The Best of the Philippines: Tarlaqueno Food
Often overlooked as a gastronomic destination, the province of Tarlac always serves visitors a buffet of surprise when it comes to showcasing its culinary culture. Surrounded by the provinces of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Zambales and Pangasinan—places known for their delicious brand of cookery—it comes as no wonder that Tarlac becomes a melting pot of a medley of local cuisine the area of Central Luzon is known for. So join me in a gastronomic journey as we savor on the best places to experience Tarlaqueno Food. TARA, MANGAN!
An Exploration of Tarlaqueno Food
My experience of setting out on a food adventure in Tarlac far exceeded my taste bud’s expectations. Puzzled at why my foodie radar never included this province before, I savored the rich-tasting dishes we tried at each of our food stops in the province.
Part of our itinerary during the recent Kanlahi Festival of 2020, is to also discover the food scene in Tarlac. As a foodie who has been to several food appreciation tours of its neighboring provinces, I told myself to resist setting the bar high. And just enjoy bonding with my fellow travel and food writer friends. But lo and behold, after the first 2 and three stops, I immediately discovered a newfound appreciation of Tarlaqueno Food. It’s both unique yet an interweave of all the wonderful flavors of Luzon.
Indeed, there are influences of Kapampangan and Pangasinense cuisines. But a different kind of tang, color, and cooking method are incorporated in preparing each dish that was served to us. Truly, Filipino food from different regions of our archipelago might appear ‘same-same’. However, upon scrutiny of one’s taste, you can conclude your description of Philippine cuisine as “same-same but different”. And Tarlac’s cooking principles is a prime example of it.
To homer my point about how I came to know Tarlaqueno Food better, here are some places we explored gastronomically in Tarlac.
Where to Eat in Tarlac City
The Borough Pizza Pub
First stop on our Tarlaqueno Food journey took us to a chic British pub called The Borough. First impressions? IMPRESSIVE. A sleek joint designed like the famous tube in London. And that smell of pizza roasting? Heavenly!
By fusing the varied cooking influences of Tarlac with the all-time British classics such as Pizza, Fish & Chips, Breakfast Burritos and Pimms, you’ll get a lively ambiance with a touch of British-influence interior. The food also come in big-servings. So sharing the meal with friends (or family) is definitely recommended.
What to Order at The Borough: Metropolitan BBQ Pizza, Fish and Chips, Breakfast Burrito, and Pimms Cup.
Location: Bypass Road, San Vicente, 2300 Tarlac, Philippines
The Shed Cafe
The concept of farm-to-table is becoming popular in Tarlac. As brought about by the demand of diners to have healthy food options. Entering the Tarlaqueno Organic Food scene is The Shed Cafe.
The Shed is owned by power couple Steven and Malou, who have become local celebrities themselves in Tarlac. Because of their influence and advocacy in healthy and organic farming and dining. Food aside, I personally enjoyed eating at The Shed Cafe because of the ambiance. A small, al fresco dining setup with tables surrounded by natural elements like plants and trees. Setting a light and friendly vibe to its patrons and customers alike. And did I mention their house is just at the back where they grow their own garden and raise their own chickens? It can’t be any more farm-to-table as that!
What to Eat at The Shed Garden Cafe
The Shed Garden Cafe serves an array of mouthwatering food – some with meat and some vegetarian friendly. I came for dinner and I opted for a light yet filling meal of salad and chicken poppers. We capped off the night with a hearty cup of fresh blue ternate tea.
I’ve heard, however, that The Shed also boasts so much gastronomic fare that elevates Tarlaqueno Food. A menu that my blogger friend Jan of the Kapampangan Traveler, was able to experience and share with me.
What to Order at The Shed Cafe: Farm Fresh Salad, Chicken Poppers, Blue Ternate Tea, Steak of Champions (Php 490.00), Chili Chicken and Chips (Php 260.00), Deviled Avocado and Chicken Sandwich (Php 220.00).
Location: 2828 Getha Road, San Sebastian beside Holy Spirit, Tarlac, Philippines
Fancy something exotic? Then come by the famed Tarlaqueno Food stop, Tatuns Kambingan.
