One-Third Pounder with Potato Wedges
My usual order here is the One Third Pounder, no cheese -- gotta watch the calories, and also because I usually want to enjoy the beef without diluting its flavor. Normally this burger's enough to fill me up, so I don't even have to order sides unless I'm really starving. BBB's burgers are thick, juicy, have the crumbly texture of an all-beef patty, and because they're grilled, have a lightly smoky flavor. You may have to wait a bit for your burger on a busy day, because they grill each order fresh; me, I consider the wait worth it!
Taking Cat here for the first time -- she was in Davao when BBB opened -- we got the One Third Pounder, a side of Potato Wedges, and the Chicken Parmigiana rice meal. We loved the potato wedges, nice thick slices of potato, skin on, crisp outside and perfectly cooked through inside. Cat says if she can't have mashed potato, her fave potato dish, she'll gladly settle for this any time. Me, I think my next order of burger will have to include this. There goes the calorie count! We also liked the Chicken Parmigiana, the sauce was nice and savory, and there's a generous topping of melted cheese on top. I'm a sucker for melted cheese on rice, so again this dish is a winner for me.
Is a bigger burger really better? For me it depends on what you made it bigger with. Now, if you're making that burger bigger with more real, high quality beef, then yes, a bigger burger definitely makes me happier! If Pergola Mall were on my way home from work I'd probably be eating here more often.
Big Better Burger is an up-and-coming chain with 10 branches already throughout Metro Manila, the Pergola Mall branch being their 8th. The chain is owned and operated by the Teotico family, and interestingly enough is totally home-grown--it's not a US franchise at all. Eric Teotico, who loves to cook, came up with the idea of opening a burger chain based on his own recipes. Learning this story, I'm motivated to patronize BBB even more -- I like it when my peso goes to a local entrepreneur instead of a foreign corporation, and my palate tells me I'm getting value for my money.
Still, if you're coming to Big Better Burger for the first time, you should be here for the burgers. Yes, they're that good. BBB's patties compare very well with the product of a classic Filipino chain we who're old enough to like retro stuff know well, but because it's grilled I'll have to consider BBB's even better.
First impressions on entering: the place will only sit about a dozen or so people at a time, but the interior is very tastefully done in bright pueblo colors; there's Spanish guitar music on, and the only occupied table (it was early for dinner) was occupied by an expat. He looked happy with his burrito, so I got one too. Surprise! My Burger Burrito had a good proportion of meat to rice, wrapped in a nice fresh tortilla, and the flavors were bright and right. The cook, whoever he or she was, knew enough not to hold back on the cumin and other spices, so the burrito's contents had a really nice aroma. This was served with a side of sour cream for dipping and some fresh onion and tomato salsa. I had to take Cathy here! I also got to meet one of the proprietors, Dia Velazquez, so we scheduled a shoot with her.
I found another hidden treasure of BF Homes earlier this month when, on impulse, I decided to eat at Mexan one evening I felt too lazy to cook. This little restaurant is tucked away on the side of The Pergola Mall facing the Ruins bazaar, a side I rarely go to, and would've slipped beneath my radar if not for the placard they'd put at the mall's front entrance.
Chili Con Carne
The best dish of the lot for both Cat and me, however, was the Buffalo Wings. It's the kind of dish you dig into with your fingers, gnaw on the bones for as long as you can still get some flavor from them, then lick your fingers afterward. Crunchy even when we ate it a little cold (in between the interview) and served with a sour-cream dip instead of the usual blue cheese or Cajun sauce, the wings had just the right blend of sweetness, a mild heat, with the tanginess of the sour cream rounding out the flavors. It will keep you coming back for more.
I had to buy a take-home pack for my dad -- it made a good excuse to have a few more! Also, the order is quite big; while on the menu it's describes as five pieces, Joanne says this is based on the number of wings that go into each order. Since they halve each wing, an order comes to ten pieces -- if you're having this as appetizer, it's good for a group of three or four. We had our food with iced tea, but for those who want it, there's also good old San Mig beer, Corona beer from Mexico, sodas, margaritas, zombies, and of course, tequila shots available.
