One of the things that we did in our one-week trip to Zamboanga is to eat, eat and eat… I’m pretty sure I gained a few pounds with all the food that I devoured with gusto.
So, what you have to know is that Zamboanga City has a very lively food scene. Not only can you find typical Filipino meals like sinigang and lechon, you’ll also find a range of traditional Spanish dishes like paella, as well as foods influenced by the neighboring Malay-Indonesia countries.
That saying, here are the restaurants that we visited during our food tripping escapade in Zamboanga City. Save this as reference for your next visit! I have also listed some favorites from the menus.
Alavar Seafood Restaurant
Alavar Seafood Restaurant is that one restaurant you shouldn’t miss in your visit to Zamboanga City. It’s famous for its special sauce, the alavar sauce, a mixture of coconut milk, chili, garlic and spices, which goes perfectly well with curacha. Curacha is the Chavacano term for spanner crab or red frog crab, and it’s basically a natural hybrid between a crab and a lobster. Two goodness in one. Most of the meat of a curacha comes from the body, with little in the spinsters. It is finger-licking good eaten with the alavar sauce.
For the drinks, try their fresh shakes or Zamboanga White, which is made with lychee and pineapple.
Address: 173 Don Alfaro Street, Tetuan, Zamboanga City
Facebook page: Alavar Seafood Restaurant
Andy’s Satti is one of the go-to places for satti (the other one is Jimmy’s Sati). It’s nothing fancy, just an ordinary eatery that lets you enjoy a traditional breakfast in the city.
Satti is roasted meat on a stick, served in peanut sauce with puso (rice cooked in coconut leaves). Satti can be anything from chicken, beef or pork. It took me a while to realize that what they call satti is the same as satay. The difference from that of its Asian counterparts is that the sauce is thinner and the peanut taste is more subtle. I guess it’s because they literally serve the roasted meat and rice submerged in the sauce.
For me it’s definitely a new food experience.
Address: C. Atilano St., Tetuan, Zamboanga City
Hacienda del Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant
Hacienda del Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant is one of the top-rated restaurants in Zamboanga City, based on online review websites such as TripAdvisor. This restaurant serves various local Filipino dishes, but the spotlight goes to their famous knickerbocker, a type of dessert similar to halo-halo. It is made with various fruits like ripe mangoes and bananas and jelly, topped with strawberry ice cream. (Zamboanga has its own strawberry plantations.)
I really like the knickerbocker because it’s light, and the sweetness of the concoction comes from the fruits, instead of overwhelming sugar as in other desserts.
Address: Pasonanca Road, Barangay Sta. Maria, Zamboanga City
Facebook page: Hacienda del Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant
Country Chicken definitely serves more than fried chicken. This classic restaurant is popular for their Filipino-Spanish dishes. Some notable ones are seafood paella, callos with bread, duck stew (I’d forgotten what it’s called) and vegetable salad served with vinaigrette.
Address: KM 4 Pasonanca Road, Pasonanca, Zamboanga City
Facebook page: Country Chicken Restaurant
Bay Tal Mal Restaurant
Bay Tal Mal Restaurant is a one-of-a-kind restaurant in Zamboanga City. It serves halal Moro cuisine.
Most notable is latal, a plate consisting of various Tausug dishes. The one in the middle is tiulah itum, a hearty beef and goat stew with broth blackened by roasted coconut. Its taste reminds me of papaitan. Then there are also beef piyassak, beef kulma or beef adobo, chicken piyanggang, chicken kiyaliya, kiyaliya kapaya or nangkah, calamares with sauce, fried fish and sliced cucumbers with sambal. It’s a little overwhelming to try to know every dish, it’s simpler to just eat it and taste each unique flavors. Yum.
If you’re looking for other places that serve latal, check out Dennis Coffee Garden.
Address: Mayor Jaldon St., Canelar, Zamboanga City
Facebook page: Bay Tal Mal Restaurant
Barcode is a local favorite which serves Filipino food. I think it’s a great place to stop by if you’re longing for familiar flavors, at reasonable prices. They are famous for their seafood platter and sizzling plates. For dessert, you can ask for their own version of knickerbocker or a cold dish of banana split. Aside from its food, Barcode is also frequented by guests who are attracted to its colorful fiesta-like decors and live acoustic band at night.
Address: Paseo del Mar, Valderoza Street, Zamboanga City (2nd branch at Rizal Street)
Facebook page: Barcode
Vista del Mar Restaurant
Save the best for last, eh? Vista del Mar is my favorite restaurant among those we’ve visited. It’s a seaside restaurant and is part of the Vista del Mar Resort. It’s highly regarded and also has lots of positive reviews online. They serve great Filipino dishes, with lots of fresh seafood. They also serve curacha with their own special sauce.
My favorites here were sinigang, clams, crispy shrimp and of course curacha. I also like their ensadala de chamba, which is a salad with eggplants, ripe mangoes and salted egg. The combinations are unusual but the flavors come together nicely.
You know what, I actually like everything that was served here, from the food to the after-meal tea and ripe mango shake. Also, the ambience is perfect because the restaurant has a great view of the ocean.
The owner of the restaurant chatted with us for a bit about the resort and even showed us a practical way of cracking open a curacha — just press it against a durable plate and tadaaa. You can now easily get the meat from the curacha.
Address: Labuan-Limpapa National Road, Zamboanga City
Facebook page: Vista del Mar Resort
Of course, Zamboanga City has lots of great restaurants aside from these ones. There’s also a lot of local snacks that I’d like to write about in the future.
Which restaurant do you recommend we visit next time? Post your answer in the comments below!
P.S. You might also be interested in these:
This post is part of our one-week trip to Zamboanga! Here are our other posts: