The city of Puerto Princesa is the capital of Palawan, the largest province in the Philippines best known for its unspoiled natural wonders. Among its most popular attractions are the gorgeous limestone islands of El Nido and Coron, and the World Heritage-listed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. It’s no wonder Palawan has repeatedly topped “World’s Best Island” lists! While the best destinations are far from the city center, the downtown area is worth exploring for a day for its Neo-Gothic cathedral, colonial-era barracks, heritage museums, and baywalk park.
Moreover, foodies will especially enjoy spending more time in the city center, trying out one-of-a-kind food offerings like chao long ( the localized pho, introduced by Vietnamese refugees), tamilok (a worm-like mollusk eaten ceviche-style), and pastillas hopia. Quintessential restaurants like Kinabuch’s and Badjao Seafront are still around, but several new restaurants have opened recently in the city to enliven the local food scene. Here are six new places to eat and drink when you revisit Palawan’s gateway!
Its name meaning “hallucination” in Filipino, Guni Guni will blow your mind – and taste buds – with its mouthwatering selection of Italian, Tex-Mex and American food. Over the COVID-19 lockdowns, this dormant hostel in Brgy. Bancao-Bancao transformed into a full-fledged restobar serving steaks, pizza, burger meals and charcoal-grilled seafood, among others. Their big menu offers a lot of options, but among their crowd pleasers are their Caesar Salad (₱220), Soft Shell Street Tacos (₱200), Spicy Chicken Burger (₱300) and Truffle & Three Cheese Pizza (₱450). Aside from comfort good, they have alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to finish off your meal, including fruit shakes, local and imported beers, and cocktails. Air-conditioned and open-air dining spaces are available.
A must-visit on any northern tour of the city, Golden Hour Cafe is a relaxing stopover right along the North Puerto Princesa Highway, 20 km north of the city center in Barangay Bacungan. I looked forward to dropping by this roadside establishment on my scooter day tours visiting attractions along the western beaches like Nagtabon Beach, Talaudyong Beach and Tagkuriring Falls. Located near Mt. Magarwak, this affordable cafe is the perfect place to have breakfast after a sunrise hike along the scenic ridge. They serve silog breakfast plates, noodle dishes, soups and finger food in an open-air garden setting. Bestsellers include their arroz caldo (₱50), chicken quesadilla (₱80), and chicken alfredo pasta (₱150). For drinks, they specialize in drip coffee (₱50), hot and iced coffee-based beverages, and shakes.
With big bikes on display and decals on the walls, 100% Cafe Moto is a motorcycle-themed restobar serving Asian and Western comfort food with attitude. Their specialties include Beef Rendang (₱380), Seafood Pasta Negra (₱345), and Sriracha Chicken Wings (₱350). Another star of their menu is their banh mi (₱185-220), a hefty Vietnamese sandwich that comes in beef, smoked chorizo de Negros, chicken lemongrass, pork hoisin and tofu & egg. For drinks, they serve local beers, shooters, and soju cocktails. A non-alcoholic specialty is Mayi’s Delight Smoothie (₱200) – a wonderful blend of raspberry, grape, mango, banana, dragon fruit and Palawan yoghurt. Now that’s a power shake! Air-conditioned and open-air dining spaces are available.
C’mon, who could resist fluffy bunnies? True to its name, customers are treated with the adorable company of free-roaming rabbits when they dine at Max & Bunny, a homey restaurant in the quiet suburbs of Barangay San Pedro. On their extensive menu are elevated breakfast plates, burgers & sandwiches, and meaty main dishes of Filipino and Western classics. The most requested items on their menu are their pizzas and rice bowls, most especially their Quattro Formaggi Pizza (₱510) and Caldareta Rice Bowl (₱260). The Max & Bunny Salad (₱240), a mix of seasonal fruits and veggies in balsamic vinaigrette, is popular pick among the health-conscious – and perhaps those who can no longer stomach meat after cuddling with the restaurant’s cute mascots.
Tucked behind Kinabuch’s (one of the city’s most popular restos) in what was formerly an inn, Balay Bukid is a hidden gem for those looking for a bang-for-the-buck dining experience. They run daily Filipino buffets for lunch and dinner for only ₱299 per head on weekdays and ₱350 per head on weekends. To upgrade your mealsl, they also have a short-order menu of specials like crispy pata (₱750), lechon kawali (₱350), and sisig (₱300). This eat-all-you-can restaurant is run by Yamang Bukid, a social enterprise which produces organic farm products and operates the city’s first agritourism farm destination in Barangay Bacungan.
Located at the quiet western side of Barangay San Pedro, Cutting Board Bistro features bar chow, sandwiches, salads, and pastas but the highlight of this restobar are the meaty main dishes dishes like their Wagyu Steak (₱2,200), Beef Stroganoff (₱350) or Pepper Steak (₱285). The bar serves local beers, wine by the bottle, shooters and cocktails (by the glass or pitcher). Located within a former residence, this low-key establishment has a homey atmosphere that it feels like you’re hanging out at your friend’s house.