I don’t know if it is just us, or the saturation of a city that draws us out from it. Almost everyone talks about “10 Things To Do in BGC” or “5 Instagrammable Coffee Shops in Makati!”— there are heaps of content and blogs talking about the same predictable places all the time. Then again, perhaps it’s just us. We love finding a diamond within piles of rubbles.
With this content piece, we want to talk about Cubao City. Yes, you read it right— good old sketchy Cubao City. Like most old towns in Metro Manila people have forgotten that the city did matter in her glory days in the 60’s.
It is where the greatest sporting event “Thrilla in Manila” took place, where Muhammad Ali fought William Frazier for the WBC/WBA title. To commemorate that victory, they build the first official mall in the country which we still now call the Ali Mall.
Come away with us as we show you Where to EAT, Where to GO, and What to DO when in CUBAO City. Featuring the obscure, the cool, and its hidden subculture.
THE IGNITER OF IT ALL, CUBAO EXPO.
Cubao X housed street and art culture driven establishments prior before all the millennials flock annual Manila Art installs and jump into the bandwagon of dosing into contemporary art for GRAM purposes. The whole complex used to be the Marikina Shoe Expo, developed in 1972 where the best shoemakers of Marikina showcase their products then it closed in 1997 as the industry was dying out and left it with ruins of quirky spaces. The place made a comeback in the 2000’s housing everything artfully dodged, eclectic and underground hip.
The common formula would be cheap cold beers, tattoo shops, 80’s built parlors (which recently closed already), tailor leather shop, Ukay Ukay for clothing, 2nd hand vinyl shops and a number of antique shops who have been there since they re-opened.
It is really hard to pin down what Cubao Expo really represents or what generation it caters. For me, it’s a neutral ground where we all could drink cold beers and discuss how awful and preppy the outside world is.
It is still Cubao’s best-kept secret and a treat for the discriminating few in search of the rarity.
Address of Cubao Expo: General Romulo Street, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City.
Eat the Best sous vide lechon in Habanero Kitchen and Bar
Some of the solid innovative food finds that would normally blow our minds would come from hole-in-the-wall nooks that we wish no one would ever find out- as much as we love sharing the best places to eat, we oftentimes keep certain locations for ourselves. It is like finding that one great indie artist for quite some time hoping that the artist will never sell out to mainstream channels. Since we’re doing this neighborhood guide, might as well divulge our secret just so we have a good selling proposition to all of you. Habanero Kitchen & Bar is that hole in the wall restaurant for us.
Browse their menu you will notice that their roster of creativity and not to mention the quality is the kind of roster you’d find in the more upscale restaurants in Metro Manila. Snotty food journals might coin “Elevated Filipino Cuisine” or even “Haute”. But the having Cubao as its mother location stripped away all those pretensions. Just damn good food. Dishes are playful and yet distinctively Filipino, losing none of the essential elements in their application of modernism style of cooking.
Do not skip the Lechon Habanero. A kilo of pork is cooked sous vide style for at least 10 hours, perfectly sliced, and the O.C.D way of presenting it was perfect.
Get a piece or two of the spiced lechon, put those pieces on top of the mustard leaves, dabble a spoonful of the buro, and then wrap the whole thing like a spring roll.
Habanero’s Leche Flan looks like an egg on a nest. Of course, everything is edible.
Habanero for quite sometime sits quietly where she is. No one really takes time to notice them, but she sure does deserve our attention. If you want to see the future of Filipino cuisine, go to this restaurant.
- Cubao Expo. Gen. Romulo Ave., Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City
- Operating Hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. from Mondays to Saturdays
- Ave. Spend: P200 to P800
Go for Cigarettes After Sex over at INT. Bar
Behind the bright red curtain of a photo booth lies a little speakeasy by the name of Int. Bar. A place where the love for film and strong cocktails are in pure synthesis. Why “Int.”? It is the prefix of headers in film screenplays. Imagine entring a cool dark den complimented by mid-60s mid century inspired modern furniture.
