One’s success in the food industry can possibly be attributed to the booming number of its loyal customers, survival amid the competitive market, and the legacy it leaves to its avid patrons. Quite interesting to know that promising food businesses today no longer thrive solely in mainstream malls or commercialized areas. Such is the case of FoodEver 21, a humble diner currently making noise in the food scene – despite its shabby location.
The sidewalk eatery is easy to notice. It stands along the busy street of East Rembo, Makati, strewn with raging jeepneys, small businesses left and right, and a throng of pedestrians. One will marvel on the continuous flow of diners in and out, some even patiently waiting on a queue. The hype is intriguing so we joined the wave. There was even this apprehension that we wouldn’t score seat quickly or worse, not eat at all, because we heard their items get sold out early.
Disclaimer: Their prices vary from time to time, but you may check their Facebook Page or Instagram for the updated prices.
While waiting for my turn to place my orders at the counter, my eyes got glued to this small nook that displays the restaurant’s features in social sites, blogs, and top-rating television shows. Well, these are just Rated K, Umagang Kay Ganda, When in Manila, Booky Report, and Happy Wife, Happy Life. Considering that they recently opened in March 2015, they must be doing pretty well in their league. Impressive credentials there, huh.
“I wanted to break the norm of food businesses today. In the vicinity, we already have too many eateries serving Goto and Tapsilog. I wanted to make a difference“, says Chef Angelito Gutierrez, owner of FoodEver 21. His original concept was to prepare a line of menu centered on Italian and American cuisine with a twist, but at very affordable prices. He admitted they were hesitant at first because their target market was the local masses, with a palate for the traditional food. But he boldly stepped out to introduce his brilliant recipes – which in turn are now patronized by his faithful customers. “I named it FoodEver 21 because first, we are located at the 21st Avenue. And I want the name to be catchy to our customers, one that creates a recall”, Chef Gutierrez mused, as he refers having named it to a famous clothing line label. Smart idea there, Chef. But what really makes it so hard to forget? Is it just the name, the service or the food? That I will tackle later.
Chef Angelito’s sharpest weapon is his breadth of knowledge in the culinary industry for the last 20 years both local and abroad. He wanted to start a business that enables him to apply his formidable years of experience in the kitchen. Complementing his mastery is his wife’s strong background in HRM, who now takes charge of the purchasing and food quality control. Indeed a perfect tandem for this kind of business.
Enough of the brief history. Let’s delve deeper into the reasons why is it becoming a hit and set aside the minute details later – and get our primary focus on their food. Their menu basically consists of burgers, pasta, rice meals, and appetizers. They may sound basic, but wait until you get to taste what the crowd is madly raving about. In the coming days, however, more dishes will be rolled out to the public.
Jack Daniels Ribs. Sounds classy, sophisticated. Proclaimed as a best seller, this dish was recommended immediately at the counter. I couldn’t calculate in my mind that ribs as heavenly as this is only priced at Php 140. Whether the Jack Daniels sauce or the pack of flavors and spices seethed to the bones that did the trick, I really don’t know. The slab of meat was superbly tender that a light poke with a fork can easily strip it.
Usually, you have to shell out 500 pesos to get a decent burger. But not in FoodEver 21. Mid well -done quarter pounder patties, juicy and flavorful at every bite – set the mood at any time of day you’d eat it, making you forget the hot weather or the polluted open space. Chef Gutierrez revealed that they use 100 percent pure beef – no extenders. He said that he prefers to cook it mid well done to retain its juiciness. And as a customer, my heart fluttered when I knew that the patties are hand-pressed, so my homemade burgers are prepared with love and dedication.
We had Heart Attack and Judgmental, two of their best sellers. These are quarter pounder burgers topped with their signature homemade cream cheese, barbecue sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes. The sauce draws a fine line between sweet and sour – something you’d fall for, but not to the point that drowns you to sheer boredom. The only difference between the two is that Heart Attack comes in dual patties compared to the latter. So it’s twice the trouble, hence, Heart Attack. I need not flee at the Fort either at Brothers or 8 Cuts Burger Blends to get that random burger fix.
Chocolate burgers, anyone? You may get skeptic at first, but this one-of-a-kind creation has loyal fans of its own. Foodever 21 takes pride in being the pioneer of this choco-centric recipe. The sweet fusion of chocolate spread and cheese countered the rich flavors. I am not yet a total convert, but this would work as a dessert for me after the main course.
