Army Navy: Best burger in the Philippines?

If you read any of the expat boards or sites, one common thread is always present: Where do I find burgers (steaks, pizza, hotdogs) like I had back home?

It is natural to crave certain foods that you may remember. Cultural differences and tastes mean that even things that should be outright simple become very different creatures when prepared here. Sweet mayonnaise on a burger. Ketchup on a bright red hot dog. French fries on a pizza. These are all “traditional” foreign foods that are commonly modified to suit local tastes. Yes, expats may complain, but any restaurant here has to serve the consumer with foods that they will like… There simply aren’t enough expats here to just serve that niche market.

So, two of the biggest debates I see online are related to best Pizza and best Burger.

What are your favorites? Here are mine (Manila Area… Fast food type large chains that more people are likely to visit…. Yes, there are some Hole in the Wall places, but most readers will be familiar with these. )


1. Army Navy:

Army Navy has a nice, quarter pound burger that you can get as a double, or even a triple (Bully Boy burger). 100% beef that is really well-cooked, and very good sesame seed buns. Toppings that are fresh and identifiable. Highly addictive “Freedom Fries”… similar to spicy shoestrings. Perfect combo with a cold San Mig, sitting outside.

2. Brothers Burgers:

Best buns (NOT sweet) and big burgers. Many excellent toppings and choices. Make a fine meal.

3. Chili’s:

Just like in the States… One of my favorites there, even just their iconic “OldTimer with cheese.”

4. Hooters:

Yes! Though known for their wings, Hooters makes a damn decent burger. Located at Mall of Asia, I am officially forbidden from visiting, even though I state I just want a burger. What she don’t know won’t hurt me (Note that MofA is only 15 minutes from BI or the US Embassy).

5. Hot Shots:

Really good burgers and very tasty.

I used to really like TGI Fridays, but the last couple of visits there were absolutely terrible food. Really poor, with no quality control. Before Ruby Tuesdays closed up, that was one of Rebecca’s favorites.

Where to find the best hamburger in the Philippines
Where to find the best hamburger in the Philippines

So, where do you like to go for burgers?


This list is much more generic… Quite frankly, most pizza in the Philippines is terrible. Here’s my list:

1. Amici:

Started by Italianpriests. With a wood-fired oven, these pizzas are somewhat European in taste and texture. Bonus, bonus, bonus points for real mozzarella cheese! Best in the Philippines, in my opinion.

2. Sbarro:

Yes, it is a global mall staple. But, you know what? Foir a decent pizza with a good sauce and real cheese, Sbarro is probably one of the best in the country. It is virtually identical in product to its’ global counterparts in the USA.

3. California Pizza Kitchen:

Honestly, living in Chicago a number of years, I was never a fan of CPK when I lived in the States. Nevertheless, their pizzas stand up well against the local competition in the Philippines, particularly their simple cheese and pepperoni pizza. Note that CPK has enormous dinner salads that are really quite good. I actually prefer these to the pizza there.

4. Yellow Cab Pizza:

By far, the best of the Pinoy chains, the pizzas are rather good. Filling, tasty, with decent toppings.

Taco Bell is in Manila
Taco Bell is in Manila

I’m stopping the list at four. I despised Shakey’s in the States: Here they use cheddar cheese and it is worse (Though I do like their Mojo Potatoes). Greenwich uses a sickly sweet sauce that is absolutely horrible, along with cheddar cheese. Pizza Hut is as greasy as in the States (but they use mozzarella). Dominoes went bust here, and Papa Johns hasn’t made it here yet (Though they and Dominoes are in Singapore, if you miss it that much).

So, I read an awful lot of people who miss Mexican food… Try Army Navy. Their burritos are really pretty good (No Kidding!). I mean, it isn’t like sitting on Olivera Street in LA, but they are pretty good, especially consideringthe lack of Mexican food in the Philippines. Taco Bell is also here if you have, like I do, memories of 39 cent taco Tuesday at 2:00 am…

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

Live in the Philippines Consulting


  1. says

    Hi John – We have a new pizza place in Davao that is great. It is called Handuraw, and is a franchise from Cebu. I just tried it a week or so ago, and their pizza is really good.

    I was surprised to see Yellow Cab on your list. Their pizza is way too oily for me, I can’t eat it. We all have our own taste buds, I guess….

    • says


      I just looked up Handuraw’s website… Looks really good, and they have a delivery branch near our house… I’ll have to give it a try.

