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10 of the Most Authentic Menus and Oldest Restaurants in Manila

After living in the city for 30 years, EC moved to the countryside. He writes about life in the mountains, dogs, plants, and cooking.

Filipinos are known for their love of food and enthusiasm for cooking. They are natural gastronomic adventurers. Almost all of their life's most memorable moments are accompanied by astounding foods in their favorite restaurants. For Filipinos, even simple occasions such as a payday or above-average school grades could result in an impromptu dine-out dinner or fancy take-out.

Filipinos food lovers are extremely loyal. Typically, a restaurant that survives for a long time in the Philippines is one that has gathered a devoted following and is beloved by many. This is the case with several of the restaurants that I'll mention in this article.

What inspires such intense loyalty? Delicious food, of course! An authentic ambiance, charming and hospitable service and reasonable prices also help. These four magic ingredients are found in the oldest eating establishments in Manila. Don't forget the magic fifth factor: good, sound management.

And when asked about their secret to success, one owner offered a succinct reply: consistency. People want the flavor, consistency, and texture to be the same every time they come back. I believe that tongues have a very long memory when it comes to recollecting scrumptious food! The original ingredients from the original recipes must never be changed (especially not for cost-cutting reasons). The only exception to that would be if the ingredients were found to be detrimental to public health.

Every payday, my late grandfather used to bring home hot beef noodles and giant siopaos from Ma Mon Luk. And I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this restaurant still exists! The restaurants below were beloved by our parents and grandparents, and they still serve the original dishes from their golden days. Let's figure out where we're going for dinner.

10 of the Best Restaurants in Manila

  • New Toho Food Center
  • Ambos Mundos
  • Ma Mon Luk
  • Ramon Lee's Panciteria
  • Aristocrat
  • Boy Ching Woo
  • Ongpin Manosa Restaurant Co.
  • Max's Restaurant
  • Little Quiapo
  • Savory
New Toho Food Center

New Toho Food Center

1. New Toho Food Center

The Cantonese word "toho" means "everything is good." The New Toho Food Center was formerly called the "Toho Antigua Panciteria," where the Philippines' national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal was known to dine on their famous dishes: pancit canton and lumpia shanghai.

In 1888, the original Toho Antigua Panciteria in Binondo was built and operated by five Chinese friends. One of the owners, Tai Tang, was left behind. His family has run the restaurant since then.

Their specialty dishes mainly include Chinese food, but there are some Filipino dishes that may be served upon request. The menu's bestsellers are lumpia shanghai, ampalaya, pork asado, and pancit canton—both dry and with sauce.

My favorite thing to eat here is the lumpiang shanghai. Lumpia is a lot like an egg roll. It is made of ground meat, pork, or chicken; mixed with minced carrot and onion; and then wrapped in rice paper. The elongated, wrapped meat mixture is deep-fried just before serving. The dipping sauce is made of vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper with just a bit of orange food coloring and cornstarch. So crispy and so yummy!

CuisineChinese

Specialties

Toho Chicken & Rice / Soup

Business Hours

9:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash & Credit Cards

Price Range / Person

Php 201 & Up

Specialty Foods Served in the ToHo Panciteria Antigua

Specialty Foods Served in the ToHo Panciteria Antigua

Ambos Mundos

Ambos Mundos

2. Ambos Mundos Restaurant

The Spanish phrase "ambos mundos" means "both worlds." The Ambos Mundos Restaurant was aptly named because the dishes served here are mainly a combination of Filipino and Spanish cuisine.

A Spanish immigrant named Gaudinez built the Ambos Mundos Restaurant in 1888, along the Palanca Street in Recto, Manila. Touted as the "Philippines’ Oldest," this restaurant serves the famous paella ambos and the popular afternoon snack asado roll.

A member of the Ambos Mundos’ Gaudinez family married a Chinese girl named Leung, whose family built the Wah Sun Restaurant (formerly Sun Wah) in 1955.

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These old-world restaurants, Ambos Mundos and Wah Sun, face each other in Florentino Torres Street near Recto Avenue.

