During my short two-week trip to the Philippines, I squeezed some time to eat at vegan restaurants. Luckily, my friends took me to their recommendations as part of their itinerary. Some of my family members (who are hard-core meat eaters) also took me to a couple of vegan restaurants. People took me mainly to Makati and Quezon City, the two most vegan-friendly cities in the Philippines. But, you could also find vegan restaurants like a rare gem in random provinces like Laguna, Bagiuo, General Santos, and Cavite (which happens to be my hometown).
First, I went to a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options called “Kismet Café”. It’s a charming little place only few blocks away from our hotel. My friend, Jaq, who is the festival organizer, recommended this place and took me and Chris there. We walked in and bright yellow walls with a colorful mural greeted us. They immediately reminded me of Berkeley or Santa Cruz in California. Aside from the vibrant décor, the owners, two brothers who lived in California, also greeted us with a warm welcome.
Chris and I ordered the veganized Tapsilog, which is a classic Filipino breakfast combo of beef tapa, fried rice, and egg scramble. I had it with a side of saba bananas, vinegar dipping, and pickled papaya or achara. And by the owners’ recommendation, we also got a vegan carne asada burrito. Usually, I would veer away from what I already have back in the Bay Area, like burritos. But if the owners personally recommended it, then I couldn’t say no. As it turns out, the owners built this café because they miss California cuisine. They also wanted to see more vegetarian and vegan choices in Manila. Not to mention, Kismet Cafe is one of the few coffee shops that carry vegan creamers. Most coffee shops in Manila especially the chain ones (except Starbucks), have only dairy creamers. Compared to Starbucks though, I would rather support Kismet Cafe.
Kismet Cafe’s serving sizes are pretty generous, unlike what I’m used to at other Filipino restaurants. In fact, Chris and I were so stuffed to the gills that we didn’t have any more room for anything else. We wanted to order their much recommended vegan pancakes but we were too full. Chris and I planned to come back for them next time. Little did we know we won’t have a next time because of our tight schedule. Now I’m adding Kismet’s pancakes to one of the many reasons I want to come back to the Philippines.
On another occasion, Jaq and her sister Jertie took us to another restaurant, this time to an all-vegan place called “Green Bar Cafe“. It’s a cute and chic vegan restaurant tucked inside an unassuming building in Makati. The food at Green Bar combines healthy and hearty perfectly well. Their menu offers customizable healthy bowls as well as sinful desserts like vegan donuts. On top of that, Jaq and Jertie, who are allergic to gluten, also found gluten-free options. The place had a bit of everything for everybody craving good vegan food.
Another time I was able to eat out was after the vegan meet-up. The organizers, merchants, and I were supposed to head to a vegan restaurant called “Greenery Kitchen” for dinner. But the Asean summit caused some road closures so we went to a nearby vegetarian restaurant instead called “Veggiezen“. The food at Veggiezen is mostly Chinese and Asian cuisine. I remember loving their best sellers, the Tsa Tsai Men soup and Cua Pao dim sum.
During our dinner, Chris and I were fighting our jet lag. We were ready to drop any moment even though it was only 8pm. We weren’t the only ones. The vegan merchants at the meet-up who were also going to sell at “Vegfest Pilipinas“, were beyond exhausted. Yet, we took our time, conversing and laughing out loud that we didn’t end our dinner until Veggiezen had to close down the place.
After dinner, Chris and I headed back to our hotel. At the hotel lobby, we saw a delivery guy sitting and waiting for us. He stood up and handed Jaq about four plastic bags full of stuff. As it turns out, Greenery Kitchen had already prepared a full spread for us! They had wrapped everything to-go when they learned we were not going there anymore. I was a little oblivious about what was going on. I thought maybe Jaq had ordered something to bring back home for her family. Then she handed the food to me and Chris and told us that now we have food to-go.
Jertie had also baked a vegan chocolate cake and handed the box to us. Chris and I were flabbergasted and felt bad that we weren’t able to share both the cake and the to-go food with friends. Still, both Jertie and Jaq graciously gave us all these delicious food without hesitation. Talkin’ about Filipino hospitality! Chris and I wouldn’t be able to fit everything in our small fridge in our room. Good thing the people at Element Boutique Hotel were kind enough to keep the food fresh in a bigger fridge. I later learned the owners at Greenery Kitchen were bummed out that I wasn’t able to visit their restaurant. I was pretty bummed out too. The next morning, we took our food and cake to my family in Bacoor Cavite, where Chris and I stayed for several days before Vegfest Pilipinas.
My relatives raved about the food at Greenery Kitchen. They especially loved the “malunggay dilis”, made of moringga leaves seasoned in sweet umami flavors similar to a popular dried fish called “dilis”. My auntie said they could definitely eat healthier if the food tastes just like the vegan dilis. It was meant as a snack but they were excited to eat it with rice too.
My nephews and nieces loved the chocolate cake. Little did they know the cake was all gluten-free. Heck, I couldn’t taste the difference. I just remembered it being rich, decadent, and divine. It tasted better than other regular chocolate cakes I’ve tried before. Aside from the to-go food and cake, I was also able to give them vegan food from the meet-up and my aunties loved the jackfruit fried “chicken” from “The Real Happy Cow“. My mommy Henya, who was the head cook of the family, carefully ate it, studying how to make it from scratch.