      I put Yellow Cab on there mainly because it is the only Pinoy chain I can stomach for delivery… Not my favorite, but if I want pizza, you know ;-).

      • says

        Hi John – Just FYI… Yellow Cab, though, is not a Philippine Chain. Their headquarters is in Ohio, USA. They have branches in the US, Philippines, Qatar and Malaysia now.

          • says

            There are not many of them in the States. I never saw one in the States, to be honest. But, somebody “in the know” told me that SM bought the franchise for the Philippines, and if you look them up on the web, you can find that they have their hq in OH.

        • twentythree says

          Hi guys, if I may interrupt. Yellow cab is a Filipino brand.. The mind behind it is also the mind behind ArmyNavy :)

        • says

          Bob: My yardstick for pizza has always been a Pizza Margherita… So simple, yet so few places can do it well (I can’t even imagine eating one from Shakey’s…shiver).

          Sounds like we have a new place to try this weekend!

          • Mars Z. says

            John, we have a pizza chain here who started down the road from us called “Fives Guys Burgers” and has been voted best burgers in the area several years now and they are going all over the US—wonder if it’s there in PH yet.

            • John Miele says

              Mars: I went to five guys when I was travelling to dc often…. They seemed to be pretty popular, and they were really good. I haven’t seen them in Asia yet, though.

              • Mars Z. says

                The franchise is one of the best investment right now. John, a while back you had published your email, but can’t find it.

            • Papa Duck (Randy W.) says

              Mars Z

              We have quite a few of the “Five Guys Burgers” here in the Tampa Bay Area. They are really good. Just a simple menu. Those fresh cut fries really go good with the burgers. Take care my friend!

          • Papa Duck (Randy W.) says

            John M.

            I’m with you on Pizza Margherita. Especially in a brick oven. Like the ones you find in Naples, Italy. Also Square One Burgers here in the Tampa Bay Area. You can get anything from a Angus to a Buffalo to a Kobe to Ostrich and everything in between w/ the best toppings. Good informative article John. Have a beautiful day.

            • John Miele says

              Papa duck: I never heard of them in Tampa… Must have openend after I left. For pizza, I distinguish between Italy and the us… I like them both, as each are unique, but a perfect margarita is hard to find

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing, John…

    Very informative. However, as a diabetic with a heart condition, any sort of greasy red meat falls into the “forbidden foods” category, except I allow myself to slip occasionally and eat what the rest of the world is pigging out on. Maybe I’ll put some of these places on my “bucket List”.

    • says

      Rich: Yeah, diets are no fun… Once in a while will never hurt, though. My grandmother used to tell me (She died at 95), “Anything in moderation”. Always remember one of the true great chefs, Julia Child, and her feelings about butter, too.

  3. Henry says

    Hi John – This is a subject very dear to my heart (and stomach). As I prepare for my next trip to the Philippines, I’ve wondered on where to find such delicacies upon arrival. I’ve tried Shakey’s pizza in the past and wasn’t particularly thrilled. As for hot dogs, I haven’t tried anything there yet. As you mentioned, the desire for foods of a home-based flair has gained momentum. I was thinking specifically of 2 of the 3 items in the opening of your article (pizza and hot dogs). Now that you’re provided the names of a few places to try, I am obligated to check them out. Thanks for the information!

  4. Paul Thompson says

    Hoy John;
    You’ve touched on a very sensitive subject, an area I would fear to tread, Pizza’s and Burgers! Some of the names I did not know, but the ones I do know, I’m in agreement with you about their taste and quality.
    Greenwich (I shudder to say) Pizza, is as you said, someone went mad with an open ten pound bag of sugar in the food prep area, and the sauce could be made from bananas as with the ketchup.
    As for burgers, I’ll stand the “Bubba Burger” served at Texas Joe’s Rib House on Subic Freeport against most burgers I’ve had anywhere on the planet, it’s that good!
    But for broaching this subject; I can only say “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

    • says

      Paul: I actually felt bad after writing this, because about three days later, Greenwich called us and delivered a free pizza to us from a raffle… Rebecca filled out one of those comment cards in the mall. It just is a Pinoy taste/

      I remember your article about Texas Joes… If I’m up in Subic, it is on my list of places to try.

      • jonathan says


        Have you ever tried those 3M Pizzas in small kiosks in the malls and on the side streets? That is the original Pinoy pizza on its cheapest level. Sweetness all over it. I’m sure you will not like it though but maybe your wife and son will :)

          • jonathan says

            Haha! Anyways, I’m wondering about Domino’s, you mean their branches in Julia Vargas in Ortigas and Chino Roces Avenue in Makati have closed shop already?

