy, the place is a humble eatery that could accommodate up to 50 diners. There are electric fans, red covered monoblock chairs, and wooden tables covered with mustard yellow and off white tablecloth and plastic cover.
Chicken inasal costs P85 per order. Manokan Country, Reclamation Area, tel +63917 958 9365.
3 21 Restaurant
Home of Bacolod’s authentic "batchoy" or noodle soup. Batchoy is made with chicken stock, spring onions, pork liver, chicharon (pork cracklings), and beef loin. Bacolod’s 21 Restaurant started as 21 Food Corner, an eatery serving the famous batchoy by Lydia dela Rama Gamboa. The restaurant used to be the house of the Gamboas, where in one corner, Lydia Gamboa would serve the famous batchoy. Later on, cousins Richie Gamboa, Paolo Araneta, Rica Lacson and Antoni Espinos slowly expanded the restaurant to occupy the whole house.
Favorites. Best for batchoy. 21 serves a fusion of Filipino and American cuisine. Young restaurateur Richie Gamboa is sole keeper of the family’s famous batchoy recipe. Only Richie could make the comforting soup. He said the stock is very important; the chicharon is homemade and it should be crunchy even though it’s drenched in the broth for hours. The noodles are bought from a longtime local supplier. Richie also serves grilled lamb, slow cooked for two days to tenderize with homemade mint jelly, pepper tenderloin steak with creamy mashed potato and vegetables on the side, squid with lemon grass and chicken inasal (grilled) lollipop. For dessert, a must try is Antoni’s chocolate cake.
Setting. Modern fine dining. A center table with a huge flower arrangement welcomes guests. Walls are painted off white; there’s floor to ceiling windows and sheer white curtains. There are three airy function rooms and a spacious lounge. Artworks by local artist Therese Hinajoles are on display.
A meal here costs from P200 to P1, 250. 21 Lacson Street, tel +6334 433 4096.
4 Enting’s Specialty of Sagay
Best for roast pig and kilawin, raw fish marinated in vinegar and ginger. The restaurant is owned by Vicente “Enting” Lobaton, who’s been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years. His first restaurant is in Sagay, an hour’s drive north from Bacolod proper, and now managed by his daughter. His second bigger branch on Lacson Street opened in 1989.
Favorites. Top of my list here are the native lechon or roast pig and fresh seafood. The native pig is seasoned with salt, garlic and stuffed with tanglad or lemongrass, and the native chicken is stuffed with ginger, batwan or green sour fruit and lemongrass, then roasted for about three hours. The lechon is mouthwatering delicious; it’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Other favorites at Enting’s are kilawin na tanigue or raw Spanish mackerel soaked in vinegar, garlic, ginger and red chili, binga, an endemic shellfish in Sagay served raw with spicy sinamak sauce, and imbao or seashell soup. For dessert, Enting serves homemade suman or sweet sticky rice cake. Drinks include local beers and colas.
Setting. Open air, casual and laidback dining. Enting’s is a large nipa hut with three air conditioned rooms for private lunch and dinners. Perfect for any group gathering.
One whole lechon de leche or roasted suckling pig is about P3000 to P4000. Lacson Street, tel +0334 476 7034.
5 Kubo Sa Lawn
Best for seafood and sizzing dishes. Kubo sa Lawn (KSL) was set up in 1991 by the Martir twins, Sergus and Erin, in Bago City. In 2001, the place was reinvented to become a resto bar.
Favorites. One of the most talked about dishes here are pork sisig or sizzling minced pork face with onions, garlic, mayonnaise, calamansi, salt, seasoning and red chili. KSL’s sisig is sweet, finely chopped pork face and liver, and comes in five levels of spiciness — plain, mild, hot, super hot and triple hot. Other must try are sizzling seafood dishes such as gambas or fresh shrimp sautéed in oil and garlic, and boneless bangus or milkfish. Drinks include fruit juices, colas and local beers and hard liquor like Johnnie Walker Black, Absolut and Jose Cuervo. One of the popular patrons of KSL is actor Joel Torre.
Setting. It’s an open air restaurant furnished with monoblock chairs, wooden benches and tables, and a detached big dining space on the lawn. Perfect for a laidback feast with friends, colleagues and families.
Kubo sa Lawn prices start at P85. P. Hinares, formerly Libertad Extension, tel +034 431 1964.
6 Chicken House
Another Inasal place to try. Chicken House has branches in Sucat and Bicutan in Metro Manila. The Bacolod branch, set up by Jose Rico “Joe” Cajili in 1982, serves tender and tasty chicken inasal or grilled chicken.
Favorites. I like their inasal or grilled chicken pitso (breast) and chicken legs. Chicken parts are marinated in ginger, garlic, langgaw (vinegar) and salt for about an hour then grilled. Equally popular are the restaurant’s tender, sweet and spicy pork spareribs. For dessert, there’s homemade leche flan, a sweet custard-like dessert made of milk and egg yolk, and black sambo, a chocolate gelatin topped with chocolate syrup.
Setting. Casual dining venue with smoking and non-smoking areas.
Prices range from P100 to P150. Lopues Building, Bangkasubay Road, Mandalagan, tel +6334 441 1891
7 Sharyn’s Cansi House
Best for the popular "cansi" soup, a sour broth with beef bone marrow and loin. Sharyn’s was established in 1985 by Delia Derez, who created the cansi soup recipe. The restaurant is named after her youngest daughter Sharyn.
