For those old enough to remember what Baguio was like a few decades back—pine trees, fresh air, old houses, and yes, a visible lack of traffic—you may get hit by a wave of nostalgia when you drive up to Craft 1945. First off, it’s located in the quieter part of the city, adjacent to Baguio Country Club, that still retains remnants of Baguio’s past charm. Up the long driveway, you’ll see a 1960’s American-style wooden house, painted white with that familiar forest green trim, that used to dot much of Baguio, especially at nearby Camp John Hay. While the restaurant interiors are new, the house exterior has been kept deliberately old, peeling paint and all, to remind us that this is a living, breathing specimen of the old Baguio.
Craft 1945 was born out of a partnership between Cris Ordas of the well-established Baguio Craft Brewery (the “Craft”) and the owners of the Manila-based Casa Marcos. The “1945” refers to the year Casa Marcos was founded by a Spanish jai alai player, Marcos de Guisasola, who loved to cook for his friends, and eventually opened a Spanish restaurant. Ownership was recently passed from the original Guisasola family to its present owners, headed by Kevin Khoe. While Casa Marcos recently closed in Manila, its “soul” has been happily reincarnated in the new Craft 1945.
On soft opening since late last year, Craft 1945 is now ready to show off. While this two-storey heritage house still keeps its original look outside, the interiors, designed by Ordas himself, have been modernized and brightened. Think high ceilings, white walls, exposed wooden beams and posts, with a brick wall sporting a mural of a matador and bull on one end. Much of the furnishings—tables and chairs, lighting fixtures, wooden accents—were crafted in Baguio. There is also a porch with al fresco seating to best enjoy Baguio’s cool air, complete with a bonfire lighted every evening.
According to Ordas, there is a real symbiosis between his hip craft brewery and this old-time Spanish restaurant. They are both big believers in heritage, whether it’s Ordas’ beers brewed in the traditional German way using only natural ingredients, or Casa Marcos’ dishes which still follow the original Spanish recipes, supervised by Casa Marcos’ old cooks and chefs themselves, and prepared from scratch without newfangled shortcuts or convenience products. One of the other Casa Marcos partners John Tangog describes, “Our promise is that the food that you’re eating right now is the same food that we’ve been serving since 1945.”
A quick perusal of the menu shows that many of the Casa Marcos favorites are alive and well. The tapas menu features the usual suspects: spicy and garlicky Gambas, deep-fried Calamares, Albondigas or pork meatballs in tomato sauce, Patatas Bravas. But there are a few subtle innovations as well. Tips Ala Pobre may have the usual roasted garlic but it is made with naturally reared, grass-fed beef tenderloin. Gambas Aligue takes the classic gambas up a notch, with the prawns cooked in rich crab fat, mayonnaise, garlic, and chili. Make sure to order a basket of Casa Marcos’ famous baby pandesal (still baked in a pugon) to sop up the sauce.
Another Casa Marcos legacy are the paellas, with five of them on the menu: Valenciana, con Saffron, Aligue, Negra, and Marinara. They’re properly made, of course, heavy with broth-infused rice, and cooked with a generous amount of meat or seafood, chorizo, vegetables. If you’re a big group at the table, one or two paellas are a must to share family style.
Mains include classic Fish ala Vizcaina cooked bacalao style, the garlic lovers’ favorite Steak ala Pobre, and Pollo de Casa Marcos, a half spring chicken pan-fried with garlic. One dish with a strong Filipino element is Kalderetang Baka—lean beef cooked low and slow, in a spicy tomato stew with potatoes and pimiento, until the flavors meld and the meat falls off the bone.
When it comes to craft beers, Craft 1945 is spoiled for choice. Ordas says there are usually up to 10 beers on tap, chosen to complement the dishes on the menu. For example, the Hop Attack is an Imperial IPA, more hop intensive with a slightly malty sweetness, that matches well with the spicy Gambas Aligue. On the other hand, the Kraken is a dark brown Baltic Porter, very malty and smooth, best paired with the Kalderetang Baka.
Pastas on the menu range from Parmigiano Fettucine to Pasta Sardinia with Spanish sardines in tomato sauce. Rice meals are a great choice for a quick lunch, with a choice of toppings that include Pollo a la Perilla; Miel Limon or salmon with honey, orange-lemon zest, and rosemary; and Moqueca, a Brazilian salmon stew.
The house brew is the Craft 1945 Pale Ale, available exclusively at Craft 1945, that works especially well with any of the dishes on the menu, as a light and refreshing counterpoint to the mostly heavy garlic-infused flavors. For a more traditional Spanish dining experience, Craft 1945 also offers red and white sangrias, and wines by the glass or bottle.
While Baguio has metamorphosed into a city many of us may not recognize any longer from our childhood days, Craft 1945 is one shining example that the “old” or quieter Baguio is still there. The restaurant harks back to simpler times, where you can eat good food and drink good beer in relaxing surroundings, reminding you why Baguio is still worth visiting. As Ordas gestures to the pine trees surrounding the property, he smiles, “The place speaks for itself.”
Click on the image below for slideshow
The entrance to the more intimate ground floor dining area.
The look and feel of a 1960s Baguio house in the details.
A clean, more contemporary look in the dining area.
Wood dominates from counter to tables, floor to ceiling.
White walls and lots of sunlight brighten the space.
Craft 1945 is relaxing whether for lunch or dinner.
A bull and matador mural to remind it’s a Spanish restaurant.
Chris Ordas pairs his craft beers with the Spanish menu.
Paella Negra and Paella Marinara.
Craft 1945, 8 Outlook Drive South, Baguio City, (0906) 221-3615, FB: Craft 1945 – Casa Marcos
Photographs by Andre Drilon