Whenever we went to Ambos Mundos, we sampled their famous paella ambos. The serving is so big that everyone in the family gets a share of the seafood: namely, shrimp, mussels, crab, and other shellfish. My husband and I wrestled over the crab laughingly. I ended up with the fleshy part because I don't have the patience to crack the arm shell. My three kids were content with the shrimp and mussels.

CuisineSpanish / Filipino

Specialties

Paella Ambos / Asado Roll

Business Hours

8:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash & Credit Cards

Price Range / Person

Php 299 & Up

Ambos Mundos

Ambos Mundos

Ambos Paella

Ambos Paella

Ma Mon Luk

Ma Mon Luk

3. Ma Mon Luk Restaurant

In 1920, a Cantonese school teacher immigrant to the Philippines named Ma Mon Luk built a restaurant by the same name. He started as a vendor who popularized a noodle dish called "gupit" (Filipino word for "cut"). Ma used scissors to cut the noodles and chicken before serving it to customers.

He built the first Ma Mon Luk Restaurant in Quiapo, Manila, a few meters away from the historical Quiapo Church. The ambiance is still simple and very Chinese. What made the Ma Mon Luk restaurants distinctive was always the aroma of something cooking that wafted around them.

Some Filipino balikbayans admit to looking for Ma Mon Luk when they want a taste of nostalgia.

This restaurant reminds me of my grandfather, who would always buy pasalubong for his four grandchildren. He would bring home noodles and wake us up with this surprise. The aroma alone was so delicious we woke up hungry. Oh, I missed my grandfather!

CuisineChinese

Specialties

Seafood, Noodles, Siopao, and Dimsum

Business Hours

8:30 AM to 10:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash

Price Range / Person

Php 199 & Up

Ma Mon Luk's Specialty Dishes

Ma Mon Luk's Specialty Dishes

Ma Mon Luk's Special Mami

Ma Mon Luk's Special Mami

Ma Mon Luk's Special Siopao

Ma Mon Luk's Special Siopao

Ramon Lee's Panciteria

Ramon Lee's Panciteria

4. Ramon Lee’s Panciteria

Ramon Lee’s Panciteria is among the few eateries that survived the two world wars and remained popular in the Sta. Cruz and Quiapo Districts of Manila.

Built in 1929, the famous panciteria has consistently built a reputation of serving simple but sumptuous dishes like the special pancit canton. Filipino food lovers still seek this restaurant out because the food has consistently lived up to their slogan (which is plastered on a neon sign): “Since 1929. First among the best. Tender, juicy, tasty.”

If I felt like having pancit canton after visiting Quiapo Church, which is my least favorite dish, Ramon Lee's Restaurant is the go-to place. The recipe is guarded and tastes the same every time you have it. Scooping up the noodles and tasting them will transport you back to the first time you had them.

CuisineChinese

Specialies

Fried Chicken, Noodles

Business Hours

10:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash

Price Range / Person

Php 200 - Up

Ramon Lee's Specialty Dishes

Ramon Lee's Specialty Dishes

Ramon Lee's Pancit Canton

Ramon Lee's Pancit Canton

Ramon Lee's Lumpia Shanghai

Ramon Lee's Lumpia Shanghai

Ramon Lee's Original Comida China

Ramon Lee's Original Comida China

Aristocrat Restaurant

Aristocrat Restaurant

5. Aristocrat Restaurant

The Aristocrat Restaurant has a humble beginning. In 1936, a Filipina with a pioneering spirit started serving Filipino dishes from a simple snack mobile. Through dedication and hard work, Engracia Cruz-Reyes and Justice Alex A. Reyes slowly built the first Aristocrat Restaurant into a world-renowned food enterprise.

The Aristocrat has earned its reputation as “The Philippines’ Most Popular Restaurant” through specialties like barbecue chicken, honey chicken, crispy pata, dinuguan, kare-kare, lumpia, pancit canton, and rice.

Today, the Aristocrat manufactures sausages, cured meats, bagoong, achara, and other native-Filipino foods for local and export markets.