Although admittedly, I am not an avid goat-meat eater myself, I did dip my spoon and fork at the delectable food that Tatuns has to offer. Alongside a plateful of rice, I had their famous Kampukan, Adobong Kambing, Kalderetang Kambing and Kare-Kareng Kambing at Tatuns Kambingan.
Trying to take my mind off from the image of Clueless Morgan—the pirate goat from the 1996 film Muppet Treasure Island—I took a few bites and instantly savored the soft and flavorsome meat of each of the goat-meat viands that were made richer in taste by the well-mixed sauce. The meat was gamy, yes, but very tender and the flavors were on point.
What to Order: Kalderetang Kambing, Kampukan, and Leche Flan
Location: 7051 7th Street, Fairlane Subd., San Vicente, Tarlac City, 2300 Tarlac, Philippines
Kart City Tarlac
Adrenaline junkies, on the other hand, will surely get a run for their money at Kart City Tarlac. Built by ten friends who love outdoors, this adrenaline-pumping adventure park is a must visit place when in Tarlac.
One of the owners, Mr. Pio Arugay, was kind enough to invite us for a few spins (Php 250.00 per 5 minutes) on their race track. Before we feasted on their take on Tarlaqueno food at the park’s in-house restaurant.
We occupied one of their Karaoke rooms where we ate their house specialties. Delicious, comfort food with a twist like the Chaps Flavored Wings (Php 245.00), the Chaps Pizza Roll (Php 390.00), and the Inihaw na Boneless Bangus (Php 235.00). Inihaw na Bangus: Boneless (Php235). So far my palette enjoyed the Creamy Bulalo Sinigang (Php 375.00) the most. A surprising medley of savory, creamy, and tangy flavors. There’s no way rice was not in the picture! haha
Location: McArthur Highway in Tarlac, Tarlac City (in front of SM City Tarlac)
D & C Cuisine
Tarlac is like an extension of Pampanga when it comes to its culinary scene. Albeit peppered with slight variances that make it exceptional on its own. Still, you can still see Kapampangan cooking influences popping up the flavors of Tarlaqueno Food.
One such place we went to was D & C Cuisines, where we feasted over some all-time favorite Kapampangan dishes. So just a little trivia about this Tarlaqueno food stop: D&C Cuisine has actually been serving Tarlaquenos since 1982 – starting with grilled items or Ihaw Ihaw. From there, D&C has since transitioned to serve a full menu of Tarlaqueno Food – slash – Kapampangan crossovers from tapsilogs to sisig.
One dish that D&C Cuisine truly prides itself for is their Tapsilog. Savory, well-marinated, tender beef slices served with egg and a cup of garlic rice.
Other local favorites are the Sisig, Chicharon Bulaklak (no umay taste, promise), and their creamy leche flan. They also offer other viands “turo turo” style for dine in or to take out.
What to Order at D&C Cuisine: Tapsiolog, Chicharon Bulaklak, Sisig, Leche Flan, Kare-Kare
Location: Zamora St, Tarlac City, Tarlac, Philippines
Comfort food at its best and brewed coffee at its aromatic finest, can be ordered at this small artisan cafe. You can also try their nachos and excellent pasta.
Providing guests with a vibe like dining inside a mansion lavish with long tables and rustic interior, the food at Rustica matches the restaurant’s setting with a variety of delicious options. Serving buffet style or ala carte menu, this is an ideal place to dine with the whole family or a large group of friends.
Don’t forget to try: Zwitoffer. This is Tarlac’s spin of the classic Filipino dessert Leche Flan. It is made from milk, eggs and topped with runny caramel and served in egg shells. Yes, leche flan in an eggshell.
At this point, I think I’ve barely even scraped the surface. With the multitude of influences on Tarlaqueno food, I know a second (or even third) visit should be in order. SOON!
Thank you Ms. Karen Lacsamana of the Tarlac Conventions and Visitors Bureau (TCVB) for making this trip possible! Kaganaka ng malako po! See you on the next Tarlaqueno Food or Lakbay Norte trip!
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