There is no denying the existence of the delectable medley of dining splendor that Taft Ave. presents to those that visit. Every bite—spicy, sweet, or something in between—is a celebration of the many unique cultures and traditions the place brings together. The LaSallian now explores the last three chosen staples that the Taft menu has to offer.
While strolling through the narrow pathway along Castro St., one might have the opportunity to stumble upon a small and open restaurant, known as Dixie’s, that’s been offering some of Taft’s most affordable yet undeniably stomach-filling delicacies. The restaurant offers a wide variety of food at a low price point, having a little bit of everything for everyone to try out their own rendition of Filipino food.
Known for their sizzling meal plates and deliciously marinated grilled meats, it’s no surprise that some of Dixie’s bestsellers are their sizzling pork sisig and chicken inasal. Served on a crackling hot plate, the pork sisig offers a blend of savory and fatty flavors from its meat, perfectly balanced with the mild taste of onions and the zest of calamansi. Similarly, the chicken inasal offers quality in spades, being nothing short of flavorful. Each bite of the roasted chicken leg affords anyone fortunate enough to feast on the dish a grand burst of flavors, a harmonious blend between tangy and savory-sweet. These two bestsellers do not disappoint and certainly live up to the status of being crowd favorites.
Other must-haves at Dixie’s are the beef with mushroom rice meal and cheesy baked beef rice. The beef in both dishes is soft and tender, while the mushroom sauce brings a rich, salty flavor—perhaps a tad too salty, especially in the case of the cheesy baked beef rice—to the meal. Nevertheless, the strong taste of the gravy is perfectly paired with the sweetness of the corn kernels served with the beef with mushroom rice meal, making for a tasty dish that is easy for most to enjoy.
The restaurant’s servings of chicken ala king and spicy chicken breast filet, while satisfying in their own right, did not offer anything out of the ordinary. The creamy chicken ala king was palatable, leaving no remarkable flavors nor appeal, which may be enjoyable for those who gravitate toward milder tastes. On the other hand, the spicy chicken breast filet was not as spicy as one might hope. The meal is simply made up of breaded chicken covered in gravy and hot sauce, with the gravy’s flavor overpowering any of the supposed heat from this spicy dish.
Beyond its food, Dixie’s atmosphere is one of a homey karinderya in the middle of a busy city. While one enjoys their well-prepared meal, they get to spectate life along Taft Ave. in its rawest form. The experience of dining at this restaurant is one that every student should have on their bucket list, with its dishes living up to its must-try reputation among Lasallians for years since its establishment.
Chef Bab’s Sisig
The University Mall’s second floor houses one of its remaining non-fast food establishments; Chef Bab’s Sisig’s brightly lit and earthy interior is hugely conspicuous along an otherwise deserted corridor, which was once filled with other eateries that succumbed to the pandemic. The loss of these establishments has been a hard pill to swallow for many students, but the lone restaurant left standing lives as a last beacon of hope for revitalizing food businesses in the building.
On the menu is a broad range of food that caters to different food palates, ranging from grilled dishes, sides of rice and soup, as well as classic pasta and seafood selections. But of course, one would be remiss not to taste its most popular dish: sisig. In particular, the sisig of the crispy pork variety is laden with green onions and plated with garlic rice, chili, and calamansi. Those not fond of strong flavors need not worry—the chili and calamansi are served separately and can be added according to one’s liking. Another top-tier choice is the beef tapa silog from their all-day breakfast list, a rendition that is neither too sweet nor too salty and instead is a comforting mix of both.
Appetizers like baked scallops come as a surprise considering its student-friendly price range. The shells are generously coated with cheese and parmesan, enclosing the buttery center nicely. A bit of dryness in the dish is important to note. Nonetheless, the ingredients complement the sweet scallop meat.
How Chef Bab’s Sisig keeps their doors open may have something to do with their continual quest to bring Filipino classics to Taft. The extensive menu alone is telling enough of its drive to promote the national cuisine, undeterred by how costly some ingredients may be. Their penchant for going the extra mile is also noticeable in their presentation by making use of colorful, porcelain plates. One can only hope that Chef Bab’s Sisig continues to live on despite post-pandemic hurdles, as it would be a letdown to lose such a gem.
Agno Food Court
When traversing the multitude of restaurants along the avenue, perhaps no other joint comes close to the time-honored Agno Food Court. Brimming with students, Agno features a hodgepodge of restaurants tailor-made for all tastes. The lively food concessionaires perfectly match the fast-paced nature of university life, nimbly creating worlds of flavor for students scurrying from one class to the next.
Agno’s beloved crown jewel is Ate Rica’s Bacsilog, a food stall native to Taft that has since made its way to branching throughout the country. By blanketing a layer of creamy cheese sauce atop bacon, egg, and rice, its signature bacsilog offers a twist to the traditional sinangag dishes familiar to students. The result is a unique blend of savory and sweet, tying its core ingredients together. Despite bacsilog being prized as comfort food by many, its bold burst of sweetness can easily come across to be too powerful for those with more mellow palettes.
Farther inside the heart of Agno is Ged&Bart, a kiosk famed for its chicken shots. Its crunchy bite-sized pieces of meat pair well with its buttery gravy, creating a mild rendition of the juicy, fried meal. However, the dish’s moderate taste proves to be both a strength and a weakness—leaving much to be desired for students who prefer a saltier, more tangy kick.
Finally, Agno’s best-kept secret hides in the kitchen of Goodmunch, an Asian fusion restaurant. Fragrant with herbs, the rosemary chicken and signature egg bestseller showcases a surprisingly sophisticated taste to anyone drawn by their student-friendly prices. The bountiful meal presents a delicate mix of baked baby potatoes, tender chicken, and scrambled eggs, splashed with an invigoratingly briny sauce. The dish is an exceptional choice for any student searching for zesty flavors in Taft.
As diverse as it is iconic, Agno presents something for everyone–which is exactly where its charm lies. Whether one’s appetite leans toward rich or light flavors, Agno truly has it all. Year after year, Lasallians are sure of one thing: to spend their noons queuing at the food outlet they earnestly call home.
In many ways, it’s because of the wonderful restaurants in Taft Ave. that this simple portion of Metro Manila suddenly becomes somewhat of a home to students from all walks of life. These restaurants, which simultaneously offer delicious meals that fit within the budgets of struggling students, are a reminder that there is elegance in simplicity, that the simplest ingredients can form a feast and that Taft has so much to offer.
This is Part Two of The LaSallian’s Rant and Rave on popular eateries in Taft Ave. The previous restaurants are reviewed in Part One.