MASBATE CITY – The capital of Masbate province is definitely on the rise.
The past couple of months saw the launch of the city’s first mall with Gaisano Capital Masbate, which opened just last December, starting with a supermarket.
Fast-food chains have also started to invade the city with Jollibee, Mang Inasal, Mister Donut and, most recently, Chow King standing almost side by side at the city’s main artery of Quezon Street. Locals are also getting excited with the upcoming opening of Bigg’s Diner, which is considered the biggest restaurant chain in the Bicol region, known for its chicken meals, salads, sandwiches and pastas.
As visitors descend on the province for the annual Rodeo Masbateno, which runs until Sunday, guests definitely have more options to choose from, as far as dining is concerned. Just outside the Rodeo Arena is a carnival and a beer plaza for festive merry-making.
As Masbate is promoting itself as the cattle capital of the country, beef is definitely on the menu when dining in Masbate. But don’t start looking for expensive steak cuts just yet.
“Hindi lahat ng tao dito kumakain ng steak kasi may kamahalan,” Leo Gozum, Rodeo Masbateño director, told ABS-CBNnews.com.
Tapsilog, Masbate style, from Kaykay’s Express Sinangag. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Instead, the most popular beef dish in the capital is beef tapa, which is served in several eateries in the city, especially near the main public market. Masbate’s beef tapa is characterized by its darker color and deeper flavors. “Kulay itim pero purong karne ng baka,” described Gozum.
A local favorite here for beef tapa and other popular short orders is Kaykay’s Express Sinangag on Quezon St. This eatery with its bright colored interiors is known for its silog meals with the tapsilog as its bestseller.
Bulalo from Mark’s Eatery. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Like other provinces with large cattle industries, Masbate also has several restaurants specializing in bulalo. Take note, however, that the best time to enjoy this rich soup is early in the morning as by 9 a.m., chances are the restaurants would have sold out already.
Gozum’s top pick for bulalo here is Mark’s Eatery right across the airport. The serving was quite huge and can be shared by two to three people. The beef shank was very meaty and the broth was highly flavorful despite having only very few ingredients.
The closest thing to a restaurant steak here are the sizzling beef tips at Tio Jose Steak Grill on A. Clemente Jr. Avenue. (Tio Jose also has a tapsilogan on the same road nearer the city). The air-conditioned steak grill is converted from a house and is among the fancier places to eat in the city with its mood lighting.
Sizzling beef from Tio Jose. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
But expect the waterfront area along the new Masbate Circumferential Road, which locals more commonly refer to as Boulevard, to be the site for future development in this city. Already, the city’s newer hotels and resorts are located in this area which looks out to the calm waters of the Masbate Pass and Ticao Island in the distance.
A recommended restaurant here is Racknel Bar & Grill with its al fresco waterfront location that’s as peaceful as it gets. The beef specialty here is the bistek, which also comes in sharing portions.
Bistek from Racknel. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Although cattle is celebrated in Masbate, the province is also well known for its picturesque islands, rock formations and beaches so seafood is actually also a steal in the province. The restaurants on the Boulevard are known to serve excellent seafood, too.
Cheese sticks from Cafe Kristina. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
For more Western fare, Café Kristina, also located on Boulevard, comes highly recommended by the locals. The ambience is quite girly with pink accents and Parisian motifs but it’s quite a peaceful place to enjoy brewed coffee, sandwiches and pastries.
Crepes and coffee from Caffe Bialetti. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Another modern café and more conveniently located on Quezon Street is Caffe Bialetti, which serves popular coffee concoctions, coffee desserts and crepes amid a rustic and homey ambience. A nice spot to enjoy the buzz of a city that is slowly finding its economic groove.