MANILA, Philippines – If you’ve ever passed by D’Mall at Station 2 in Boracay, you might remember the island’s long-time institution Jammers. As a child in the early 2000s, I vaguely remember eating at the al fresco beach diner with my relatives, ravenous for a cheeseburger and fries after a swim. From my limited memory, I remember it being a casual and convenient joint right across the sea, serving American-style grub.
Through the years, Jammers grew to be an OG staple among Boracay tourists and locals, known for its burgers, chili cheese fries, and 24/7 service. Fast forward two decades later, and Jammers – like many other Boracay favorites – became vulnerable to closing down due to Boracay’s 2018 rehabilitation closure and the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Jammers was at risk of permanent closure, a well-known restauranteur from Metro Manila took the brand under her experienced wing during the pandemic. Bianca Araneta-Elizalde, owner of health-focused organic restaurant The Wholesome Table, not only saw “potential” in the brand, but owed it to her late friend Miguel, an American who founded Jammers in 2002, to keep the brand alive. For Bianca, revamping the restaurant was her own way of paying tribute to a dear friend.
From then to now
Jammers opened in 2002 along the main beach of D’Mall, Station 2. The humble diner was shortly followed by D’Mall neighbor and popular Italian restaurant Aria, which was owned by Miguel’s friend and Bianca’s husband Juan. Miguel had lived in Boracay for many years, and was described by Bianca as a “wonderful character” who became “such a fixture on the island.”
“We would spend many good days and nights sharing stories over the years with him. Sadly, he passed away several years ago. We miss seeing him there,” Bianca told Rappler.
Missing Miguel was one of the main reasons Bianca decided to take over the brand when it was offered to her during the pandemic. “Because we had already lost Miguel, I knew that if this was purchased by someone else, we would possibly lose Jammers too,” she said.
“It was already a well-known establishment on the island so I was inspired to revive it and bring it to 2023 with a whole new look and menu that paid homage to what Miguel had started,” Bianca added. Most of her work was done – Jammers was already situated in Boracay’s best and busiest location: the beachfront of D’Mall, which is the center of activity in Boracay.
“All I needed to do was come out with a good menu, and create a nice-looking space with great ambiance, and it would be a hit. I was confident in my team so I knew it would be worth it!”
Life’s a beach
What was previously an unassuming, no-frills diner is now a beautiful and breezy beach shack, with a refined ambiance that’s thankfully not too hectic, considering that it’s in D’Mall. The new Jammers just opened late 2022.
When renovating the space, Bianca was inspired by the tropics, poring over images of Hawaii and other exotic locales. She thought of what would compliment Boracay best, so she went for the “very organic look” of a weathered, casual beach shack with a thatched roof and distressed wood, with natural elements like plants, abaca, and rattan woven in.
On the second level, it’s hard to miss the star decor – a real palm tree inserted in the middle of a wooden communal table, which is also a signature of The Wholesome Table.
“I made sure that the whole look compliments the brand as well. We also redid the logo and branding to suit the theme. I chose muted colors and went for a retro look, reminiscent of cool surf brands of the ’80s and ’90s. I wanted it to look approachable, cool, and fresh, just like our space,” Bianca said.
The space comfortably fits barkada diners, but if you’re dining solo or with a partner, the outdoor balcony seating is perfect, especially since it overlooks the stellar views of Boracay’s sunsets.
Come for the vibes, stay for the food
Jammers patrons, take note: you won’t find the original recipes here anymore. What Bianca’s team did was to take the dishes Jammers was originally known for (burgers, chili dogs, fish burger, tacos) and “recreate them to their standards.” Bianca shared that she was heavily inspired by Hawaii and, of course, Miguel, during the R&D stage.
“For some strange reason, I always imagined Miguel to be from there even if I knew he was a New Yorker. He always seemed to give off that cool Hawaiian vibe. When I decided early it was going to look tropical and very beach-y, my head chef and I worked on a menu to complement the experience I wanted our customers to have,” Bianca said.
Jammer’s new menu offers a variety of island cuisines, like huli huli chicken, Cubanos, Jamaican jerk, carne asadas, poke bowls and acai, barbecue, and “lots of coconut and pineapples,” Bianca said. New seafood dishes were also recently added to the menu to appease the seafood-loving crowd of Boracay. There’s something for everyone at Jammers – even the picky kids!
