Whether on your hands are some loose change, or you’re following a strict budget, or perhaps you are prepared to spend for authentic eats and an impeccable Cebuano dining experience, there is a reward—that is great Cebuano food—for your budget.
You can be a local or a traveler in Cebu, but you can be assured that from the streets downtown, to the less busy Guadalupe Street, and to the hip uptown all the way up to Busay, you will find some good Cebuano food worth your money. Let our article on tasting Cebu on any budget guide you as you explore for the best foods in Visayas’ version of Metro Manila.
For the loose change (Php 5 to Php 50)
Are you a traveler looking for very cheap, but authentic Cebu food? Or are you hungry but on a tight budget because you have already spent all of your money three days after payday? Or maybe you think this is your lucky day because you have found loose coins in your dirty jean’s pocket just before you dump it in the washing machine? Well, today is indeed your lucky day because you are in for a treat. With your Php5 or Php50, you can already have a taste of Cebu especially in the streets of Colon and Carbon Market.
Puso, Cebu's very own delicacy (Photo from Marynelle Josephine H. Gumacal)
For the average Cebuano, a walk in Colon, the oldest and one of the busiest streets in Cebu, usually means being able to stop for a quick grub be it tempura, kwek-kwek, siomai, or the famed ‘puso,’ even with just a few pesos on hand.
While puso is roughly translated as heart, you won’t find that internal organ in this food. Puso is sticky rice wrapped in coconut fronds and then shaped into a heart. A small piece costs Php5 for two. The most expensive puso one can buy in Colon (or in Carbon Market, for the matter) costs Php15. This kind of puso is more expensive than the usual because of its size and the quality of rice used.
Still on a budget (Php51 to Php100)
If you are caught between not spending too small and not spending too much, your food budget may just be around Php51 to Php100. Some people want their mojos not too thin and not too thick. If you are a part of that population, Da Vinci’s
Potato Gusto (Php78) may just be the mojos for you and for your budget.
Da Vinci’s Potato Gusto at Php78
Da Vinci’s Interior (Photo from Court Rodriguez)
Meanwhile, for those who want to be in a company of furry friends, dining at Cat Café PH in Guadalupe makes for a meowtiful moment for you in Cebu. With just Php60 to Php70, you can have Cat Café PH’s fruit smoothies and chill in this place for cat lovers. Dining at Cat Café PH is the closest you can get to experiencing Japan’s Cat Island while you are in Cebu. There are more than 10 cats at Cat Café PH that you can befriend or take pictures with.
Photo from Patrick Evan
Bond with cats, friends, lover, or with all of them at Cat Café PH in Guadalupe (Photo from Cat Cafe PH)
When in Colon, on the other hand, if you are looking for budget meals, but do not want to eat in the usual fastfood chains, you can check Madel’s Grill near Metro Gaisano. They have silog meals below Php100. Madel’s Grill’s service is close to impeccable and the food you get is proportionate to how much you pay for. The staff always tries to be attentive to those who want more rice (only applicable to those who include “unli” rice with their meals) and tables are cleaned as soon as the customer/s leave the local food joint.
Madel's Grill Store in Colon (Photo from Madel's Grill)
One of the breakfast budget choices at Madel’s Grill in Colon
Because it’s payday (Php101 to Php400)
When payday comes, it doesn’t hurt to treat oneself and the special ones some good Cebuano food, right? Casa Verde
’s Brian’s Ribs (Php218.75), with meat not only tender, but also flavorful, is a good choice while its Tenderloin Tips and Eggs (Php177) can be a cheaper alternative but also good. Both are best paired with a glass of Panama Juice (Php59). Their serving is larger than the usual back ribs meal served in other restaurants in the city. Casa Verde is located at The Walk, IT Park, Cebu City.
Casa Verde's Food Treats (Photo from Ryan Salvatore)
Of course this article won’t be complete without mentioning something about one of the best products Cebuanos and Cebuanas are proud of: the lechon, hailed by International Chef Anthony Bourdain as the “best pig ever” in his show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
Lechon, one of Cebu's popular delicacies (Photo from Zubuchon)
restaurant is a good stop for those wanting a full meal for a 200-peso budget. Among their lechon
offerings, the Classic Lechon and the Lechon Sandwich win the recommendation of Zubuchon-goers for that “quintessential Zubuchon experience.”
Lantaw Native Floating Restaurant’s Bistek Cebuano (Photo from Lantaw)
If you are down for a drive to Busay, you may check out Lantaw Native Floating Restaurant
’s Bistek Cebuano
(Php210). Lantaw’s authentic Cebu culinary features do not end there, though. For appetizers alone, they have nine choices, namely Spicy Scallops, Cordova Express, Calamares, Sinuglaw, Kinilaw, Sisig, Mangga with Bagoong, Baked Scallops, and Talaba (Oysters). Appetizer’s prices start at Php65.
Lantaw Native Floating Restaurant is a 30- to 45-minute drive away from the city proper, but for most patrons and first-timers, the wide variety of Filipino food choices available and the view from the restaurant make the relatively long drive worth it. You may check Lantaw’s Facebook page for the full list of food choices they serve. They also have a branch in Cordova.
Cosmopolitan cuisine in Cebu (Php401 and above)
When one has a relatively big budget for big and small celebrations or spur-of-the moment treats, Cebu has the restaurants that offer a fine selection of Cebuano and international dishes. Below are some suggestions.
First in this section is Café Marco
of Marco Polo Plaza Hotel in Nivel Hills, Lahug. Uptown Cebu’s buffet meals start at Php1,395 per person. Located in one of the most prominent hotels in the Queen City of the South, this restaurant with a semi-rustic setting serves Philippine, Japanese, and Western food. Smart casual attire when dining at Café Marco is required.
Speaking of prominent hotels in Cebu, Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino in Salinas Drive, Lahug, also houses a hotel restaurant that serves “international delights and local favorites”—Uno. Uno’s dishes can be tasted as early as 5:30 AM. Uno closes at 11 PM.
On the other hand, Tides Restaurant, one of the four restaurants at Shangri-la Resort & Spa in Mactan, offers local and international flavors in a contemporary setting. Tides Restaurant is open from 6 AM to 11 PM. You can check out Shangri-la Resort and Spa—Mactan’s website for the full list of their ala carte menu.
With over a hundred food joints, food shacks, food stalls, restaurants, and cafes in Cebu City proper alone, it is safe to say there is something for one’s budget and taste. Whether it’s the food or the service, there is always a possibility you will have a taste of Cebu wherever you eat in this city that “never sleeps.”
What food do you usually look for when you need a quick fill a la Cebu? Let us know in the comments section!