Most of us grew up knowing Makati’s Poblacion neighborhood as Manila’s red light district. Throughout the aughts, however, it began its transformation into hipster central, when it became known as the go-to corner of the city for artists from all over the metro.
Today, it’s come from being an underground haunt to a trendy night out kind of destination. While remnants of its somewhat seedy past are still present, much of the area has been taken over by spots now frequented by college students, creatives, and in-the-know travelers.
Poblacion can be overwhelming to navigate for those who have never been because of the sheer number of establishments there — so to make things simpler, here’s a list of the current must-try places in the neighborhood, including intimate cafes, hidden bars, and restaurants that put a cool contemporary twist on classic concepts.
ABKD is what the Tagalog alphabet was once called; it’s also the name of a restaurant and bar in Poblacion that serves modern Filipino dishes like silog (meat with garlic rice and egg) (PHP200/US$3.87 – PHP289/US$5.59) meals and ensaymada (PHP45/US$.87), a sweet brioche-like pastry.
At night, the place turns into a bar that serves beer, wine, and cocktails. Its second floor also houses a more intimate bar called Ñ, with Filipino-inspired cocktails like the Poblasioned (PHP360/US$6.96), a twist on the Old Fashioned made with bourbon, a reduction syrup made with the local Red Horse beer, bitters, and Islay Mist. There’s also the Manila Gold (PHP250/US$4.83) made with dark and white rum, mango, coconut milk, mint leaves, and bitters.
ABKD is at 5663 Alfonso St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 2am, Monday – Thursday; 5pm – 4am, Friday & Saturday
Another Filipino-inspired spot is Agimat (literally “amulet” or “charm”), a restaurant and bar housed in an old-style building that serves Filipino food and drinks. As its name suggests, most of its menu items are presented in somewhat magical ways.
For the full experience, diners can order the Ritual ng Agimat (PHP330/US$6.38), a drink with calamansi (native lime) liquor, lambanog (coconuts wine), tomato puree, melon tomato mint shrub, tamarind, lime, and rose citrus aromatics. The cocktail is served to every customer with an elaborate ritual where the staff don masks and chant.
The bar’s interiors are also a must-see. It’s an imposing look made of wood furniture, murals of ancient symbols, plant installations, and a giant tree right inside the apothecary-looking bar. Best of all, the Agimat plays OMP (Original Pilipino Music) all night long.
Agimat is at 2/F, 5972 Alfonso St. cor. Fermina St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 2am, Monday – Saturday; 6pm – 12mn, Sunday
Mexican food can be found all over the metro. In fact, there’s another iconic one in Poblacion, but A’Toda Madre prides itself in being a tequila and mezcal bar, claiming to have the biggest selection of the alcoholic drinks in the Philippines. Frequent diners can also request a brand of tequila or mezcal if they don’t have it on hand yet.
Those who are new to tequila and don’t know what they like yet can do a tasting that’ll leave them satisfied and buzzed. Cocktails (PHP250/US$4.83 – PHP495/US$9.57) are also available for those who would rather sip on their drinks than take shots.
These are paired with Mexican dishes like elotes callejeros (corn) (PHP130/US$2.51), street tacos (PHP165/US$3.19), and nachos (PHP295/US$5.70).
A’Toda Madre is at G/F, Sunette Tower, Durban St., cor. Makati Ave., Makati City
Open 5pm – 2am, Sunday – Saturday
Those who would rather have a chill night with friends can also go to Commune, one of Poblacion’s well-known cafes.
The multi-floor cafe housed in an old building has a homey community feel where creatives — from writers to graphic artists — can feel right at home. Workshops are regularly held in the cafe, so it’s also a great place to meet like-minded individuals.
Its menu has standard pricing, with a flat white costing PHP130 (US$2.51). The 18-hour cold brew, on the other hand, is PHP145 (US$2.80) without milk and PHP165 (US$3.19) without milk.
Commune also serves tea, beer, breakfast menu items, sandwiches, and salads.
Commune is at 36 Polaris St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 8am – 12mn, Monday – Thursday; 8am – 1am, Friday & Saturday; 9am – 10pm, Sunday
Serving up Asian street food in a street-side joint is Crying Tiger, whose menu includes Malaysian spiced wings (PHP299/US$5.78) and chicken satay (PHP174/US$3.36).
The must-try, though, is their pad see ew (PHP240/US$4.64) made with chicken, stir-fried flat Thai noodles. For a refreshing drink, diners can try the lemongrass, lime, and Thai basil mojito for PHP130 (US$2.51).
