Editor's Picks

Houston's Top 10 Filipino Spots Will Make You Halo-Halo

From Humble to Sugar Land, we've got the best places to indulge your palate for all things Pinoy.

By Alice Levitt April 4, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Colorful ube (purple yam) ice cream tops the halo-halo at Baguio Hut.

Image: Alice Levitt

Baguio Hut

Breakfast is served all day at this bright new Sugar Land storefront named for the Filipino city nestled in the Cordillera Central mountains. There’s no menu posted, but the cashier will happily guide you through what’s available in the chafing dishes, as well as what the chef will cook up fresh. If there’s tortang talong—fried, egg-stuffed eggplant—don’t miss it. And remember to save room for the halo-halo for dessert.

Best of Filipiniana

The large buffet at this Braeburn spot boasts three rows of Filipino specialties, including one devoted almost entirely to colorful desserts. A few of the dishes are likely to be only lukewarm, but in the case of the marinated fried chicken, it doesn’t matter. Squeeze some fresh calamansi (similar to a tiny, sour orange) over the perfectly crispy skin and dig in.

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A collection of desserts from Filipino Cuisine.

Image: Alice Levitt

Filipino Cuisine

Back in February, Carlos Chavez, owner of Filipiniana Too (no relation to Best of Filipiniana), took over this petite restaurant in Meadows Place, whose buffet celebrates Pinoy cuisine’s salty, sweet and sour flavors. Make extra room on your plate for the daing, tangy marinated-then-fried milkfish, and the sirloin steak known as bistek Tagalog.


A jolly giant bee indeed holds court outside this fast food joint near NRG Stadium, which traces its origins to an ice cream stand in Quezon City in 1975. Come hungry to try all you can: the moist fried chicken the restaurant dubs “Chickenjoy,” the spaghetti covered in sweet meat sauce and yellow cheese, and mushroom-topped Salisbury steak with steaming mounds of white rice.

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Chicken + joy = Jolibee.

Image: Alice Levitt

La Fernandino Grill

Larry and Tetchie Canlas serve up their from-scratch Pampanga-style cooking—which draws influences from China, Spain and Thailand—in Beltway 8 Plaza’s International Food Court near Alief. Most of their sauces start with a combination of garlic and vinegar. Taste them in a sizzling platter of spicy beef salpicao, accompanied by a tall mound of rice and pickled slaw.

Pugon de Manila

Meringues in practically every tropical flavor are among the diverse pastries and Filipino products sold at this bakery near the Med Center (and conveniently located in the same strip center as both Jollibee and Red Ribbon Bakeshop). We liked our simple rice plate topped with sweet beef tapa (similar to softer jerky) and a pork skewer, but for dessert, would advise skipping the pale, flavorless halo-halo in favor of the baked goods.

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Spicy beef salpicao sizzles at La Fernandino Grill.

Image: Alice Levitt

Pinoy Fast Food

A neighbor to La Fernandino in Beltway 8 Plaza’s International Food Court, this cafeteria-style counter uses not only local ingredients, but homegrown ones. Calamansi fruit, sold plain and used in both puckery juice and pancit rice noodles, comes from a tree in the owner’s front yard. There’s something different on the hot bar every day, with the crispy lechon—slow-roasted pork with addictively crunchy skin—as a dish particularly worth seeking out. Don’t miss the brightly colored desserts.

Red Ribbon Bakeshop

Like Jollibee next door, this is a chain that originated in the Philippines. It’s the place to grab wrapped pastries—they’ll last a while—from deep-purple ube cakes and simple chiffon slices to the strangely endearing, cheese-topped sweet bread known as ensaimada. Make a lunch of the hot empanadas filled with beef or chicken, followed by a neon-hued slice of layer cake.

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Pugon de Manila also features a small convenience store-like section stocked with Pinoy treats.

Sarap Pinoy Restaurant & Grocery

Don’t fill up on snack foods at the front of this Humble store before hitting the modestly sized but diverse buffet. Enjoy your plate of curry or gingery chicken soup at one of the communal tables, and you’ll likely strike up a conversation with the owners and other diners. Save extra room for the warm tapioca pudding called tambo-tambo and a banana lumpia, best described as a fruit-filled egg roll.

To Go Café

It’s easy to miss this near-literal hole-in-the-wall, tucked inside a massive H-E-B grocery store in Alief, past the cash registers and near the exit. It’s a great place to watch Filipino variety shows over a plate of rice with pork blood stew, creamy taro and flaky empanadas. On the weekends, the chef carves crispy slices from a whole suckling pig (lechon).


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