For more than a decade now, I’ve lived in Cagayan de Oro City, known as one of the country’s adventure destinations. Every year, hundreds of thousands visit this city just for the white-water rafting, and adventure-seekers can also find more exciting activities just a few minutes away from the city.
Not many, however, would come to CDO just for its delicacies, since the city has never been known as a foodie stop. Unknown to many, a lot of the family-owned businesses in CDO are food-related, mainly because Kagay-anons appreciate good grub.
I am not a certified foodie, but I do love discovering new places to dine in. One thing I’ve loved about the city lately is the emergence of quirky restaurants around town. The thing about CDO is that the downtown area is fairly small. You can walk around Plaza Divisoria and nearby streets on foot and you would find unique places to eat in almost every corner, where the ambience is as interesting as the menu.
The newly-opened Backyard Grill serves affordable grilled fare, with a lot of their meals at only P99. Aside from the usual silog meals, they also serve meals on a hot plate: Sizzling Sisig, Sizzling (spa)Ghetti and even Sizzling Brownie Ala Mode! Their hefty serving of baby back ribs will keep you coming back for more! Their walls, with stenciled quotes and hip art pieces, are the perfect backdrop for the crowd of students that frequent the place. [Backyard Grill, Marfori Compound, Gaerlan St.]
Just across the street from the Backyard Grill is our favorite tea place, Chingkee Tea. This cute spot is an arts and crafts haven, with all things creative on walls, ceilings, tables and chairs, and where milk tea concoctions are fantastic. I was never a milk tea aficionado – this is my only exception. Must-trys are: Blueberry Cheesecake, Java Chip and, my all-time favorite, Wintermelon Milk Tea. You can add pearls, egg pudding or even ice cream for an even yummier drink! [Chingkee Tea, Marfori Compound, Gaerlan St.]
Among the new restos, Good Fellas Pizza is another crowd-drawer. A mafia-themed pizza place inspired by the ‘90s De Niro movie, Good Fellas, it serves beer-battered pizzas all named after Mafioso characters. I love their Mickey White, which is a four-cheese pizza. Joe Piney is a Hawaiian pizza, while Danny has a sunny-side up egg right at the center, and Wild Bill has chorizo and jalapeño. The best-seller, the Big Joe, is topped with sausage, pepperoni, beef and bacon. The place has a cool hangout vibe and I love the gray walls where they’ve hung mafia-themed prints and knick-knacks. [Good Fellas, 2/F Sweet Leaf Café, Pabayo cor. T. Chaves Sts.]
A few blocks away, is Sentro 1850, a long-time favorite of mine. I love to come here for business meetings, family gatherings, and even dinner dates. The place is simple, the vibe casual, and the food is delicious. The Ima’s Kawali (Lechon Kawali) is one of the best out there, while the Balinese Swordfish with Ginger Sauce is perfect for those who are trying to eat healthy. I always pair this with the sweet, spicy and crunchy Squid Sotong. Scrumptious! Also serving yummy burgers and sandwiches, as well as other Filipino, Asian and international dishes, Sentro definitely has something for those who love to eat. [Sentro 1850, Velez St.]
Now, when I am craving for something cool, sweet and local, I head over to the La Favorita Scooping Station across Magsaysay Park. The recipes for this home-made treat have been handed down from generation to generation since 1956. The Avocado Ice Cream is very rich and undeniably avocado; but my favorite is the Mocha Chip Ice Cream which has a rich coffee flavor, with chocolate chips in every bite. The Caramel Swirl, creamy and sweet; Caramilk and Halea de Ube flavors, specially made with carabao’s milk; and sugar-free variants, for the sweet-tooths who need to watch their sugar intake are also a delight to the senses. [La Favorita Scooping Station, Divisoria Arcade, R.N. Abejuela Street]
These barely scratch the surface of the dining scene around Divisoria. Several others are just as distinct and delicious: from Minindal, a furniture showroom-cum-restaurant, La Tegola, a cozy Italian bistro; and Red Tail Shrimps, a seafood place where you eat with your hands; to Bagong Lipunan, which serves classic pancit canton; and Butcher’s Best Barbecue, an unpretentious barbecue joint for the diner on a budget. In other parts of the city such as Limketkai Center, Corrales Avenue and J.R. Borja Extension, numerous cafes and restaurants have also sprouted up and taken root.
Local tourism and businesses such as these local restaurants have been getting a boost from wireless and Internet technologies. The use of social media to connect with clients has become essential for restaurants, both old and new. When we post about our new experiences, the tech-savvy traveler gets to discover holes-in-the-wall, places that are less-famous but certainly worth visiting.
Finding something new every time I go around the city brings out the tourist in me. Someday soon, I will bring my camera and take photos of things around this city that has become my home.
You too can share your stories about your hometown via Doon Po Sa Amin, the annual online mapping competition of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart). Now on its seventh year, the DPSA, which used to be open to students only, has a new category that allows everyone to submit entries in animation, music video, short film, and documentary form. The best entries will be plotted on a virtual map provided by Here, which can be accessed via the Web. For more details, visit www.doonposaamin.ph.
Doon Po Sa Amin is just one of the projects that supports Smart’s advocacy for digital inclusion, while helping spread the word about what is unique and special about the Philippines and its over 1,000 islands.
All photos by Judee Dizon Chaves
Need a place to stay on your next visit to Cagayan de Oro? Primavera Residences offers short-term and longer stay.