Ralf's Resto: Excellent Local Cuisine
Ralf's (named after the local Philippine owner's son), is a quality eatery, but might not look like one. There are four pensions upstairs too, but the dining area is always more packed than the guest rooms!
The owner has brought this little place up from nothing and is in the process of making a landmark for El Nido. There is a small seating area inside, but they put a few tables out on the narrow street. There is nothing on the other side of the street, other than the beach. So if the tide is low and you ask politely, they will set a table on the beach for you!!
Favorite Dish: The food was always top notch and if you make any special requests, they will go to the market for the fresh catch and prepare the next night for you!! We had lobsters and crabs upon request!
All of the dishes that we had were excellent, and you definitely cannot go wrong with the seafood or local Philippine cuisine.
El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe: A Nice Way to Start the Day
Since it is open for lunch and dinner, too, I'm not sure why I associate the Art Cafe with breakfast. It is my favorite breakfast place in El Nido, probably because of the ambiance, which is cool and relaxed and rustic... Its view of the ocean is obstructed, but still, there's a nice, warm feel to the place that I find comforting, especially in the mornings.
I don't particularly like their pancakes but their Filipino breakfast meals are quite good! They also grow some of their own vegetables, so you can expect their vegetarian dishes to be fresh. For example, their pesto here is made from locally-grown sweet basil. Their pizza is supposed to be good, too, though I haven't quite tried it for myself...
The place is also a virtual one-stop shop for tourists. As its name suggests, there is also a Boutique located on the ground floor with a wide variety of souvenirs and gift items. The owners, Judith and Tani Distal, also have the best-known tour-operator business in El Nido. Other than the standard A,B, or C island-hopping tours, they offer all sorts of other sevices such as rentals of kayaks and mountain bikes, and I think even dirt-bikes. Tani is also the current president of the local tour guides association, so he should be able to hook you up with a knowledgeable guide for any of exploring needs.
Judith is also the local agent for Seair, which is one of the two local carriers with a direct flight to El Nido. The establishment is also one of the few in El Nido which do accept credit cards.
- Adventure Travel
- Budget Travel
Sea Slugs Beach Bar & Restaurant: Great food on the beach!
We ate all our meals here (except for our first lunch when we just arrived) and we're sure glad we discovered it. It's actually a house (Og's Inn) away from Marina. On the 2nd day, we already have a 'reserved' table on the beach. All of the staff are so nice and really provided great service. Special mention are Suy and Teng who really took care of all our orders. They even cook food upon specification even when it's not on the menu. In short, they did all they can to accommodate the request of the guest.
Favorite Dish: Their chili crab is great. The pizza is great. Cheeze sticks. Grilled squid. Garlic shrimp....Almost everything!
Their food is actually a little more expensive than average because of the location. But I think it's reasonable since average for a hearty meal is just P200+ or less depending on what you order. If you want to save money, you can actually find something on the menu that's more affordable.
The owners are quite nice (Rey and Grace). They also provide tours which are actually cheaper than Arts Cafe. But the minimum is about 8 pax per trip (boats are bigger). We took tours B & C with them on an exclusive arrangement and we never regretted it. We did pay more, but the enjoyment and service is quite worth it!
Pacing's / El Nido Fast Food: Home-cooked Meals on a Budget
One of the more popular cafeteria / "turo-turo" - type places in town, El Nido Fast Food a.k.a Pacing's (after the owner Aling Pacing), is a good place for those who are looking for a simple but filling and tasty meal, at less-than-tourist-prices. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, expect to spend no more than 60 - 100 pesos for a full rice-and-viand meal. Friendly service, too. You can also request them for packed lunches if you want to picnic on one of the islands (though lunch is usually included in the standard island-hopping tours). Just let Aling Pacing know at least the night before.
If you're lucky, they might even have lobster on the menu. You can also request some authentic bird's nest or "nido" soup, for which El Nido is famous. (Lobster and nido soup are naturally expensive, but still not as expensive as it would be in Manila.)