Pasta was equally good too, something you’d love to match your burgers to get that full-swing meal. They remained consistent with the base sauces of the pasta variants, but this time they had a playful take on the main topping, the crunchy Chicken Cordon Bleu. The bits of ham and cheese enveloped in chicken breast sprinkled with Parmesan likewise added texture and flavor to the pasta.
My aversion for pork has disabled me to try copious amounts of Sisig, but my siblings told me that it’s fair enough for a rice meal. They were able to pull off a decent texture of the pork, which is fundamental in preparing Sisig.
El Pollo is one on the list that left a lasting mark on my taste buds. The hefty serving of crunchy and tender chicken glazed in sweet orange sauce can be counted as one of my favorites that day, that I don’t mind pairing it with both pasta and rice. The vegetable toppings lent balance to the savory chicken, plus the lemon squeezes added zest to this festive treat.
The “Nilasing na Pakpak” is one of the best chicken wings specialty I have ever tasted. Whether consuming it as a finger food or with rice accompaniment doesn’t matter. That’s how versatile it is. It can shine independently even without side dishes. The absence of sauce is not a problem, for it is already awesome as it is.
The Garden Salad is a refreshing sight and helped us to cool down after devouring all the sumptuous food we tasted that afternoon.
Foodever 21 has also an adjacent store serving french fries and affordable shakes for your refreshments.
I admire the management’s courage to deviate from the customary, to bring one’s food experience to a new level, without spending too much. From what I have learned in my interview with Chef Gutierrez, I have seen that he has the heart in perfecting his craft, not only for self-gratification but to give utmost satisfaction to his customers. He candidly quoted “Never underestimate yourself as a cook. A cook can change history. No skilled person can perform or go to the war if he is hungry” emphasizing that people like him play a vital part in one’s daily life. And I will not be surprised if his business will reach massive expansion to cater to the growing demands of his avid supporters.
190A 21st Avenue, East Rembo, Comembo, Makati City
When dining as a group, Dampa is always a favored option. For one, servings come in huge portions ideal for sharing. Secondly, the ingredients are fresh, sourced from the restaurant’s market. But sometimes, the budget becomes a consideration. Prices shoot up based on the quantity of the fresh produce, and the cost of labor too. However, we found a dining place in Markina that defied all these notions. Dampa sa Riverbanks proved that a gastronomic treat doesn’t have to be as costly as we think it is.
All the way from Pasig, we traveled to Marikina to satisfy a long-time hankering for seafood. The quest is about finding good food that won’t burn a hole in our wallets.
There are several stalls in the area, with color-coded tables that distinguish one from the other. The items are similar though. We spotted a table that isn’t facing the sun at high noon and has nice angle of the Marikina Amphitheater.
The set-up is reminiscent of college days – those frequent food trips at a cheap carinderia nearby with nothing but good friends as company, enjoying hearty conversations, then a stroll at the park after. Ah, carefree days and fond memories.
The vibrant colors note freshness. And just like any typical Dampa, you have the liberty to choose from its neatly arranged stack of meat and seafood, and dictate its cooking method from grilled, baked, buttered, fried to Sinigang. The prices range from 80-200 per serving, which is good for 3-4 people. It’s a bit different than the Dampa in Libis or Pasay where prices vary according to kilogram.
While waiting for the orders to arrive, Ilonggo’s Grill served us complimentary green mango with shrimp paste.
It was pure craving for seafood at that time, that that day we abstained from meat. We had Buttered Shrimps, Buttered Mussels, Sizzling Squid, Sizzling Blue Marlin and Salmon Belly Sinigang to roll out a seafood feast.
Of all, the sizzling Blue Marlin was hailed as my favorite. The real challenge on preparing a complicated dish like this is to perfect its texture, while preserving the flavor. Surprisingly, it did meet my expectations. It was downright flavorful and tender, just the way I like it. It was devoid of the fishy aftertaste – something chefs nowadays tend overlook as an important element in seafood preparation. Smothered in sweet buttery sauce, the fish is seared with bursting flavors that is addictive to the core, that it wouldn’t be complete without a hot bowl of steamed rice.
Shrimp inarguably sits on my book of top comfort foods. I presume that more reviews will be told about this favorite food of my mine, as you go along and read my blog. Forgetting to order this that day would be a mortal sin. We ordered Sizzling Buttered Shrimp, a timeless classic recipe not difficult to love.
