Food guide: Eat your way around Poblacion, Makati

Hungry in Makati? Head over to Poblacion, where new food choices for every kind of eater never seem to run out.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Barangay Poblacion has always been colorful in the dark, with its blinding neon signs and cheekily dressed girls at every bar front. In the last few years, the place has earned a new identity as a food neighborhood, amid the red light district enterprise. Around the corner from the iconic Ringside is a rooftop bar with simple cocktails and a great view on the city, and parallel to a string of girly bars is a snack house with some of the best street food hybrids you’ll find.

Poblacion knows no bounds, and has no time limits. Here you can start the day just as the night comes to life, or cap off the evening just as the sunrise breaks. The area has evolved into what Malate was in its heyday, with a cross-cultural influx of places to eat, drink, dance, or just discuss. Here’s a sampling of places to try.

poblacion map.jpg
   Illustration by JL JAVIER

AlamatBistro ManuelBucky’s
Hummus ElijahThe SmokeyardThe Wild Poppy
Crying TigerSeñor PolloTambaiCommuneZ HostelTilde


alamat-5.jpg Fifteen beer taps from Alamat. Photo by JL JAVIER



For a neighborhood like Poblacion, with its mix of travelers from various points of the world, having a place to introduce local fare is a necessity. Hence Alamat, a Filipino pub and deli. More precisely, Alamat is a place that serves only locally made food, from the beer on tap, down to each and every type of vinegar in the condiments station. The place itself is outfitted to celebrate the country’s cultural identity, with art on the walls illustrating Philippine folklore, and a repurposed jeepney lateral serving as the bar’s foundation.


The main attraction in the space is the row of beer taps, 15 to be exact, all of which are brews from around the Philippines. For drinkers that can do without the beer buzz, Alamat’s cocktails are piled with strains of local liquor, like a small batch of lambanog, and sake (tapuey) from Ilocos. Their food selection devotes itself to waving the flag of local flavors, with iconic Filipino fare reimagined — there are artisan longganisas in flavors like dinuguan, sisig, and inasal; kare-kare is turned into a single-serving skewer; and the otherwise avoided pinapaitan is cooked in cacao grown in Davao. It’s a great place to soak in and find new appreciation for flavors that have so often been overlooked.


2F 5666 Don Pedro St.
+63917 530 2580
5 p.m. - 2 a.m.

bistro_manuel.jpg Lamb bolognese, Only for the Rich pizza, and prosciutto tart from Bistro Manuel. Photo by JL JAVIER  


Bistro Manuel

Ariel Manuel, the force behind old Manila favorite Lolo Dad’s, is back, working a space in Makati’s arguably most buzzy area. To be clear, Bistro Manuel isn’t a total reincarnation of Lolo Dad’s. While its predecessor thrived at the height of Manila’s fine dining culture, Bistro Manuel stands as a reminder that such a place can exist in this era of casual dining.

Devoid of thoroughly conceived fixtures and highly stylized decor, its tables are topped by crisply ironed-out linen — the very bare, and startlingly white backdrop for Manuel’s colorful dishes. His menu references a time of old world elegance, where lamb is encrusted by herbs de Provence, and Atlantic flounder swims in butter with a side of steamed potatoes. For young diners new to the white tablecloth atmosphere, start slow with a baked tart filled with prosciutto, Swiss cheese, and caramelized onions. Then perhaps a lamb breast bolognese, and a duck leg confit with foie gras rice on the side. For grandeur with a side of kitsch, there’s the “Only for the Rich” grilled pizza, which is flatbread amassed with heaps of foie gras, scallops, lobster, prosciutto, and smoked salmon. It is Manuel’s edible commentary, running joke, and poster boy for dining in excess.

2F Six Axis Center, 4347 B. Valdez St.
+632 871 8566
11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; 6 - 10 p.m.

bucky_s.jpg Baked zete with ragu; carabao milk soft serve topped with brown butter polvoron, milk powder, marshmallows, choco chips, and choco balls, and glazed with salted caramel sauce. Photo by JL JAVIER


A few years ago, Bucky’s introduced its blocks of fudge as the anti-brownie, with boxes of the stuff being coveted as Christmas presents and potluck contributions. While they’ve since become staples at all Toby’s Estate shops, Bucky’s put up a takeout counter and coffee shop in BF Homes, Parañaque a little more than a year ago, followed by a brick and mortar with more than just those hunks of chocolate. A short menu with a little more than 10 things listed, the dishes are simple and straightforward: a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a grilled cheese and tomato soup pairing, twice fried chicken with mash, and a hearty baked ziti with ragu. Its offerings are good lunch options for sharing, but the desserts are timely for any point of the day.