I love the crispy pata, or deep-fried pork leg. The leg is tender and juicy on the inside, and the skin brown and crispy on the outside. My favorite part is the toe. You don't get any flesh there, just the crispy skin. It is easy to prepare crispy pata, but nothing beats the Aristocrat Restaurant's version. You just boil the pork leg with some herbs until it's tender. Then, you hang it overnight to let any excess liquid drip. In the morning, you deep-fry it. Crispy pata is served with different sauces: catsup, vinegar with pepper, lechon sauce, or achara (pickled, grated papaya).

CuisineFilipino

Specialties

Chicken Barbecue, Kare-Kare, Chicken Honey, Crispy Pata, Pancit Canton, Dinuguan, and Lumpia

Business Hours

10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash & Credit Cards

Price Range / Person

Php 201 - Up

Delivery

Minimum of Php 700.00. Delivers in 45 minutes.

Boy Ching Woo Restaurant

Boy Ching Woo Restaurant

6. Boy Ching Woo Restaurant

Known as the "oldest Chinese restaurant in Caloocan City," the Boy Ching Woo Restaurant was built in 1939. It has ordinary offerings, but the taste of the food is quite exceptional.

The two most famous dishes are the buttered chicken (deliberately spelled wrongly on the menu as "battered") and the lechon con tokwa. The secret must be in the way that the chicken is cooked and the vinegar dip for the lechon. Whatever the secret ingredients are, they will surely tickle anyone's palette—especially a Filipino's!

We stumbled on Boy Ching Woo Restaurant one night after work. We were ravenous and decided to stop] at the first eatery we found. We steered clear of the "battered" chicken even though the server explained the misspelling. We settled for the lechon con tokwa, and—whoa—it is yummy! We were hooked! Whenever we were in the area, we try to make sure we stop here.

CuisineFilipino / Chinese

Specialties

Lechon con Tokwa, Battered Chicken, and Pancit Shanghai

Business Hours

9:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash & Credit Cards

Price Range / Person

Php 199 - Up

Boy Ching Woo Specialty Snack

Boy Ching Woo Specialty Snack

Boy Ching Woo Specialty Dishes

Boy Ching Woo Specialty Dishes

Boy Ching Woo Specialty Dishes

Boy Ching Woo Specialty Dishes

Ongpin Manosa Restaurant Co.

Ongpin Manosa Restaurant Co.

7. Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant Co.

Built in 1940, the Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant Co. has an incredibly distinctive specialty dish customers continually come back for. It is called Mah Kih (or "maki"). It is a brown-colored, gooey-looking soup. It's topped with tender pork chunks and chopped leeks, which contribute to some of the soup's flavor, but other seasonings can be added to suit your individual taste. Another specialty dish is the giant siomai. Each meatball-sized siomai piece will literally melt in your mouth.

A branch in Banawe, Quezon City, is called the Mañosa Noodles, Seafoods, and Chops. This caters to more hip customers. If you want a more Chinese ambiance, you go to Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant.

The famous soup, Mah Kih, has always been dear to my heart. I discovered leeks as an alternative flavoring for my "Nilaga" dish, a pork or beef soup that is boiled until tender. Before, I flavored it with onions and pepper. But since I tasted leeks in the Mah Kih dish, I didn't use onions anymore. I steered clear of copying the gooey appearance though. The Chinese are fond of using cornstarch in their soupy dishes.

CuisineFilipino / Chinese

Specialties

Mah Kih / Siomai

Business Hours

10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Payment Methods

Cash

Price Range / Person

Php 199 - Up

Max's Restaurant

Max's Restaurant

8. Max’s Restaurant

Max Gimenez was a guy who befriended many GIs following WWII. His profitable food business started out as a simple hanging-out routine at his house. The Americans loved the home-cooked meals that Ruby—Max’s niece—prepared, and soon they all insisted on paying for the drinks and the food.

In 1945, Ruby opened a restaurant that mainly served fried chicken and named it after her Uncle Max. The menu offerings expanded, but Max’s fried chicken remains the restaurant's main specialty since the place is widely known as “The House That Fried Chicken Built.”

Max's Restaurant is our go-to place for Christmas and graduations. The family tradition started when our eldest daughter graduated from elementary school. We decided to eat there because we thought the restaurant was classy and pricey. Well, it has class, but the prices were reasonable. We ordered fried chicken, of course, lumpiang ubod, and kare-kare.