There was a time not that long ago that Filipino food in New York City meant heading out to Little Manila in Woodside or (why god) crossing the river to Jersey City.Pinoy food is finally starting to be a regular fixture in the broader NYC dining scene, with more options to try this complex cuisine with all its sweet, sour, spicy, and funky flavors. We now present some of the best places in NYC to get a taste of Filipino food.
Pancit Bihon (Yelp)
PAPA'S KITCHEN Woodside is still the neighborhood where you can have your pick of Filipino restaurants. There are bakeries, barbecue spots, and fast food chains. But the only one I have discovered that feels like eating in someone's living room is Papa's Kitchen. And if that's not intimate enough, prepare to sing karaoke as you are served dishes like the rich peanut butter-based beef stew called Kare Kare or one of the many Filipino noodle dishes known as pancit. The best move is to come with some friends, order the large format basket feast Salu-Salo Sa Bilao, and eat (and belt) your heart out.
Papa's Kitchen is located at 65-40 Woodside Avenue between 66th Street and 65th Place in Woodside, Queens, (347) 724-9586; woodsidepapakitchen.com
Chicken Adobo (Purple Yam)
PURPLE YAM Purple Yam refers to ube, the favorite Filipino starch that is used in everything from ice cream to cakes to sauces. But many in the food community—and those that live nearby in Ditmas Park—know Purple Yam as one of the best Filipino restaurants in the city. This is the place to sample perhaps the most famous dish from the Philippines, chicken adobo. The version here is refined and satisfying and a perfect example of the cuisine's signature sweet/sour combo.
Also, don't snooze on brunch, when you can try ukoy, an addicting vegetable and shrimp fritter, and tocino (Filipino sugar-cured bacon). There is also now a second location of Purple Yam inside the owner's childhood home in Manila (yes, the real Manila).
Purple Yam is located at 1314 Cortelyou Road between Argyle and Rugby Road in Ditmas Park, (718) 940-8188; purpleyamnyc.com
LUMPIA SHACK What started as a Vendy Award-winning stall at Smorgasburg offering an array of lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) has expanded into a fast casual take-out spot for bowls, burgers, and snacks. The specialty of the house are still those golden cigars of pork or mushrooms, but you can also take part in the rice bowl craze with unique toppings like milkfish, sisig, pork belly, or pancit noodles. The bowls come with a choice of sauce (go for the adobo or the spicy coconut bicol) and some spicy, tangy toppings. Round it out with Filipino poutine and some tart, refreshing calamansi juice, also known as Filipino lemonade.
Lumpia Shack has three locations and are usually still at Smorgasburg: 50 Greenwich Avenue between Perry and Charles Street in the West Village, (917) 475-1621, lumpiashack.wordpress.com); at Seaport Smorgasburg located at 11 Fulton Street (at Front Street) in the Seaport, (718) 928-6603; and at Berg'n located at 899 Bergen Street between Classon and Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, (718) 857-2337
Fried Chicken and Ube Waffles (Yelp)
MAHARLIKA This funky East Village haunt has paved the way for a series of hip and creative Filipino restaurants in downtown Manhattan. Most of the classics are here, including a skillet of sizzling sisig with all the crunchy pork bits (snout, ear, belly) you can imagine, and Spanish-influenced arroz caldo, a gingery rice porridge with chicken. Since this business started as a brunch only operation back in 2011, you know the weekend meal is going to be great. Don't miss their game-changing riff on Chicken and Waffles with ube waffles, anchovy butter, and a coconut caramel syrup supporting crackly and crisp chicken pieces.
Maharlika is located at 111 First Avenue between East 6th and East 7th Street in the East Village, (646) 392-7880; maharlikanyc.com
JEEPNEY Whether it's the Kamayan Feast (a no-silverware group dining experience) on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the festive hip hop soundtrack or the gut busting food, it's always a party at Jeepney. Owned by the folks from Maharlika and named for a kitschy mode of public transportation in the Philippines, the menu at Jeepney is like taking a bumpy road trip through the country's soul food options.
It's the best place to finally earn bragging rights for trying the fertilized duck egg known as balut, or digging into the spicy Bicol Express pork stew simmered with coconut milk, shrimp paste, and plenty of long chiles. Amazingly, this place also serves one of the best burgers (pumped up with the addition of longganisa sausage) in town. Whatever you eat, the key is to pair it with one of the great tiki cocktails or popular Filipino beers.