When I visited during Labor Day Weekend, I was initially expecting a diner-inspired menu but was pleasantly surprised to see a diverse array of hearty mains, starters, sandwiches, all-day breakfasts, dessert, and beverages. Jammers’ head chef served us a few signature dishes from their summer menu.
Let’s start with my favorites: first, the Horchata French Toast (P290). I’m not a big sweet tooth, but this massive plate of thick, soft slices of sweet potato loaf topped with horchata whipped cream, cinnamon, torched banana slices, cashew nuts, and maple syrup was a party in my mouth.
As a fan of both horchata and French toast, this was a winner, considering that it wasn’t overly sweet or nakakaumay either. The bread and whipped cream were very light, so the nuts and bananas provided a welcome textural contrast. Of course, the bananas, cinnamon, and maple syrup jived really well.
Craving a garlic rice fix, we were happy to see a silog meal on our table. Jammers’ Homemade Corned Beef (P520) features generous slices of homemade corned beef that’s just the right amount of fatty, paired with garlic fried rice and your choice of eggs (sunny-side-up for me)! The flavor was there, but my tastebuds were looking for a pinch more of salt, and maybe a side of dijon or horseradish mustard. Overall, it was a satisfying rice dish. You can also have it with roasted potatoes instead at P570.
We also enjoyed the Hickory BBQ Chicken (P770) that’s good for two, featuring a half-chicken cooked in BBQ sauce, with potato salad and grilled corn on the cob on the side. The pieces of chicken were moist, well-cooked, and saucy, doused in an addictive, sticky hickory smoked BBQ sauce that’s sweet, savory, and a tad tangy. The corn was my favorite partner to the dish. There was also an extra serving of BBQ sauce, which I appreciated and slathered on top of the chicken. No such thing as too much!
In line with the current burger trend, Jammers also has a Smashed Burger (P390) on the menu, stacking 100% double beef patties, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and secret sauce inside a fluffy, buttery brioche bun. It was a good, simple burger to satiate a craving, but I was looking for more umami, and perhaps the patties could’ve been a bit more crisper and juicier.
Last on the list was the Reuben Sandwich (P540) with homemade corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheddar cheese inside. The corned beef slices were fine with rice, but in the sandwich, they became a bit tough and dry, and the cheddar cheese was unfortunately not melted enough. I was also hoping for the sauerkraut to be a bit punchier, and the bread to be less firm.
The dessert didn’t disappoint, though! I had the Pineapple Whip (P150), a dairy-free soft-serve sorbet made from fresh pineapple and coconut milk. It was the perfect cap-off to a heavy lunch; it was refreshingly light, zingy, a tad sweet, and smooth on the tongue.
The beverage menu had so many options to choose from: limeades, cocktails, milkshakes, smoothies, kombucha, beer, iced tea, coffee, and more. We ended up with the thick Strawberry Mango (P290) smoothie – a tart delight – and the indulgent Vanilla Milkshake (P210), which tasted like a dessert in itself made with vanilla ice cream, whole milk, whipped cream, and vanilla extract.
Verdict? I’ll be looking forward to visiting Jammers a second (or third) time, just to try out the rest of the menu and order my top three dishes again, plus the pineapple whip. Aside from enjoying well-made food, the restaurant’s relaxed ambiance adds to the overall beach-happy experience. (A reminder that a budget should be allotted, because the prices aren’t exactly the most affordable for everyday meals).
“It’s the sort of place we want our customers to want to keep coming back to. It’s chill, vibrant, and aesthetically beautiful. I am hoping it becomes one of the must-visits of many when visiting Boracay,” Bianca said. Regarding Jammers’ growth, Bianca said that there are plans to expand the brand to other beach destinations in the country.
Despite being inspired by The Wholesome Table’s charm, the revamped Jammers stands independently and proudly as its own new beach-centric brand, offering a menu of different flavors, tailor-fit for the well-loved Boracay Island experience. Strengthened by one’s love for a dear friend, Jammers is here to stay. – Rappler.com
Jammers Beach Shack is located in D’Mall Boracay, Station 2. It is open from 9 am to 2 am on weekdays, and until 4 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.