Apart from having each kind of Bucky ready per piece, or by the box, the small space behind the counter has every kid’s dream kitchen appliance: a shiny silver soft serve machine. Flavors come in either milk or strawberry — or a swirl of both — but if you come on a good day, you might just catch the elusive CT Crunch flavor. Have it alone or, if you know what’s good for you, get it as a parfait and watch them layer on little Bucky cubes with brown butter polvoron and salted caramel swirls.

5666 Don Pedro St.
+63916 754 5140
11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

hummus_elijah.jpg Shakshuka, hummus, falafel, and burekas from Hummus Elijah. Photo by JL JAVIER

Hummus Elijah 

In a city filled with a vast majority of meat eaters, vegetarian places like Hummus Elijah tend to be overlooked. The hummus here is, undoubtedly, on top of the list of things to try. Elijah’s version can stand on its own, wiped in heavy spreads on freshly toasted pita. Better known things like shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomato sauce) and falafel (deep-fried chickpea patties) are on the ready, but the burekas here are a gem. Layers of filo are folded together to create a puff pastry so buttery, it’s well on its way to becoming a light croissant. Within its pockets are spinach and melted feta cheese. Take it a notch further by stuffing in a little more of that homemade hummus — even a falafel if you’re extra hungry — and you’ve got yourself one tasty meal, no meat required.


2F 7850 Makati Ave.
+632 802 1885 or +63905 313 4602
9 a.m. - 3 a.m.

smokeyard.jpg Brisket (served with in a bun) and ribs from The Smokeyard. Photo by JL JAVIER


Manila’s understanding of barbecue may be grilled pork on a stick, but at The Smokeyard you’ll be introduced to the principles behind American barbecue. The first thing to know is that American barbecue refers to the process and practice of smoking meat, a craft which The Smokeyard’s Troy Conine continues to master. Conine makes a mean selection of pulled pork, baby back ribs, ring fingers, beef brisket, and pork belly, among other things, that can be chowed down the only way acceptable — with your hands. No cutlery here. It may seem a bit overwhelming for those that haven’t had this kind of barbecue, but meat in 50g portions here make for a good way to taste a little bit of everything. Don’t skip out on the sides like the slaw, dirty rice, and cornbread.

5666 Don Pedro St.
+632 771 1288
12 p.m. - 12 a.m. on weekdays, 12 p.m. - 2 a.m. on Fridays & Saturdays

wild_poppy.jpg Pad thai, kimchi reuben, and cucumber frost from Wild Poppy. Photo by JL JAVIER

The Wild Poppy 

A bright and shiny hole hovering above Don Pedro street, The Wild Poppy is as cheery a place as you’d expect it to be. Walls are branded by wooden chevron patterns, and greenery hangs from all corners of its inner dining area and outer rooftop space. The short menu, a collaboration of the group with Your Local’s Nicco Santos, is intentionally uncomplicated and puts a premium on modern all-Asian fare.

Yaki Tomorokoshi is a Japanese take on the Mexican elote, with grilled pieces of corn on the cob piled with yuzu-smoked aioli, kesong puti bits, and scallions. The Kim and Reuben, on the other hand, lends a Korean kick to the American sandwich, by layering smoked corned beef, kimchi, and Swiss cheese inside a curry bun. The Wild Poppy’s cocktails, in comparison to the drinks of neighboring establishments, are breezier and lighter on the palate, with its notes of lemon grass and cucumber water laying the groundwork for every sip. If you’re looking for a light brunch with an occasional cocktail on the side, The Wild Poppy would be your best bet for that.

5666 Don Pedro St.
+63995 990 8737
5 p.m. - 12 a.m. Monday - Thursday, 5 P.M. - 2 A.M. on Fridays & Saturdays



7_crying_tiger.jpg Khao kha moo and pad see ew from Crying Tiger. Photo by JL JAVIER

Crying Tiger

For a group of islands whose neighboring countries include Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, it’s funny that the Philippines isn’t as hot on spicy food as the places that surround it. Crying Tiger, from the same group as Señor Pollo and El Chupacabra, gives the option of exploring those Southeast Asian flavors that can be hot and heavy on the palate. It’s Makati’s own Thai street kitchen, inspired by the dingy shacks you’ll come across in places like Bangkok and Vietnam. Here you can expect Southeast Asian street food favorites like Thai fried chicken, mee goreng (spicy seafood noodles), moo ping (grilled pork bbq marinated in condensed milk), pad see ew (stir fried glass noodles), and a punchy beef rendang, all served cheekily on floral framed melamine plates. Cool away the heat with a bucket of beer, or a few glasses of their milky Thai tea.

