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Living in Cebu my whole life, I’m prone to being asked, by friends who plan to visit Cebu, for recommendations of where to eat. It’s a question I really find hard to answer because I stopped watching out for the new hip cafes and restaurants, which are endlessly popping up since BPO industry booms here. It’s just so hard to catch up with the Joneses.
Visiting friends’ questions would be like:
“So what do you think of La Vie Parisienne?” I’d honestly like to tell them, “There’s nothing good there except for their fake cherry blossoms light which is perfect for your #feedgoals,” but you could not blurt it out because they so love what they saw of it from instagram posts.
“How about Lantaw restaurant?” I’d honestly like to reply, “It’s owned by Pages. You can just pick any Pages-operated restaurant, and they all basically taste the same.” But of course, I won’t say that. Hey, I support local businesses.
“How about Larsian?” I’d honestly would like to reply, “I think legit Cebuanos stop going there when it’s transferred to a decent complex structure.” But of course, I won’t say that to burst their excited bubble.
“Where’s the best lechon?” This is the #1 top FAQ of anyone traveling to Cebu. I’d honestly would like to say, “The best lechon experience is when it’s FREE. Wait to be invited to a Cebuano’s pista celebration or party at home so you would know what is the best lechon. On the other hand, coming from the Southern part of Cebu, my vote is for…
LECHON in CARCAR PUBLIC MARKET
That’s if you have at least 4 hours of driving / commuting — to and from Cebu City — to spare just to eat a roasted pig.
I think lechon from Talisay is also good, and I don’t know where to get them but I have tasted them a lot. Cebu friends also swear that lechon in Jai Alai is gooodddd!!!
To make your travel to Carcar worthwhile, you might as well hoard Chicharon. My favorite Chicharon seller / vendor is this small store that has no name, and it’s right beside the Public Market’s Toilet area. Choose the chicharon with “tambok” and meat for its extra oommpphhh!
So now that I tackled the top FAQ of travelers to Cebu, let me now try to give you a preview / overview of how to eat like local in Cebu. This is based on a scientific survey of myself.
CARENDERIA FOODS: HUMBA, INUN-ONAN and the likes
There’s a lot of Cebu homecooked dishes that are hard to find in squeaky clean looking restaurants. And, I think the closest that you can get them is from the basic cafeteria or carenderia. Or to be “sosyal,” we can call it “hole-in-the-wall.”
Who does not love Carenderia food? They’re not instagrammy but they’re tummy-hits.
But finding a decent carenderia is really tricky. So here are some tips for your carenderia food trip in Cebu:
1. Ask tips from the taxi drivers. They definitely know all the secret alleys that has the yummy local dishes.
2. Don’t forget to ask for “mais” as your rice.
3. Don’t forget the Sparkle!
4. My tip is go to schools or Universities. School cafeteria can be so homey, and most of all reliably clean. But no need to really get inside the school, you can go to the nearby carenderias lining beside the school.
You can get a tip from this so #throwback Bisaya song, Humba, where to get that “humba.” You can skip to 0:29 of the music video. But I don’t think that carenderia still exists today but still you can go to USC-TC for some carenderia foods.
But my default go-to carenderia is in UP Cebu. But again, it’s already closed but I believe any nearby carenderia in UP Cebu is a thumbs-up. Also, there’s a nearby popular…
PUNGKO-PUNGKO in UP Cebu
But you have to be very early like 10am early if you want the “ginabot” from the Pungko-pungko near UP Cebu. Pungko-pungko offers a variety of fried (finger)food which is best pair with “puso” (hanging rice. It’s a crime to eat it not with “puso.”) but I’ll only mention “ginabot” in this post because it’s my most favorite.
Pungko is to squat or sit low. And so it’s called “pungko-pungko” because you have to squat on the streetside to eat. Though, it evolves now. There’s a mini complex in Fuente, at the back of Rajah Hotel, that offers Pungko-pungko.
But if you want the old-school “Pungko-pungko” experience, check out “MUKBANG! PUNGKO-PUNGKO SA CEBU FT. EMODODONG” by diva vlogger Maryflor Garcia, and don’t forget to subscribe to her youtube channel.
For a last useless tip, my most favorite “ginabot” is from a lady selling across Velez Hospital. There’s that one lady there at lunch time with a basket of ginabot.
Another useful tip is from a friend: You can get 24/7 Pungko-pungko just in the outskirt of IT Park, near Alba Uno Hotel.
Each Cebuano has his/her own favorite ginabot or pungko-pungko story so what I mean is just go out and explore the streets of Cebu City. =)
There are a few more to-go food places in my eatinirary list but this is it for now. Please watch out for my Part 2, or you can go to foursquare or ask the ever reliable google.
But seriously, I wish you can get an honest to goodness tips from a legit Cebuano so please do watch out for “A Cebuana’s EATenirary in Cebu Part 2.” I’ll try to write about fancier places where you can eat in my next post. =)