We never thought that cheese could go well with Sizzling Squid. The layers of cheese and tomatoes balanced out the rich seasoning, making it slightly sweet. It wasn’t rubbery but it was not too soft either.
Again, covered a with a bed of cheddar cheese. Baked Tahong or Mussels were too small pieces for me, but nevertheless it tasted good. It would be better though if they served the large or medium ones.
The broth of Salmon Belly Sinigang was just right and not too overpowering. However, I am not really into Salmon Belly that much. That slimy, fishy stench makes me uncomfortable. But if it will rated on the soup, I’d definitely recommend it as a wise pick.
It’s typically a Filipino household right there with all condiments and dining utensils present on the table. The servers were hospitable too, assisting all our needs and requests. They even gave us extra servings of green mango as a treat.
The aftermath. A beautiful mess. Definitely not bad for Php 180 per head.
It was one fine day. Tummies full, heavy laughter. Good food, good company. Those beautiful things that aren’t necessarily grand, but are honest and heart-warming.
DAMPA SA RIVERBANKS
A. Bonifacio Ave, Riverbanks Mall
Marikina, Metro Manila
UPDATE: THE PLACE IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED.
When the era of virtual media has taken over the pastime of today’s generation, you’d wonder where did the “hands-on” games go. The thrill and excitement of face-to-face interaction, planning your schemes and tactics is but incomparable even with today’s most updated and raved-about online games. And so to cure this longing, a unique restaurant concept was introduced that integrates dining experience with indoor games. DyceNDyne comes out to bring back the good ol’ days and revive our long-forgotten passion for board games.
Located along Pasig Blvd in Bagong Ilog, DyceNDyne is a hub-slash-bar-cafe for game enthusiasts with more than 300 board games in tow and a line of uniquely-prepared menu. The same owner runs Gaming Library, the country’s first online store for a vast range of board games with sources from all around the globe. And as the name suggests, you can play games while munching on their distinct selection of dishes and snacks. There is no entrance fee to the place, just order food/ drinks and be mesmerized with the huge number of games to choose from.
This isn’t your place when you’re wanting for some quiet, isolated time. You will be constantly hearing squeals, feet-stomping, table-smashing, wood slabs falling, and even glasses breaking on the floor as a result of the heightened tension.
And if you’re clueless on how to start, a staff member will kindly explain to you the mechanics and instructions of your chosen game.
Emphasizing the need to restore social skills that technology has deprived us, DyceNDyne has a bold reminder that the place is not installed with wifi. Although, with the notably attractive presentation of the food and the design of the place, you can’t help but grab your phone and take awesome photos.
And totally achieving the cafe’s objective, my pals and I lost track of time as we immersed ourselves with the board games. There were lots of panic attacks, screaming and shrieking, giggling and conversing in between!
We played Coup: Rebellion G54 a card game about portraying characters with different powers. Players are eliminated by bluffing and negotiation, and the last player with influence wins.
Geistes is a game about analyzing which object is different or similar with the card. The player who identifies the correct object takes the rest of the cards, and the most number of cards wins.
Getting ourselves lost in the game course, we barely felt hungry. We opted for finger foods instead and tried Nachos Against Humanity and Munchkin Sliders. Even the food names were hilariously labeled after famous games!
The heap of corn tortillas was topped with chili con carne, cheese, jalapeno, olives and tomatoes. This was my expected, traditional serving of nachos although I’d appreciate it more if they abundantly garnish it with more ingredients such as cheese.
The Munchkin Sliders presented a delectable combination of corned beef, hash browns and sunny-side up quail eggs. I loved not only its contrasting colors, but the brilliant idea of fusing a breakfast treat in a sandwich that is crunchy and oh-so-delicious.
Talk about their concoction of drinks by Chemistea, served in laboratory apparatus such as beakers and Erlenmeyer Flasks. We had Milo Dinosaur, Milk Tea and Matcha Espresso. Experiment with their row of beverages as it caters to different people with a knack for coffee, milktea, fruit juices, local beer or soda.
If you want to prolong the fun, games and other merchandise are for sale at the counter. You may check this website too if you want to purchase/ pre-order your preferred game http://www.gaminglib.com/.
Reservations in advance are advised, especially that the venue gets packed on weekends.