              • Paul Thompson says

                Both Lil’ Caesars and Domino’s went bust here in Olongapo after a year. I believe the taste was never the problem, it was the price. And Shakey’s Pizza has sat on the same spot for over thirty years chugging along.

  5. says

    Geez, I had no idea there was a Hooters at MOA. It is now on my list on my next trip. I love the Mall of Asia and have been there many many many times….never saw Hooters!!! Hmmmm.

    As for pizza, it is not easy to get good pizza in the Filipines…but honestly one of my favorite places to eat is at the Pizza Hut at the Mall of Asia. I really really like that place and the pizza has been ok. It is one of the more unique pizza places I have ever seen. I haven’t been to any pizza places that have candle light at the tables and wine.

    Where is Army Navy? Well I guess I can look it up. On my next trip I plan on going to mostly places I have NEVER been to before. Good article, gave me some good ideas.

  6. Dwayne says

    Here is my list of the best the Philippines has to offer for me. However, on a scale of 1 to 5 most of these places would barely make the scale move over a 2 in the U.S.A but here they are tops in my book.

    Best Burger – Chili’s (Greenbelt)
    Best Pizza – Pizzeria Michangleo (Cebu)
    Best Ribs – Moon (Cebu)
    Best American Style Sandwiches – Almon Marina (Manila & Cebu)
    Hot Dogs – (S&R Wholesale Buying Club)

    • says


      I always have liked Chilis… I remember them growing up in Texas as a kid. They are pretty much the same here.

      I’ve been to Almon Marina in Cebu. I would agree with you that the sandwiches there are pretty good.

  7. Neal in RI says

    Sounds like some good burger joints there but, can you get the Burgers there with the fixins. “Lettuce n Tomata, Heinz 57 and french fried Potata”

    I have heard that the lettuce and tomata leave something to be desired there.

  8. sugar says

    John, Have you heard of Charlie’s burger? it’s in Pasig just behind a car wash. One of those hole in the wall diner. Try their burgers. Once you do, you’ll add theirs to your list! Also, Stackers. Have you tried to eat there? yummy burgers! I I’ve never tried Army Navy, there’s one just walking distance from where I live. Maybe, I’ll try it. For Pizza, I agree with Amici. I also like Brooklyn Pizza. Btw, I think Jollibee owns Greenwich that’s why their pizza is like that.. sweet Filipino one. He he.

    • says

      Sugar: I didn’t care for Stackers… But Juanito and Rebecca loved it. Jolibee does own Greenwich, but I’m no fan of Jolibee either. This type of food really shows how different regional taste preferences can be.

  9. Mars Z. says

    Hi John, good short list for a fast grub. BTW, In one of my visit in 2003, it was a grand opening of Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory and some of the trainers were still there (American girls and guys) from different Bubba resto from the US. One guy happens to be from Charleston SC resto and was impress with the ease of training filipino wait staff and middle managers. The food was really good. Do you know if it still open? I think they are in the second floor near Greenbelt or Glorietta or maybe Sugar knows. I went thru there in 2008 but did not see it (wasn’t really looking but just did not see the sign). Walking distance from Marriott Renaissance.

  10. says

    For a good burger in Cebu my fave is Casa Verde….for pizza, no one comes close to S&R for my taste. Sbarro will do when in a hurry….most others are just plain bad for this Americano’s taste buds!!!

    Some of the ones you mentioned sound good John….we just don’t have them here that I am aware of.

    Always looking for a good Mexican place… I hear Maya’s here is good, but still haven’t gone. Last time I went to a Mexican resto they informed me they didn’t have sour cream….they were out….and they didn’t know what guacamole was. Oh life in the Philippines can be interesting…hahaha

    • says

      Greg: I focused on chains for this article, but in Cebu, the Cebu Yacht Club makes really decent tacos… Not the best in the world, but they will satisfy your craving (They were really large). They also make another rarity in the Philippines there: Indian food. The cooking staff were OFWs from various places and learned some international dishes.

  11. Tony says

    A little place near Araneta called either “best burger” or “better burger” I forget. Their burgers are awesome, great buns as well.