Favorites. The cansi beef marrow and loin are slow cooked for five hours in a caldron. Delia cooks it herself using charcoal instead of gas. Sharyn’s also serves crispy cansi or deep fried beef chunks garnished with onion rings, best with beer, and kilawin or raw fish marinated in vinegar, mayonnaise, onions, garlic and chili with salted egg.
Setting. Casual eatery. Walls are painted in shades of brown, the eating area furnished with formica tables and wooden chairs. Custom-made mirrors add a homey touch.
Sharyn's Cansi house. An order of cansi soup costs P270. Narra Street, Capitol Shopping, tel +6334 433 1374.
Best for French and Filipino dishes. Dutch chef Guido Nijssen and his wife, Bacolod native Gemma, own and run the Negros Museum Cafe. The place uses only local and natural ingredients. Guido is former editor of Dutch magazine Lekker. He’s been in the hospitality industry for more than 40 years, and established Negros Museum Café in 2011.
Favorites. The café serves a fusion of classic French and Filipino cuisine. All ingredients are either bought in local markets in Bacolod or in local farms in Negros Occidental. All sauces, breads and cheeses are made from scratch, and every week, the restaurant changes specialty dishes, and includes information on the menu, a brief food history and recipes. Try the cold cuts platter — light smoked bacon or “kasseler”, Talisay or sea salt ham and spiced pork belly. The platter also includes three types of bread and sauce, my favorite. For drinks, they serve organic hibiscus juice and robusta coffee from Candoni, South of Negros, and Arabica coffee from the farmers of Kanlaon.
Setting. The cafe is located inside the museum gallery. Tiffany chairs and handmade tables give the café a romantic feel. During the day, sunlight streams in the glass windows; and at night, candles and warm-toned fiber glass lamps provide soft light. Added features are artworks, wooden carvings and curated art pieces from local and foreign artists. A huge mural by local artist Raymond Legaspi is displayed at the al fresco dining area.
Museum Cafe, Gatuslao Street, tel +63916 908 6641.
9 Felicia’s Pastry
Favorites. I like Felicia’s moist chocolate cake. Not too sweet, just right. Other must try are the butter sans rival, a butter cream layered cake with cashew nut, chocolate sans rival, and braso de mercedes or sweet custard filled meringue with vanilla ice cream on its bottom layer. Felicia’s is also known for ensaymada, bread bun topped with grated cheese, sugar and butter. They also serve savory steak dishes and sweet cocktails.
Setting. Warm and cozy. Mouthwatering cakes and pastries welcome guests as they enter the cafeteria. Brick walls and the combination of beige and brown colors give the place a warm ambience.
A slice of cake is P120. 6th Street, Lacson Street, tel +6334 433 6586 or +6334 709 1123.
10 Kalan-an sa Higad Dalan
Best for pork chops. The restaurant is about an hour’s drive south from Bacolod City. Kalan-an opened in 1984, a humble nipa hut eatery. The food served are recipes of Lola Mina, a popular cook in the province. Her recipes were passed on to daughter Marina and then on to her grandchildren, the same recipes used by this eatery today. Kalan-an’s busy day starts at six in the morning. Diners are usually locals and travellers from Dumaguete city. Business tycoon Danding Conjuanco, and former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo have also dined here.
Favorites. Kalan-an probably has the best pork chops in the Philippines. Each day, the restaurant buys five kilos or more of pork chops in the public market of Hinigaran, just a block away. The pork chops are then marinated in soy sauce, lots of garlic and salt for a few seconds, and directly grilled in hot charcoal. Kalan-an serves simple Filipino dishes such as grilled squid stuffed with tomatoes; grilled barracuda; steamed oysters; sautéed mung beans; chicken and pork adobo; and dinuguan or pork blood stew.
Setting. Basic, cafeteria-style dining. There’s a dining area kept cool by electric fans and an airconditioned area. The fan area has amakan (bamboo matting) ceiling and monoblock chairs and tables. A life-size St. Martha statue, believed to be the restaurant’s patron saint, takes pride of place. There’s also a mural of a forest and mini fountain. The airconditioned area is bright and light, with its white ceiling and blue and white walls.
Tender, juicy grilled pork chop costs P95 per order. Rizal, Barangay 1, Hinigaran, tel +6334 391 7910.
About our Insider
Joseph Patrick Anglo, known as chef Jayps, was one of the judges of the Philippines' Junior MasterChef and co - owns and runs Sarsa Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. In Bacolod, he is also a co-owner of two established restaurants, Chinese restaurant Mai Pao, and trendy resto bar Mu Shu. Chef Jayps received his culinary training at the Tafe Ultimo and Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia.
Where to stay in Bacolod
GT Hotel located on the corner of Locsin and Galo Streets is a boutique city hotel with modern rooms ranging from superior to presidential suite. It is the best base when touring Bacolod since it is 10 minutes away from the main shopping center and market. Tel +6334 432 1888.
L’Fisher Hotel on Lacson Street is an established and Department of Tourism (DOT)- accredited Bacolod City hotel.
Getting there and around
What to see in Bacolod
Visit Balay Negrense in Cinco de Noviembre St., Silay. It is the ancestral home-turned-museum of sugar baron Victor Fernandez Gaston, showing the rich lifestyle of the Gaston family in the 20th century. The Ruins in Talisay are the remains of the mansion of Don Mariano Lacson, built in memory of his first wife Maria Braga. The Ruins also has a Mediterreanean restaurant. If you’re looking for nightlife and local art, go to Art District in Lopue’s Annex Building in Mandalagan, where Café Joint bar offers great music. Orange Gallery displays local artworks from local artists like Charlie Co.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller February to March 2014. Updated March 2016.