Cadi Shack Diner is tucked somewhere in Mabolo, in a village where I least expected to find a good restaurant, or even a restaurant to begin with. So you could understand why this diner never crossed my mind one breezy Saturday evening not too long ago.
I’m glad though that my friend managed to convince me to try it, instead of that Greek resto further along F. Cabahug street. And in so many ways, I would realize later into the night, that we were better off with the unplanned detour.
Displayed inside the Cadi Shack are various vintage memorabilia – old typewriters, toy cars and a working 1965 Fleetwood Cadillac. Yes, there’s a really, really expensive car right beside the dining area, which explains why this restaurant was named as such. So if you take away the food, the wooden furniture and perhaps everything else, then this place would just be an extension of the Cadillac’s well-maintained garage.
The waitstaffs also confirmed that restaurant space is indeed part of the owners’ property, that’s why they do not have to pay for exorbitant rental fees. This is the reason why most of their meals are just under Php 200.
We could have ordered a lot of dishes off the menu, but we settled for a couple of the house favorites – Goat Caldereta and Herb Crusted Fish. I was torn between ordering a salad or something light for our third dish. But since I was not in the mood to be concerned of my bulging belly, I ordered the Grilled Pork Chops shortly.
The grilled pork had the right flavors – smoky and spicy, but these were not as juicy as I wanted them to be. It probably stayed too long on the grill or the cuts were too thin to withstand the heat.
The fish fillet was spot on however. Its batter provided flavor and crisp to the dover sole, a delicate fish that is too convenient to source these days. A squeeze of lemon (or one that’s larger than the flimsy wedge garnished on its gravy) would have elevated this dish to a higher level.
If you’re not a fan of goat meat, then Cadi Shack’s caldereta will definitely convert you. Slowly simmered in a rich tomato-based sauce, the meat portions were wickedly tender. Each piece seemed to surrender with little restraint, if at all, from my fork. This my friends, is the stuff of good dreams.
We were later told by Mr. Uy, the unassuming owner of the Cadi Shack, that the caldereta was his wife’s family’s heirloom recipe. Even he himself doesn’t know anything about its ingredients. But you may ask him instead about cars in general, and I’m sure he knows the subject very, very well.
When I asked him if it’s hard to keep the only Cadillac in Cebu in top shape, he replied that with the internet, it has been easier and cheaper as parts can now be ordered online.
At the back of my mind, I honestly wished I knew how to appreciate that shiny 1965 Cadillac the way I would rave about what’s served on my plate. Until I know a thing or two about vintage cars, the restaurant’s dreamy caldereta will do for now.