Crying Tiger is at 4986 P. Guanzon St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 12mn, Monday – Thursday and Sunday; 5pm – 2am, Friday & Saturday
Many spaces in Poblacion are multi-functional, though Dulo is perhaps one of the best-known in the neighborhood. The two-floor space operates as a restaurant, bar, cafe, events space (mostly for arts and music), and a community platform where creatives can meet and collaborate.
Dance and music workshops and art exhibitions are held there regularly, making it a hub for Manila’s established and up-and-coming artists.
Casual visitors, on the other hand, can visit whenever musicians and DJs play in their weekly events. There’s also an in-house restaurant serving up crowd-pleasing bites, like their homemade baos (PHP150/US$2.90) filled with a choice of pork belly, mushroom, or crispy chicken.
Dulo MNL is at 4992 P. Guanzon St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 8am – 2am, Monday – Saturday
For winos, there’s Dr. Wine, a bar with a wide selection of, yes, wines. Diners can opt to choose wine by the glass or by the bottle from a menu that consists of white, red, rose, and sparkling bottles from both old and new world winemakers.
Especially popular among the Poblacion crowd is the venue’s brunch options — especially the seafood platters (PHP1,350/US$26.10 to PHP6,950/US$134.38), which are served in various sizes fit for large or small groups. Of course, brunch classics like the Egg’s Benedict (PHP450/US$8.70) are also available.
Dr. Wine is at G/F, 5921 Algier St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 2am, Sunday – Monday
While Makati’s Little Tokyo is known for serving traditional Japanese cuisine, Poblacion has made a name for itself for serving Japanese food in more contemporary spots.
One example is Ebi 10, which serves all kinds of tempura dishes. Their speciality, of couse, is the ebi (shrimp) tempura which costs PHP60 (US$1.16) for a small piece and PHP165 (US$3.19) for a jumbo piece. This can be served with rice or soba noodles.
Ebi 10 also has rolls and sashimi items, including the crowd favorite spicy tuna sashimi (PHP315/US$6.09). Those looking for a full Japanese experience can wash that all down with a bottle of Asahi (PHP150/US$2.90) or Sapporo (PHP150/US$2.90) beer.
Ebi 10 is at 5779 Felipe St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 11am – 10pm, Sunday – Monday
Perhaps one of the first well-known food spots in Poblacion is El Chupacabra, which serves Mexican street tacos in a sidestreet restaurant. It was so popular that at one point, tables were set up outside and in the actual street just to serve customers. It has since expanded, but the casual and authentic feel remain the same.
Among their street tacos, the one filled with sisig (chopped pig head) is a favorite. It’s priced at PHP145 (US$2.80) and comes with two layers of corn tortillas — as it should. Their Super Pork BBQ Sticks (PHP39/US$.75) — Filipino style barbecued pork that are slightly sweet — are also popular.
El Chupacabra is at 5782 Felipe St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 11am – 3am, Sunday – Wednesday; 11am – 4am, Thursday – Saturday
Another cafe worth visiting is Estee, which serves cakes and pastries by the bakery Sophie’s Mom. This includes the delightfully tart lemon cream tart (PHP400/US$7.73) and Nutella truffle mochi (PHP150/US$2.90, 6 pieces). Of course, they also have Sophie’s Mom’s bestseller, the red velvet cupcake (PHP90/US$1.74).
Estee serves breakfast dishes like bangers and hash (PHP330/US$6.38) made with an English sausage, sous vide egg, homemade hash browns, grilled tomato, and gravy, and dinner items like boeuf bourguignon (PHP490/US$9.48).
Apart from coffee and tea, cocktails, wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages are also served.
Estée is at 5659 Don Pedro St. cor. Jacobo St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 8am – 12mn, Monday – Thursday; 8am – 3am, Friday & Saturday; 8am – 9pm, Sunday
There are countless authentic Korean restaurants in Makati. Gaja sets itself apart, however, not by being traditional, but by being modern.
Some of its more interesting dishes include the K-Taco (PHP320/US$6.19), kimchi tortilla with Korean pulled pork and pickled vegetables; Black Haemul Pasta (PHP450/US$8.70), squid ink linguini with seafood and a sweet spicy sauce; and Kimchi Lasagna (PHP350/US$6.77), toaster rice layered with pulled pork, kimchi, and clarified kimchi butter.
Inside Gaja is The Odd Seoul, a Korean-themed speakeasy found behind a wall of soju bottles. Cocktails include the Kimchi Sour (PHP295/US$5.70) made with soju, kimchi, almond, lemon juice, egg white, and dried rose; and My Sassy Girl (PHP295/US$5.70), with soju, passionfruit, almond, salted pineapple, and mango liqueur. They also have soju shooters like the Gaja Bomb (PHP270/US$5.22, for a line up) — soju mixed with aloe vera juice, sour apple, and tequila.