  12. Chris says

    One minor correction – a Papa John’s recently opened on Annapolis Street in back of Greenhills shopping center. (their web site also says there are branches on Taft and at Robinsons Galleria Ortigas). Having been a Brothers Burger patron for some time now, I’ll need to try Army Navy’s burgers, but when I have the urge for beef, I usually go for a cheesesteak at Charlie’s Grind & Grill (East Kapitolyo Pasig or Ortigas Ave. near Santolan Ave.) or Elbert’s Cheesesteak in the Powerplant Mall.

  13. Don says


    Where is Taco Bell? I used to love the bell, but everytimg I go back to the states and gorge on the regular tacos, I get sick. But they are addictive and memory is short. I find Mexicali’s a reasonable Tex Mex joint.

    For pizza, I stick to the italian restaurants like Balducci.

    If they opened a Jack in the Box or better yet a Inn and Out, would be perfect.

  14. says

    Don: Taco Bell is in Araneta and Trinoma. As to In-n-Out, many people in the US have tried to get them to franchise (Along with Tommy’s in LA)… Close held, no luck, so not very likely.

    If you want that LA burger taste, though, and you cannot fly to SoCal, Fatburger opened up in Hong Kong about three years ago, not too far from WanChai. Perhaps if you make a visa run?

  15. alan cline says

    I have found the best burger to be the one made at home IF you can find quality ground beef . :-)

    As for Pizza , maybe depends on where you live and more importantly how busy they are when they make it . Miss taco’s and hard to find shells in locations outside of major cities but hope springs eternal with entry of new business here in northern mindanao .

    • says

      Alan: The first kitchen appliance we bought before moving here was a Panasonic meat grinder… Rebecca doesn’t trust the mince beef here (And I use it to make Italian Sausage). I will say that virtually all of the supermarkets here will grind your beef for you as a service, if you ask. Price is a very small premium over whatever cut you buy.

    • JohnM says

      Todd: MofA really is a decent afternoon out if you are in Manila. Can’t beat the views from some of the restaurants there.

  16. Roberto says

    You guy’s make me green with the green eyed monster ENVY, I have two choices Jollie Bee, or the Golden Arch. But it’s worth it living in the hinterland, where freshly warmed Balut’s are delivered daily (LOL)

    • JohnM says

      Roberto: That’s what most expats living in the province have, if they are lucky (In Abulug, closest Jollibee is 1 hour, closest golden arches is 2.5 hours). I’ll pass on the balut, though. Sr. Pedro’s opened up in Gattaran, near Abulug, and that is probably the best fast food near there.

  17. JohnM says

    Mark: Funny about Hooters… I was never big on their wings, but I always really liked their burgers and sandwiches.

  18. Hudson says

    Great Info John!!!
    If the Philippines now has a Taco Bell, Pizza Hut shouldn’t be too far behind. After all it’s owned by PepsiCo as is KFC.
    Here in SoCal they even have combo stores so you can get tacos and a drumstick.

    • JohnM says


      KFC and Pizza Hut are here for a long time, and both are pretty widespread in the bigger cities and even some smaller cities… Especially KFC. Virtually every mall in the country has both.

      I’ve only seen the combo store at one rest area on NLEX (Though there may be more here).

    • George Gessner says

      I think if you check ownership somehow you will find that the Chinese bought KFC and Pizza Hut from Pepsico a while back. The Pizza Hut here in SM Davao is not bad just don’t like what they put on the table in place of the crushed red pepper.

  19. says

    Hi John – With Lechon Manok, Dinuguan, Pork Adobo and Kare-Kare who needs the western imported fast junk food that only makes you fat and gives you high blood pressure and diabetes lol?
    Jim, trying to loose weight in the Bukid.

    • JohnM says

      Jim: Everyone craves a taste of home every now and then… I mean, do you ever get a hankerin’ for Red Rooster or a meat pie Aussie style once in a while?

      • says

        Hi John – As long as I get my fish n’ chips on a Friday and a fryup on a Sunday morning I’m quite happy. I’m lucky my wife is an excellent cook and after living in the UK for 25 years she knows how to keep me happy, food wise as well.

        • Chasdv says

          Hi Jim,
          I have to agree with you,fish n’chips with mushy peas takes some beating.
          I don’t think us older Brits ever became addicted to fast food like our American cousins,but i have to admit,i find it alarming how many middle aged+ Americans are on medications.

          • says

            Hi Chasdv- Your are so correct we were just not brought up on fast food apart from Fish Suppers which was considered a treat rather than a staple.
            We were encouraged to eat vegetables with our food something that seems scarce nowadays. I’m lucky, I take one Cod liver Oil capsual each morning and no meds.

