For some reason, my Facebook newsfeed kept getting images of a concept diner in Cebu called Cafe Racer. I blame their targeted advertising, but the photos of cool motorcycles parked outside the cafe, chairs made from oil drums and different motoring murals made me just want to book a ticket to Cebu. As a rider, I just wanted to see the place for myself. Thanks to a work trip for another assignment, I got a chance to check the place out last January 2015.
Cafe Racer is a diner located in the North Reclamation area in Mandaue City in Cebu, Philippines. The place gets its name from the light-weight motorcycles associated with the racing culture in the United Kingdom in the 1950s-1960s. With their distinctive low slung racing handlebars, prominent seat cowling and elongated fuel tanks, these mean machines were optimized for speed and handling. “Rockers” as they were called, used these vintage vehicles for short, quick rides between different pubs.
The restaurant was conceived by the same people behind other successful Cebu restaurants such as Lantaw and Mismukuno Teppanyaki. The cafe must be relatively new, as the cab driver I rode with (and all his colleagues who he radioed to ask for directions) seemed unfamiliar with the place. Thanks to Googlemaps, we eventually found it. From afar, the cafe resembles a gas station. In fact, the space where it sits used to be a Jetti Gasoline station, which they’ve redesigned as an al fresco dining area at night.
The main indoor dining area is pretty big, with a few booth tables with couch seating and wooden tables and chairs spread out in the space. From the outside, Cafe Racer resembles the kind of 50’s style diner you see in Hollywood movies. Inside are loads of interesting details related to classic motor sports. With brick details, exposed pipes on the ceiling and polished concrete floors, the whole place has this vintage industrial vibe. Kind of like a someone’s garage. Any car enthusiast or motorcycle rider will feel immediately at home here.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is an old Volkswagen camper van, which has been converted into a cashier’s counter and bar. Plus, there are all those customized chairs made from oil drums. I never thought oil drums could look cool, but now I want these in my house.
There are lots of artwork depicting the motorcycle culture around the space. Aside from the large poster advertising “Pistons and Pints,” another artwork by Inked Iron shows different vintage motorcycle styles: Boxer Twin, Tracker, Cafe Racer, Scrambler and Bobber.
Original artwork by Inked Iron.
I also loved the vibe of this garage-like workstation displaying different mechanical tools and equipment that’s in the main dining area.
The motoring design carries on to the outdoor area. The cafe uses the front hood of old BMW’s as tables and the outdoor grill is hidden under the hood of an old VW beetle.
Even the bathrooms weren’t spared from the design. Sinks in the outdoor bathroom are made of vehicle transmission housing, there’s a vintage bicycle in the sink area of the ladies bathroom and the ladies and men’s room signs made from cut-up license plates.
You can really tell that a lot of thought was put into the details and theme. No wonder the place has been getting so much attention on social media.
Aside from the diner, Cafe Racer also runs a car wash & detailing service. You can enjoy a meal while waiting for your car or motorcycle to get washed. They even promise customers free service on their next visit if their bill reaches 500 bucks. I could really use a cafe like this in Manila.
Cafe Racer’s menu is a mix of typical diner food like sandwiches, burgers, pasta, pizza, salads, street appetizers, and desserts. For lunch or dinner, you can order steak, chicken and pork dishes. There are lots of affordable options off the grill, including chicken barbecue, chops, and hotdogs. Beverages include hot and cold coffee, shakes, soda and beer.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to try a lot of dishes as I was still trying to beat a few deadlines before my evening flight back to Manila. I had just come from a heavy lechon lunch at Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly at Parkmall and wasn’t that hungry. But of course, I had to order something while mooching off the cafe’s WiFi. So, I nursed an Iced Cafe Mocha (P80) for about an hour. Being the hip place that Cafe Racer is, the coffee was of course served in a mason jar. It looked awesome on this table lined with old license plates.
The downside of traveling solo is that you can only eat so much. I quickly snapped a photo of the Baked Back Ribs with Rice (P160) which someone from another table had ordered and the cupcakes on display in their cake stand (just to have additional food shots), before settling down to get some work done. I have no idea what they taste like, but they look pretty good.
At around 5 pm, I decided to order another dish. The Chorizo Pizza (P130) sounded really good, but I opted for the Classic Cheeseburger (P120), which was served on a wooden board with a side of fries. The burger was just OK. Not particularly juicy or flavorful, but decent enough for the price. The fries were good though. And you have to give them plus points for presentation and ambiance.
Cafe Racer serves several imported beers including Hoegaarden (P120), Becks (P90), Corona Extra (P160), Heineken (P90), Stella Artois (P100) and Budweiser (P80) aside from local beers — Red Horse, San Miguel and Cerveza Negra (all P55). They also serve draft beer by 3 liters (P385) or 1.5 liters (P250). I heard that the gas pumps outside have been customized to serve draft beer, which is pretty cool. Too bad they don’t serve draft by the mug.
With the distinct theme of the place, Cafe Racer makes a good pitstop or event venue for riders, bikers and motoring enthusiasts. But its affordable eats and overall aesthetic appeals to a wider audience. The mid-afternoon crowd was mostly families with kids, people on business meetings and other people working on laptops. There was even a couple doing a pre-nup shoot when I first came in. It’s a good quiet place where you can enjoy coffee and cake in the afternoon. By the time I left in the early evening, more people were coming in for dinner and filling up the outdoor area, which looks like a great place to hangout at night over grilled food and beer.
While I can’t really judge the place based on the one dish I ordered, the interiors alone make Cafe Racer worth checking out if you’re in the Cebu area. P.S. Don’t drink and drive! 🙂
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Cafe Racer, Ouano Avenue, North Reclamation Area, Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines. [MAP]
- Restaurant hours: Mon – Sun: 11:00 am – 2:00 am
- Tel. no: 511-998
- Facebook: Cafe Racer