Discover Cebu’s Famed Food Delicacies at Mactan Alfresco
For foodies that are looking for a one-of-a-kind gastronomic adventure in the Queen City of the South, there’s a place in Cebu where they can find all the best and delectable Cebuano flavors all in one place – Mactan Alfresco.
Cebu will not be accorded the nickname “Queen of the South” without good reason. A favourite among both local travellers and foreign tourists, Cebu is a tourism mecca and continues to captivate every wanderer with its undeniable charm and seemingly infinite leisure offerings.
But more than its magnificent scenery, pristine beaches and the welcoming warmth of Cebuanos, Cebu remains a magnet for tourists because of its delectable food. A culinary melting pot, Cebu offers hundreds of delicious ways to make a visit memorable, from the popular sinugba (grilled foods) to the world-famous Cebu lechon.
Luckily for foodies looking for a one of kind gastronomic adventure in the Queen City of the South, there’s a place in Cebu where they can find all the best and delectable Cebuano flavors all in one place – Mactan Alfresco.
Nestled at Megaworld’s sprawling Mactan Newtown township in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan Alfesco is a covered dining strip patterned after Singapore’s famed hawker centers. The 350-seater food strip is designed to showcase the best authentic Cebuano cooking and cuisine—from the a delicious variety of sinugba to Filipino favorites like skewered chicken, fish, shrimp, Cebu’s famous chorizo and the freshest seafood.
One of the unique features of Mactan Alfresco is the large communal outdoor grill or ihawan, which is the perfect way to cook Cebu’s bounty of land and sea. Guests can choose from an array of freshly cooked food choices “turo-turo” style or choose fresh meat and seafood and have it cooked according to their preference. Each viand is partnered with “puso” or rice wrapped in triangular buri leaves which one eats with their bare hands.
And no trip to Cebu will be complete without sinking teeth to its culinary pride – the lechon. At Mactan Alfresco, diners can enjoy ‘the world’s best pig’ (as Anthony Bourdain puts it) in the most delectable and freshest of ways with its ‘Lechon Pit’. Six Lechon Pits are on hand to thrill guests who can now experience lechon roasting on the premises and enjoy the freshest lechon!
Foodies and diners will have their hands full choosing from 11 of Cebu’s finest dining establishments. Among the dining establishments worth exploring is Choobi Choobi, where diners can delight in its specialty the Shrimp in a Bag, one pound of fresh shrimp which comes with corn on the bob and sauce options like Butter Garlic, Cajun, Sauteed in Garlic and Spicy Gata. Other house specialties include Choobi Pata, Lola Pepang’s Fried Manok and even a Fried Herbed Spring Duck, a free range duck fried with secret herbs and spices.
A menu filled with delicious sizzling dishes awaits guests at Mama Linda Inato BBQ Haus. From Sizzling Gambas, Beef, Pork, Squid, Seafood and even Chicken Feet, diners can easily satisfy their cravings for grilled food and fresh seafood. They also have Crab ala King in Chili Sauce, Garlic Shrimp and Garlic Crab, Sweet & Spicy Sugpo, Steamed Lapu-Lapu and Crispy Pata.
Those who want a bit more of Filipino flavors can visit Manang Sayong and indulge in authentic Pinoy gastronomy such as Pochero, Sinuglaw (a delicious combination of grilled meat and ceviche), along with a variety of seafood, pork, beef and chicken dishes.
Cebuano favorites and equally delectable exotic dishes abound at Orange Karenderia, a Mandaue-based eatery known for its bestsellers Betsy’s Garlic Chicken, their crispy Tuna Buntot or Pork Barbecue.
Oyster Bay Seafood Restaurant, one of Mandaue’s finest dining destinations known for its wide selection of live and fresh fish, crabs and lobster dishes, offers a perfect stop for seafood-lovers. Dishes such as the Halaan Soup and their Oysterbay Crab are easy favorites, and then there are Filipino and Chinese favorites like lechon kawali, bicol express, Pata tim and more to try. For first-timers, they can pick from any of delectable set menus that can easily fit their budgets.
Another perfect stop for hungry travellers is Muvanz Pocherohan and Seafoods, where they can discover the distinct taste of the gastronomy of the Island of Bantayan. Aside from a great grilled seafood selection, diners can surely delight in their Pochero (beef marrow stew), their rich Scallops (saltwater clam cooked with cream and butter) and sizzling squid.
Homegrown Cebuano brand Conching’s is also worth taking a visit as they are among the few places that offer a taste of native Cebu chicken or “Manok Bisaya”, which is best enjoyed grilled.
And what’s a trip to Cebu without lechon? At Mactan Alfresco, one will never run out of choices. They can get their lechon fix from Cebu’s no.1 lechon-maker Cebu AyerLechon, or try lechon belly, which comes in spicy and regular flavour from Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly, or have delicious lechon paksiw and dinuguan at Anna’s Lechon.
Aside from Cebuano staples, visitors at Mactan Alfresco can also enjoy the flavors of Mexico at Meximama, which offers Mexican favorites such as Taco Carnitas, the Costillas de Cerdo or Pork Ribs and for a sweet finish, their Churros con Chocolate.
