Baler Surfer Grill: Grilling on a Volkswagen
As I write this, I am struggling to remember the song that was played as my friends and I ate our first dinner at Baler, Aurora. It had an angsty boyband-pop feel to it, which contrasts the laidback mood at Sabang Beach. It was already dusk but there were still a few surfers out in the sea at that time, trying to catch their last few waves. There were also those who were just content to watch everything unfold from a distance, with a half-empty ice-cold beer bottle in one hand.
The song’s melody is already lost to me by now. But thankfully, I still remember the meal we had that night. While walking back towards our hotel, we dropped by Baler Surfer Grill, which had a charming red Volkswagen, a few wooden chairs and the requisite decorative surfboards.
Sherwin, the guy manning the chopping station would later tell us that the vehicle is actually in working condition. This means that they can actually show up anywhere they want to. But in the mean time, ZARO 13, the car’s name, can be found among the beachfront hotels in Sabang.
The set-up reminded me of Roy Choi’s revolutionary food truck business, a concept which has recently popped up at one of the posh malls in Makati. But grilling porkchops on a Volkswagen Beetle – it was Sherwin’s grandfather, Lazaro Urfano, who thought of that first. That did not come as a surprise too, since he was among the first and finest mechanics in Baler.
Tatay Zaro saw the car’s test launch in March 30, 2013. He unfortunately passed away a few days later. The family then decided to continue their beloved grandfather’s legacy. After finalizing the recipes and coming up with a refreshing and well-thought of brand concept, Baler Surfer Grill was born.
We had pork belly BBQ that evening. It was served on what looked like an inverted party hat. It also came with a sizeable portion of rice, a combination that most surfers like. But what made me smile is that it came with caramelized onions and buttered mushrooms. This gourmet touch folks, you just can’t find anywhere for just under Php 60.00.
They also offer homemade iced tea with kidya or local calamansi. Although that evening, they only had pork belly and baby back ribs/spine on the menu, they promise to have more grill options in the future such as burgers, chicken and fish.
I think that they were quite brave in launching something that is a clear departure from the conventional in Baler – restaurants by the beach or the much-loved rolling stores. Maybe Sherwin and his cousins and his aunts and his uncles are propelled by the good memory of their lolo, so I guess ZARO 13 will be around for a long time.
This is one of the rare moments where I come across a quirky concept that is so simple yet it does make much sense and it does actually work. It was indeed more than an akkaw experience, a term they use to describe something that is good in Baler. It was like guessing the word in 4 Pics 1 Word, sans the help of your brainiac friends or Google. It was an epiphany. You then scratch your head thinking why you haven’t thought of something like this before.
After aimlessly searching in YouTube a while ago, I think that the playlist played that night was from Lawson. I could be wrong too but I don’t care anymore. I would like to remember that evening for this and only this: that we had pork belly grilled on a red Volkswagen.
Baler Surfer Grill
(after Bayler View Hotel & BBC)
Sat: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Sun: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM