Neighborhood guide: Poblacion, Makati

We first felt the tremors when we interviewed writer Chiara Cui for our My City on a Plate column: something’s shaking in Barangay Poblacion, Makati.

Back then, we knew the area to be gritty and a bit in-your-face, no thanks to Padre Burgos. But complementing the hustle and the bustle of the red light district are restaurants and bars, as well as a newly opened mall on the other side of Kalayaan Avenue.

It’s funny, this whole development thing, especially when you learn that Bgy Poblacion was actually the first settlement in Makati — why did it take this long to gentrify it?

The hip and young have already given the 17,000-strong barangay two nicknames: “Williamsburgos,” referencing the original hipster enclave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and “Publacion,” a reference to the growing number of pubs and bars (all of them good hangout places).

If you ever find yourself in almost-trendy Bgy Poblacion, here are the places to check out:

PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK:

A Toda Madre 
G/F Sunette Tower, Durban St cor Makati Ave, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 998 9991521. Mon-Sat 5pm-2am. 

Just off P. Burgos Street is this one-month old Mexican joint. It’s small, pretty hip, and almost always, pretty full. We love the cool Mexican-inspired drawings on the walls and on the bar, and the unfinished paint job on the walls. The food menu is short, but that’s because it’s a tequila bar. It can be a little on the spicy side so make sure you tell the wait staff to make it mild.
Must-try: Cueritos Enfurtidos (PHP275) is chicharon with salsa rojo. The salsa lifts the beautifully crunchy pork. Chilli Verde Tacos (PHP400) is pork with salsa verde, fresh cilantros, the works. And please get the House Margarita (PHP260/glass). It’s not a tequila bar for nothing.

Beni’s Falafel 
4364 Valdez Street, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 906 3491300. Daily 9am to sawa.

It’s already a year old but 20-seater Beni’s Falafel is still a social media darling, what with everyone Instagramming their meals. With good reason: Beni’s Falafel is pretty damn good. It’s an all-vegetarian fare, but carnivores wouldn’t guess it. Their garlic sauce is, like, cherry on top.
Must-try: Beni’s Falafel (PHP135) comes in a sandwich, with bread that looks a tad too thick, but will prove just right after a few bites. The Shakshuka (PHP260), poached eggs in a sauce of tomatoes and onions, is hearty, while the hummus (PHP200) tastes very authentic.

Pink Panda 
G/F Y2 Residence Hotel, 4687 Santiago cor Valdez Sts, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 906 2053898. Daily 11am-10pm.

The newest venture of Erwan Heussaff, a budding restaurateur with a big-ass social media following, Pink Panda serves Southeast Asian fare and is Beni’s next-door neighbor. The difference is stark: Pink Panda is  inside a hotel, with sleek and stylish interiors, and food that’s a lot pricier than the humble falafel.
Must-try: The soft shell crab sandwich (PHP345) is an instant favorite, the pork pockets (PHP230) are inviting, and the Prawn toasties with tom yum shots (PHP285) is a real winner.

Filling Station
5012 P Burgos St, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 8972053. Daily 24/7.

This campy American diner has long been a favorite in the area, and rightly so. The place is set up perfectly, the food, though expensive, is good, the wait staff are incredibly friendly, and it’s always open!
Must-try: The Filling Station super burger (PHP468) is huge and good for sharing, but only if you pair it with any one of their super thick milkshakes (PHP280).

El Chupacabra 
5782 Felipe St, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 8951919. Daily11am-2am.

El Chupacabra serves street tacos that are deceptively affordable. Why? Because they’re on the petite side. They’re insanely good you’ll keep ordering again and again until you’ve racked up quite a tab. But that’s fine — you’ve had your fill and it’s hard not to be happy about this joint. It’s so vibrant! You’ll want to come here, panghimagas, after a solid drinking session from maybe across the street.
Must-try: The carne asada (PHP90) street taco will not fail you. The Nachos Especiales (PHP395) is a big surprise, while the Grilled veggie Gringas (PHP160) will leave you quietly satisfied.
H&J 
5781 Felipe St, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 9541130. Daily 11am-6am.

Right across El Chupacabra is H&J, formerly Heckle and Jeckle. While it is a bikers’ haven, similar to Handlebar which is just a stones’ throw away, H&J has become a favorite among the travelers and backpackers set. Why wouldn’t it? There’s a pool table, a smoking area, television sets showing soccer or rugby games, and a spacious floor, a luxury that hostels can’t quite offer.
Must-try: It must be said: you come here to drink and not so much to eat. That said, what is inuman without pulutan? Get the 12” Carne pizza (PHP540) to go and a bucket of beer (PHP275).

Dutch Bread Hauz 
5417 Matilde cor General Luna Sts, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 533 9598. Daily 8am-7pm.

A contrast from the good times of Publacion, is Dutch Bread Hauz. They offer pastries and sandwiches best paired with coffee for the morning after. It is owned by people from the Netherlands so you can expect excellent cups of cappuccino, and delectable goodies.
Must-try: The apple turnover (PHP72) is crispy-beautiful. The chocolate bread (PHP64) is generously filled. And you can’t miss out on the cheese sandwiches (Gouda at PHP144, Old Amsterdam at PHP164).

Tommy’s Freshly Roasted Coffee
8483 Kalayaan Ave cor Matilde St, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 917 5289016. Daily 9am-8pm.

Another sober establishment in the debauchery of Poblacion is Tommy’s Freshly Roasted Coffee — yep, of the Salcedo Market fame. Unlike the Dutch Bread Hauz which has a tendency to feel all businessy, Tommy’s gives that freshly woken up feel. The tiny, all-white space is so small and so clean, it feels like waking up in your own little corner. The only problem we see: there may be a lot of you claiming this corner as your own. You can’t be blamed.
Must-try: Check out the Hacienda blend (PHP85) with the chocolate biscotti (PHP155) or the corn muffins (PHP25).

THINGS TO DO:

Ringside Bar 
P Burgos St corner Kalayaan Ave, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 8997106. Daily 7pm-5am.

This spot is definitely on the agenda of many backpackers, thanks to its, erm, unique entertainment: a midget and lady boxing. It’s weird and a little expensive (PHP160 for a bottle of beer) but it’s so much fun you’ll have to try it, if you haven’t already and recommend it to your visiting friends.

Be Beautiful for Him 
8485 Kalayaan Ave, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 8957305. Call for an appointment.

Want a throwback trip? Get a haircut from Be Beautiful for Him, a salon but which we really feel should be refered to as a parlor. It’s been there since the ’60s and has been a favorite among society ladies. Rumor has it, the salon’s ladies sell some of the best chicharon to be had in Manila.

MNL Boutique Hostel 
Valdez cor Santiago Sts, Bgy Poblacion, Makati; +63 2 5117514.

One of the pioneers of the hostel culture in Poblacion, MNL offers their guests the uniquely Filipino experience by way of BYOB nights. As in, bring your own bottle for an inuman on the street right outside their door. It started as Tagay Tuesday but it’s so successful that BYOB pretty much happens any day of the week. Even if you’re not staying at the hostel, you’re still welcome to join the sidewalk fun — just make sure you have a bottle on you to share with them guests. Tip: these travelers are big on Red Horse and rum Coke. 

MNL Boutique Hostel photo taken from MNL’s Facebook page

This article first appeared on Coconuts Manila. Subscribe to our newsletter here

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