In a nutshell, Bacolod is a city in the Philippines often overlooked by tourists despite its potential for being the next culinary hotspot in the Visayas.
As the capital city of the sugar bowl region, Negros Occidental, it should come as no question that Bacolod produces some of the country’s most popular and well-loved desserts. With that in mind, Bacolod’s designation as the sugar capital of the Philippines is well earned. However, beyond decadent sweets and mouthwatering pastries, Bacolod also proves to be a food haven of all sorts. In fact, Bacolod is regarded as one of the best eating cities in the Philippines with some of the most sought-after native dishes in the country like chicken inasal, dulce gatas, pinasugbo, cansi, piaya all having their origins here.
The locals’ distinct love for food and penchant for eating out has spawned a great diversity of restaurants of all sorts. The city has every kind of eatery possible such as food stalls, fine dining establishments, hole-in-the-wall restaurants—all of which thrive within proximity to each other. The best thing about dining in Bacolod is the incredibly reasonably priced menu items–especially in comparison to other Philippine cities’ rather inflated restaurant rates and prices. With all these considered, some individuals and tourists would visit Bacolod solely to embark on a gastronomic and epicurean journey.
GETTING TO BACOLOD
You can get to Bacolod in two ways: an airplane ride or bus ride. By plane, Bacolod City is only 45-minutes away from the capital city of the Philippines, Metro Manila. Upon touchdown in Silay City where Bacolod’s airport is situated, visitors will then need to take a 20-minute shuttle or taxi ride that will take them all the way to the city. Three major airline companies (Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Air Asia) all offer direct flights from Manila to Bacolod on a daily basis. Those who wish to travel by bus may do so from Cebu City where direct trips to Bacolod are available in the North Bus Terminal. Travelers from Iloilo can take a fast craft ferry with regular schedules to and from both islands.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Dubbed as the City of Smiles, Bacolod is a city found in Negros Island known for its warm and friendly people. Throughout the year, the city of smiles sees a smattering of tourists from other parts of the world and local visitors from all over the country. However, the best time to visit Bacolod is during the month of October just in time for the city’s Masskara Festival which is held during the fourth Sunday of October each year. Tourists and visitors can expect a myriad of events and street parties every October in the City of Smiles as the Masskara Festival is the city’s most important event.
THE TOP RESTAURANTS OF BACOLOD
If there is one food you absolutely need to try in Bacolod, it has to be the chicken inasal. Bacolod’s chicken inasal is the city’s pride and joy and it is highly unlikely that you will find juicy grilled chicken like Bacolod’s rendition anywhere else in the country so you best try it while you can. Bacolod’s chicken inasal is cooked with a marinade of pepper, coconut vinegar, pepper, annatto and is then slathered with chicken oil to give it a flavorful kick. Here are some of the restaurants that serve the best chicken inasal:
Aida’s Chicken Inasal
When it comes to best-tasting inasal, no one does it better than Aida’s Chicken Inasal. In fact, locals have regarded the word Aida’s synonymous to chicken inasal. As it is considered the best chicken inasal restaurant, it is usually packed during the weekends, so it is best to visit during off-peak hours.
Locals may argue among themselves as to which restaurant serves the best chicken but to this writer who frequents the province, nothing ever comes close to Masskara Chicken’s juicy, tender and flavorful grilled chicken inasal. With a myriad of branches all over the city, it is quite easy to come across this restaurant. Be sure to order more than just the chicken inasal upon visiting as the restaurant is also known for their tasty sisig and mouthwatering pancit.
Cansi is somewhat a loose rendition of the ever-famous bulalo or pochero. If you are a fan of bulalo or pochero, cansi will easily become your favorite dish in Bacolod. In essence, bulalo and cansi are pretty much the same with the latter being the Ilonggo rendition of the same dish. Both use the same main ingredient which is beef shank with the bone marrow being the main highlight of the show. However, unlike bulalo’s savory flavor, cansi has a more tangy and piquant note to it made possible by batuan, a souring fruit or agent found in most Ilonggo dishes such as KBL, pinamalhan and of course, cansi.
