By Abigail Javellana
Cebu, the country’s oldest city, has so much more to offer than the famed Sinulog Festival, with century-old churches, long white sandy beaches, world class diving, unspoiled countryside, and a rich culinary history – Cebu City has something for everyone!
Food is central to the Cebuano experience! Your trip wouldn't be complete without tasting the best lechon and trying out the local and international cuisines Cebu is proud of!
Check out our list of local finds that will make you say "Lami Kaayo" (delicious)!
1. Rico's Lechon
Eating Lechon is central to your Cebu experience! Dubbed as the "Lechon Capital" of the Philippines, Cebu prides itself in having perfected the art of roasting pigs, and in the tastiness and crispiness its lechon is known for.
We asked locals where we could find the best lechon and they all pointed us to Rico's Lechon, pioneer of the famous Spicy Lechon. Owner Enrico Dionson likes to keep things simple--his roasted lechon is only seasoned with traditional herbs and spices and has always been since he opened the business in 1997.
Their slogan, "Da Best Gyud", lives up to our expectations. Indeed, it's a lechon worthy of being called the best in Cebu. The restaurant also likes to stay ahead by adding Pinoy favorites to the menu other than lechon.
What we loved about Rico’s lechon is the golden-brown crunchy skin and the bursting aroma and taste from the garlic and leeks infused in the meat. The lechon is just freaking good! I don't mind ordering extra rice to go with it.
Their lechon is best eaten as is to better savor its flavorful, tender meat. But we prefer to have it with their homemade Suka Cebu (vinegar) and calamansi.
Spicy lovers would rave about the spicy lechon once they taste the perfectly in sync flavors. The spiciness from the chili brings out the garlicky and tangy flavors, making us want to dig in for more!
The spiciness is infused in the meat but not the skin, so for those who aren't fans of spicy food, they could still enjoy its crispy skin instead.
Rico’s Lechon – Mabolo Branch
F. Cabahug St, Cebu City, Cebu
Telephone: (032) 260-2443
• Monday- Sunday 10:00am-10:00pm
2. The Pig & Palm
The Pig & Palm is a Modern Spanish Tapas restaurant in Cebu by renowned British chef, Jason Atherton, and his Cebuana wife, Irha.
Chef Jason earned his first Michelin Star in 2011 and has worked with some of the greats, like Nico Ladenis and Ferran Adria at elBulli, and oversaw the opening of 5 'Maze' Restaurants with Gordon Ramsay.
He has since branched out and started his own chain of successful restaurants under The Social Company Group with different restaurants in London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, Sydney, and now in Cebu.
The Pig & Palm is the 16th and his first in the Philippines in partnership with Cebu-based property developers Chris and Carla McKowen. He chose Cebu to honor the hometown of his wife Irha.
Overall, we love The Pig & Palm's vibe and their desire to promote local ingredients. We also secretly wish they opened this in Manila instead. :)
There is a misconception that it's a fine dining Michelin star restaurant. Surprisingly, the place is informal, approachable, and provides good value for money for the quality of food they serve. With an emphasis on sharing, it's a perfect venue for family and friends to enjoy high quality food with a chic European vibe in the heart Cebu.
Make sure to start with the Kinilaw of Shrimp paired with the Dill or No Dill cocktail. Order the Local Red Mullet and/or the Black Angus Rib-Eye and end with the Basil Sorbet. Budget about P1,000/head.
They've only been open for a few months so their menu is still in the process of fine tuning. I wish they could have more Big Plates to share in the future, plus more pork dishes (please?).
The Pig & Palm
MSY Tower, Pescadores Rd. Cebu Business Park, Cebu City
Telephone: +63 32 255-8249
• Tuesday - Friday 7:30am-12am
• Saturday - Sunday 8am-12am
• Tuesday - Thursday 12pm-12am
• Friday - Saturday 12pm - 2am
Facebook: The Pig and Palm
3. Tymad Bistro
Tymad Bistro is our go-to place for authentic French pastries and dishes in Cebu!
Owned by a French Chef, Philippe Estienne, who settled in Cebu with his Filipina wife, the bistro is popular for their perfectly buttery, light, and flaky croissants, chocolats, and kouign amann--all baked fresh daily.
Tymad means "good house" or "good restaurant" and comes from a Celtic language in the south of France.
Overall, one of the best French meals we've ever had in Cebu.