            • says

              Jim and chas: Best Fish & Chips I ever had was in Fremantle, Australia at the Kalis restaurant. Don’t know what they do to make it so good, but I’ve never found it as good anywhere else, including its’ traditional UK home.

              • jonathan says

                Hi Guys,

                Is there any authentic “fish and chips” restaurant in Manila that offer these? I’ve been always curious about this staple English dish. BTW, what type of fish that usually goes with the chips?

              • says

                Jonathan: There is a chippy, supposedly run by Brits, in SM North. I tried it at Fish&Co once, and they poured MELTED BUTTER over it… I couldn’t stomach it. Fish and Chips is greasy enough, why add butter?

                The places here usually use non-local, frozen fish, like cod or poki.

              • says

                Hi John – The best Fish n’ Chips is made from fillet of Sole and instead of batter its dipped in a switched up egg and coated in bread crumbs then deep fried. Once fried its drained of oil residue and served with chips with a splash of malt vinegar and salt to taste and a portion of Mushy Peas on the side..
                My mouth is wattering as I type.

              • says

                Jim: I like it with sole or cod (if the cod is fresh and not frozen), and like you, I prefer breaded to battered. In the UK, most of the shops sell battered variety (I guess that’s the preference there). Like you, I think the malt vinegar is essential, but I never understood the mushy peas thing (I like peas, but not mushed up)

  20. Gary says

    We always liked Amici. In Davao we like Picobello top of Gaisano South downtown. Haven’t tried Handuraw. There’s not much to offer in Gensan, the SM will probably have Yellow Cab.

    • JohnM says

      Gary: Yeah, I didn’t see too much of that stuff down in Gensan. My favorite restaurant in the Philippines is there, though. Sarangani Highlands, which I thought outstanding (One of the best in the country, and the view from the top of the hill was magnificent… My colleagues and I had a six hour business lunch up there, of which the first houe was business and the rest was drinking beer and eating kinilaw). Also, after reading Chris’ posts, I have a suspicion that his food offerings are pretty good.

      That said, if Fridays comes to Davao and is successful, you can bet that other chains will take notice.

          • Gary says

            Sarangani Highlands is nice, the view from Lemlunay is also pretty awesome, a good place to have some beers and food.

            There are a number of spots which are decent in Gensan, I was really talking pizza when I said there was nothing here :)

            Oh, regarding Friday’s. As far as Rose & I are concerned, same thing happened to us a number of years ago in the states. We used to enjoy Fridays, but some back to back visits with very poor quality really turned us off. We gave them another shot a few years later, same. I have no desire to try again.

              • Mars Z. says

                John, has tried TGIF @ MOA last 2008 with about 15 of my family and my brothers, they liked it, but only a little bit above average for me. SMG beer was cold and good though.

  21. Darin Collins says

    I have always found it funny that American’s who visit the Philippines or any other country, always want to find foods they are familiar with. I can understand for expats who live in the Philippines this would be something they would have a craving for. But to visit a country only to seek out your own home cuisine has always baffled me.

    Take for instance when I visited General Santos 6 years ago. My father and I traveled there to meet my future wife. Half the time he was always wanting to find a burger or pizza and complained about having to eat rice. I was embarrassed by that and it made my wife’s family uncomfortable to the point that they did not want to take us to restaurants they would normally eat at or cook much for us.

    When I go to a foreign country I want to try everything that the country has to offer. I can eat burgers and pizza and hotdogs when I go home. But to look for places to eat that serve that type of food at while I am on vacation in the Philippines is strange to me. But I guess to each his own.

    Again though I understand expats who live there long for that taste of home just as my wife longs for foods from home as well.

    • John Miele says

      Darin: when I travelled over 300 days per year, I used to get tired of going local, so I can understand it a bit. Also, there were times where it really became sort of “been there done that”.

      No different than immigrants to the us that still eat their home foods really….

      • Mars Z. says

        John, when I travel here all over the Southeast/Atlantic. I always order and asked for their local Ale or Beer. Some are really good and fresh. Some high end chain only carry the same line:Bud, Miller, Mich, Sam Adams, Yeungling. Most of those restaurant that serve local ale also serve a food specialty that they are famous for like a 6″ high Reuben or humongous BLT. BTW, in a couple of days, Savannah Georgia will be celebrating St. Pats and they food and beers flows. Might run down there tomorrow and visit the house and cut the grass. Savannah St. Pats celebration is the second largest in the US. There’s a resto in the riverfront called “The Cotton Exchange” famous for there Reuben, German Potato Salad and a cold Jumbo Fishbowl beer. The building used to be where they deal with cotton business during the 1800s part of the riverfront renaissance.

