Note: This is an old post. Last updated in 2013.

Dining is a big part of travel. Food is an essential part of any destination. The same holds true for El Nido.

Although this humble town tucked in the northern tip of Palawan does not have a distinct, world-famous cuisine, a trip here is not complete without trying its many restaurants — something I failed to do during my first visit. My equally wanting wallet at the time could only spew enough money for bread for breakfast and street barbeque for dinner. Not complaining, but still.

Some random tourists having dinner in El Nido
Some random tourists having dinner in El Nido

This time around, back with a vengeance and a little bit more cash, I was more confident to sample what some of the most frequented restaurants here had to offer other than San Miguel Beer. As with many other beach destinations, seafood is the town specialty. And although at one point I felt like I was starting to grow scales and fins, I never felt awfully fed up with the ocean bounty. (After all, I had once dreamed of becoming a mermaid merman until Ursula and Jaws crushed that dream.) The wide variety of dishes that each establishment served made sure I would never reach the seafood quota I am allowed for this lifetime.

Here are six of the most popular restaurants in town that I was able to try. (Sorry for the horrible photos.)

1. Squidos

Even without prior knowledge, this restaurant is not easy to ignore. The queue snaking in front of it at meal time even during off-season will tell you something’s up. What’s up is this: fresh seafood goodness in humongous serving. Their most sought-after dishes? Stuffed squid (duh?) and the mixed seafood platter. Food takes a while to be prepared but it was worth all the wait.

Fruits de Mer Curry aka Mixed Seafood Curry (P350). It doesn't look appetizing in this photo, but it was really tasty. Big, big serving, too.
Fruits de Mer Curry aka Mixed Seafood Curry (P350). It doesn’t look appetizing in this photo, but it was really tasty. Big, big serving, too.
Stuffed squid (170). Pretty ordinary if you ask me.
Stuffed squid (170). Pretty ordinary if you ask me.

2. The Alternative (Closed)

Another not-to-be-missed dining experience in El Nido happens at the Alternative. The creative presentation of Filipino fusion and pan-Asian foods coupled with the breathtaking view of Bacuit Bay makes mealtime here something to look forward to. Ask to be assigned at their so-called “nests,” rounded dining areas that are perched just above the beach! Do try their Banana Heart Curry and Chef’s Special.

Banana Heart Curry. Shredded banana heart blossoms with bell pepper, tomato and onion, simmered in spicy coconut cream with curry (P189)
Banana Heart Curry. Shredded banana heart blossoms with bell pepper, tomato and onion, simmered in spicy coconut cream with curry (P189)
Spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and ham (P189)
Spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and ham (P189)
Spicy Potato Salad simmered in coconut milk (P219)
Spicy Potato Salad simmered in coconut milk (P219)

3. El Nido Corner

The food is good, but most people flock at this restaurant for the view. Located at the eastern end of the town proper’s beachfront, El Nido Corner offers a great view of nearby Cadlao Island and its peak, the tallest mountain in El Nido. Want the freshest? Ask for the Catch of the Day! Another must try is the Fish in butter and herbs, a simple dish that won me over completely. We didn’t know what kind of fish it was but we didn’t care because it just tasted so good. The meat was soft and each bite was flavorful. In  minutes, the fish was gone.

Service is excellent; thanks to its always smiling staff.

Fish with butter and herbs
Butter Garlic Shrimps. So fresh and flavorful!
Butter Garlic Shrimps. So fresh and flavorful!

4. Bacuit Grill Bar and Restaurant

Situated just beside El Nido Corner, Bacuit Grill Bar and Restaurant is an open-air dining place perfect for those who wish to see the sunset at the bay. Its wooden columns and chairs, bamboo ceiling, and nipa walls and roofs provide that tropical beach ambiance. The sound of the waves rolling made our stay here more relaxing. And the food we tried was great! We had a whole crab in sweet and sour sauce and it was very satisfying.

Crab in Sweet and Sour Sauce (P190)

5. Habibi Restaurant and Shisha Cafe

We came to Habibi not for the food but for the flavored shisha. But the banana pancake was also something that we did not regret ordering. And the chocolate pancake too. It’s a big plateful so be nice and share. That was the only food we tried because, again, we were there for the shisha.

Isa and Josiah sharing a conversation over alcohol
Isa and Josiah sharing a conversation over alcohol
Banana Pancake
Banana Pancake

6. Kape Pukka

Scouting for a good place to have breakfast at, we spotted the curious-looking Kape Pukka along Hama Street. We had a plate of continental breakfast, typical. There’s nothing much to be said, to be honest, except that it took them quite a while to prepare our meals. And oh, they also serve Mexican fajitas and Mexican wraps for P80-P100.

Continental breakfast
Continental breakfast
Kape Pukka facade
Kape Pukka facade

Overall, restaurants fostering distinct vibes win in El Nido. Whether it’s the unique arrangement, a spectacular view, or the character-filled interiors, the best dining places in El Nido are those that go beyond good food and adds a little something to the experience.

I have yet to try Art Cafe, Sea Slugs, Balay Tubay, and Blue Azul. Maybe on my next trip!

I’ll be creating a separate list of budget-friendly restaurants in El Nido, too!

How to get to El Nido: From Puerto Princesa airport, take a trike to San Jose terminal and take a bus or van to El Nido. Travel time is five to six hours. See more information here –> How to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa.

EL NIDO GUIDE


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Yoshke Dimen

Storyteller at Yoshke.com
Yoshke is a part-time digital marketing consultant, part-time travel blogger, and full-time dreamer. He has three passions in life: social media, travel, and --- wait for it --- world peace. Yoshke has won 3 PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS and received 9 nominations. Learn more about his personal journeys at Yoshke.com.
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Comments

  1. Jack says:

    Don’t forget Gandhis Revenge in Corong Corong. British Indian inspired cafe with 22 classic favorites to choose from. Not expensive and although a little way from town proper well worth the trip. Deserves to be in top five in El Nido for sure!

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Jack. This post is 5 years old. At the time, there wasn’t much happening in the Corong-corong area. :P

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