For years, there's been buzz in the US food world that's had Filipina grandmothers fiercely guarding their recipes. Now, it's official: Pinoy food has finally hit the American mainstream. We're not at peak ube yet (that's purple yam, for the cheap seats), but the Philippines is making its mark on the American dining scene.
This year, Bon Appetit named Washington, DC-based Filipino restaurant Bad Saint the second-best restaurant in the entire country. Meanwhile spots throughout the country -- from LA's The Park's Finest to Vegas' Full House BBQ, Chicago's Uncle Mike's, and New York's Jeepney – are putting their traditional (and elevated) takes on classics front and center.
Filipino chefs in non-Pinoy kitchens are spreading their homeland love too. Executive chef Angela Dimayuga riffs on her grandmother's pollo relleno (stuffed chicken) at NYC hotspot Mission Chinese Food. Rodelio Aglibot offers crispy pata (pork shank) at E+O, a high-end, sustainability-focused Chicagoland hotspot. One of Portland, Oregon's most acclaimed restaurants, Clyde Common, often serves Carlo Lamagna's takes on Filipino cuisine on its otherwise modern American menu.
Still, Filipino food in the US has struggled to convey its complex identity precisely because it's so multifaceted. And as much as purist parents will huff that some upstart Filipino restaurateur is being too "fancy," there's so much more to explore and the beauty lies in just how inclusive the cuisine can be.
It's an exciting time to expand your palate, as well as your stomach (Filipinos do not skimp on portion size). Before you order, here's a primer on how to go from beginner to pro.