  22. Steve Maust says

    Although I do not stay in Manila much, thank you for the information you provided. I will have to keep this post in mind when I am down that way. It did get me to thinking though. I see on my flight to Cauayan that there are a lot of people carrying pizza boxes with them. Makes the plane smell good for sure. I was wondering if anyone had tried the pizza in Terminal 3? I can not remember the name of the place off hand. Has anyone ever taken Pizza with them on the plane to the province? Can I order it and have it delivered to the gate before departure? Hope someone might have the answer to these.
    My son loves his pizza! Now we only need a Papa John’s in our neck of the woods!
    Burgers are best done at home on the grill! I have not ate to many burgers out side in the Philippines. I made a mistake once and ordered one from Jolli B’s and never to do that again! They have a long way to go before being a place I enjoy a burger from!
    I, like Darin, think you should at least try to enjoy the hospitality of the country you are in. Try their foods and what they have to offer. But like his experience I think my family also does not like to cook for me. They all think I will not like what they serve. And to be honest when it come to fish and rice 5 times a day I do have a little problem. So they just let me do the cooking! I hardly ever have any left overs!

    • John Miele says

      Steve: I avoid eating at NAIA if at all possible. I think the pizza at terminal 3 looked ok, but every time I have flown from there, they weren’t open. I did bring mrs fields up to abulug from the stand there and they were a huge hit.

      Steve… When you were Im Kuwait, most international chains were there (Johnny rockets was my place there) and most were similar. Here, many places adapt because taste preferences are so different

      • Steve Maust says

        We have a Greenwich Pizza in Cauayan. After your comments on here and a few others I am almost afraid to try it! Gotten used to Papa John’s and it is hard to find a better “fast” food pizza than that!
        I find the restaurants here are ok. Nothing to brag about. Just went to Apple Bee’s here and I would not recommend it (on this visit). It all depends on the cook I guess. I have been there before and it was good! Other places are the same way. One time good the next bad. It has gotten very expensive to eat out here! The price has gone up greatly in the last 2 years!

    • Mars Z. says

      Hi Brent: Here in the states, I try to avoid Outback myself, too greasy for me. I’m a fan of Macaroni Grill though, excellent Italian food!

  23. Chasdv says

    Hi John,
    To be honest,we are not really fast food enthusiasts,we prefer,dare i say it,proper restuarants,lol.
    However,we have tried Greenwhich,so so,nothing special.
    The only thing i would really miss,would be good cheese,but its available at a price,so i’m happy.

  24. Kristina says

    with the options here to enjoy fresh fruits and many other delicious healthy dishes, why would you want to eat that stuff that makes americans so unhealthy and fat? try to stay away from that stuff and eat healthy here so you can better enjoy life.

  25. says


    Granted, much Filipino food uses fresh ingredients and simple preparation.

    Filipino food is by no means entirely healthy… It is often loaded with fat, high amounts of salt, and high amounts of sugar. Ziggy’s last column on this site made that point very clearly, and as a food writer, he would know.

    I’m by no means suggesting that people eat like this every day… However, as has been written on this site many times before, there are cultural differences between the US and the Philippines. Taste preferences are high on that list.

    One thing that I really get tired of hearing about is the snide remarks, particularly from Europeans, about fat Americans. There are many reasons why the American diet has become unhealthy, and food choice is only a part of it. The lifestyle in the United States is highly mobile. In LA, my ex-wife and I both worked full time and commuted about 2-3 hours daily, in addition to a 10-12 hour workday (sometimes more). Since very few women in the States nowadays stay at home, there is little time to cook. Americans tend to eat much of the restaurant and convenience food for that reason. Additionally, the majority of Americans do not take their vacation time, and the average workweek in the United tates is over 45 hours… One of the longest in the industrialized world. The US has moved from industrial to service industries, and many people who would work in a factory or on their feet previously, are chained to desks in front of computers all day. It isn’t Europe or the Philippines, where people walk to work, walk to the store, etc. In most of the US, you need a car or vehicle to even get basics of daily life accomplished.

    Are Americans alone? There are only about 20 countries in the world without a McDonalds. Virtually everywhere in the world there are local versions of fast food chains. SOMEONE besides Americans must be eating it… There aren’t that many expats here to explain that kind of growth.