Mactan Alfresco is conveniently placed near the main entrance of Mactan Newtown, the country’s first “Live-Work-Play-Learn” lifestyle township with its own beachfront located in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan.
Bringing to life the “Play” aspect of Mactan Newtown is the Plaza Magellan, a Megaworld Lifestyle Mall that will face the historical Mactan Shrine. Aside from housing the finest shopping, dining and entertainment choices, the planned three level retail and commercial hub will feature a Spanish galleon flanked by Spanish steps and arches – reminiscent of the Spanish era in the Philippines.
These Tips Will Get You a Stress-Free Island Hopping Experience
Editor Shari Quimbo shares five tips to make sure your weekend boating goes off without a hitch!
If you’re like me, you’re always looking for excuses to spend weekends at sea. And although Cebu is an island with several beautiful beaches just a short drive away, locals are often confronted with two options–having to book a room at a resort in Mactan to enjoy their shoreline, or driving at least two hours to the nearest public beach (which can get pretty crowded, if you’re unlucky).
The third option, I feel, is the one we city-folk overuse: the favorite Sunday activity of island hopping. Just a short drive across the bridge leads to an entire day on the water, jumping from one spot to another–and if you’re really barat (read: cheap), you can just ask the boatmen to stop in the middle of the ocean instead of docking on the many islands to avoid paying entrance fees.
It’s relatively easy, yes, but it’s not THAT easy. I’ve done it often enough to know that there will be a few issues that will come up, whether that’s in terms of provisions or of company. Here’s a short list of the things I believe you should remember to take care of before hopping onto the boat:
- Confirm and re-confirm your headcount. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has friends who cancel at the last minute, so before you book a huge boat, make sure your friends give a firm RSVP. (And if you’re worried they might flake on you, ask them for their share of the payment so they have to show up)
- Buy ice in the city. I’ve spent too many Sunday mornings driving around the 7-Elevens in Mactan because they’ve all run out of ice. Save yourself the headache, and pack your cooler with ice before you cross the bridge.
- Eat breakfast, and resist the urge to rush your tagay (drink rounds). As much as downing that rum Coke is tempting when you’re looking out onto the horizon, doing so repeatedly on an empty stomach is a recipe for passing out before noon. Trust me, I know this from experience.
- Don’t forget a knife. Do not underestimate having a good kitchen knife onboard. From slicing up the cooked pork belly to moving hot charcoal around, it’s something that too often gets left behind, but would actually be the most useful to have around.
- Have fun. I mean, when you’re jumping from the boat into the shimmering blue waters, how could you not?
Zubuchon: Going beyond Anthony Bourdain
Zubuchon continues to live up to Anthony Bourdain’s proclamation of “Best pig… ever!” by offering Cebu’s most beloved specialty in a full service restaurant that would keep you coming back for more.
When you have the pork dish that a world-renowned chef and TV personality proclaimed as the best one ever, you’d certainly be feeling the pressure to continue living up to that honorific.
Judging by its continued success years after Anthony Bourdain sat down and had a plate of lechon, Zubuchon has risen up to that challenge quite admirably. The restaurant serves an average of 2,000 people a day, ranks a cool 5th out of 547 restaurants in Cebu, and has garnered over 700 reviews—more than any other restaurants in the city.
So what’s the secret? Joel Binamira, author of respected food blog Market Manila and the man behind Zubuchon, breaks down their formula to success: “We have remained true to the original recipe of the lechon which Bourdain tasted.”
Lechon being, of course, the deliciously sinful roasted suckling pig that might as well be the Philippines’ national dish. Cebu’s version is a standard of its own, bursting with so much flavor that additional seasonings—with the exception of vinegar, maybe—are completely unnecessary (what Mang Tomas?).
“Lechon is an ultimate Cebuano indulgence,” adds Joel. “It takes a long and careful process to be able to produce that succulent taste that you get from a whole roasted pig from the selection of backyard raised pigs, feeding them with a “cleansing” diet of fresh vegetables and organic feeds, stuffings of natural herbs and spices, and proper roasting.”
Zubuchon’s lechon comes from backyard-raised pigs acupunctured with fresh local herbs, which are roasted over charcoal by traditional lechoneros. They take pride in being all natural, with no MSG, soy sauce or food colorings added.
One thing that also contributed to Zubuchon’s popularity is that it was one of the very first in Cebu to serve lechon in a full service restaurant with a nice ambiance—somewhere that you can easily bring your guests to for their lechon fix. “Our branches have simple, bright light airy and modern designs,” Joel says. “It offers a casual and clean dining experience to customers.”
General manager Joan Danao is quick to add that Zubuchon is also more than lechon. “Our salads and vegetables are the perfect pair with our meat and seafood dishes,” she explains. The restaurant’s menu includes local favorites such as pinakbet, slow-cooked adobo, smoked bangus with salted egg and tomato salad, among others. And of course, no pig out session at Zubuchon is complete without a chilled glass of kamias shake.
From small takeout kiosks to nine branches, a lechon drive-thru and pasalubong center near the airport, and three Zububelly kiosks, Zubuchon has come a long way and shows no signs of stopping. In 2017, Zubuchon is set to expand to Metro Manila, with an outlet opening in Makati City in February.