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MANILA, Philippines – The post-pandemic world has opened up, and so has our local F&B industry! 2023 saw the opening of many new restaurants, international chains, and revivals, but unfortunately, just like in 2021 and 2022, we also bid goodbye to many beloved names.
Some well-loved establishments promised a revamped concept in-the-making or a switch to a different location, while others decided it was sadly the time to close their doors for good.
Here’s a tribute to the names we’ll miss – and here’s to hoping that comebacks will be made one day!
On November 17, award-winning fine dining Japanese omakase Mecha Uma announced its December 2023 closure after nine years of service.
The Moment Group restaurant helmed by Chef Bruce Ricketts was known to be the “the first chef’s counter offering an innovative, seasonal omakase experience.”
However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel – Ricketts and his team are set to open a new concept in mid-2024 called Iai Manila, an “innovative sushi kappo” and chef’s counter in Metro Manila.
Mecha Uma opened in 2014 at RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 25th Street, Taguig City under Chef Ricketts, who is also behind Parañaque gem Sensei Sushi, Japanese fusion resto Ooma, and Mexican joint La Chinesca.
Neighborhood favorite Granville Coffee permanently closed its doors on November 20 after three years of service.
The well-loved cozy cafés unfortunately succumbed to “rising operational costs and an unexpected increase in rent from the landlord,” the owners said. Granville’s first and only branch, which opened “during the challenging times of the pandemic,” became a “safe haven for the coffee-loving community” in the area.
Aside from their wide range of coffee beverages, Granville San Juan also served craft beer and comfort food. The coffee shop was also a pet-friendly establishment, as seen in their adorable documentation of furry friends via their Puppers of Granville account.
Shangri-La Plaza’s Green Pastures announced the end of its final shift on May 31, after a decade of service.
The farm-to-table restaurant founded by Chef Robby Goco of Cyma fame served organic and healthy dishes inspired by a variety of cuisines – Filipino, Chinese, Korean, and Italian – that highlighted locally-sourced, fresh ingredients, with a focus on delivering “Good Food, Real Good.” An Instagram post said that Chef Goco “decided to take a different path,” which leads the team to “seek a new home.”
The restaurant first opened in Shangri-La Plaza in 2013. Two years later, they opened a second branch on Valentine’s Day at the third floor of Eastwood Mall, but the branch closed down in May 2018. They also opened a branch at Net Park, Fifth Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, which has also closed down.
Brotzeit and Via Mare
Fellow Shangri-La Plaza institutions – German resto-bar Brotzeit and Filipino resto Via Mare – also closed down their iconic mall branches on April 30.
Brotzeit bid its first branch’s patrons an “auf wiedersehen,” which means “we will see you again.” The first Manila branch was founded in 2013, located on the ground floor of the Mandaluyong City mall’s main wing, with an outdoor seating area by the main road.
Brotzeit, which was originally from Singapore, is known for their German beers on tap and mix of Austrian, Swiss, and German cuisines, with a highlight on meats, sausages, bar chow, and a chill, laid-back ambiance perfect for after-work drinks or weekend get-togethers.
The brand said that a new “Brotzeit Ortigas” will be coming soon; in the meantime, patrons can visit Brotzeit’s Bonifacio Global City and Alabang West Parade branches.
Its Shangri-La Plaza ground floor neighbor, homegrown café Via Mare, also bid its patrons goodbye on April 30, after many years of serving its signature puto bumbong, bibingka, pancit luglog, palitaw, and other Filipino comfort staples.
“Our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for spending time with us. Despite sad news such as this, they do say: ‘When one door closes, another one opens,’” Via Mare added, reminding patrons that they can still visit Via Mare’s nearby branches in Capitol Commons, Power Plant Mall, Greenbelt 1, Landmark Makati, and Ayala North Exchange.
Via Mare was founded by restaurateur Glenda Rosales Barretto in 1975. She and her team opened Via Mare’s first branch in Legaspi, Makati City as a “fine dining seafood restaurant,” hence the name “Via Mare,” which translates to “way of the sea” in Latin.
Soon after, Via Mare established its famous catering arm. Through the years, Via Mare has catered lavish dinners for international celebrities, heads of state, Philippine presidents, and other dignitaries, as well as grand weddings for affluent families.
Fun fact: Via Mare also hosted dinners for the 1995 Miss Universe pageant in Manila, the papal visit of then Pope John Paul II, the 1996 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, the gala of the Philippine-run of West End’s Miss Saigon, the 2007 ASEAN Summit in Cebu, and other historical milestones.
