The six-hour drive from Manila to Baguio City is quite a challenging trip, but thanks to several stopover places that have sprouted in the recent years, you have plenty of great reasons to look forward to and enjoy your ride along the way. One of these reasons that will surely make your journey pleasurable is a food trip.
Matutinas offers basic but note-worthy local dishes.
After exiting the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), a highway connecting Central and Northern Luzon, you will pass by a famous layover spot along MacArthur Highway in Urdaneta, Pangasinan: Matutinas Seafood Haus & Restaurant. It is easy to notice Matutinas because of the rows of cars parked in front of it. The proximity of this eatery to the highway makes it a popular stopover dining place especially for travelers going to Baguio or returning to Manila. You'll understand why this restaurant has risen in popularity once you've tasted the delicious and affordable dishes it serves.
Possessing a native charm, Matutinas is a casual restaurant that has been operating for nearly nine years. It has two air-conditioned dining rooms which can accommodate a total of 80 to 100 guests. Reservations are not required, so during peak hours, you’ll see guests rushing to the dining tables to eat after a long drive. Hence, if you come during a mealtime rush, you might find yourself standing in the waiting area until a table is vacated.
Fried Squid (PhP220)
Once inside, one browse at their a la carte menu would show that it offers a wide selection of seafood favorites. The menu features authentic local seafood fares including fishes like bangus (milkfish), malaga (rabbitfish), tanigue (Spanish mackerel), hito (catfish), and lapu lapu (grouper), among other varieties. Many types of delectable shellfish are also available, including shrimp, oysters, and crabs.
Buttered Crab (PhP900) (Image: Nelson Go)
Manileños who think that a PhP180 buttered oyster or a kare kare (stew with thick savory peanut sauce) seafood dish for PhP280 is beyond their imagination will find that it is possible in Matutinas. Some of the restaurant’s definitive yet affordable dishes are adobong pusit (vinegar braised octopus) (PhP250), sinigang na malaga (rabbitfish in sour broth soup) (P250), tortang talaba (oyster omelette) (PhP180), kilawing bangus (milkfish ceviche) (PhP180), inihaw na tanigue (grilled Spanish mackerel) (PhP250) and many more. An order of crab dish, cooked in butter and priced from PhP900 to PhP1500, is also worthy of your dime.
Pinakbet (PhP150) (Image: Leo Posadas)
If you can tear yourself away from seafood, you’ll find it a pleasurably hard time to choose among Matutinas’ classic meat and vegetable eats like chopseuy (mixed vegetables like cauliflower, chayote, baby corn, with small pieces of meat) (PhP220), ampalaya beef (beef dish with bitter gourd) (PhP220), karekare beef (PhP250), tortang talong (eggplant omelette) (PhP50), sinampalukang manok (chicken in tamarind broth) (PhP280), pork sinigang (pork in sour broth soup) (PhP280), and many more to fill your plate.
After your big meal, craving for sweets at Matutinas is forgivable. Your sweet tooth will be treated with classic desserts like ube halaya (purple yam jam) (PhP180), leche flan (caramel-topped custard) (PhP180), banana split (PhP150), and ripe mango (PhP80). You can match your dessert with a cup of hot calamansi (calamondin) (PhP45) or tea (PhP45).
A corner of take home goods
Pickled Papaya (PhP120 to PhP200)
Aside from enjoying the mouthwatering dishes, you may also want to take home goods from Matutinas as a memento of your trip. There is a corner that displays pasalubong (souvenir) goods like pickeled papaya, sauteed shrimp paste, bagoong (fermented fish or shrimp paste), gourmet tuyo (dried fish), garlic chips, and vinegar priced from PhP50 to PhP200.
Matutinas Seafood Haus & Restaurant is located in Brgy. Tulong, Urdaneta, Pangasinan. The store is open from Monday to Sunday from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
Do you know of other notable stopover places on the way to or from Baguio? We’ll be glad to hear from you, so let us know in the comments section!
* Prices and menu may change without prior notice.
Note: Facts and details are based on actual interview and dining experience of writer.