Gaja is at 2F, 8445 Kalayaan Ave., Poblacion, Makati City
Opens 11am – 11:30pm, Sunday – Saturday
The Odd Seoul is open 4pm – 2am, Monday – Thursday; 4pm – 3am, Friday & Saturday; 4pm – 12mn, Sunday
Summer weather is year-round in the Philippines, which means every day is barbecue day. Holy Smokes in Poblacion specialized in Texas-style smoked meats that are slow-cooked to tenderness.
This includes beef brisket (PHP800/US$15.47), Wagyu brisket (PHP1,o50/US$20.30), pork ribs (PHP525/US$10.15), pork belly (PHP550/US$10.63), bacon (PHP550/US$10.63), and chicken (PHP340/US$6.57, for half)
Diners can choose to order the meats a la carte and pick side dishes of their choice or opt for solo or group platters with a fixed number sides. Sides include rice, mashed potato, coleslaw, and chili con carne among others.
Meats are served until 10pm, when the restaurant starts serving bar chow.
*Prices all for 250 grams of meat except chicken. Bigger servings are also available.
Holy Smokes is at 5834 Matilde St. cor. Jacobo St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 12mn, Tuesday – Saturday; 11am – 2pm, 5pm – 9pm, Sunday
Kermit is a surf resort in Siargao that is also popular for its Italian food. It opened a branch in Manila last year, where those missing the surf island can get a taste of their pizzas, pastas, and cocktails.
Popular menu items include their Tagliatelle alla Tartufata (PHP490/US$9.48) made with truffle sauce on spinach tagliatelle and parma ham, and Stimpies pizza (PHP630/US$12.18), which has six kinds of cheese.
Kermit is at 4636 Molina St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 12mn, Monday – Thursday; 5pm – 1am, Friday; 11am – 11pm, Saturday, 11am – 12mn, Sunday
It’s common knowledge that kebabs make for one of the best drinking (or after drinking) foods, and Kite serves a mean one.
Their rice meals are the way to go for a hearty meal. Plates of shawarma with turmeric rice — yum. Diners can choose between beef (PHP178/US$3.44), chicken (PHP168/US$3.25), falafel (PHP195/US$3.77), a “duo” or a combination of two kinds (PHP215/US$4.16), or a “trio” or a combination of three kinds (PHP240/US$4.64).
Kite Kebab Bar is moving to Durban St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 11am – 3am, Sunday – Thursday; 11am – 4am, Friday & Saturday
Another Filipino-inspired joint is Lobo, a tavern that served Filipino staples and drinking session favorites.
Those who want the full Filipino drinking experience can go for the group set meals that can serve four to six people. They have different kinds, all with varying combinations of Filipino food, but the most classic is the Ilongo’s Pride (PHP1,295/US$25.04). This includes kinilaw na tanigue (fish ceviche), boneless bangus (milkfish), kare-kare (oxtail stew with peanut sauce), grilled liempo (pork belly), pork sisig (pig face), ensaladang talong with salted egg (eggplant salad), and plain rice.
This is best paired, of course, with a bottle of San Miguel beer (PHP375/US$7.25)
Lobo Filipino Tavern is at 4898 Durban St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 3am, Sunday – Saturday
For something a little exotic but still familiar, diners can try Loco Manuk, a chicken joint that mixes Latin and Asian flavors.
The restaurant is helmed by a Peruvian chef and specializes in chicken cooked over a wood fire. A whole chicken is PHP630 (US$12.18), half is PHP330 (US$6.38) while a quarter is PHP170/US$3.29. Diners can choose from five different sauces with varying spice levels to pair with the pollo.
Loco Manuk also serves baos (PHP200/US$3.87), rice bowls (PHP200/US$3.87 – PHP260/US$5.03), and churros (PHP80/US$1.55 – PHP180/US$3.48).
Loco Manuk is at Corner P. Burgos St. and B. Valdez St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5:30pm – 2am, Monday – Saturday
One of the newest additions to Poblacion nightlife is Ms.Gee, a Hong Kong-style bar that serves dim sum and noodle soup but turns into an intimate little club at night. Since the place is fairly new, none of the menu items have made much of a mark yet, but the place itself is worth visiting for its vibe alone.
It’s quite small and dark, only really lit by a bright red neon sign behind the bar — clearly inspired by the streets of Hong Kong. The night we visited, the DJ was playing pop and hip hop throwback hits that were all crowd-pleasers. All these factors give the bar an urban feel where visitors can dance the night away without a care in the world.