Sharyn’s Cansi House
Located in Bacolod’s Capitol Shopping Center, Sharyn’s Cansi House is undoubtedly the best place for cansi. To make the most out of the experience, eat the famous cansi with rice dipped in soy sauce, kalamansi and chili. However, it is recommended to experience the soup and beef’s flavor as it is.
Bacolod City has plenty of seafood available most notably oysters and shrimps which can be found in most chicken inasal restaurants—particularly those that are found in Manokan Country. However, apart from shrimp and talaba, different kinds of fish can also be found in Bacolod City with various restaurants serving them as their specialties. Here are just some of the best seafood restaurants in Bacolod City:
If you wish to eat anything seafood, Diotay’s Eatery is the place to be. Highly recommended by the locals, Diotay’s Eatery promises to serve fresh seafood every single day. Remiscent of Metro Manila’s Dampa, the restaurant’s entrance greets you with an array of freshly caught seafood. Diners can then choose their food and how they wish for it to be prepared. While the restaurant’s interiors are straightforward and unassuming, you can expect it to be packed with diners on weekends and even on weekdays at times.
One of the first things you will notice about Aboy’s is its lively interiors. Located in Goldenfield, Bacolod, Aboy’s restaurant serves a smorgasbord of dishes including seafood menu items. The place is mostly packed with hungry locals and tourists on the month of October but rest assured, food is always well-cooked and delicious complemented by exemplary service.
Ading’s Pala Pala
Diners who wish to sample a variety of seafood dishes should definitely hit up Ading’s Pala Pala in Bacolod City. Catering to seafood lovers in a spacious and fancy setup (which is quite uncommon to most pala-pala style restaurants), Ading’s Pala Pala is another popular seafood restaurant in Bacolod City. Much like how Diotay’s service works, Ading’s Pala Pala has fresh fish and seafood delivered to the restaurant every morning and evening. Diners then get to have their pick from the array of live seafood and fish and have them cooked any way they wish (grilled, fried, stewed or mixed with vegetables).
Imay’s is one of Bacolod City’s most well-loved homegrown restaurants. Located just along Lacson Street, this Filipino restaurant is a favorite go-to place for casual dining owing to their tasty dishes, big servings and affordable menu items. It was one of the very first few restaurants along Sixth Street in Lacson which eventually came to be known as the Restaurant Row because of the array of Bacolod restaurants that opened in the area. While Imay’s serves mostly Filipino food, their selection of fresh seafood is certainly something you would not wish to miss.
As the sugar capital of the Philippines, Bacolod would undoubtedly have a handful of restaurants that specialize in pastries and sweets. Some of the most well-loved Filipino snacks such as piaya and napoleones have their origins in Bacolod. If you wish to sample some of the city’s best tasting desserts, here are some of the restaurants you should try:
Café Bob’s is known for more than just their selection of tasty gelato and pastries. With a decade of expertise and experience with the local dining scene, Café Bob’s has expanded its menu to include cold cuts and various cheeses which make for a truly diverse menu. The coffee shop/restaurant has been in existence for more than a decade and long before commercial coffee shops opened in the city. Today, even amidst the competition of more commercialized coffee shops, Café Bob’s remains to be a popular and favorite hangout among locals.
Fans of decadent pastries and sweet cakes will definitely love Calea—a sweet tooth’s must-stop in Bacolod City. When it comes to pastries and cakes, there is no place better to be than at Calea, Bacolod’ City’s beloved cake and pastry shop. With a variety of cakes lined up inside their glass chillers, diners will be overwhelmed with choices but regardless of what you choose, Calea’s cakes are guaranteed to be delicious.
Indeed, Bacolod’s food scene is equally diverse as it is tasty. So, whenever you do have the chance to visit, be sure to indulge the food enthusiast in you and explore the City of Smiles’ culinary landscape one local restaurant at a time.