While in Bacoor Cavite, my other auntie called, wanting to meet up with me and Chris. Over the phone, she asked me if there’s a vegan restaurant I’ve been meaning to check out. I remembered researching online and learning about a vegan restaurant in Bacoor Cavite so I told her, “Daniel’s Choice”. She quickly reacted “What? How did you know about that place?”. As it turns out, my aunt and her family drove to Daniel’s Choice that day to scout ahead of time and to see if they can take me there. She said it took them two hours to find the place. My aunt and her family never had vegan food and are absolute home bodies, so the gesture of them going out of their way to find a vegan restaurant for me truly warmed my heart.
The next day, we drove to Daniel’s Choice for dinner. Getting there, I understood why it took them two hours to find this place. The restaurant was not that far but it was hiding inside a gated school. I was actually relieved that they had researched ahead of time. But just in case we needed assistance, the restaurant owner and I were messaging each other on Facebook. She was also talking to my aunt but she wasn’t sure if my aunt and I were the same group.
We ordered almost everything on the menu. I especially loved the vegan spaghetti and vegan Lechon Kawali (veganized roast pork belly). My aunt, uncle, and cousin enjoyed every dish. In fact, we cleaned up almost every plate. They had never tried vegan food before so I was relieved and thrilled that they enjoyed everything. The owner stayed with us and we all happily chatted about life in the Philippines, vegan food, and being a fellow “Bacoorean”.
After our dinner, my family and I headed to a popular halo-halo place in Digman Street for dessert. My aunt and uncle graciously let me stop by a supermarket first to buy soy milk for my and Chris’ halo-halo. We brought the soy milk with us to the halo-halo place and thoroughly enjoyed our desserts and conversations. We chatted for a while, catching up on what’s new as well as talked about the good old times.
The night before Vegfest Pilipinas, my friends Tuesday and Yvette, took Chris and I to two Japanese vegetarian restaurants in Quezon City. For dinner, we ate at “Wabi Sabi” and had vegan ramen soup. We got the “Wabi Sabi ramen” and “Tantanmen”. We also ordered the cuapao, fried rolls, and genmaicha tea. I’ve had Wabi Sabi before from my last trip in 2013 and I remembered having a great time then. We had a great time again this year with all the delicious vegan dishes they served us. Every dish we ordered hit the spot.
For dessert, we walked to the restaurant next door called “Ikigai Cafe“, where they serve Japanese shaved ice milk. My friends and I were too full from Wabi Sabi so we ordered just two desserts to share among us. Apparently, the portions at Ikigai were very generous anyway. We ordered the vegan matcha shaved ice milk and vegan mango shaved ice milk. Both were sweet and refreshing. My friend preferred the matcha but I preferred the mango, although I thoroughly enjoyed both and would order either one of them again. After dessert, my friends and I went to Bo’s coffee shop and chatted some more until wee hours of the night. The following day was “Vegfest Pilipinas” where I had a cooking demo and other kinds of festivities. You can read all about the festival here.
Before ending our trip, my cousin wanted to take me to a vegan restaurant. She had originally planned to take me and Chris to a vegan buffet called “Tastihealth Vegetarian“, but the restaurant was two to three hours away. We didn’t have that much time so we decided to go somewhere closer. I suggested “Corner Tree Cafe” in Makati. We enjoyed our meal there but wished the portions were bigger. We probably got spoiled from the other places.
Looking back, both Chris and I wish we had more time exploring more vegan places. We never returned to Kismet Cafe for the pancakes and we didn’t get to try Tasti Vegetarian Buffet. Not to mention, we didn’t get to dine in Greenery Kitchen. On top of that, we weren’t able to check out vegan resorts and eco-farms with vegan options. On the brighter side, at least Chris and I have something to look forward to when we go back to the Philippines.
Although I could personally recommend to you only few things I’ve tried myself, I will also share with you a list of recommendations from friends. I will also recommend grocery stores that carry vegan products. Hopefully, you’ll find the lists useful in case you travel to the Philippines. And if you have more tips, feel free to share them with me as well.
ASTIGVEGAN’S RECOMMENDATIONS: VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS (WITH VEGAN OPTIONS):
- Kismet Cafe
- Green Bar
- Greenery Kitchen
- Daniel’s Choice
- Ikigai Cafe
- The Vegetarian Kitchen
FRIENDS’ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS (WITH VEGAN OPTIONS) IN METRO MANILA:
- Lucy in the Sky Cafe
- Counselor’s Cafe
- Quan Yin Chai
- Pipino Vegetarian
- Agico Cafe
- Live Life
- Likha Diwa Cafe
FRIENDS’ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS (WITH VEGAN OPTIONS) OUTSIDE METRO MANILA:
FRIENDS’ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED OMNIVORE RESTAURANTS WITH VEGAN OPTIONS IN METRO MANILA:
GROCERY STORES AND FARMERS MARKET/BAZAAR WITH GREAT VEGAN OPTIONS IN METRO MANILA:
- The Vegan Grocer Ph
- Healthy Options Grocery Stores
- The Landmark Supermarkets
- Rustan’s Supermarkets
- Salcedo Market – Saturday Farmers Market Bazaar
- Mandala Park – Sunday Farmers Market Bazaar
FRIENDS’ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED RESORTS WITH VEGAN OPTIONS OUTSIDE METRO MANILA:
Do you have your own recommendations? Feel free to share here. And kain na, let’s eat!