Pinoy food joint in Seattle wins James Beard Foundation’s ‘America’s Classics’ award

<i>Photo: Video Screengrab from James Beard Foundation / IG</i>
Photo: Video Screengrab from James Beard Foundation / IG

Ever been to a carinderia in Manila? The little roadside eateries serve cheap, filling, home-cooked meals in chafing dishes that let you just “point and pick” — hence the alternate name turo-turo.

Well, now an overseas carinderia, the Oriental Food Mart in Seattle, has been named one of the six recipients of the prestigious “America’s Classics” award, the James Beard Foundation announced on social media yesterday.

The humble joint serves up a range of Filipino classics like adobo, longganisa (Filipino-style chorizo), pancit (fried noodles), sinigang (tamarind sour soup), and even dinuguan (pork blood stew), while sourcing its fresh ingredients from Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where the food stall is located.

Oriental Food Mart, like other “America’s Classics” winners, was chosen for its “timeless appeal” and “quality food that reflects the character” of its community.

Filipino immigrant Milo Apostol first opened the spot as a small grocery in 1971. A decade later, Apostol’s daughter, self-taught cook Leila Rosas, with the help of Milo’s wife Milagros Apostol, converted part of the grocery into a 20-seat diner that serves up to seven Pinoy-flavored dishes per day, Seattle Times reports.

True to carinderia form, the Pinoy eatery still operates without a set menu, and their dishes on any given day depend on what’s available at the local market.

Most serious foodies know that the nearly 30-year-old James Beard Foundation is one of the food world’s most prestigious institutions, and champions chefs and culinary leaders who shape American food culture. Beard himself was a prolific food writer and cookbook author.

The Foundation’s other “America’s Classics” winners include a barbecue joint in Texas, a Mexican taqueria in Denver, and a Southern-style restaurant in Little Rock. These beloved regional staples are selected by the foundation’s committee on the condition that they have been running for at least 10 years, are locally owned, and are moderately priced — and have top-notch food, naturally.

Oriental Food Mart and the six other winners will be honored at the upcoming James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago on May 4.

Read more about places to eat and drink in the metro here.

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