A day in the life of a student at DLSU is not complete without chowing down on a filling meal. Some may opt for a hearty rice platter to start their day, others may choose a lighter fare of salads and snacks. But for most students, finding the definitive place to fill their appetites is harder than it seems. As the second term of the academic year begins, The LaSallian samples some of the most well-known restaurants in and around Taft Ave.
Tinuhog ni Benny Barbecue House
Dagonoy St. is home to a few of the Green and White’s beloved eateries. Lola Edengs’ karinderya fare and Sinangag Express’ silog meals are both honorable mentions, but neither are more striking than the smokey, coal-aromatic cave known as Tinuhog ni Benny Barbecue House. Lasallians were familiar with it for its outdoor dining setup until the barbecue joint moved to its current larger location in late 2022. Still, that doesn’t hinder patrons from devouring hot-off-the-grill home cooking at its relatively modest prices.
Similar to Noel’s Barbecue found at Fidel A. Reyes St., grilled options are Tinuhog ni Benny’s game with its pork barbecue, samgyeopsal skewers, and grilled liempo serving as standouts. The sweet sauce and slightly crisp char of the meat pair well with rice, though some may find its sugary glaze a bit overwhelming. The star of the show is its pork sisig. Salty, savory, and unapologetically fatty, this comforting medley of pork belly, onions, egg, and chilies is a dish worth relishing with friends after a long day.
Unfortunately, Tinuhog ni Benny is not without shortcomings. Although filling, the pork sisig would have been even better if it had an insane crunch—one that could rival other sisig offerings along Taft Ave. Others may opt out of pork and savor their inihaw na bangus, crowned with tomatoes, onion, and ginger.
In addition, the eatery’s sinigang with salmon belly is an underwhelming meal amid its grilled staples, its supposed sour broth is full of salt and not much else. The salmon belly and vegetables remain pleasant, but consuming them without the broth spoils the full experience. While the other seafood choices like inihaw na bangus and grilled pompano fared much better, these don’t quite measure up to the other standouts.
Tinuhog ni Benny’s strengths are hardly a surprise considering its branding as a barbecue house, nonetheless a number of the non-grilled selections could use some refining in terms of taste. While it may be best to play one’s order safe, the likes of the pork sisig and grilled liempo easily justify the hype and make the five-minute walk from the University quite worthwhile. For anyone on the lookout for grilled Filipino food at an affordable price, Tinuhog ni Benny is still a must-try.
DAD’S MAMI is what one could consider a literal hole in the wall—a sweet spot to satisfy stomach grumbles without breaking the bank. Located just underneath the Vito Cruz LRT station, it serves as a point of respite for commuters who have had quite a trip or those with a long one ahead.
Entering the place, guests are greeted by the white walls with an invitation to relax and unwind with the Filipino noodle house’s bowls of comfort food. A bowl of combined mami and pares has a suitable combination of spices and ingredients, making for a flavorful symphony with the noodles, the broth, the meat, and the scallions. Guests, sitting on a monoblock round stool, can delight in the meals served in white bowls placed on a silver diner counter–giving an old-fashioned feel. With relatively speedy service and decent meal portions, the place makes for a relaxed dining experience.
While it is registered as “DAD’S MAMI Refreshment Kiosk”, there aren’t any beverages offered besides the self-service water. Thankfully, it is conveniently located along a lane of various food stalls along Vito Cruz, where a string of lemonade stalls and milk tea shops stand.
Before getting the pares fix, it is important to note that the affordability of their items are a testament to how high you should set your expectations: just right. Unsurprisingly, the mami rice on its own is not exactly the holy grail of craving satisfaction. The rice, on its own, has a light texture and a light flavor. While its yellow color could motivate cheerfulness, the fullness of the dish’s effect is achieved with other combinations; when paired with their pares and as much toyomansi and chili oil as desired, there’s not much to complain about. The rice eventually starts to taste as if it would be mixed with the oil from a chicken inasal or roasted chicken.
Worth considering as well is the atmosphere of the location. As the rather cramped stall is located under the tracks of LRT-1 and nearby some of the busier intersections of Taft Ave., the sounds of Manila aren’t exactly drowned out. A transparent screen is also the sole separator of the seating from the sidewalk, so it may feel like your dining experience is on broadcast.
DAD’S MAMI is perfect for anyone looking for a quick source of energy and comfort. Whether you choose to spend time at DAD’S MAMI casually meeting up with friends or getting some much-needed alone time at the end of a long day, delighting in the noodle soup and fried rice is never the wrong choice.
Right outside the Agno Compound is a cozy restaurant that serves hot and ready-to-eat Chinese food. Perched above the street’s hustle and bustle and past the arduously steep steps to the restaurant, Linfong Cuisine’s warm interior exudes a peaceful ambiance for students yearning for some quiet. Reopening its doors late last year was evidently the right move for the restaurant; praises of affordable and scrumptious Chinese eats make it hard to resist warm noodle soups and savory meats, especially when they’re just within reach.
Customers can enjoy the flavors from the Orient in the restaurant’s rather big dining area that could easily sit more than a block section. To cool off, the air-conditioned area also offers free service water while one waits to place their orders. With lovely staff ready to accommodate, it’s not that hard to find comfort in what the place has to offer.
For something not too heavy with some crunch, their fried dumplings do the trick. Notes of pork and ginger instantly come through the eight large pieces. And one can’t go wrong with what is their ultimate must-try: the wonton noodle soup. For a not-so-bad price point of P150, a bowl with five filling dumplings and vegetables submerged in flavorful broth is a hearty steal, especially when paired with their signature chili oil.
Linfong Cuisine’s points for improvement have little to do with its food and primarily with its accessibility. While the location does wonders in keeping the place secluded, being nestled on the second floor can discourage the elderly and persons with disability from dining in. Its incredibly steep stairs along the entrance can also pose a hazard to students rushing to get back to campus or carrying quite a load.
Nonetheless, the Everest-like climb to Linfong Cuisine is worth its prices and portions. It may not be the most extravagant spot for oriental dines within the area, but its simplicity becomes its reliability. Standouts like the wonton noodle soup leave a mark, while unremarkably familiar dishes like the pork chop and kiam-pung do their job to satisfy one’s appetite.
This is Part One of The LaSallian’s Rant and Rave on popular eateries in Taft Ave. The remaining restaurants are reviewed in Part Two.