Manila,  Philippines

Mercato Centrale: Eating on the Sidewalk for a Change

I’ve been hearing so many good things about Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global City. My sisters have been bugging me to go there for weeks and weeks. So finally, despite my splitting headache last night, we drove to Fort to check it out.

So here we go, Mercato. It’s basically a huge tent with gazillions of food concessionaires. Trust me, it’s a market out there — the place was packed. When you see how many cars are parked on the sides of the streets, it’s hard to imagine how they fit inside that tent. But once you take a peek inside, you’ll get it. Everyone’s a walking sardine. It’s a Saturday night and there are groups of friends, families and couples walking around and looking for something new to their tongues.

So here are our picks:

Baby back ribs and rice for P100. Food rating: 8.5/10. Sister really enjoyed this one (although I wasn’t able to taste it).

Liempo for P100. Food rating 7/10. It was just normal, nothing entirely new. Although it’ll fill your tummy.
Chicken isaw and pork isaw for P30 each. Both are my favorite, but wouldn’t go all the way to Fort to buy this one again in the future. The chicken isaw wasn’t tostado so it was still a bit slimy! 6/10. Chicharon bulaklak for P100. 5/10. I expected more for the high price.

Donut-Burger for P100. If it’s a burger with a donut or a donut with a burger — we’re not entirely sure, but this is something new. We just didn’t know what face to make after tasting it. Imagine Krispy Kreme instead of a bun with your cheeseburger. So… 6/10 for its weirdness. I think my sister was pretty kind with that rating. Hehe.

We also got some fresh juices — green and ripe mango — that were priced at P50 for medium and P70 for large. That, I gotta give a 9/10.

So here’s the whole package, eaten on the side street. We couldn’t take the heat (and the smell of smoke) inside the tent so we’d rather sit on the cement under the street light.

Some tips for anyone planning to go there:

  1. Wear something super comfy. It’s danged hot and sticky inside, so try not to go in party clothes. Guys, long sleeves isn’t a good idea.
  2. Prepare to sweat a bit. The whole time you’re looking for something to buy, you’ll be elbow-to-elbow with everybody else, so at the end of the night, it’s not just gonna be your sweat on your arms. :p
  3. Prepare to smell like smoke all night long. Don’t “pass by” Mercato on your way to a party if you plan to go at night. Unless you want party with the smell of BBQ smoke on your hair.
  4. Bring a mat! Ok, this is just an idea my sisters and I came up with. It’s not really ideal to eat inside the tent with all the heat and people in there. So if you feel like being a “roughie”, bring a mat so you can picnic on the sidewalk like we did.
Overall, it was an okay experience. I expected better with all the buzz around it. I probably won’t crave for the food we ate and pull you to go visit the place again with me, but it’s worth a try.
Mercato Centrale is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00pm to 3:00am, and Sundays from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Photos taken by Nica Sioson.

Vida is a restless, universe-loving, forever-child with a very short attention span. She is mostly enthusiastic about travel, adventure, technology, fitness, and lately, life hacks. Most of her days are spent on tech partnerships in a telco, and most nights practicing capoeira (or yoga, or boxing, or trying some other unheard of art of movement). She likes experiments, little projects, and writes too, sometimes, at vidasioson.com. And if you're interested, sh... Hey, look, a flower!

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