NEGROS ORIENTAL | Dumaguete's Must-try Dishes and Restaurants

It is referred to as the City of Gentle People; the University City. It is home to the renowned Silliman University and Negros Oriental's capital city. I only learned these things a week before our trip when I was googling what Dumaguete City would offer. I know nothing about this low-key destination except for a fact that it was part of Cebu, which apparently is not a fact at all but I was believing it true throughout my existence.

But Dumaguete's food scene, above all search results, tickled my fancy. Countless lists of must-try restaurants and dishes put me into a tough task of choosing where to delight our palate in the city I would call a haven for every gastronome. Here's a list of where we ended up satiating our tummies:

Jo's Chiken Inato

I'm a self-confessed lover of Mang Inasal — a slice of chicken inasal chewed with oil-drizzled steamed rice is divine; I bet many would agree.

Chicken inato is Dumaguete's version of that grilled chicken originating from Bacolod City. Jo's Chicken Inato garners the most recommendation of where to enjoy this salty-sweet barbecue when in Dumaguete. Served with a cup of steamed rice and atsara (pickled green papaya), the skewed, flavored and then grilled quarter chicken meal costs PHP 105 when ordered upstairs; dining at the ground level costs less perhaps because it's not air conditioned. Jo's inato also comes with patis (fish sauce) suggesting the dip it is best enjoyed with, but you have the liberty to choose your poison among the condiments on the table. Sorry to burst your bubble fellow Mang Inasal lovers, but they have no counterpart for our favorite chicken oil.

Chicken inato at Jo's

Other dishes available on their menu include camaron rebosado, pansit macau and an array of meat and stir-fried vegetable dishes. Cap off your meal with one of their fresh fruit shakes and desserts. If avocado or buko flavor is not available, try their pineapple-carrot shake. It ain't bad at all.

Location: Silliman Ave.; across Silliman University, near Rizal Blvd
Price starts: PHP 99
Operating Hours: 9:00 AM to 9:30 PM

Budbod and Puto Maya

The stars of every DumagueteƱo's breakfast table. A stretch of small kiosks in Dumaguete Public Market, locally called as painitan, comes alive early in the morning with locals kick starting their day with this energy-giving delight.

Budbod is Dumaguete's version of suman — a Filipino rice cake often wrapped in banana leaves. It comes in different varieties; budbod kabog, basically the plain or regular flavor; budbod tsokolate, the native choco-flavored variety and if mangoes are in season, budbod mangga becomes available. Tastes best when paired with a hot native chocolate drink.

Budbod tsokolate

Another star-of-the-table not just in Dumaguete but in different regions of the country, puto maya makes everyone's day in the city. Like budbod, the mild sweetness of the steamed glutinous rice is best paired with a cup of hot tablea tsokolate (cacao chocolate). Drink it or enjoy it by drizzling your sticky breakfast kakanin.

Puto maya drizzled with tablea tsokolate
 Puto maya drizzled with tablea tsokolate

On top of these truly local delicacies, Dumaguete's painitan also serves typical breakfasts like fried egg, pan de sal, pansit and coffee.

Location: Dumaguete Public Market
Price starts: PHP 10
Operating Hours: Not sure. But budbod and puto maya are best enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon

Rizal Boulevard's Tempura

When evening falls, a piece of Rizal Boulevard turns into a street food hub. Locals set up their food stands when the sun starts to set at the spot that functions as a parking space in the morning until late afternoon. They serve tempura, seafood balls and balut among others. Dumaguete's tempura is not the Japanese's deep-fried shrimp or vegetable we knew. It is made of battered seafood and/or vegetable and its texture when deep-fried is closer to that of a kikiam.

Rizal Boulevard at night

Enjoy this guilty pleasure with different types of sauces served on the small tables put up along the boulevard. Other locals sell packed hard-boiled quail eggs, nilagang mani and the irresistible green mango with bagoong.

