When Manila feels too crowded, Tagaytay is often the go-to place not just for its cool weather and scenic views, but also for its food finds. But because of our notorious traffic, it’s not unusual for the supposed one-hour drive to take as long as two, or even three. So a stopover is almost always required to keep you in good mood as you travel.

When en route to Tagaytay, I suggest you skip jam-packed Nuvali dining spots and try Babanoks instead. You won’t miss the minimalist al-fresco joint at Sta. Rosa road. Only four months old, they serve some of the best comfort food along the long and winding (and high) road down (or up) the south.

The cool and refreshing weather (notwithstanding the fumes coming off the grilling station) called for Bulalo Mami (We were on the way to Tagaytay, afterall). The serving was brimming with beef flavor, which was made even better by the fresh egg noodles from Quezon province that I wish there were more of. For only PHP50, the huge bowl will satisfy the beef and marrow fix of up to three persons.

We also tried the Babanoks Special—baboy, baka, manok—from which the restaurant’s name was based. This savory dish, with tender meat marinated and simmered for hours in a special sauce topped on steaming white rice, is indeed worthy of headlining the place’s menu. It’s even a bargain at PHP90 too, as it’s good to serve up to two persons.

While Babanoks also boasts of its BBQ Specials (chicken, pork and liempo), there are three items on the menu that certainly stood out for me. On top of my list is their version of the Silay, Negros Chorizo (PHP75). Unlike the usual chorizo that’s encased in pig intestine, Babanoks’ chorizo is served as it is in Silay, Negros–naked and broken up into bits. Smoky, juicy, and toasted, it goes well with spoonfuls of rice topped with a runny egg. Just remembering the chorizo’s earthy flavor against the rich egg makes me crave it as I write this piece.

Don’t miss The Tapsilog (PHP85) in Babanoks. The beef had the right amount of fat trimmings that added a depth of flavor to the sweet marinated beef pieces. Save some space in your tummy because getting another cup of rice is inevitable with this dish!

The Embutido (PHP90) is another personal favorite. A family recipe, the meat roll has the perfect balance of sweet from the relish and raisins, smoky from the ham, and richness from the mixed-in cheese. For an added tartness, it’s served with ketchup (the usual complement to any embutido) on the side.

While most of their meals are usuals from your own home kitchen, Babanoks’ humble place and hefty servings of your favorite comfort dishes is worthy, not just to be a mere stopover, but an off the eaten track destination of its own.

Visit Babanoks along Sta. Rosa – Tagaytay Road, Bo. Puting Kahoy on the following schedules:

Monday to Thursday – 9 AM to 10 PM
Friday – 9 AM to 11 PM
Saturday – 8 AM to 11 PM
Sunday – 8 AM to 10 PM

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