(SPOT.ph) We don’t know about you, but it definitely still feels surreal for us to think that it’s been almost two years since Manila officially went on lockdown. A lot has changed since 2020, especially for the local dining scene. In many ways things are looking up: More restaurants have opened, and more people have become more open to dining out in the past couple of months (note: always be mindful of social-distancing guidelines, Spotters!). Still, we have a long way to go before things really go back to normal—if at all. The battle continues on for our homegrown restaurants, and sadly, a number of well-loved spots in Manila had temporarily or permanently closed their doors.
Best of Manila: 50 Great Restaurants of 2021
The Metro Manila Spots We Had to Say Goodbye to in 2021
These restaurant closures broke our hearts this 2021:
Originally from Siargao, pizza spot Kermit opened their Poblacion outpost in 2018—which made it made it a whole lot easier for us Manila folk to get our fix of their signature pies. But in October, they made the sad announcement that they would be closing the said branch, holding a “farewell event” where fans could have their last chance for the time being to order their faves in the Metro.
We all get those moments when the hankering for hefty American comfort eats hits hard—and when in Power Plant Mall, Elbert’s Diner was the place to go. Formerly known as Elbert's Cheesesteak Shop in 2009 before moving to Alabang in 2014 with the moniker Elbert's Sandwiches, they whipped up excellent versions of burgers, cheesesteak sandwiches, and other diner classics that always, always satisfied. They announced their closure via their now-defunct social media pages in January—though not all is lost, because you can thankfully still order their signatures for delivery via the Elbert’s Delivers website.
Maria Luisa’s Garden Room
Located within the Makati Garden Club, this under-the-radar spot was a real hidden gem that served some of the best continental eats (with Nordic influences) cooked up by Chef Robert Lilja. Aside from their stellar food, their picturesque interiors also made them very well worth the visit as they went for a dainty-yet-elegant look that fit right in with the Garden Club’s floral theme. Sadly, they closed their doors permanently in September, thanking all their loyal patrons for their support over the years.
Wine can, understandably, be a real intimidating subject matter—and this can get in the way of enjoyment, or of people even trying the beverage at all. Enter Planet Grapes, a wine shop and restaurant that made the (seemingly) elusive world of wine more accessible with their enomatic wine dispensers that let you sample different kinds of wines in smaller serving sizes, plus great-quality bottles at affordable prices. But in June, they announced they would be “taking a break” and closing their doors by the end of the month. We miss the experience of dining in their premises and trying out their unconventional food-and-wine pairings (think wine with Filipino eats like chicharon with a tinapa dip!), but their online shop thankfully remains open for delivery orders.
Pan de sal has a deep significance in Filipino culture, arguably comparable to sourdough bread in other parts of the world (particularly in the West). Though both delish in their own regard, they’re pretty much on opposite ends of the taste spectrum, with pan de sal generally being softer and sweeter and sourdough being crusty, chewy, and naturally tangy. Small QC shop Manu Mano managed to bridge together the two worlds with their Hybrid Pan de Sal, which used a special sourdough blend for a fluffy yet chewy, sour profile with a subtle sweetness toward the end. They sadly bid goodbye in April, much to the dismay of bread lovers the city over.
Also read: 10 Heartbreaking Restaurant Closures of 2020
Ella and the Blackbird
Ella and the Blackbird was more than just a café; it was, in the seven years it was open, a haven where you could channel your inner artsy soul with a good cup of joe on the side. Those who frequented their rustic and industrial space (signature art wall included) sadly had to say their last farewell as Ella and the Blackbird announced their “graduation” in a social media post published at the end of January. “We will surely miss the camaraderie we’ve had, the laughter we’ve shared, the stories we’ve told, the music we’ve listened to and the experience we went through. To all of you who have supported us, we will forever be grateful."
Chef Sandy Daza needs no introduction; the restaurateur and celebrity chef is celebrated for his take on Filipino cuisine, which paid respect to tradition but also occasionally incorporated global influences and drew on Daza’s own personal experiences. Among his restaurants was Casa Daza, which had a dine-in outpost catering to families and other Filipino food fans at the UP Town Center. It was a sad day as they announced the said branch’s closure in January—and oh, do we miss their Stuffed Pechay. But the good news is that they still sell their signature empanadas and buns at their mall kiosks that remain open around Manila.
Ohayo Maki x Sushi
Ohayo Maki x Sushi was one of those rare places that made Japanese eats—in particular, sushi and ramen—more accessible. They crafted up great-tasting rolls and bowls at affordable prices, from their carinderia-esque small kiosk with branches in Timog, V.Luna, and San Juan. In January, however, they shared the sad news on social media: They would be closing their kiosks for the time being, after “four wonderful years of growth and hard work.” There’s hope, though, as they clarify that they not saying goodbye completely; rather, they’re saying a "new hello" with future plans to revamp and "transform into a better version” of themselves.
You can’t underestimate just how much Tomato Kick had an impact on many a college life. They were a popular hangout among students as they regularly featured notable local musicians and bands, and let’s not forget their signature eats like the Crispy Bacon Liempo and Crispy Sisig Pasta. As the pandemic set in they closed for dine-in and relied on takeout and delivery orders in the battle to survive. Sadly, they officially bid goodbye in May—but not without a bang, as they held a special benefit concert to raise funds for their staff. And in June, a number of former employees opened Potatokick, a small eatery in Quezon City where you can order some of Tomato Kick’s signatures.
The dining scene in Mandaluyong became all the more vibrant as Peach Boy opened in 2019, with soul-satisfying takes on comfort eats given Asian flair. Their Ube Lava Pancakes, in particular, were a fan favorite with its food-porn worthy look and even more drool-worthy, nutty flavor. They broke the news about their official closure earlier this December, thanking their regulars for all their support.