NOTearly each week for Mary Panaligan ended with a big Filipino feast. She and her husband, Rolly, spent many Sundays with their friends cooking up big meals, loudly chatting about their lives, and eating a variety of freshly prepared foods.
This is common for many Filipinos; there is almost a sense of passion when it comes to gatherings and food. For the Panaligans, one of those many weekend parties spurred the creation of a Filipino-Canadian fusion restaurant called Barrio’s.
“I think the passion has always been there,” says Mary Pangalan. “Ever since we moved to Canada, it’s always been, ‘Oh, I want to open a restaurant; I want people to taste the food I cook. … There is always passion.
Barrio’s is an adventure between the Panaligans and two of their Filipino friends. There is currently a lack of kitchen at Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs (1269 Barrington Street), and its grand opening is this Sunday, September 5th.
Its name comes from the Spanish word “barrios” which means neighborhoods. The four of them chose the name because it represents the fact that they each come from – and represent – different regions and islands of the Philippines.
The Southeast Asian country is an archipelago made up of around 7,640 islands but is often geographically divided into three areas: Luzon, the largest island, which lies to the north; Mindanao in the south, the home of the Panaligans; and the Visayas in the central part of the country. “It’s more like we represent the Philippines itself,” Panaligan says of Barrio’s.
The restaurant isn’t the first taste of Filipino cuisine in Halifax: Fairview’s Silong Express, La Rozzi Bistro in Bedford, ASAP Mabuhay Bar & Grill downtown, and Allano’s Catering Services in Herring Cove. all serve delicious Filipino dishes. Past places like Hot Plate: The Sizzling House and Mr. Bern’s BBQ on the Run food truck, the last of which was the Panaligans’ previous business, have also brought Filipino flavors to Halifax.
But the owners of Barrio’s want to bring a new take on Filipino cuisine to the city and help locals taste dishes that aren’t as readily available. These include a chori or chorizo burger which is famous on the resort island of Boracay, the spicy pork dish with coconut milk called bicol express, and the bam-i noodles from central Cebu province.
“It’s more like different dishes from the Philippines,” says co-owner and chef Nino Rodel Sevilla. “It’s not just about focusing on one delicacy.”
Panaligan says that at the moment bringing Barrio’s out of Bearly’s is the best way to try the menu and some Filipino foods in Halifax. Plus, she says being located inside a bar has its perks and that won’t limit the restaurant’s menu. Classic bar fare will always be on offer at Bearly’s, including platters of nachos, shellfish bowls and the pub’s popular ribs.
“Even though we’re located in a bar, we are slowly injecting Filipino culture into the food we offer,” she says. “If you build a Filipino restaurant, there’s a good chance people will come to you and think you only offer Filipino food… For us, it’s a pub. I think you have more space to play with.
Barrio’s will incorporate more Filipino and Asian fusion fare into Bearly’s offerings, including a rich peanut-based stew with crispy pork belly called kare-kare, a mouth-watering burger with flavors of Filipino adobo, and skewers of BBQ pork.
“A good thing about the people of Halifax in general is that they aren’t afraid to try new foods, which we know for sure here,” says Mary. “I remember we have a client – a long-time client – from [Annapolis] Valley who would order crispy pata, the pork knuckles.
Seville remembers another experience where a table ordered a hot plate of sisig – a seasoned mix of pork cheeks, pork belly and chicken liver – and the table next to them immediately ordered the same. flat.
“I think we are just proud of the food we offer because even though there is no sign outside of where we are, it is more of the experience. [that’ll entice] people come back, ”says Panaligan.