On our third visit, owners Dia Velazquez, Joanne Sta. Maria and Tess Vinluan were there to greet us and give us a sampling of their bestsellers. We got to try the Chili con Carne, Beef Burrito, and Buffalo Wings. The burrito was a known quantity - I'd had it before, and I knew I'd always have one when I eat here. It's flavorful and filling, but my personal favorite remains the Burger Burrito -- also beef, but maybe the ground meat or the way they cook it makes it taste even meatier. The Chili con Carne was exactly that -- hot! Just the way I like it! Again, I liked the fact that they didn't stint with the spices, and again, the proportion of meat to beans was just right. And did I say it was hot?
The buffalo wings got added to the Mexican lineup, Dia says, when they were talking to the mall management. Taking the suggestion of combining the concepts instead of getting a separate stall for the wings, they quickly found the wings to be a bestseller too, along with their burritos, and soft tacos. The popularity of the latter two has led to additional sizes, junior burritos and large tacos.
Perhaps the best validation for Mexan's taste is the number of expats who've been coming back as repeat customers. "There was this American who ate here one day and he kept whispering to his Filipina wife. It turned out he was a Texan, and he liked the food so much he wanted to order another!"
Perhaps, we have The Pergola Mall to thank for for offering them a bigger space than their initial plan for a just a food stall. It's given the entrepreneurial moms the creative space to come up with their culinary best.
There are no Mexicans, or even Texans, involved in this restaurant at all. Instead, Mexan is the brainchild of Dia and Joanne -- credit for the name goes to Dia’s son Migs -- who, along with Tess, share the responsibilities of running the restaurant, developing recipes and taste-testing, with one another. Although they only opened at The Pergola Mall last April, they've been doing Mexican food for six years, with a food stall in La Salle Zobel. "We were a hit with the kids, because the way we cook is we're always thinking we're doing this for our own families," says Joanne. "We developed our recipes together, researching recipes then testing and combining until we got what we wanted. Being moms, we knew what kids wanted."
Tess Vinluan, Dia Velasquez, Joanne Sta. Maria
I'm looking forward to Armageddon. No, I'm not wishing for the world to end; I'm hankering for Buffalo's Wings N' Things' newest offering, the Armageddon sauce for their famous Buffalo Wings.
As a spice addict, I'm always looking for that next delightful blast of heat on the palate. I got it at Buffalo's Wings N' Things, a new restaurant along Aguirre that specializes in -- what else, spicy buffalo wings. Said to have been developed at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York -- hence the name -- buffalo wings have become an icon of American casual dining. Buffalo's Wings N' Things has gotten its spicy wings recipe down to a T, so it was a surprise to me that this is a homegrown concept, not a franchise of an American chain.
Half-pound Buffalo wings with New York's finest sauce
Cat and I shared a Half Pound of Buffalo Wings tossed in their New York's Finest Sauce, a fiery orange Cajun-style sauce made with cayenne and butter. One sniff, and I almost forgot to photograph it! The chicken tasted exactly as good as it looked and smelled; I suspect even without the sauce it would've been good, but with the sauce I think I finished my share in less than two minutes. And, oh yeah, this is one place where you won't get far with knife and fork; if you want to eat spicy wings properly, you really should use fingers.
Buffalo's Mini Cheeseburnger
We also tried the Buffalo Cheeseburger Minis, a set of three small cheeseburgers meant for kiddie appetites. One bite and I knew the patties had been made with American beef -- there's a subtle but still definitely detectable difference in taste. Definitely something for the avowed carnivore. The minis were nice to photograph, but my stomach was growling, 'Why didn't you order the big one?'
So what's Armageddon got to do with all this? In addition to their already hot New York's Finest sauce, Buffalo's Wings N' Things has introduced two even hotter sauces; with some customers demanding even more heat, owner Sonny Ong concocted the Armageddon, supposedly the ultimate in Cajun witchcraft. Just thinking about it has got me bewitched already. I wants some!