Anthony Bourdain in the Philippines: The Complete Country Guide
Made up of over 7000 islands, to call the Philippines archipelago vast would be an understatement. Over the course of his travels, Tony Bourdain discovered that the food on offer in this South East Asian country reflects its sprawling diversity – and all of the places he visited are still waiting to welcome you today.
Anthony Bourdain visited the Philippines to film both season 5 (episode 7) of No Reservations and season 7 (episode 1) of Parts Unknown. These were his only two visits to the country during his television career, and I think his only two visits during all of his travels. However, it’s worth noting that he did visit twice – that’s more than many countries, and a testament to Tony’s desire to explore Filipino culture and cuisine more deeply as he traveled more of the world.
If you’re planning a trip to the Philippines and want to use “Uncle Tony” as your guide, you’ve come to the right place. This country guide is a great starting point to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in the Philippines, and you can use it to dive more deeply into the cities and regions he explored – plus learn about the foods he ate.
Dive in to discover what makes Filipino food so special and why world travelers like Tony kept coming back.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Ati and Tumandok peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Tony begins both his visits to the Philippines in the capital Manila. With its heavy Chinese influence due to the oldest Chinatown in the world, Manila’s food scene is bursting with a fusion of traditional and less traditional treats. During his time there, Bourdain ate at the following restaurants and locations still open today:
- Chinatown and Carvajal Street
- Dampa Seaside Market
- Jollibee Blue Bay (though with over 900 locations across the country, you’ll have to work hard to not find a Jollibee close to wherever you find yourself!)
- Super Six Bar + Grill
- Oarhouse Pub
- Handlebar Bar + Grill
If you want to learn more about the places and what Tony ate at each one, be sure to check my Manila guide for all the details.
The second largest city in the Philippines, Bourdain visited Cebu during his first trip to the country. He begins at the Capital Site Eatery, to sample crab back stuffed with crab meat and sausage, as well as bulalo, a Filipino beef shank soup with corn, scallions, garlic, complete with bone marrow goodness.
Following this, Tony meets up with Joel Binamira, a local chef and food blogger, who takes him to Taboan Public Market, the largest dried fish market in the country. After purchasing some supplies, Joel prepares a veritable feast for Bourdain. In addition to a succulent lechon (spit-roasted pig), there are two kinds of seaweed salad, Spanish mackerel grilled and served like ceviche, tropical fruits with shrimp paste, and a tomato salad with vinegar and dried squid (purchased from Taboan earlier).
These appetizers are followed with ensaladang talong (a grilled eggplant dish similar to baba ganoush), boiled shrimp, and a beef and pork stew (known locally as mechado), all served buffet style at a long table. The lechon, however, takes pride of place on this occasion, and Bourdain appears in his element tearing and hacking away at the juicy pork, the evenly browned lechon skin coming off crisply under his knife, as he declares it the “best pig ever”.
His appetite sated for now, Anthony reflects on what makes Filipino cuisine so unique. Not as sharply herbed or spiced as other cuisines in South-East Asia, the Philippines nevertheless brings all its cultural influences to bear in a food that is best enjoyed with friends, and of course, a cold beer.
The region of Pampanga is known as Manila’s breadbasket, and rightfully so with the array of food on offer when Bourdain visits the city of Angeles, two hours north of the capital. During his visit to this mid-Western-themed locale, Tony visits the following restaurants still open today:
I also have a guide with more details about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Pampanga, if you’re going to visit this region and want to eat the same places and foods he did.
Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in the Philippines and where ate? Let me know in the comments!