Those who miss dining in Quezon City’s charming Gourmet Gypsy Cafe will be happy to know that one can enjoy its wonderful, comforting food again in a restaurant setting—except it will take a four to five hour drive and opening a Baguio Visita account.
Owner and chef Waya Araos-Wijangco opened Gypsy by Chef Waya in the City of Pines over a month ago and the place looks as cozy and endearing as her Roces Avenue outpost which closed last year due to the pandemic. “Our spot is in Quezon Hill, slightly off from downtown so it’s not in the center of action,” Chef Waya tells ANCX of her new baby. “But we have a great view of Mirador and Dominican Hills and we love looking at the fog coming in the afternoon.”
While a few things have changed, a few essentials have stayed the same. Gourmet Gypsy Cafe was beloved for its international menu, soothing, hearty dishes from different parts of the world. Fans will be happy to know Chef Waya has kept her Roces Avenue crowd pleasers on the Baguio repertoire: the Salted Egg Pork Belly, the Indian Buttered Chicken, its house-made Chorizo Fundido, the Thai Fish Cakes, the Bibimbap and Ama’s Mechado (Chef Waya’s father Jerry Araos’ slow-braised beef with wine, tomatoes and chopped liver). And where else would it be best to enjoy her steaming bowls of Seaweed Mushroom Udon and Seafood Laksa than in Benguet weather?
“We kept the Gypsy bestsellers but added some items to feature Baguio's incredible produce,” says Chef Waya. (The Smoked Duck and Sagada Orange Salad sounds good!) “We are also working with some local farmers to grow some specialty vegetables for us. It’s so exciting to develop new menus for seasonal ingredients. We are now developing something for the wild mushrooms that come out only at the start of rainy season.”
The chef-entrepreneur was one of the earliest in Manila’s restaurant scene to pivot her business following the onset of the pandemic. After closing Gourmet Gypsy in Roces, she maintained her Maginhawa space but turned it into a “grocery” concept. It is also where she and her staff prepared meals for frontliners and communities around the area last year.
Did the decision to run a business in Baguio come easy?
“I actually grew up in Baguio and still have relatives here. My husband moved here for work a couple of years ago so I have been spending more and more time here,” reveals Chef Waya. “When the pandemic hit, my husband was trapped here and I in Manila, and we were separated for nine months. When things opened up a little and I got back to Baguio, we explored the idea of developing something here. I was also looking at our situation in Manila and things looked quite bleak. Recovery for NCR will take at least two more years and we needed to take bold steps for our brand to survive this crisis. Baguio was opening up and it felt a lot safer, you felt the LGU support and the movement in the economy.”
Gypsy Baguio’s first month in business was quite a success. “It’s been overwhelming. We ran out of food in the first three days and had to close on our fourth day,” reports Chef Waya. “Most of our customers are still local so we are loving the warm welcome.”
Indeed, it looks like Gourmet Gypsy has found a perfect new home in the summer capital, the city having its own set of artists, academics, foodies, musicians and intellectuals—the kind of crowd Roces Avenue attracted. The café sits around 50 and the tables are especially spaced far from each other following Covid protocols. There is also an outdoor dining area for those who feel safer dining al fresco. Asked why this Baguio branch is special, Chef Waya’s answer is simple. “It feels like a homecoming to me.”
[Gypsy By Chef Waya Baguio is open from 9AM to 9PM daily. They're located at 6 Quezon Hill Road 2, Bgy. Quezon Hill, Baguio City. For more information, click here to visit their Facebook page.