Food for the ‘Gram: Grub Hub Food Park in Quezon City

EXPLORE PHILIPPINES visits three of the country’s finest food parks! First stop: Grub Hub

Food parks in the metro have different themes and looks. We’ve seen most of them but nothing is as dynamic as Grub Hub’s space. This vibrant food court in Quezon City is the most “Instagrammable” food park we’ve been to yet. We mean, let’s not deny it—the ’Gram will always be a part of it. It’s not for the likes, it’s for keeping the memory of the experience alive. But that’s all face value. The real value is in what the food stalls serve and what makes them tick.

From One Hub To Another

Who knew that FISH, or Fiesta Island Seafood Hub, a go-to Filipino restaurant for Quezon City inhabitants, would eventually be Grub Hub, a food park with a whopping 17 food stalls? We’re guessing it’s because it came from a family with a remarkable culinary background.

Grub Hub was a project of siblings Mika Baron-Ong and Jamo Baron, the son and daughter of the people behind the long-established Manila Catering Corporation. What turned out to be a renovation project of FISH became an entirely different hybrid of 17 to 19 food stalls in one park. Jamo was 19 and his sister was 29. As self-confessed foodies and business-oriented siblings, they thought it was the perfect time to dabble into food parks.

“My sister really did well. Magaling siya, she conceptualized everything. Her husband is actually a contractor who helped create the place. I found the tenants,” Jamo said.

Now, Jamo has taken over most of the business side of things. He juggles his classes and visits the food park as often as four times a week. “My course is business management, but ever since I was a foodie. I was exposed to food when I was a young kid kasi my mom was a caterer. Talagang mahilig kami kumain.”

Jamo seems promising in looking after the food park coincidentally bestowed upon him on a silver platter. He applies what he learned from his mom and conducts quality assurance tests to ensure the food is up to par, the place is clean, and the stalls are earning. He also continuously seeks advice from his professors in Ateneo. Research has been done and the sustainability of the food park business is guaranteed—it’s here to stay.

“The hardest for a food park is sustaining it, and that’s what we really try to do. You can innovate as much as you want but it’s hard to sustain what you innovate,” Jamo admitted.

As a result of a renovation-project-turned-food-park, Grub Hub Food Park’s interiors were built from FISH’s old materials. “Recycled tires, recycled water basins for the chandeliers on top, and then even the wood is recycled from our old restaurant,” he explained.

The murals are there to attract the ’Grammers and to provide an arsty-street vibe to the whole place. If you ask us, it’s bit too much, but that’s where Grub Hub gets its charm. When we set foot onto the grounds, we didn’t know where to look at first. “Kasi iba-iba yung food, ’tas iba-iba din yung dining area para lagi pag pumupunta sa Grub Hub may bagong experience,” Jamo added.

The first area was where the wood and basins secured on the ceiling were found, true to its name as “Junkyard Dining Bar”. Ironically (at least for us), this is where the dessert food stalls are. To our left side was the Hobbit Hall, where most of the food stalls are housed. Caved in the rounded facade are mains like pizza, wings, burgers, sisig, chimichangas, pasta, and the like. As we walked halfway from the entrance we saw an enclosed dining area with wood pallet baskets and faux plants falling from the ceiling. Grub Hub Food Park calls this the Greenhouse Dining Bar, a dedicated area with air-conditioning, a rare trait for most food parks. This is to house families, where kids and babies won’t be bothered by the hot and humid temperature of the park during afternoon hours. There are no food stalls, just another beverage stall to minimize the strenuous environment. Lastly, situated at the far end is the Hippie Yard, an area inspired from the chill and nature vibe of Boracay. It’s where most of the EXPLORE team’s favorite food stalls were found—mainly because it had the pulutan food. And yes, Mang Larry’s.

Reworking The Filipino Palate

Despite all the different types of cuisines present within Grub Hub Food Park, we couldn’t help but notice dishes and sauces being a bit sweeter and, sometimes, saltier than they usually are. The Filipino palate has always been a lover of the extremes—we either like it as is, or umami, or fishy, or oozing with a sour taste that makes us do weird, contorted faces. Since Grub Hub was once an abode of Filipino food, it naturally came out to be a food park with Filipino food stalls, or rather—Filipinized food stalls.

Grub Hub Food Park is known for housing the most notorious street food cart of all—Mang Larry’s. Back at its HQ at the parking lot near the College Hotel of UP Diliman, students, professors, employees, kuyas, ates, manangs, and manongs patiently wait for their turn to order ten to twenty sticks of isaw with a fresh glass of mango shake as a downer. The sticks are served inside a plastic cup so you can put as much suka and sili as you want. Here at Grub Hub we found a similar scene. At the corner end of the Hippie Yard was a line of people anxious to order. Isaw manok, isaw baboy, buchi, atay, balun-balunan, tenga, the list goes on. But unlike their food cart version, they serve the isaw on a plate and sauce on the side. We’ve noticed a slight change in price too, but that’s understandable, as Mang Larry always says, “mas sosyal isaw dito.”

As natural explorers we got a bit curious and tried out the next stall’s fried food extravaganza, a perfect match for a table of friends hanging out amidst bottles of beer. The fried squash blossoms were particularly exceptional. It held up the taco-seasoned beef inside pretty well and the daintiness of the flower worked well with the crisp breading and soft, savory beef.

Then our palate brought us to Brook’s. If you’re not a fan of famous American fast food you might have to reconsider, because the buns at Brook’s are not just regular buns—they’re grilled cheese buns. Yes, you read that right. So basically it’s bread cheese bread, veggies, sauce, cheese, patty, bread, cheese, bread. It’s a carb, cheese, and flavor overload so you have to be ready.

In the midst of all the dishes (read: honey sriracha wings, sisig, bagnet and chicha, fried crablets, and calamari) we found ourselves craving for something sweet to counter all the salty and oily goodness of the food. Thankfully, waiting for us was Wicked Kitchen’s famous Greed S’mores Skillet. Imagine a small sizzling skillet with melted chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers on the side. It’s an unpretentious dessert, and it’s exactly what we needed.

As for the experience, despite the lack of bands playing in the background, we give it an A+. Grub Hub Food Park is all about giving what the Filipino wants.

Details:

  • Address: 47 Visayas Avenue Corner Congressional Avenue (7.86 mi) Quezon City, Philippines
  • Contact #: 0916-299-9730
  • Business Hours: Monday – Thursday: 3PM – 12AM, Friday – Sunday – 11AM – 1AM

This article was originally published in Issue 16 of Explore Philippines Magazine, titled “Food Park Culture.” Minor edits were made.

Photos by Tomi Koshikawa, Raniel Juanico, and Kevin Tankino for Explore Philippines Magazine

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