Ms.Gee is at 5666 Don Pedro St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 1am, Sunday – Wednesday; 6pm – 3am, Thursday – Saturday
Nokal means North of Kalayaan, a reference to the street the bar is located in. Like its name, the establishment is a combination of several things. The first floor is a diner that serves comfort food like a cheeseburger (PHP295/US$5.70), grilled cheese with tomato soup (PHP260/US$5.03), and hot wings (PHP200/US$3.87).
The second floor is where the party is at, with a full bar that serves beer, shots, and cocktails, and music by the hottest DJs. Finally, the roof deck is an al fresco beer garden where local craft beers are served.
Nokal is at 8486 Kalayaan Ave., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 2am, Sunday – Tuesday; 6pm – 4am, Wednesday – Saturday
Those who take their craft beers seriously will appreciate Pedro Tap House, a bar in Poblacion’s Matilde St.
They produce their own beers and have a wide selection that includes pilsners, ales, IPAs, and stouts that are priced between PHP255 (US$4.93) and PHP308 (US$5.96) for 17 ounces. The bar also serves cocktails, whiskey, and other liquors. The drinks are best paired with beer bites like their Korean mini corn dogs (PHP180/US$3.48) and pastrami Reuben (PHP565/US$10.93).
Pedro Tap House is at 5910 Matilde St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 1am, Tuesday – Thursday; 5pm – 2 am, Friday & Saturday
Always full during weekends, we give you — Polilya, a chic but relaxed pub that serves craft beers by Engkanto Brewery. Twenty ounce beers go from PHP200 (US$3.87) – PHP290 (US$5.61), while cocktails range from PHP150 (US$2.90) – PHP480 (US$9.28).
More than the drinks on offer, though — it’s the vibe people go there for. Its interiors and decor are a mix of tropical style and mid-century modern aesthetics made to look like a very fashionable person’s living room. But grabbing every visitor’s eye every night is the bright purple sign behind the bar that says “Have you figured out what you want yet?”
Polilya is at G/F, 5658 Jacobo St. cor. Don Pedro St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5:30pm – 1:30am, Monday – Thursday; 5:30pm – 2:30am, Friday; 6:30 – 2:30, Saturday
Right above Polilya is Pura Vida, another crowd favorite that is always full during Saturdays and Sundays. Here, the music is king, as it plays reggae music night in and night out. This gets a lot of people dancing ’til the wee hours.
It can get tight and pretty hot inside, but Pura Vida has a sizable balcony where those who want fresh air (or to smoke) can stay and enjoy a more chill night. Shots of tequila and rum are priced at PHP175 (US$3.39), most local beers are PHP75 (US$1.45), while imported beers go as high as PHP150 (US$2.90).
Pura Vida is at 2/F, 5658 Jacobo St. cor. Don Pedro St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 2:30am, Monday – Saturday
Run Rabbit Run is a solid spot for the older millennial set — the type that wants to go out and stay “in the scene,” but still be low-key. It’s also for those who take their cocktails seriously and like to seek out bars with great original drinks. Theirs are co-created by Singapore bar Bitters & Love and incorporate local flavors into their mixes.
We like the Chillin’ Like a Villain cocktail (PHP400/US$7.73) made with gin, peach syrup, citrus, and a mist made from the Philippines’ national flower, the Sampaguita.
Read our full review of Run Rabbit Run here.
Run Rabbit Run is at 4991 P. Guanzon St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 1am, Tuesday & Wednesday, 6pm – 3am, Thursday – Saturday
Always serving a winning chicken dinner is Señor Pollo, a Latin chicken joint popular for its roast chicken. It’s the type of place to go to with a big group of friends because they have large servings that give diners a serious bang for their buck.
A half roast chicken is priced at PHP399 (US$7.72) and comes with two sides. A quarter chicken with two sides is PHP264 (US$5.11). Fried chicken stans aren’t forgotten either, as Señor Pollo serves it in one, two, and three-piece orders, which cost PHP179 (US$3.46), PHP289 (US$5.59), and PHP349 (US$6.75) respectively and come with two sides.
A whole chicken, meanwhile, costs PHP789 (US$15.26) whether roasted or fried and comes with four sides. Side options include four kinds of rice, french fries, beans, fried plantains, and sweet potato mash among others.
Señor Pollo is at 5767 Ebro St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 11:30am – 2am, Sunday – Monday
The Social is one of the few food parks that are still up and running after the trend died down last year. This is probably because unlike other parks, this one has less — but better — stalls.