    So it is lifestyle, rather than food. Anything in moderation is fine, and I have seen way too many people here indulging on greasy chicharron or lechon to excess.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to taste food like you remember. The restaurants I listed are all chains that make a reasonable version of what many people remember. How is that any different than Filipinos in California flocking to Goldilocks bakery or Jollibee for what they remember? I can tell you that very few non-Filipinos were in the ones I saw in LA.

  26. Tom Ramberg says

    Hi John.

    I have a favorite burger place here in GenSan called Drixee Pops. They do not serve an American style burger by any measure but then again we are not in America so why should they? I have gone to Hooters a few times in Mall of Asia but that was for the race you to the bathroom hot wings. I am still laughing at the change of attitude from our waitress when my wife was the one to leave the tip despite my protests. Can you say kuripot? haha! I indulged in a baconater at the Wendy’s while there but I have been away from that kind of food for a while so it was a real gut buster. In the Mall of Asia there is a Sabarros that has many different gourmet pizzas. One slice of the calzone will feed you for a day. I have an italian friend that has said he will start a pizzaria but I asked him who will be your customers beside me? I told him that I think the taste and affordability would be a real business killer. I also have a Swedish friend who has stated that he would start a restraunt to show the Filipinos proper food and service. See there are ugly Swedes too not just ugly Americans. I admit that even though I never used to patronize Pizza Hut in the states I do eat at the one here about every three months. What I miss dearly is Mexican food. I did go to Davao for groceries for the first time in 18 months and got some salsa. jalapenos, and refried beans. I am like a kid in a candy store if I find a familar item and enjoy the challenge of creating a edible recipe from it. My eighty two year old father who I take care of does not share my spirit of adventure. The Davao shopping trip was actually to stock up on Cambells soup for him. Since he is 2/3rds crazy and 1/2 demented; he claims all food here is fake. No the math is not wrong haha! I guess I am doing my time in purgatory by being exposed to a complaining old man on a regular basis. Thankfully he has a private nurse so I can avoid him sometimes. I am still counting the days till there is a stock of Nathans hotdogs at the kiosk in the mall. For now I will have no settle for an occasional Johnsonville beef frank. minus the mayonaise. It is kind of sacrilage to put that on a hotdog. Still waiting for the Papal decree on that one.

    • says

      Tom: I hear that so often about starting a “proper” restaurant, like you, I just sort of roll my eyes. Some people seem to think that there are a lot more expats here than there actually are. I’m not saying that Filipinos wouldn’t enjoy “real” Mexican food, but I can tell you this: In the semi-annual BB boxes that my mother sends me, most of the contents are Mexican products (Like the Herdez salsas, canned jalapenos, and chipotle peppers). I have tried offering some of these things to neighbors, friends, and they almost always will turn up their noses and not even try. Taste preferences are strong stuff… and for a restaurant to succeed, you need to serve your customer base what they wish to buy.

      In the example of pizza, I commented on Feyma’s recent article that for me to make Chicago style “stuffed” pizza “properly”, it would cost on the order of P2,500. In restaurants, the rule of thumb is 30% food cost, 30% labor cost, 35% overhead, and 5% profit. If I were running a restaurant here, even with greatly reduced labor cost…

      Ingredients (food cost… Discounted for bulk restaurant purchase), 1,500 (8 servings…keeping it real, remember)
      Labor (Be generous and say 15%)… 300
      Overhead (rent in a mall is expensive, and pizza ovens take a lot of electricity) 1,500

      Total cost 3,300

      Selling price, whole pizza: 3,500

      Profit: 200

      For an 8 slice pizza, that comes out to P438 per serving… Very close to what Sbarro charges for a slice of their “stuffed” pizza (It was around P400). And… Sbarro has goodwill, infrastructure, supply chain all in place.

      It would be very, very difficult to make a go of such a venture, and generate enough customers to sustain a real business. Rebecca still has this obsession with buying a Jollibee franchise in Ballesteros … Yes, she is right… Nearly every provincial Jollibee is always crowded. However, you have a 20 million peso franchise fee, another 8 million pesos for land, building, and furnishing (PPE), your prices are set by Jollibee corporate, and you are restricted by corporate in where you buy your supplies.Additionally, you need at least a year’s worth of operating capital to start and get you through the first critical year (And a bank financing the venture will insist on this). So, you are looking at nearly 40 million just to open, get up and running. You need to sell a hell of a lot of burgers at a profit of 4 or 5 pesos to recoup that investment… and it will take years. This is with a proven business model, in line with local tastes, corporate advertising, and corporate support / training.