Location: Rizal Blvd.; at the iconic "I Love Dumaguete" standee, near Silliman University
Price starts: PHP 3
Operating hours: Late afternoon until hours after midnight

READ ALSO: Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete: Reliving History, Satisfying the Tummy

Hayahay Treehouse Bar & Viewdeck 

Capping off a night in the city? Hayahay is the place to be!

Hayahay means "feel at ease" in local tongue or "chillax" in the urban dict. Located at the outskirts of downtown Dumaguete and facing the seaside, Hayahay offers not just good food but a perfect ambiance for barkadas sharing the night with a booze. Select from a wide variety of local and imported beers, wines and other concoctions and enjoy them al fresco while local singers perform live on stage.

Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Viewdeck

Hayahay and it's adjacent and apparent sister bar, Lab-as, are a favorite among local and foreign tourists alike. Seafood specialties that are "cooked to perfection", as reviews suggest, and the chill-out music that enlivens the night make Hayahay a popular hang-out. Go on a Wednesday night if your up for some reggae beat (too bad we are scheduled to fly back on a Tuesday).

Location: Flores Ave., Escano Beach, Dumaguete City
Price starts: PHP 70 (Local beers)
Operating Hours: Not sure of it, but we're up there until 12:00 MN on a Saturday.

Food Net

We discovered Food Net when we asked a tricycle driver to take us to a "cheap yet local" diner just around downtown. How the canteen-style eatery satisfied the criteria was that their food prices were meant to serve the students around the so-called University City, thus pocket-friendly.

Food Net serves countless food selections from Filipino viands that we often order in a carinderia, silog meals, burgers, sandwiches and pasta. Who would not be tempted to spoil their diet if a cup of rice costs PHP 5 only while a tall glass of lemonade that usually costs PHP 30 in Manila sells for only PHP 10 here? And, despite the rock-bottom costs, food quality and coziness of the place were not compromised though it's not air-conditioned.

Budget set meal at Food Net

Good food, good ambiance, BEST price! Should you be running out of budget while your tummy runs wild, Food Net will be your saving grace.

Food Net's pork humba

Location: I saw two Food Net branches, one across Silliman University and the other along Sta. Catalina St. across Mifune Japanese Restaurant.
Price starts: PHP 25 (Viands)
Operating Hours: Branch in Sta. Catalina St. is up until 11:00 p.m.

Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries

With their sweet specialties, sans rival and silvanas, the unrivaled coffee shop stays true to its name by being the hub for the best pasalubong from Dumaguete.

Sans rival is a layered dessert where each layer of buttercream is topped with meringue and chopped cashew nuts. I found it not ideal though, bringing home this mouth-watering cake as it might melt and get deformed while on the way; but it's just my assumption, not sure if it really might happen.

Sans rival and silvanas menu

Silvanas, on the other hand, are soft, disc-shaped cookies made up of buttercream sandwiched between cashew-meringue wafers. The melts-in-your-mouth goodness of these golden cookies comes in buttercream and chocolate flavors. My wife recommends the original buttercream variant pointing that it was more tasteful than its chocolate counterpart. Plus, it's cheaper. Choco-flavored silvanas costs PHP 180 for a pack of 10 while buttercream costs only PHP 140. But it doesn't hurt to try both.

Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries store in Dumaguete

Location: Adjacent Sans Rival Bistro, the extension of the good old pastry shop along Rizal Blvd., that serves breakfast, meat and seafood specialties.
Price starts: PHP 100
Operating Hours: Opens at 8:00 a.m.

There you go with six from the endless list of "where and what to eat in Dumaguete". Mangaon ta!

READ ALSO: Dumaguete City: Trip Guide and 5-Day Itinerary

Disclosure: I'm not in any way connected with business entities mentioned in this blog post. All views and opinions expressed are inspired by my own experience.


DJ Rivera is an I.T. professional, entrepreneur, travel blogger, writer and the online publisher of based in Rizal province, Philippines. Click here to know more.

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