When your journey to the north becomes too exhaustive, make Tarlac your pit stop. Your mission is to find the best places to eat and recharge before you continue with your travel. Here are five worth-exploring dining places.
1) Isdaan Floating Restaurant
Isdaan is mostly known for its ‘Tacsiyapo!’ Wall where you can vent your anger over a cheating ex-lover, annoying customer, or demanding boss. The restaurant is a favorite among the curious travelers perhaps because of the experience. The place itself is Thai-inspired – gigantic Buddhas and monkey statues are everywhere. The structures are made of bamboo from the pathways to the sheds.
After dealing with your anger and exploring the place, it’s time to taste what the restaurant has to offer. Its name is Isdaan, but it also offers meat and vegetable dishes. Don’t forget to try its Pinukpok na Hipon sa Gata (shrimp with coconut milk) and Pinatolang Baka sa Buho (beef soup). Have a taste of its Tinupig na Lechon Manok (roasted chicken), Tacsiyapong Tilapia (spicy steamed St. Peter’s fish) and Tacsiyapong Gulay (chili vegetable plate).
The staff is very accommodating. And, while waiting for your orders, you’ll be entertained by a serenade from a group of local singers. At the center stage, another group will be doing ethnic and folk dances. You won’t feel that the 20-minute wait time is over.
2) Victor’s Barbecue and Lechon Manok
A roadside grill house, Victor’s is almost always teeming with both local and non-local patrons. Customers keep coming back to the place because of its Lechon Manok (roasted chicken) and sisig.
It’s not your typical sisig, however. Victor’s version is fresh-off-the-grill. You choose which parts you want to be included in your sisig. The choices include pig’s ears, cheeks, neck, and innards. After chopping the parts in bits, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and calamansi will be put in. That’s it!
Victor’s also offer a few selection of grilled fish such as bangus (milk fish), tilapia, and hito (catfish). The last two are also served with grilled talong (eggplant) if you want. The restaurant’s other specialties are bulalo and papaitan.
3) Nay’s House Restaurant
Upon hearing it for the first time, its name would sound like ‘nice house.’ But despite the mishearing name, Nay’s House is really a nice place to dine in. It got its name from Panlilio-Baron’s matriarch, Imang Ninay or Catalina. It’s a colonial house converted into a restaurant hence the ambience is so homey.
Nay’s House specialties are Kapampangan dishes. So, expect to see kilawin (ceviche), sisig, and bringhe (paella). They also serve Filipino, American, and Spanish cuisines. While there, its buco-lychee sherbet is a must-try. Also, the entryway features local delicacies in wooden showcase shelves that you can buy for pasalubong.
What sets Nay’s House apart from all other restos in the area is its DIY pancit palabok. All the ingredients are put on a buffet table. You just have to ladle all the ingredients – the palabok – you want your pancit to have. Aside from the shrimp sauce, other choices are sauteed shrimp, sauteed pork, fried tofu, crushed chicharon (crispy fried pork belly), tinapa (smoked fish), hard-boiled eggs, toasted garlic, and scallions. It is best paired with tibok-tibok with latik, a dessert pudding.
4) Coconut Grill Restaurant
Another restaurant owned by the Barons, Coconut Grill serves Kapampangan dishes that are prepared using the traditional Tarlaqueño cooking style. Coconut Grill was acquired by F.I.S.H or Fiesta Island Seafood Hub.
Three of the must-taste dishes are Pancit Buko, Ginapos na Manok (fried chicken), and Sinigang na Inasal. Coconut Grill’s claim to fame is its pancit. Instead of the egg noodles, it is replaced with buko strips. The taste is not salty and not sweet either, but flavorful nonetheless.
Further, the pancit is a staple of the restaurant’s salo-salo combo. Interestingly, the combos are named after Filipino fiestas such as Panagbenga Platter, Kadayawan Platter, and Ati-Atihan Platter.
5) Camiling Public Market
While in Tarlac, try visiting the Camiling Market. It’s not a typical dining place like the others mentioned here. But in here you’ll find the best pasalubongs or food to munch while on the road.
Among others, you may buy tupig (sticky rice), pinipig (or inuruban locally) and chicharon.
Fuel up with good food with your stopover. Isdaan, Victor’s, and Coconut Grill are located along MacArthur Highway, where Amaia Scapes Capas is also located. Nay’s House is found on Romulo Avenue. Finally, the public market is located in front of the Camiling Church Ruins.