Jeepney is located at 201 First Avenue between 12th and 13th Street in the East Village, (212) 533-4121; jeepneynyc.com
MANILA SOCIAL CLUB Okay, let's overlook the gimmicky $100 Golden Cristal Ube Donut for a second. This Williamsburg hotspot is actually turning out pretty great Filipino food. Inspired by family recipes but adding unique twists, Chef Björn DelaCruz cooks up some flavorful and surprising dishes. After chowing down on complimentary sweet and pillowy Pandesal rolls with ube butter, an order of Spam fries is the next move (playfully served in a Spam jar), followed by duck adobo (a take on the usual chicken) or short rib kare kare.
If it's brunch time (probably the most popular time to come here), they serve a giant smoky tortang talong (eggplant omelette) with garlic rice and fluffy Instagram-ready mango pancakes topped with ube ice cream. And by the way, they also make donuts glazed with pandan and ube that cost a much more humble $20 per half dozen.
Manila Social Club is located at 2 Hope Street at Roebling Street in Williamsburg, (718) 384-4396; manilasocialclub.com
Inihaw Tuna Belly (Brian Hoffman/Gothamist)
TITO RAD'S GRILL While most of the Filipino restaurants in Woodside are clustered around a few blocks along Roosevelt Avenue, Tito Rad's is tucked away and a bit removed in a little shopping strip on the other side of Queens Boulevard. The large space allows Filipino families and groups to celebrate over an expansive menu. Barbecue is the specialty of the house and the beautifully marinated and charred tuna (belly or jaw) is irresistible. But this place also knows its way around a fryer and so it'd be silly to overlook the giant crispy pata (pig's foot), lechon kawali (pork belly), or turon (fried banana spring rolls).
Tito Rad's Grill is located at 49-10 Queens Boulevard between 49th and 50th Street in Woodside, (718) 205-7299, titorads.com
HOUSE OF INASAL One of the newer options under the 7 train is House of Inasal, which focuses on recreating Filipino street food in a lively, casual setting. Make sure you find an order of kwek-kwek on your table so you can bite into the battered and fried quail eggs and reveal a well-textured pop and richness. While you can also indulge on piquant sisig na bangus (fried bits of milkfish with onions and chiles) or all-day breakfast silogs (garlic rice topped with fried eggs and a meat selection), you should obviously try the namesake chicken inasal marinated with lemongrass, garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. Dessert is also non-negotiable, especially the bold and beautiful ube ice cream sandwiched between sweet pandesal bread, smeared with smooth ube jam, and topped with coconut.
House of Inasal is located at 65-14 Roosevelt Avenue between 67th Street and 65th Place in Woodside, (718) 429-0709; houseofinasal.com
GRILL 21 The food scene around Stuyvesant Town doesn't get covered as often as those in more subway-accessible neighborhoods, but there are a few gems that the residents know about. One of those is a homey little family-run Filipino grill with a wide range of specialities and some fantastic lunch specials. It's hard to go wrong with anything on the menu. For a perfect combo of land and sea, try the split baby milkfish and the tocino (aka sweet Filipino bacon) which are available together on a combo platter. If you're a more adventurous eater, there's also dinuguan, the rich pork and liver stew thickened with pig's blood. Save room for the loaded halo halo and add a scoop of ube ice cream.
Grill 21 is located at 346 East 21st Street between First and Second Avenue in Stuyvesant Town, (212) 473-5950
Chicken sisig tacos (Yelp)
PHIL-AM KUSINA There's also great Filipino food in Staten Island! This newly-opened restaurant is connected to a nearby branch of the well-established Filipino grocery store chain which supplies many of the imported ingredients and spices. Filipino grandmas will approve of traditional fare like kaldereta (goat stew) and humba (pork braised in pineapple and soy sauce), but there are also some new creations like adobo chicken wings and sisig tacos. The owners have even branched out with a food truck called Sisig City, which was nominated for a Vendy Award earlier this year, and can be found hawking lechon sliders and calamansi juice.
Phil-Am Kusina is located at 556 Tompkins Avenue between Clifton Avenue and Hylan Boulevard in Rosebank, Staten Island, (718) 727-3663; philamkusina.com
Brian Hoffman searches for iconic New York dishes and makes comedy food videos on his site Eat This NY. He also writes for Midtown Lunch and gives food and drink walking tours around NY.