Food courts at OG and fledgling malls are alive and well, even with social media-friendly food parks and weekend markets mushrooming around the Metro at a blistering 10 bites per minute. New and exciting, these mini culinary meccas are attracting hordes of foodies, but their more commercial counterparts aren't about to pack their knives and surrender. Food courts, especially the best ones, are capable of offering a variety of meal choices that are reliable, affordable, and above all else, tasty. They might not be the perfect venue for those seeking adventurous flavors, but once you open your eyes (and your taste buds) to the mouthwatering possibilities, you'll see that there's a reason sharing food in a communal space is here to stay. After all, it's a rock-solid concept that has been around for centuries.
And to get your bellies grumbling, FHM.com.ph decided to chomp through some of Manila's busiest and more progressive food courts to nom through their delectable selections. Yes, playing food critic for a day was a difficult task. You can thank us for it with some dessert later.
1) Solaire Food Court
Unlike the rest of the food courts on this list, Solaire Food Court isn’t isolated or detached. It’s conveniently located right on the casino floor, tucked between slot machines that make it easy to miss, unless you're a gambling regular.
The food court’s interiors are luxurious, keeping in touch with the aura that permeatea throughout the casino-resort. The design incorporates a lot of warm tones—specifically orange and red accents—as well as circular elements. Its diners are older, which is unsurprising because who here knows a lot of millennials who can afford to spend that much in a casino anyway?
Compared to other dining options in Solaire, the food offered in its food court is significantly cheaper, but not exactly affordable.
What we ordered: Bibimbap from Namsan (P320), Sambal Prawn from Pan Asia (P295), Binalot from Sandok (P360)
Namsan’s Bibimbap was the only dish we polished off. That said, we weren’t mad at any of the dishes we ordered, but at the same time, all of them failed to impress. We’re not even sure why Sandok’s Binalot costs so much (because it definitely isn’t worth P360). What makes Solaire Food Court stand out, however, is Patisserie. Most food courts have a designated dessert stall, but this one is in a league of its own—FYI, they have croissants.
2) Food on Four in SM Aura
SM Aura’s Food on Four is the kind of space that comes to mind when we think of food courts, minus the dim and depressing lighting; it has a skylight, which helps deviate from that “basement” food court look. It demarcates spaces using plant boxes, but keeping them low to accentuate the openness of the place. It also uses different flooring materials—wood and gray tiles—and mismatched seats to make the food court look more playful; some of them resemble giant chess pieces.
Food on Four is family-friendly (we didn’t see any children in all the other ones). It has the standard chain vendors like Pepper Lunch and Sbarro, but random stalls like Four Seasons Chinese Cuisine, Teppanyaki Brothers, and Yakitori One are also present.
What we ordered: Porkdon 1 from Yakitori One (P208), Classic Buffalo Wings from Frankie’s (P258), All American Burger from The Burger Joint (P238)
It’s difficult to mess up grilled skewers so we actually liked what we bought from Yakitori One. By the way, Porkdon 1 includes Quail Egg Pork Wrap, Sausage Bacon Wrap, and Asparagus Pork Wrap. Unfortunately, we don’t have fond memories of The Burger Joint’s All American Burger.
Despite the fact that we were there during peak hour and everyone and their mothers were ordering lunch, Food on Four had a stale vibe that we didn’t expect. But then again, Frankie’s is there, so by default, it can’t be that bad.
3) The Food Hall in Uptown Place Mall
Because The Food Hall is fairly new, not all of the stalls were open when we went. We aprroved of the vibe, though! The food court incorporated a lot of natural elements. The ceiling has wooden panels and tree designs; one wall just hung multi-colored wood against a black backdrop. But at the other end of the food court, walls are adorned with abstract, food-themed artworks, giving the space a child-like, almost bohemian feel. Combining several design elements makes The Food Hall feel more like an adult playground than anything else. That’s probably why a lot of the diners there are millennial employees and college students finishing their group projects.
Like Food on Four, The Food Hall houses food court staples like Pepper Lunch, Sbarro, and stalls that sell Filipino favorites (read: sizzling plates). We expected the food to echo the interiors’ quirks, but maybe that was too much to ask for from a newly-opened establishment.
What we ordered: Long black coffee + iced mocha from Habitual (P335), 1A Barnyard from Bird House (P165), Pad thai with crabmeat from BKK Express (P190)
We’re going to be honest: By the time we got to Uptown Mall, we were stuffed to the brim. Instead of trying a third dish—not that there were loads to choose from—we opted for coffee instead. And Habitual delivered. What a hero!
4) Hole in the Wall in Century City Mall
If you’ve never eaten at Hole in the Wall, you’re missing out (and this food court—if you can even call it that—is much larger than a typical hole-in-the-wall).
Hole in the Wall features an urban and industrial design. The combination of wood and metal over polished concrete flooring gives it a contemporary feel. Like several of the other food courts, it also uses greenery, but in a trendier way (read: hanging potted plants). Natural light pours in, and basically declared Hole in the Wall the clear winner in terms of food court interiors. And as you may have already expected, this is the Mecca for hipsters.
What we ordered: Classic Reuben (P477) and two beers (P498.20) from Mr. Delicious, Chicken + Corn and Coleslaw from Bad Bird (381.60)
The memory of a great meal can etch itself in your mind forever, and that’s exactly what happened here. Did the meals hurt our wallets? Yes. Was the food worth that much? We’re still not sure. Would we go back? In a heartbeat.
5) Makansutra in Megamall
To put it simply, we’re well-acquainted with hawker food in Singapore. We know it by heart, which is why we have mixed feelings about Makansutra. In its defense, the place really does have a street food/hawker center vibe, especially with its low ceiling, chipped concrete wall, and Asian murals. Also, like many hawker stalls, you can watch the cooks make your food through glass windows. Based on the conversations we overheard and the way people ordered, diners are a mix of first-timers, OFWs who used to work in SG, and tourists who frequent The Little Red Dot.
What we ordered: Chicken rice from Bao Ji Xiang (P190), Fish cake with prawn from Ah Tee (P270), Chicken clay pot rice from Geylang Clay Pot Rice (P280), calamansi juice (P80)
If you’re craving for some hawker classics, we definitely recommend a trip to Makansutra, but only if you aren’t going to nitpick. Because you’ll be tempted to. Bao Ji Xiang’s chicken rice was subpar; the meat wasn’t tender enough. But, you know, it’s still pretty good. At least now we know where we can satisfy our Singaporean cravings, right?