Our favorite is the Crosta Pizzeria, which serves sourdough pizza in a coal-fired oven. This results in a pie with a tender crust and a bubbly cheesy center. Worth trying, again and again, is Shroomed Out (PHP380/US$7.35), made with shiitake, portobello, and white button mushrooms. It also has mozzarella, fontina, taleggio, and parmesan cheeses. Best of all, this pizza can also be made vegan.
The Social is at 5770 Ebro St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 5pm – 12mn, Tuesday – Thursday; 5pm – 1am; Friday – Sunday
Another OG pioneer in the Poblacion food scene is Tambai, a stall that serves Filipino-style yakitori that are delicious and (fairly) affordable. A stick of pork yakitori, for example, is PHP50 (US$.97), while a larger stick, on the other hand, is PHP120 (US$2.32). Diners can pair this with a serving of Japanese rice (PHP50/US$.97), kimchi fried rice (PHP85/US1.64), or cold soba (PHP75/US$1.45).
Japanese drinks are also available including the iconic highball (PHP250/US$4.83) whiskey cocktail that will surely give drinkers a good buzz.
Tambai is at 5779 Felipe St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 1am, Sunday – Saturday
After a night of drinking in Poblacion, a restaurant that serves breakfast all day is always a great idea.
Tilde, a cafe in Matilde St., does just that, with a menu that includes international and local comfort food. they have a brioche French toast (PHP280/US$5.41) but also serve the Filipino favorite beef tapa (cured beef) with garlic fried rice, egg, and atchara (pickled papaya). The cafe also has Insta-worthy cakes like chocolate truffle (PHP220/US$4.25), pistachio sans rival (PHP280/US$5.41), and lychee cheesecake (PHP200/US$3.87).
*Prices all for petite sizes good for 1 – 2 people.
Tilde is at 5417 Matilde St. cor. Gen. Luna St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 8am – 7pm, Monday – Saturday; 9am – 4pm, Sunday
Another popular modern Japanese spot is Wantusawa, whose specialty is oysters. The seafood can be ordered fresh (PHP50/US$.97 per piece) or eaten as croquettes (PHP160/US$3.09 for two pieces), as a ceviche (PHP200/US$3.87), or in a chowder (PHP250/US$4.83). Prawns, tuna, scallops, and other seafood are also available.
Drinks served include the usual suspects soda, juice, beer, and wine, but Wantusawa also has a selection of sake priced at PHP450 (US$8.70) – PHP600 (US$11.60).
Wantusawa is at 5779 Felipe St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 12mn, Sunday – Saturday
Colorful tropical interiors and pretty plates make The Wild Poppy a top choice for a girls’ night out.
While it has indoor seating, the rooftop area is where it’s at because it overlooks the rest of Don Pedro St. where people can be seen hopping from one bar to another — perfect for those who want to see but not be seen (yet).
The menu consists of modern Filipino and Asian dishes like the Kim and Reuben (PHP290/US$5.61), a Reuben sandwich with corned beef, kimchi, and kewpie mayo, and the Hoi, Belly! rice bowl (PHP205/US$3.96) with braised and pan-seared hoisin-glazed pork belly and wild rice.
They also have affordable cocktails priced at PHP100 (US$1.93) – PHP220 (US$4.25).
The Wild Poppy is at 5666 Don Pedro St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 6pm – 1am, Monday – Thursday; 6pm – 3am, Friday & Saturday
The workshop. is a design and manufacturing studio that houses locally-made products like leather goods and upcycled accessories by the brands Liana Rosa and Colony. On some nights, it turns into a hangout-slash-drinking spot frequented by creatives — we’d suggest following their Facebook page for updates on events. Always a chill time with cool folks here.
The workshop. is at 5856 Alfonzo St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday. Open for drinks 6pm until late, Wednesday and Thursday and 7pm until late, Friday and Saturday
YOI is probably, most likely, the chicest bar in Poblacion. Both the space and the menu are inspired by a mix of Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics and flavors.
It’s small but full of character, thanks to its dim lights, graffitied walls, hip-hop beats, and minimalist furniture. The place itself gives off a casual-meets-urban vibe, and the food leans towards the gourmet. A must-try is the Tako (PHP285/US$5.51), octopus cooked in sake and with flavors of chili oil. It’s also topped with herbs and melted Havarti cheese for good measure.
Those who want to enjoy their sake selections in an even more intimate setting can go to the hidden bar where drinks are served amid fairy lights and indie music.
YOI Sake Bar & Restaurant is at 5579 Alfonso St. cor. Fermina St., Poblacion, Makati City
Open 7pm – 2am, Sunday – Saturday
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