Take this drink called– Cigarettes After Sex. The bartender told us that this is the bestseller. If you’re a whiskey drinker, you’d enjoy this drink because of its layers of the flavor profile. Lapsang Infusion, Laphroaig 10 y.o. Islay Scotch Whiskey, Honey, Egg White, and Rosemary Smoke. The theatrical serving of this drink added a bonus touch to the overall experience.
For the ladies, you’ll love the Eternal Sunshine because it is sweet and yet the cacao infused tequila creates this depth of warm flavors which was offset by the brightness of agave.
A drink called Eternal Sunshine [Cacao nibs infused reposado, Aperol, pineapple, lime, and Agave nectar.] piqued our interest, mainly because we personally love the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Offhand, we wanted something sweet, refreshing, and will finish strong towards the end.
Another libation of choice would be a drink inspired by Wes Anderson’s 2002 film, The Royal Tenenbaums. This is for the scotch drinkers, they use Dewar’s scotch, Sandeman Tawny port wine, Angostura bitters, flamed citus oil.
A speakeasy bar and cocktails named after classic films in Cubao? isn’t that interesting enough? Go for these damn good drinks and the conversations you will have.
- Location: Cubao Expo, Gen. Romulo Ave. Cubao, Quezon City
- Operating Hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesdays to Sundays
- Ave. Spend: P500 to P1,000
Dance like no one is watching in Today X Future
Today X Future reminds me of a blind date. You don’t know how he looks like, what he sounds like, unknowingly curious about his personality. Hearing about him with your chatty friends or through the use if the internet, you still have a vague indication of who he really is leaving you intrigued. So you dress up, put on your makeup, scared yet prepared for what may come. The date opens you to discover someone you couldn’t have fathom or dreamed up, the kind that leaves you smitten and anxious because you do not know what will happen to your encounter.
Smacked in the middle of 2 pawnshops in General Malvar Ave. in Cubao City. It is a hole in the wall concept bar and one of the unique bars you’d see in Metro Manila. It’s small, dark, cramped up, lit by cheap led Christmas lights and its iconic 70’s disco ball.
This place takes your expectations and throws it in the trashcan and gives you something better and weirdly satisfying at the same time.
On a night you’d want to dance or even attempt to 80’s-early 90’s old school hip-hop and another night, the DJ might bring out a QUEEN classic like “We Will Rock You” You” and deftly mix that with an old OPM disco song. The crowd is slightly skewed differently each night, rowdy, tame or even nonchalant patrons on Tuesday Jazz Nights. One thing that doesn’t seem to change is how Future is always open until 4 am, the waiter says proudly and even on Holy Week at times.
- Location: 2 General Malvar Ave, Cubao, Quezon City, 1109 Metro Manila
Lounge and listen to Jazz in Tago Bar
A quaint quarter from a converted residential house in Cubao City. A lone venue that only features live jazz music. The acoustics are good, the patrons are friendly, the beer is cold, and the musicianship is soulful. They play standards mostly, with innovative beats and improv solos.
As it names precedes it- ‘Tago’ it is quite hidden. Make sure to find it on Waze as you’ll likely get lost on the back street of Cubao to find this signless bar.
The O.G “Art Fair” in Manila Since 1972 – Sining Kamalig.
The Sining Kamalig Art Gallery is the longest-running art gallery in the country spanning back in the 70’s and is conveniently located inside Ali Mall. It gave the visionary artist space where they can feature their materials.
For decades, Sining Kamalig has created a safer common ground where artists can express their political pieces thru their contemporary paintings.
Sining Kamalig displays works by big and small names in the art industry, so there’s always something new to discover contemporary pieces.
- Address: Upper G/F Ali Mall, Araneta Center
- Grounds for: Contemporary art
Same with the city of Manila– its unappealing shell is more than what meets the eye, to those who look beyond the usual perception, these hidden jewels are discovered only by those who are determined enough to pry.
Have a #DayOut in Cubao City and experience something different and worthwhile.