Food Trip

Cebu City Food Trip: The Tour Guide Edition

By on November 2, 2013

I played the accidental tourist guide when two of my good friends and I sneaked in to Cebu almost a year ago. It was not a role that I wanted to play at the onset, since these are very voracious foodies. I gave in since I realized halfway in our flight that they also did not have a luxury of choice anyway. They were stuck with me, since they can only understand and speak two basic sentences of Cebuano, the native language spoken in these parts.


Chinese Ngohiong

We started with the puso, the ngohiong and a bottle of ice-cold Sparkle. Puso or ‘hanging rice’ is rice cooked in palm strips woven to look like a ‘heart.’ Ngohiong on the other hand is similar to a lumpia, but has a thicker batter, made of julienned ubod (heart of palm) and the optional meat portions.

cebu city food trip 1 - ngohiong

These three comprise the quintessential value meal for the every day joe in the city. They are dirt-cheap, gloriously greasy and very filling. Each Cebuano has his or her favorite ngohiong place where they can get these, but mine is that unassuming eatery along Manalili in the downtown.


Cafe Elysa

I actually hesitated to include Cafe Elysa in our itinerary. This small restaurant in Parian serves both home-cooked Cebuano meals and Asian-inspired dishes. The latter is largely influenced by Chef Steve Aznar’s many travels abroad.

cebu city food trip 1 - cafe elysa

We ordered the Tangigue Ceviche along with two more items from their menu. I had an unpleasant experience with this kinilaw dish on my first visit here. But to my surprise and relief, the fish this time was fresh. We later learned that they use the local tubΓ’ (coconut vinegar) for the sauce, which is mildly sour with welcome hints of sweetness.


Bo’s Coffee

We then had a coffee break at Bo’s Coffee. It has been around Cebu, long before having your morning brew in coffeeshops became fashionable and at times, necessary. Steve Benitez started with just a coffee cart at a mall in 1996. Today, Bo’s is everywhere in the country, with 50 branches and counting.

cebu city food trip 1 - bos coffee

Aside from the fact that they use Filipino-grown coffee beans, I also like their house blend here. It exudes a rich flavor but without that acidic aftertaste. It pairs nicely with their cakes and cookies.



Dinner was at the Escario branch of Zubuchon Restaurant. This was the result of the many creative experiments of Joel Binamira, the food blogger behind Mr. MM wanted to recreate the lechon (roasted pig) sans the artificial seasonings, or just the way it was before. Everything paid off when Anthony Bourdain, in his visit to the Philippines in 2008, proclaimed it as his ‘best pig ever.’

cebu city food trip 1 - zubuchon

A Zubuchon may not be the lechon that many grew up with. But just think of it as the local version’s long lost artisanal sister. Order the healthier kamias shake with it and a vegetable dish, to atone for your lechon guilty pleasure.


Tablea Chocolate Cafe

Finally, we had breakfast at Tablea Chocolate Cafeputo maya (rice cake) with fresh mangoes and chocolate drink. You don’t consume each separately as the magic only works when you combine them in pairs such as puto maya with mangoes or puto maya drizzled with hot chocolate.

cebu city food trip 1 - tablea

The hot chocolate was mildly sweet, dark and thick. It reminded me of my childhood days when our chocolate drink did not come from powder packs. Everything had to be made lovingly from scratch – from grinding the tablea up to creating the foamy texture using the batirol.


It is impossible to eat around the best of what Cebu has to offer in just 2 days so I hope that my friends enjoyed the food trip as much as I did. It was a nostalgic blast for me as it made me remember the many reasons why this city in the Philippines will continue to have a huge space in my stomach and a special artery in my heart.

  1. Reply


    November 2, 2013

    Gipangita ni namo ang Cafe Elysa two months ago…when we got there closed sya πŸ™ According to the website, thanks to your link, under renovation diay… I hope they open soon. Kaon ta didto when you're in Cebu. Hopefully open na when you're here haha.

    I didn't know naay breakfast sa Tablea…aw di man sad gud ko tig adto ug coffee shop. But I like their chocolate covered coffee beans. I think I can eat the whole can in one sitting. Haha.

    • Reply

      brennan mercado

      November 2, 2013

      I thought you blogged about it before? Sige. Kaon nya ta dadto.

      Typical pampainit ang sikwate-puto maya-manga. You can get it at really cheap at Ramos Market. But level-up lang gyud ang chocolate drink sa Tablea.

    • Reply

      Justinne Go

      November 7, 2013

      Yes, Steve Aznar told me Cafe Elysa is closed indefinitely and he is traveling more for inspiration to open a new resto. Let's watch out for that. πŸ™‚

      I heard Tablea's champorado is also really good.

      @Mustachio, introduce me to this Baktin guy! I'd love to meet a fellow baktin. Hahaha. πŸ˜‰ Hello, Brennan! πŸ™‚

      Babe for Food – your BFF in Cebu dining! πŸ™‚

    • Reply

      brennan mercado

      November 7, 2013

      Let's hope that Elysa will be better than ever once Steve returns after his many travels overseas. I haven't tried the gourmet champorado from Tablea. It had corn flakes for added texture. But my good friend Mike seemed to enjoy it last time.

      Thanks Mustachio. FC na mi hapit ni BFF. hehehe. Stay safe you guys dha.

  2. Reply


    November 2, 2013

    "[H]uge space in my stomach and a special artery in my heart." You really have a way with words, Baks. Another good read as always, nga makapagutom pud. πŸ™‚

    • Reply

      brennan mercado

      November 2, 2013

      salamat gaw! πŸ™‚

  3. Reply


    November 12, 2013

    Of course we enjoyed Bren. Huge thank you! Hmm, lemme guess the two phrases, it's "makaon na ta" and "mauli na ta"! Hehehe!!! Forgive the grammar! πŸ™‚ – J

    • Reply

      brennan mercado

      November 15, 2013

      Hahaha! Welcome to Baktin Corporation J!
      Where's the other one? πŸ˜‰


Brennan Mercado
The Philippines

Brennan is an electronics engineer by profession. From time to time, he gets to travel beyond his office cubicle, try new restaurants or catch up with his terribly long list of unread books. He likes museums, spicy food and talking with habal-habal drivers. For now, he's still deciding on whether to play PokΓ©mon GO or not.

Best of Cebu Blog Awards Best of Cebu Blog Awards
    Best Food Blog
    Best Creative Writing in a Blog
    Finalist, Best Travel Blog

    Finalist, Best Food Blog
    Finalist, Best Travel Blog

    Grand Winner, Visit Davao Tuloy ang Byahe Experience Blogging Competition.
    Winner, 2013 TLC Asia’s The Layover contest
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