      The expat wanting to start a restaurant receives none of the support detailed above. For foreign ingredients to make the “real” thing, they spend significant price premiums and face supply issues. Yes, the startup costs can be much cheaper, but trying to “educate” the local population about “real” food or not offering items in line with what your customers demand certainly raises the bar towards profitability. There is a reason that 95% of restaurants fail in the first year… And most of the time it has nothing to do with the food. So many ventures start out because of the idea, “Hey, I make great fried chicken” or “I think Filipinos will like real mexican food.” The thing lacking is always a realistic perspective on making the business succeed.

      Yes, it is possible, and some people maker the dream happen through hard work and good business sense, but those successes are rare, to say the least.

  27. biz dak says

    hi john,

    how do johnny rockets burgers rate in your book? i’m wondering why you mentioned it as your kind of place back when you were in kuwait, but not here in manila? there’s a branch on morato ave. QC, and another one (their first in M.M.) in makati or MOA (i’m not sure, basta it’s somewhere south)


  28. Gary Wigle says

    Hi John, thanks for sharing. I do love to visit the Pancake House at the Gmall in Davao City. They have the best BLUEBERRY pancakes! Call 911 because my blood sugar just spiked past 600 and my heart stopped. I am happy.


  29. Brian Wheelock says

    I ate Pizza Hut there and it was better there then the one here in Brattleboro, VT !! My stepbrother was in Davao last Nov. and ate at the Hut and he said it was real good too. I ate there a few times and was very impressed. Would like to know about Dunkin Donuts there. I was in there store near the Hut but didn’t get nothing. Just was wondering how it was ? My stepbro’s fav place was JollyBee for fast food. Thanks Brian Still hoping to sell our house and get over there.

    • says

      Brian: Dunkin donuts is OK, but they tend to have far fewer varieties as they do in the States, and I don’t see much of the non-donut offerings here. Mr. Donut is far more common here.

      Note: When buying donuts in the provinces, they are often shipped in from bigger towns and may not be very fresh.

      • says

        Hi John – “may not be very fresh” could be the understatement of the year! Even here in Davao where they cook the donuts fresh… the ones they sell seem to be several days old. I think I cracked a tooth on one! 😆 That ain’t easy to do on a donut!

        • Biz Doc says

          still no krispy kreme in davao, bob?

          daghan na pud branches nila diri sa manila, mahal lang kaayo ang ilang donuts hehe ” )


  30. AllenO says

    Hi John,

    Does your mom send a BB box from here in the Tampa Bay area ? I havent found a reliable one yet. Many places to buy boxes from but the cargo forwarders seem to focus on Luzon more. My folks are in Davao.

  31. Masheil says

    Hi John,

    I would like to recommend a really good Mexican restaurant. It’s cook is actually from Mexico. He married a Filipina and they put up a small place. It on the right side of Ortigas Extension going towards N.Domingo st. It is actually beside a Petron gas station if my memory serves me right. Try it and let me know what you think. Thanks

    I forgot the name of the restaurant is HERMANO’S. :)

  32. MGM says

    Yellow Cab was developed by Filipino Entrepreneurs headed by Mr. Eric Puno, who is also the president of Army Navy Burgers and Burritos. FYI

  33. jo mercado says


    your service at De la Rosa branch is too slow. I ordered a chesse quesadilla and a coke, the order was punched in your POS at 10:36:10 a.m. and it was served at 11:10:00 a.m.

    Can you do something to improve the service. Please do because I am a a frequent customer.

    Thank you.

  34. says

    Thanks for sharing and a great discussion here. Ive been following foodie blogs, as my husband and I are foodies and very much into cooking too. Alan Cline& John Miele: I agree home made is best burger, with best prime meat you can find. And having own meat grinder/food processor at home helps too so you can make own favorite sausage. For the best burger, you might try All Beef Meat Patty with Bone Marrow and Truffles at Elbert’s Steak Room in Makati. Oh BTW, can anyone share how the meat products they are selling in S&R are (quality & price wise), we are considering signing up for membership at S&R. Regards to all :)

  35. says

    Beach Buns in Punta Engaño Mactan between Shangrila and the old Hilton hotel has great burgers. Killer Bacon Guacamole Burger!
    Buffalo Chicken Sandwich.
    Meatball Sandwich.
    Dang! now I’m hungry again! LOL


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