Their heavenly pastries--the croissants, chocolats, and kouign amann--really made our experience memorable, so make sure to try them all! Everything on their breakfast menu is also good, like the English Breakfast, Eggs Benedict, and Omelettes.
The dishes are quite pricey by Cebu standards, but still reasonable for the quality of food they serve. Budget is about P400/head.
Maria Luisa Road Banilad, Cebu
Telephone: (032) 239 7385
• Monday - Closed
• Tuesday to Thursday - 7:00am-10:00pm
• Friday to Saturday - 10:00am-11:00pm
• Sunday - 10:00am-10:00pm
4. CIRCA 1900
Circa 1900 is a casual dining restaurant that focuses on incorporating local technics and ingredients into international cuisine. Circa 1900 offers an eclectic menu with plenty of choices that range from the familiar to the exotic.
Cebu City has always drawn skilled chefs to the local culinary scene, many of whom are continually carving out their reputations in the "Queen City of The South," making Cebu one of the Philippines' gastronomic hotspots.
One such chef who has made a name for himself here is Steve Shrimski, an Australian-born chef who's career stretches nearly 30 years. He resides in Cebu with his Cebuana wife and Business Partner, Eya.
The pair has enjoyed success with the opening of Canvas Bistro Bar and Gallery in October of 2009. Circa 1900, their second and equally successful venture, was opened in 2014.
We enjoyed our time at Circa 1900 and the food we tried from Casa Uno. Chef Shrimskie does a fantastic job of combining international dishes with local ingredients. We love how fresh the food was and how well the dishes were executed. The interiors are homely and the staff is kind and helpful.
Start with the Crispy Ravioli, Seafood Chowder, or the Citrus Glazed Beef Teppanyaki. Then order the Seabass Fillet with Grilled Prawns and Truffled Squid & Prawn Risotto. For dessert be sure to try the excellent Caramelized White Chocolate & Crème Brulee Bread Pudding.
Circa 1900 Casa Uno is perfect for dinner dates. Expect to pay around 800/head.
Sanjercas Ville Ext Rd
Cebu City, Cebu
(032) 239 6265
Daily From 11am - 12 am
One favorite street food of Pinoys is barbecue--pork or chicken meat or giblets skewered on sticks and cooked over a charcoal grill.
For Cebuanos, the go-to place for barbecue is Matias in Mandaue City. Nestled under the shade of sweet star apple trees, this open-air eatery sells very affordable pork barbecue, chicken barbecue, chorizo, pork belly, balbacua, and other local dishes.
The secret to keep locals coming back is their delicious sweet red sauce and value-for-money dishes.
You must order the pork and chicken barbecue, the chorizo, the chicken heart, and the liempo. Our Cebuano friends also suggest trying the balbacua, a local soup made from cow trotters.
A. S. Fortuna Street, Banilad, Mandaue City
Telephone: (32) 3452164, (32) 3469123
Restaurant Hours: Monday - Sunday, 11:30 AM to 10 PM
6. Johnna's Liempo Haus
Ask any of the locals for the original liempo in Balamban and they'll direct you to Johnna's Liempo Haus.
Balamban, located in the western part of Cebu, is known for its distinctive method of grilling Liempo using traditional herbs and spices, similar to how you would prepare Lechon Cebu.
Bebot Mapa, the creator of the original recipe of Balamban Liempo, rightfully deserves the "original" label. He is not affiliated with the Balamban Liempo brand you'll find across Cebu. He sells his liempo at a humble take-out store near Balamban's public market.
Rather than cooking the whole lechon, the original inventor decided to just have the belly marinated like Lechon Cebu.
The stuffing uses traditional local herbs and spices like garlic, spring onions, salt, and pepper. The process involves making a cut between a slab of the pork belly and then wedging in the mixture.
Tasting the liempo reminds you of lechon with that distinct aroma and taste from the herbs.
If you're ever in the area of Balamban, don't miss the chance to try the original liempo that the locals are proud of!
Johnna’s Liempo Haus
Balamban Public Market
Mobile: +63 918 206-5607
Live an Awesome Life,
Abi, Nico, Boom and Sean of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our flight was courtesy of Philippine Airlines. We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.
HOW TO GET THERE
We enjoyed PAL's excellent customer service and free snacks on board. And the free baggage allowance was perfect for our dried mangoes, otap, and other pasalubong finds!
Philippine Airlines flies from Manila to Cebu via airbus everyday from 4:00am to 10:45pm. A one way ticket is P2200-P4200.