The Kapitolyo branch was the last standing Metro Manila branch of the Bacolod-based coffee shop. Its other branches in Cubao and Mandaluyong had closed prior. As of now, Cab’s products are available at Café Bobs, Bacolod City.
Aside from the popular napoleones in different flavors, Cab Café was also known for serving other pastries such as Pandan Mamon, Full Moon Yema Cake, Mango Cheesecake, Strawberry Pavlova, freshly-baked cookies, and more.
The coffee shop was owned by Negrense Mark Magalona, who comes from the family that built and managed Bacolod City’s Café Bob’s, a homegrown restaurant that also serves homemade pastries like cheesecakes and pavlovas similar to those sold at the Kapitolyo spot.
Pan de Amerikana
In June, the iconic “upside down” Pan de Amerikana bakeshop and restaurant along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City closed its doors for good, after more than a decade of patronage.
The quirky branch is known for its wacky, countryside-themed exteriors – an upside-down house that even has a car parked from the ceiling. Chairs, tables, and plants can also be found dangling from the ceiling inside, just over the heads of dining patrons.
Pan de Amerikana’s origins started with baker and architect Dionisio Salvador Sr., who baked and sold wheat pandesal mostly to Americans in the 1950s. It wasn’t until 2005 that his son, Jundio, would expand the bakery into a restaurant in Marikina. In 2010, the Katipunan branch opened its doors.
Pan de Amerikana in Marikina remains open to serve the famous wheat pandesal and giant ensaymada, among other baked goods and Filipino comfort food. The homey garden restaurant, which also serves as an events place, is particularly popular among birthday celebrants looking to do photoshoots. It is also home to the Eugene Torre Chess Museum, named after the living chess legend and first Filipino and Asian to gain the title of Grandmaster.
In August, Cebu-based lechon restaurant Zubuchon said it “was time to move on” from its Manila outposts and commissary, announcing its Manila-wide closure after 14 years in the city.
This included Zubuchon’s Southmall, Centris, The Rise, and SM Megamall branches. Zubuchon’s Cebu branches are still open, with the management hoping “to continue expanding there.”
Zubuchon’s management said that the “pandemic, extremely disruptive ASF/Swine Flu pandemic, absurd commodity prices, and other issues” made them “rethink [the] desire to invest in any further expansion in Manila.”
Zubuchon is known for its signature Cebu lechon, made with “local ingredients whenever possible” such as natural sea salt, native coconut vinegar, freshly squeezed coconut milk, millet, rice, seafood, and backyard-raised pigs. Its lechon is made without any MSG, food coloring, or chemical preservatives.
The name comes from “Zubu,” which is how 16th century maps would refer to the island of Cebu, combined with “chon” from lechon.
In April, popular nightlife spot The Bowery in Bonifacio Global City permanently signed off after nine years.
The New York-style resto and cocktail bar “wasn’t saying goodbye,” but rather a “see you soon,” which sounds like a new concept by the same group may be in the works soon.
The “snug, contemporary American comfort food restaurant” was inspired by the American bistro pub concept and New York’s popular neighborhood. It was founded in 2014 by Chef Cuit Kaufman and his team, who are also behind Borough, Nolita, and LES Bagels.
The Bowery was known for its laidback nightlife ambiance, all-day breakfast menu, sandwiches, bar chow, handcrafted happy hour cocktails, and late hours. It was located at the ground floor of Rizal Dr., corner 29th street, Rizal Drive, Taguig City.
The first OG Philippine branch of Japanese sizzling meat chain Pepper Lunch closed down in Power Plant Mall, Makati City in July.
Pepper Lunch’s branch at the lower ground floor of the mall announced the news “with a heavy heart,” having to say goodbye to mall patrons after 15 years of service.
Pepper Lunch is is the original “do-it-yourself, fast-steak” restaurant concept that originated from Japan. They are known for serving different kinds of raw meats and seafood on a sizzling cast-iron plate with “pepper rice” at the center and veggies on top. The dining experience involves rapidly mixing everything together yourself at your table, while adding your choice of signature sauces and seasonings.
In January, one of Poblacion’s famous taco joints, Taco-Mata, closed down after three years.
Taco-Mata’s owners, husband Arthur Dancel and wife Arra Dancel, announced the closure until they get back to Manila. The overseas couple said that they recently had “their hands full,” raising their newborn baby boy Santino.
The popular night hangout spot was known for its unique, New York-inspired soft tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, and sides. Taco-Mata did not call itself “traditional Mexican food” – they served “gourmet fusion tacos inspired by the multi-cultural diversity of NYC,” which is where Arthur and Arra previously worked in corporate and Wall Street, respectively, before moving to the Philippines. – Rappler.com