Three years ago, one of my good friends and officemate, took me to a side trip to Marikina. Back then, my knowledge of Marikina was severely limited to my experiences as a Red Cross volunteer during Typhoon Ondoy back in 2009. What we did in Marikina was what my officemate and I normally do, which is explore the city and find great places to eat and just chill out. Some of my food adventures was the sumptuous burgers of Alexei and the pisong kape of Tiyo's. But yesterday, my officemates and I along with Tricia, decided to go back to Marikina and try out Manong Papo, an affordable inasal place near the Marikina Elementary School.
Like many restaurants that have just started, Manong Papo's still looks as if it was open just the previous day. Everything is brightly lit with seats for groups of twos and fours and something new, a bar area for the customers who don't want to be disturbed. The meals in Papo's are simple and are reminiscent of the restaurants in Kapitolyo, simple and almost having that at-home feeling. Their menu isn't too fancy and is actually quite simple: you have your beef, your pork, chicken, pancit, and a lot of other side dishes to accompany your main meal. For a restaurant offering inasal or grilled food as their main dish, I did not go for the house specialty. Instead I went for a dish one wouldn't normally find in an inasal place, pork ribs, while Tricia ordered the pecho part of the chicken.
Before having our main course, my friend Rizza, ordered a plate of pancit. Normally I would forego eating it for the sake of saving space for the main course. However, seeing the dish laden with crunchy pork cuts, large slices of what I think was fishball, plus the smell was just too enticing not to pass up. In less than 5 minutes, we were done with our appetizer, and I would have to say that the pancit was a great way to start our meal.
Normally when people think about inasal, the first thing they think about is Mang Inasal, probably the gold standard for fast food inasal. The unlimited rice turned orange by generous helpings of the restaurant's chicken oil, however in Papo's all of the unlimited options will take a backseat. My meal came with two cups of rice, drizzled with a generous helping of chicken oil and fried garlic bits on top, plus my pork rib. The pork rib was actually big enough for its price and seeing two cups of rice would surely stuff me up really quickly; Tricia's pecho looked equally good, grilled to the point of salivation, and large enough that any thoughts of unlimited rice go out the window.
Luckily enough I had the opportunity to try Papo's inasal thanks to Tricia, who generously placed a heap of chicken meat on my plate. I would have to honestly say, that the inasal was really the highlight and the specialty of the restaurant. Seasoned well, the taste was just the way I liked it: not too sweet to be disgusting and not too spicy to make it unpalatable. Matching the chicken with the usual trifecta of vinegar, soy sauce and kalamansi truly tops off its flavor and leaves you begging for more.
Though it may seem that I did not get the better end of the deal by ordering the pork rib, I still did not feel like it was a letdown. The rib's meat was soft that when I scraped my fork against the bone and slide it across, the meat simply falls off. Then again that may be because of the meat not being as thick as normal ribs but it was still delectable. The sauce it was grilled on penetrated the meat perfectly, and again, it wasn't difficult to eat my dish because it came in small pieces that were manageable unlike normal-sized ribs.
At the end of it all, the entire meal was a great start to kick off our Marikina food trip. At its core, Manong Papo's has the entire concept of an inasal right pat down, this was the first time that I was able to have ribs and see chicken inasal for less than a hundred pesos. Manong Papo's affordability is what will make it a place where the casual diner could just sit-back and enjoy the sweet smell of grilled food without having to break the bank, something of a rarity in food places these days.
My name is Alfonso your nerdy history teacher, bookworm and lover of all things cultural and exciting. You can find me in a weekend market, in a bookshop, or eating in Japanese restos during the weekends.