Onlypans Taqueria Poblacion
5663 Don Pedro, Poblacion, Makati
(SPOT.ph) A night spent in Poblacion typically equates to a whole lot of drinking in cool spots, walking around its narrow streets, and a few bad decisions here and there—culminating in the search for the best, most filling grub to gorge on. Well, it looks like there’s finally a winner: OnlyPans Taqueria. This little nook serves up food that fills your stomach and warms the soul (plus takes the edge off whatever buzz you’re on, but we digress). You’ve probably been hearing the noise online about this place and we’re here to confirm. It’s legit, guys. Like, holy shit, it’s good.
Located across Z Hostel, near some of Poblacion’s popular haunts, Onlypans is the type of place to go when you need to be filled. What type of fulfillment exactly we can’t pinpoint but hey, there’s no lack that really good food can’t fill in one way or another. The no-frills façade pops up along a row of Poblacion’s houses with its clean white tiles and bright red accents. You can’t miss the sign bearing hands praying with tacos in between—and that pun-y name. If you know, you know.
Onlypans is a tiny place: six stools inside and a few more outside with the lively industrial kitchen taking up most of the space. And rightfully so as the size of their food—in terms of servings and flavors—more than compensates. Best believe the place gets busy. As sous chef Gian Shen Baluyut tells SPOT.ph, the hungry ones come in waves. First during the day for lunch—some walk-ins but mostly food orders—and then again in the night, and we mean basically the entire night. Poblacion wakes when the sun sets, after all.
“We have a good crowd lagi,” Baluyut tells us. “They come here for the birria [tacos].” Onlypans had been operating first as a takeout service as early as September 2021. When demand kept going up, they opened up their spot in Poblacion officially in April 2022—and the people came. “Siguro nung from Alert Level 2 tapos nag Alert Level 1, akala mo nakawala sila sa hawla eh,” Baluyut shares jokingly. But with tacos as good as theirs, we can see why they’d go wild indeed.
Mexican restaurant Onlypans in Poblacion takes their tacos very seriously:
The Quesa Birria Taco (P380/Solo, P750/Amigas) practically introduces itself. USDA beef stewed in a special mix of 16 spices and Mexican chilies (yes, brought in from the country of origin, explains Baluyut) slathered all over toasted soft-shell tacos complete with mozzarella; two of those for every solo serving. Think soft and tender beef in a complex and yet somehow familiar sauce meeting warm and crisp taco, all melding together thanks to a generous layer of mozzarella. Add in a spritz from the lime slices and a bit of salsa—but as if that wasn’t already enough, they give you a small tub of consommé—the ultra flavorful sauce the beef was stewed in—to dip the entire thing into. Oh, yes. Juicy. Now imagine all that at 2 a.m. on a cold night when you aren’t exactly in the right state of mind. Oh, yes.
Baluyut says that the birria tacos really are the star of the show. They go through around 100 kilos of beef daily for their dishes, he says, not jokingly. And seeing as there was a whole slab of beef thawing in their open kitchen when we were there, combined with just how good the end result is, we don’t doubt it.
If you aren’t ready to dive into the deep end just yet, the Camaron Taco (P400/solo, P780/amigas) is a strong contender. This plate of joy has soft shell tacos hugging hefty chunks of fresh shrimp fried in a light beer batter with coleslaw, alfalfa, radish, and pickled onions, with a bright blanket of cilantro lime yogurt tying it all together. Definitely a lighter but no less tasty choice, especially if you’re in it for a little vibrancy.
For that balance between lightness and depth, then give the Chicharronnes Taco (P300) a try. You know it: chicharon in a taco. Genius. What you get are perfectly fried pork belly slices with a whole lot of crisp rind nestled sweetly on a bed of bright coleslaw, pickled onions, and lathered with not-your-usual sour cream. Baluyut shares there’s a special mix to the sauce but was pretty mum about specifics. Whatever it is, this taco hits the spot between being indulgent and just right—as in you wouldn’t feel bad about scarfing down the entire thing in less than two minutes. Not recommended, of course, just the likely outcome.
To wash it all down, they’ve got something pretty unexpected on the menu: Coke (P80) from Mexico. Yup, they import special cases of the soda in glass bottles as these are made with sugar cane, as opposed to corn syrup, explains Baluyut. And the difference is felt in a cleaner, less sticky-sweet, fizz. You’ll have to try this one for yourself.
The Horchata (P150) is the one to go for if you want a creamy sip to cool your tongue from the heat. Baluyut explains that they source theirs from the nearby Good Shit Coffee and it really does live up to the name. Quick refresher: Horchata is a rice-based drink popular throughout Latin America. Over at Onlypans, the Horchata is mixed with almond milk and some spices for a cool, sweet, and creamy drink—but if you can’t let go of the caffeine, they also make a “dirty” version with coffee.
So the next time you find yourself at a loss, for one reason or another, randomly walking the streets of Poblacion, know that places like Onlypans exist. Sure the world is falling apart, but within its walls is a tasty reminder that not everything is terrible all the goddamn time. Fuel up before you continue on your journey.
Photos by Hans Fausto
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