Being by the beach sure works up an appetite. There’s really something about the fresh sea breeze, the laid-back vibe, and all those energy-sapping water activities that get you craving for comfort food like burgers and pizza, fresh and grilled seafood, hearty servings of Filipino favorites, and extra rice. If you’re going on a trip to La Union anytime soon, here are a few restaurants (mostly in the surfing capital of San Juan) where you can have your fill of great food.
The last time I visited La Union this year, I noticed a lot of new hip restaurants in San Juan, especially along the highway. Olas Banditos, a Mexican surf joint with street art vibes, is hard to miss. The taqueria serves typical Mexican favorites including burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos with a few local twists.
I really liked the Ilocos Norte Burrito, stuffed with fries, cheese and garlicky Ilocos longganisa and their horchata. Their servings are pretty big and filling.
National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union | Facebook: Olas Banditos
Mad Monkeys is a local burger joint that serves classic burgers with cheddar beer sauce, fries and onion rings combos and beers. Aside from classic burgers, they also serve BLT Burgers and Smoky BBQ Burgers.
I found the juicy burger really filling! It’s a bit messy to eat, but it’s worth it. This is a good choice for a filling afternoon snack or lunch.
National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union | Facebook: Mad Monkeys
EL UNION COFFEE
For coffee lovers, this small family-run cafe is the top choice in surf town. El Union is a homegrown coffee shop and roaster that has been serving craft coffee since 2013. Bestsellers are the Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon Jam, Cold Brew Coffee, and Dirty Horchata. If you’re with friends, be sure to try the Smores.
National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union | Facebook: El Union Coffee
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
I had been hearing a lot about artist beach hostel Flotsam and Jetsam before my last visit, so I was glad for the chance to check it out. The hostel runs a kitchen bar, which is open to the public. It was a bit dark and hard to take photos at night, so I suggest you visit during the day for better lighting.
Diners can enjoy a variety of rice meals and curry served with brown rice, refreshing makai bowls, pizza, cocktails and beer while lounging about in the airy space.
I checked out Surf Shack because I heard they served beer from Baguio Craft Brewery (but beers weren’t available when I visited so I decided not to eat here). Surf Shack is a food community and outdoor bar where you can enjoy live music, beer and bar favorites.
Other bloggers who’ve visited recommend their fusion pizzas like Mommy Lu’s Gourmet Tuyo Pizza with Honey or Ilokano Pizza topped with Vigan longganisa.
National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union | Facebook: Surf Shack San Juan
GEFSEIS GREEK GRILL
Gefseis Greek Grill is a beachside restaurant offering a taste of authentic Greek cuisine. Gefseis (Greek for flavors) serves savory meals using ingredients imported from Greece, and they offer Greek refreshments, coffees, wines, ouzo and desserts.
Serving sizes are huge since they cater to a lot of international clients. I think we over-ordered, getting one kebab platter meal each (which can easily be shared by 2 people). The appetizers, souvlaki, hummus and drinks were really good. I recommend the spanakopita as an appetizer.
San Juan Surf Area, Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union | Facebook: Gefseis Greek Grill
THE BIG KAHUNA RESTAURANT AND CLUBHOUSE
One of the more popular beachfront resorts in San Juan is the Balinese-inspired Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa. Kahuna’s has its own restaurant called The Big Kahuna Restaurant and Clubhouse, from where guests can get a great view of the West Philippine Sea and surfing activities, while enjoying their meals.
Big Kahuna specializes in grilled seafood platters, fruit shakes, cocktail drinks, and a range of foreign and local beers. There’s also sports themed bar and a pool table where guests can play billiards. Acoustic bands sometimes play here at night.
The Mediterranean-inspired Thunderbird Resort in Poro Point is the only five-star hotel-resort in Northern Luzon. Its in-house fine-dining restaurant serves weekend buffet meals from 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm. The restaurant specializes in wood-burned oven pizzas, fresh Greek salads, and a variety of Mediterranean classics.
Thunderbird Resort also has a Patio Santorini Bar, the hotel’s lobby lounge and bar where guest can order a wide array of wines, cocktails, and spirits. The Vegas Cafe, located in the hotel’s casino, serves a variety of cuisine, including American, Japanese, Italian, Filipino, and continental fare.
Thunderbird Resorts La Union, Poro Point Freeport Zone, San Fernando City, La Union. Tel: (072) 888-7777. Website: www.thunderbirdresortslaunion.com
URBIZTONDO GRILL HOUSE
For those traveling in big groups looking for something more budget-friendly, there are a lot of local eateries serving traditional Filipino fare. Urbiztondo Grill House is a native style eatery that serves great home-cooked Pinoy comfort food and grilled seafood. Specialties include the grilled pusit, kare-kare, sinigang, pinakbet, crispy pata, patatim, inihaw na panga, grilled boneless bangus w/ filling and inihaw na tuna. Urbiztondo Grill House also serves all-day silog meals and combo meals.
Urbiztondo Grill House, National Highway, San Juan, La Union. 242-2579/242-2580/0905-6038023/ Email: Urbiztondogrillhouse@gmail.com