Gray Matter


Restaurants in the Olongapo and Subic Bay Areas

RT Cunningham | July 28, 2020 (UTC) | Food and Drink

restaurantsThe Philippines and the United States are more alike than most people can imagine. Traditional and fast food restaurants are some similarities.

Unlike the United States, restaurants in the Philippines can be located anywhere, including residential neighborhoods. Zoning laws don’t seem to exist.

American and Filipino Food Restaurants

Americans have influenced food choices directly or indirectly in the Philippines for many years. It’s safe to assume American food places exist and indeed they do. It used to be easy to tell the difference between a Filipino style restaurant and an American style restaurant, but it’s not so easy anymore.

Many Filipinos eat with their hands (without any eating utensils) at home — the word for this is kamayan — but not so much when eating out at restaurants. Kamayan style restaurants do exist, however, and there’s even a chain called “Kamayan” in the Philippines. The concept has even spread to some United States restaurants. I saw two of them in different areas of southern California some years ago.

Traditional and Fast Food American Style Restaurants

These are the familiar American style restaurants, chains and franchises I know about. Not all of them exactly qualify as restaurants.

These are some American style restaurants based in the Philippines, with some of them specifically local to Olongapo and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone:

There are many more I haven’t mentioned. I’ve never dined at them. I’m sure I’ve left out one or more where I have and I can only blame it on my lack of recall.

Sit-N-Bull Restaurant

This is one of my favorite restaurants, mainly for breakfast food. It’s located in the Barretto barangay of Olongapo City, near the beaches. It’s easy to find, even if you don’t have a map or a GPS. Drive along the main road until you see the “By The Sea Resort”. Make the turn away from it and you should see it right away.

The food is good and inexpensive. I paid for three, four and five people at times and I never paid more than 2,000 pesos, including the tip. That’s less than $50 USD, even when the currency exchange rate is extremely low.

Sit-N-Bull is always ranked high at TripAdvisor. It should be at the top.

Xtremely Xpresso Cafe

This is probably my second favorite restaurant. It’s located at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. If you go through the Kalaklan entrance gate, stay to the right. You can see it on the left, on Dewey Avenue, before you reach the Spanish Gate. You have to turn right or left at the Spanish Gate.

They make a huge pizza, called the “Big Ben”. The largest is as large as one of their round, outdoor tables. Prices change, obviously. The last time I checked, the “giant” was only a couple of dollars more than the largest pizza at S&R New York Style Pizza and a lot bigger. The S&R pizzas taste better, at least to me.

They also serve Tex-Mex Nachos. The last time I had some, the chips were multicolored, which did nothing for the presentation.

Too Many Restaurants

The restaurant choices were much more limited before 2012. That was the year the Olongapo City Mall was replaced by the SM City Olongapo mall and the Harbor Point mall opened at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. I’ve been to the cinemas at Harbor Point but not at SM. There were no cinemas nearby before that.

At the freeport zone, restaurants can be found all over the place. Some are within the Pure Gold building and some are within the Harbor Point mall. Some are on the first floor of some hotels. It’s the same way in Olongapo, only more stretched out. The older restaurants are slowly being replaced by modern restaurants.

There are many restaurants, especially in Olongapo neighborhoods, that I’ve never even seen. I really don’t care if I ever do. While vacationing in the United States, I get my fill of the food from restaurants I don’t visit when I’m at home in the Philippines. That includes Taco Bell, which I won’t hunt for in Manila. And Jack In The Box, which isn’t any closer than Guam.

We prefer eating at places where we can easily park a car. It’s hard to park in downtown Olongapo, mainly because the only parking garage is at SM City Olongapo. We have to pay for most public parking. It isn’t expensive (less than a dollar) but it’s another added annoyance to go with all the rest.

My wife, Josie, and I don’t eat out very often while living in the Philippines. It’s usually limited to once or twice a month. We eat out much more while vacationing with our children, even when we really don’t want to eat out.

Photo Attribution: Reinhard Thrainer from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in December 2018.

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