- Budget Travel
Native Kitchen Home Cooking: Local Fresh Cooking Delivered to Your Cottages
We came across a little leaflet in my cottage in El nido about a home cooking, it says cooked by local families and housewives- using fresh local produce and the prices are quite reasonable. So we got in contact and ordered a dinner for 4. Its a set meal with whatever the catch of the day- and vegetables and rice. But we were amazed when it came- its in a weaved bamboo platter - we got grilled tuna with spicy coconut sauce and some native vegetable wrapped in banana leaves, arranged around a steamed rice with tomato and cucumber salad with soy vinegar dressing- pineapple and bananas- the food is well presented with flowers and aromatic leaves. Very impressive. I didn't know what to expect- i thought that it would be in take away styroboxes but we got an amazing platter and real plates and complete with cutlery and napkins. The food was so delicious and you can taste the authentic home made cooking, the portions are big and the service is first class with infectious smiles of the ladies that delivers it. The rest of our stay, we ordered lunch and dinner with them and they cooked us Sushi, grilled chicken, pork, squids and even lobster, and amazing filipino noodles. they tell you what they have and you can request. It only cost us 650pesos for 4 persons, it is very reasonable. I was fascinated with this service so i asked if they worked in restaurant before but apparently an organization trained them with cooking , presentation and economy of home cooking business and helped them out to advertise and get costumers. I salute this organization that brings out the talent of the locals, who then gets a share of the money tourism gives to this region.
Favorite Dish: My favorite is the 1st night dish we had -grilled tuna with spicy coconut and native vegetable, although they served us lobster on my brother's birthday which was quite special and the sushi platter- yum. The fruits that comes with it- mini bananas that taste like apples, the melons and pineapples are glorious.
- Budget Travel
Art Cafè: don't miss their fresh mango juice!
i ate here several times and everytime I had a good meal
my fave was the fresh mango juice, yummyyyyyyy
Favorite Dish: they offer some european dishes (the owner is European) and some local specialities
(this is Giuseppe eating their fresh homemade pizza)
- Budget Travel
Sea Slugs: It's better than it sounds...
Sea Slugs has torch-lit al fresco dining on the beach and is a nice place to while your time. The service is good and the food is tasty enough, although completely typical and nothing particularly special. This is a good place if you like your sea view, though you will pay a small premium to get it.
Taiyo Cafe: Generous portions and friendly service
Taiyo café is a new entrant into the restaurant market of El Nido. It has much the same menu and price structure of everyone else, but maybe because they are new, they seem to try harder to be pleasant and accommodating. I had several breakfasts there that were generously portioned and tasty.
They also have invested in an espresso machine and serve some pretty good coffee drinks for you starbux junkies. One nice combo is to pour a double espresso into the chocolate-banana shake. Nic e energy lift and creamy delicious
El Nido Boutique & Arts Cafe: Great ambiance
The place and the staff are quite nice. But the food is a bit more expensive than average and the taste is blander than what I'm used to. But I guess it's just perfect for foreign tourists. The good thing here also is that it has everything, restaurant, shop, books... My friends even bought here their mojos and aqua shoes :)
Squido's: Avoid this place
Squidos is right on the main drag and visually presents itself nicely. But once inside, the food is uninspiring and the service is worse than indifferent; unfriendly is probably the better word. It’s also right across the street from a videoke parlor and the squeaks and moans of those who have more guts than talent just makes the already sour atmosphere worse.
The Art Cafe: The hub of the town
The Art Cafe is upstairs on the main street off the beach. We spent a fair time here, not least because Judith (the owner) helped us enormously in sorting out our holiday, but also because the food is good. Breakfast menu extensive, and the evening main courses were excellent too. This place is a mine of information, head there asap if you need to sort out logistics.
Favorite Dish: We had a whole white snapper, which was enoromous and with a very tasty tomato and chilli sauce.
Squidos: Don't eat there! They poisoned me!
it looked quite ok, but they food poisoned me
this is why I had to take a private flight to Manila (lack of doctors in El Nido) and be checked there
I thought I would die
not only they are dirty, but there was a little piece of soft metal in the food, which i swallowed without realising it ... imagine the pains
Favorite Dish: my fave food.... a little piece of soft metal!
- Budget Travel
The Altrove: Italian deli
Have a nice dinner after the tour at the Altrove that serves brick baked pizzas and sumptous pastas. Be sure to be there early as there are plenty of tourist lining up to fill their stomachs with real good food.
Favorite Dish: Hungarian pizza and pennes are real great! The servings are good for sharing!
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
The Alternative: Healthy Veggie Food
on the beach front, this place offers very good healthy veggie dishes and drinks. Food takes ages as its all cooked from scratch, but it has a good area to chill, there are some "pods" outside that overhang the beach. Only problems were they dont sell beer and it is next door to a karaoke bar (so may not be best to stay there, someone we talked to said it disturbed them at night).
this place does excellent massages, esp recommend the swedish massage.
Favorite Dish: Particularly liked the bananna leaf curry.
Sea Slugs: Beachfront seafood
Sea slugs was our favourite sea front place. Family owners are very friendly, place is kept very clean and the sea food is very fresh.
Favorite Dish: The crab in chili sauce was fantastic. A whole red crab dished up in lightly spiced sauce