Food Crawl: San Juan, La Union

New eats to try at the Surfing Capital of the North


( With the past few years’ tourism boom turning the sleepy town of San Juan, La Union into a bustling surf community, it was only a matter of time before more restaurants, food stalls, coffee shops, and bars opened to cater to the growing number of weekend visitors and local patrons. Aside from long-time crowd favorites, here are a few of the relatively new food and drink spots that you shouldn’t miss next time you’re in the surf town.





Clean Beach
G/F 134 Beachfront Collective, Urbiz Garden Bed & Breakfast, MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), San Juan, La Union
Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Tuesday to Thursday), 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday), and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday to Sunday)


Serving single-origin coffee that is locally sourced (Cocotos Estate in Mt. Apo, Davao del Sur) and roasted (YKW Roasters of EDSA Beverage Design Group), this seaside coffee shop of the new complex in Urbiz Garden Bed & Breakfast is all about sustainability. Try the Espresso (P100) or Pour Over (P140; this month they have Panama Geisha as guest beans), and get P10 off any cup of coffee if you bring your own tumbler or mug. If you don’t have one and would like your coffee to-go, you can buy or borrow a reusable bamboo cup. To borrow, leave a deposit in the form of your keys, your phone (think of it as free storage space while you swim or surf!), or a hundred bucks. Not a coffee fan? Clean Beach also carries draft beer from Engkanto Brewery and fresh, additive-free fruit juices that are best enjoyed with the Kaya Toast with Soft-Boiled Eggs (P150), Fried Chicken Sandwich (P160), or Ohana Burger (P165), a cheesy beef patty with a slice of pineapple.


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The Coffee Library
MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union (in front of Sebay Resort)
Contact: 0917-503-7962
Open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Monday to Friday), and 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Saturday to Sunday)


Looking for a jolt of strong Vietnamese coffee? Head to The Coffee Library for the Caphe Sua Chua (P95), a thick, yogurt-infused blend; the Caphe Bak Xiu (P95), a refreshing treat for coconut milk fans; and Hanoi’s famous Egg Coffee (P100), a heady mix of robusta, egg yolks, and sugar. While The Coffee Library specializes in Vietnamese java, they also serve Filipino, Italian, and Turkish blends, and they’ll soon launch single-origin coffee from the municipalities of Atok and Tuba in Benguet, as well as beans from Kenya, Nicaragua, Panama, and Ethiopia. A new addition to their wide variety of food items, the cheese-topped TCL Halo-Halo (P120) will be launched during the 2017 La Union Surfing Break. Like its first branch in Baguio, the San Juan branch gives off a warm, homey vibe that will have you staying for hours.




Tipple and Brew
MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union (beside The Coffee Library)
Contact: 0906-353-3735
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.


Joining the happy-hour scene in San Juan is this craft beer and cocktail bar that launched this October. Toast to a day well spent at the beach with the best-selling Martial Law IPA (P130), Surfing Banana Wheat Beer (P90), or Vanilla Bourbon Porter (P130), paired with crowd-favorite pulutan dishes Pandesal Adobo Sliders (P130), Crispy Chicken Isaw (P110), and Bacon-Wrapped Sausage (P160). If you’re looking for heftier post-surf grub, try the Fried Garlic Chicken (P150), Grilled Chicken (P180), Grilled Pork (P180), or Beef Bulgogi (P200). Not much of a beer drinker? The Frozen Margarita (P120), Green Apple Mojito (P100), or Bullfrog (P120) will hit the spot.




The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop & Viewing Deck
MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union


From the group behind Beach Hub, the co-working space on the second floor of El Union, comes a new coastal commune that focuses on “curated food options and start-ups that are environmentally conscious, community-centered, and design-forward.” Aside from El Union, Makai Bowls, and Great Gamble, GNWPTSVD is home to wine bar Artek Wine Yacht, craft beer taproom Curious Creatures, Asian smokehouse Papa Bear, “baddest beach bird” Sabong Fried Chicken, and tattoo shop 55 Tinta La Union, most of which are on soft launch. Opening in November 2017 are kilawin bar Layag, Japanese place Izakaya Chuchu, and chocolate shop Tigre y Oliva. Just look for El Union (which now has a pop-up booth in Burgos Circle), and GNWPTSVD shouldn’t be far behind.





Makai Bowls
The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop and Viewing Deck, MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Thursday to Monday)


A trip to San Juan isn’t really complete without one of these pretty, healthy, and tasty smoothie bowls. Makai Bowls has moved from their corner at Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel to their own space at The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop & Viewing Deck behind El Union. Since they use all-natural ingredients and whole fruits, it’s best to take advantage of their seasonal offers such as the Amianan (P240), dragon fruit, mango, papaya, banana, and acai juice; Avo (P240), avocado, mango, coconut water, and coconut milk; and Unicorn (P280), dragon fruit, mango, papaya, banana, acai juice, and butterfly pea flower. Aside from smoothie bowls, you can also enjoy chia bowls, fruit shakes, pressed juices, and popsicles as you lounge around the cozy space filled with mats and pillows. Take note: Makai Bowls is plastic straw-free, and you can get reusable, stainless steel straws from their mini shop.




Great Gamble Seafood Shack
The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop & Viewing Deck, MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Contact: 0917-805-5955

From a stall in El Union serving Crab Rolls and Scallop Rolls (P240), or freshly caught, handpicked crabmeat or scallops stuffed in a toasted butter brioche glazed with lemon mayo, Great Gamble will soon roll out more seafood dishes in their very own space at The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop and Viewing Deck. Joining their signature rolls are the Scallop Pita Pizza, Aglio Olio, and Crab Cakes Sampler, bite-sized crab cakes with bread on the side. Great Gamble’s love for seafood is evident from their menu to their interior-design inspo; when the new shop opens this weekend, look up to see their on-brand crab pot-inspired lamp housing.





MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), San Juan, La Union (across Vessel Hostel)
Contact: 0945-312-9004, 0921-761-1784
Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Friday) and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday to Sunday)


A seaside play on the Thai term for hello, Seawadeeka is the surf town’s go-to for heaping, piping hot containers of Thai food. Their street-side location and punchy flavors take you right back to the street stalls of Bangkok. For a hearty spread, order the savory-sweet Shrimp Pad Thai (P170), slurp-your-bowl-clean Laksa Lemak (P170), and the new Beef Banh Mi (P195), then wash it down with a refreshing glass of Thai Iced Tea (P95), Kopi C (P80), or Milo Dinosaur (P80). Seawadeeka is located across Vessel Hostel, but you can still spot its charming little blue truck driving around San Juan for private bookings.





Olas Banditos
MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road), San Juan, La Union
Contact: 0977-85900064
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.


You can’t miss this Mexican taqueria; it’s right on the side of the road with a huge, colorful skull mural—a preview of the fun, hang-loose vibe inside. Co-owned by pro-surfer Luke Landrigan, Olas Banditos is the place to be if you’re craving for generous, freshly made tacos, nachos, burritos, quesadilla, fries, and churros to go with your post-surf beer, margarita, or mojito. Must-tries include the Ilocos Norte Burrito (P250), Carnitas Burrito (P210), Carne Asada Quesadilla (P150), and Carnitas Taco (P75), and Horchata (P90). With all the festive colors and patterns from the murals to the tables and chairs, you won’t run out of snap-worthy spots for your Instagram.


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