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Vigan Food Trip: 10 Best Places to Discover Ilokano Cuisine

by Abby Singson
September 6, 2018

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Ilokano cuisine, it’s that there’s a fire in every dish: the warmth of a bowl of sinanglao, the spice of authentic sukang Iloko, and the heat of freshly cooked pipian.

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Years in the city hasn't stopped my grandmother from preparing traditional Ilokano dishes for her family. Though I was born and raised in Metro Manila, the food at home has always reminded me of my roots and the fire that defines Ilokano cuisine.

This warmth has made visiting Vigan feel like home no matter how long the gap is in between visits. I may still rely on context clues whenever my lola would talk to the people cooking empanada, but I’ve never felt like a total stranger. If you're planning to take the drive up north yourself, I’m a firm believer that Vigan would extend the same heartwarming experience.

Ready? Let’s take a food trip to some of Vigan’s best places for bagnet, poqui-poqui, and of course, pasalubong:

1. 1st Sinanglaoan

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If you’re traveling to Vigan for the first time, you have to have sinanglao for breakfast. It’s a power-packed meal with lots of, uh, protein. How people would describe sinanglao varies but point-blank it’s like sinigang made with guts. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to warm up the stomach and fuel up for a full day ahead.

1st Sinanglaoan
Gov. A Reyes St. Cor. Bonifacio Street
Open daily, 6:00 AM - 1:00 PM
(0906) 482 0445

2. Coffee Break

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Never underestimate the power of an extra shot of energy. One of Vigan’s best places for morning coffee is Coffee Break located right at the corner of Calle Crisologo and Liberation Boulevard. The café is run by accommodating staff serving Ilocos Sur’s most flavorful blends on mugs painted with images of Vigan’s old cobblestone streets. Coffee Break’s menu also includes sandwiches and pasta dishes so it’s a great place to have brunch or simply settle down and chill.

Coffee Break
Crisologo St. cor. Liberation Blvd.
Open daily, 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM
(077) 674 8998

3. Lilong and Lilang Restaurant at Hidden Garden

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It’s not a trip to Vigan if there’s no bagnet eating spree. The Lilong and Lilang Restaurant at Hidden Garden serves a lot of authentic Ilokano dishes you won’t get anywhere else. One of which is authentic Ilokano bagnet, pork chunks marinated in one of Vigan’s secret sauces and then deep fried to the crispiest pork chunk you’ve ever had in your life. This sinful treat is then served with what Ilokanos call the KBL or kamatis (tomatoes), bagoong (anchovy paste), and lasona (shallots).

Lilong and Lilang Restaurant is also where you can try Vigan pinakbet or vegetable stew; warek-warek, a dish made using pork lean meat and entrails blended with mayonnaise; and poqui-poqui, a mix of roasted eggplants, tomatoes, and eggs.

Lilong and Lilang Restaurant at Hidden Garden
56 Bulala Centro
Open daily, 6:00 AM - 7:00 PM

4. Café Uno

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Have you ever tried pipian? Pipian is chicken stew in atsuete (annatto), though I’ve always described it as what you get when you marry sinigang and kare-kare together. You get that reddish-orange soup thickened with ground rice grains but instead of the taste of peanut, it’s that sour zing from the kamias that greets your taste buds.

I would bring friends who haven’t tried Ilokano pipian to Café Uno. It’s a homey restaurant at Grandpa’s Inn that serves a lot of traditional Ilokano dishes like dinengdeng (vegetable stew) and binagoongang bagnet (deep fried pork chunks in anchovy paste). But if you’re here after lunch hours, I suggest grabbing a bite of their blueberry cheesecake for dessert.

Café Uno
1 Bonifacio Street
Open from Mondays to Thursdays, 9:00 AM - 12:00 AM;
Fridays to Sundays at 5:30 AM - 12:00 AM
(0917) 799 0121

5. Irene’s Empanada

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Whether I’m staying for a night or just passing by on the way to Pagudpod, I will always have a Vigan empanada at Irene’s. This place has been serving freshly fried empanada for four generations already! Here you’ll see family members taking turns making the filling, cutting the dough with a plastic plate, and frying. Your empanada might just have some cabbage, an egg, and a few pieces of Vigan longganisa in it—eating one in Vigan is an experience in itself that is comparable to none.

Irene’s Empanada
11 Calle Salcedo (Squia Mansion side)
Open daily from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM
(077) 674 0279

6. Tongson Royal Bibingka

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The Tongson Royal Bibingka is far from the bibingka you get here in Metro Manila. This is a cross between tikoy and cassava cake, sticky and sweet balanced with the tartness of the crust and the savory flavor of the egg brushed on top. If you’re looking for the one pasalubong you can’t get anywhere else, I highly recommend hoarding boxes from Tongson.

Tongson Royal Bibingka
Calle Crisologo
Open daily from 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM
(0917) 821 9098

7. Café Leona

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You’ve been roaming around the streets of Vigan all day, so it’s time for you to get a delicious dinner to cap off your adventure. Café Leona offers a wide range of cuisines, from authentic Ilokano to its Japanese and Italian fusion dishes. Think bagnet bacon maki, which is bagnet wrapped in short-grain rice and a strip of dried seaweed then wrapped in fried bacon; and a pizza topped with Vigan longganisa.

Café Leona
Calle Crisologo
Open daily from 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM
(077) 722 2212

8. Kusina Felicitas

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One of the very first restaurants I ate at in Vigan is Kusina Felicitas. It’s one of the restaurants at Grandpa’s Inn and is known for its 18th-century vibe, with its the stone walls and hardwood tables and chairs. Kusina Felicitas is the place to be if you’re looking for a restaurant that serves dishes inspired by other places in the North such as Ilocos Norte, La Union, and Cagayan.

At Kusina Felicitas, make sure to try their Chicken Pipian, Sinanglao, and the Pinakbet with Bagnet.

Kusina Felicitas
1 Bonifacio St. Corner Quirino Blvd.
Open from Mondays to Thursdays, 6:00 AM - 10:00 AM;
Fridays to Sundays, 5:30 AM - 10:00 PM
(0917) 799 0121

9. Marsha’s Delicacies

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For pasalubong, take a little detour and head over to Marsha’s Delicacies at Bantay, Ilocos Sur. They have everything: Ilocos chichacorn which is nothing like commercial cornick, the rock-hard sugar cookies called balikutiya, and all sorts of traditional Filipino rice cakes. This place is open 24/7, and it won’t take you too long to reach if you’re coming from Vigan.

Marsha’s Delicacies
National Highway, Bantay
Open 24/7
(077) 722 8119

10. Vigan Public Market

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Wherever you go, visiting the local market is always one of the best ways to get to know a place. And if you’re in Vigan, visiting the Vigan Public Market is a non-negotiable. Where else are you going to get authentic Vigan longganisa and sukang Iloko? For me, going to the market also means bringing home strings of garlic bulbs and bottles of basi (Ilocos rice wine). Bring an Ilokano friend or family member with you because chances are they will know exactly where to get the best-tasting food and pasalubong items available.

Vigan Public Market
Alcantara Street
Open daily, 5:00 - 7:30 PM

Staying in Vigan overnight? Check out the charming Hotel Luna, and get the best price right here.

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About Abby
Abby is a Manila-based photographer and writer enjoying her early twenties taking photos of her casual adventures and trying new yoga poses. She graduated with a Communication degree focusing on multimedia production so she can fulfill her childhood dream of shooting food and travel for magazines. Clothed with a passionate soul, she writes about anything she can overshare on.

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