4986 Guanzon St.
+632 894 1769
4 p.m. - 3 a.m.

8_senor_pollo.jpg Cheese quesadilla, whole roast chicken, with spicy rice, tossed salad, garlic mash potato, mojito, and iced tea from Señor Pollo. Photo by JL JAVIER

Señor Pollo

It’s been around for a good two years now, but Señor Pollo still serves up decent portions of Latin-style roast chicken. Peppered with South American spices, the chicken is charred and piquant, paired rightfully with a bright chimichurri. There’s nothing extremely fancy about it, but Señor’s full selection of sides really ties the meal together: they’ve got cilantro sinangag, white or spicy rice, fried plantains, sweet potato mash, garlic mash, a tossed salad, mac and cheese, and bowls of mushy Colombian beans. If you aren’t in the mood for the chicken, they’ve also got sisig or lechon asado rice bowls in the wing.

The colorful space, with travel posters pasted up on every wall, is reason enough to head on over and kick back, plate of chicken or none. If you need more convincing, their drink-all-you-can promo is nuts: bottomless glasses of cuba libra, lemonada corrupta, Latin punch, and el chapo from the time they open until 8 p.m. every single day.

5767 Ebro St.
+632 2469069
11:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.

12_tambai.jpg Yakitodo (Yakitori sampler) from Tambai. Photo by JL JAVIER


Now a Poblacion institution, one does not speak of the neighborhood without mentioning Tambai. It might have started as a small takeout counter with all of three tables on the street, but the place has since accumulated a huge following. Inexpensive yet tasty, Tambai manages to cross breed Manila street food skewers with Japanese kushiyaki. Think beef intestines and chicken gizzards with a fine coat of salty and sweet yakitori sauce, charred to produce just a hint of smoke in every bite. It is late-night drinking food at its finest, best with cold bottles of beer en masse. A second floor has been added to the shack, making more room for all the creatures of Poblacion’s nightlife.

5779 Felipe St.
+632 215 5695
5 p.m. - 12 a.m.

commune.jpg (Left) Iced mocha and iced toddy, (center) beef tapa, fried egg, garlic rice, croque-madame, and grilled cheese, and (right) café latte from Commune. Photo by JL JAVIER


Upon her return to Manila after working as a cafe’s area manager in Shanghai, Ros Juan dove deep into the business of social media strategy. For a job that had her sitting behind a screen for the good part of the day, she felt the need to disconnect from cyberspace, and reconnect somewhere. Hence, Commune — Juan’s hideout for good coffee, and a space to have great conversations. An active member of the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. (PCBI), Juan proudly spotlights only local coffee in Commune, using single origin beans from Arabica-growing regions like Kalinga, Mount Kitanglad, Matutum, and Sagada. Commune counts itself as a community hub, where all sorts of groups are invited to come together and just talk. Sometimes, they’ll even have workshops or improv nights where people can drop in on. Start or end the day here, with hot or cold cups of coffee. Ask for the Commune blend which is dominantly local Arabica, with just a hint of Robusta.

36 Polaris St.
+632 275 6324
8 a.m. - 12 a.m.

11_z_hostel-7 (1).jpg Puñeta and #MayForever from Z Hostel. Photo by JL JAVIER

Z Hostel

The area can’t do without a trendy rooftop bar, and Z Hostel’s just happens to be where the nightlife comes to thrive. The food is straightforward bar chow, with a basket of crispy chicken skin being a crowd favorite, though meatier options include a variety of sausages, pork belly, and cheeseburgers. The drink list, on the other hand, has beers and a few classic cocktails at affordable prices. What makes Z a happening spot is its great music and ability to draw in all the different characters that this side of Makati plays host to — all while looking out at the bright city skyline. Z Hostel has undoubtedly become the melting pot of Poblacion, which is far more than any other rooftop bar in Manila can claim.

5660 Don Pedro St. 
+632 856 0851
5 p.m. - 2 a.m.

tilde.jpg Orange and olive oil cake, pulled lamb pita, duck confit hash, sourdough bread from Tilde. Photo by JL JAVIER



A collaboration between Ginny Roces De Guzman (whose family established the iconic Sugarhouse), Chiqui Lara, and photographer Neal Oshima, Tilde is a corner cafe, hidden within the depths of Poblacion. The idea for the place emerged from the mutual fascination of the trio for fermentation. Years of experimentation resulted in pickling various vegetables, brewing beer, baking sourdough, and even creating cheese — and eventually, Tilde. It is an anything-goes kind of place; there are baskets of bread in one corner, but right across it sits a chiller housing frozen meals you can take home and reheat.

Main dishes here range from a classic Caesar salad and callos, to a sisig carbonara and a hearty duck confit hash. Tilde also carries a promising coffee program, using Arabica coffee grown by tribespeople of Bukidnon. Of all the restaurants in the area, Tilde is probably the one with the most diverse things up its sleeve. On some days you might find small batch of green mango beer listed up on the board, on others you might be welcomed by the smell of moules-frites using Bouchot mussels flown in from France. You’ll be in for a surprise each time.

GF EWC Building, 5417 Matilde St.
12 p.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday