The Hapa Mag staff reveals their favorite spots to chow down!
Blue Bottle Coffee Company
All over NYC and CA
Summer is over. Fall is here. And there’s one absolute constant in my life: coffee. And not some cheap $1 coffee from a stand. No thanks! I hate to say it, but the artisanal, locally roasted, bougey-est coffee is my jam. Four dollars? Fork it over. I have no problems feeding what is probably my strongest vice.
Blue Bottle Coffee Company is also the best at servicing my caffeine addiction. Founded in Oakland, CA, in the early 2000s, I first discovered Blue Bottle in the San Francisco Ferry Building. To this day, it’s the only coffee capable of giving me the jitters. For most people, that would be a huge turn-off. But once I moved to NY and started living my life, I realized that Blue Bottle was the only way to go. It tastes great, and there are six locations in New York. Why drink three cups in a day when you can indulge in one cup of Belladonna Blue Bottle?
They also have a subscription box. So for those busy, busy Hapas who don’t have time to buy a new bag every few weeks, this is the perfect solution. I’ve already signed myself up as my year-round birthday present. Here’s to you, future self, drinking that fancy Blue Bottle Coffee!
Mountain View, CA
naomi takata shepherd
I tend to get a little anxious when I’m supposed to meet up with a friend from out of town and they ask me to pick a spot to eat. This was especially the case when I met Alex in person for the first time. Full of neuroses about meeting up with a fellow Hapa girl, writer, actor, food critic, and now Hapa Mag founder/contributor, I proposed the one spot I knew I couldn’t go wrong at: Maru Ichi.
This ramen house has been a Takata Shepherd family favorite for years. Unlike the trendier new ramen spots, this Mountain View mainstay looks and feels like a ramen house you might come across in Japan: wood paneling, white walls, and wraparound counter seating surrounded by small booths. What sets Maru Ichi apart are their homemade noodles, their house special (kuro ramen), and big containers of kimchi on every table.
You can salivate while watching the noodle-making process through the window and their aromatic and delicious kuro ramen is always worth the wait. Don’t be alarmed if you order it, the browned garlic in the broth gives it a distinct black color and a rich flavor. For something a little tamer, my go to is the miso ramen with heaps of kimchi piled in, and if you’re like me and have eyes bigger than your stomach...
The gyoza, california rolls, and small don dishes (my favorite is the salmon don) are killer. Just remember to bring cash and an appetite.
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
As much as I love feeling fancy, nothing is the same as a quick, casual meal in a Chinatown noodle house. The place is pretty small. Am I in a storage closet? An NYC-sized studio apartment? Basically. There are no frills here, but your main objective should be to satisfy your growling stomach with noodles after irresponsibly skipping lunch and thinking only a banana would suffice for breakfast. To top it all off, you’ve had “the noodle dream.”
Your experience will include drinking hot tea out of a styrofoam cup, listening to a cook repeatedly bang noodle dough onto a counter in the back, and the check being dropped off before you are finished. These qualities ironically make me love this place all the more. This tiny restaurant has everything I need out of a quick Chinatown meal, and my only expectation is to leave pleasantly full of roast duck noodle soup and bok choy. Perfect for when you’re stuck downtown with NYC jury duty!
The portions are big, and the prices are low. There is downstairs seating available for when it is very busy, but you’ll never feel more alone than when you are down there. Upstairs is much preferred. If your seat faces into the kitchen, you can watch a man swing noodle dough around in the air to stretch it out. Something about eating at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles relieves some stress from my day. The stakes in life feel low, just for a moment. I can be as casual as I would like, and just eat some food in Chinatown.
Don’t forget, cash only!
Radiance Tea House
Midtown West, NYC
There are two locations in NYC, but the only one I’ve been to is the one near Carnegie Hall. Chinese food, but think slow-cooked healthy ingredients. Hands down the best har gau I’ve tried on the island. Everything is delicious and carefully crafted. Also a full tea menu that not only tastes delicious but are listed with their medicinal qualities of the herbs used.
The Great American Health Bar
Midtown West, NYC
rebecca lee lerman
I used to work around that area and fell in love with The Great American Health Bar for one reason and one reason only: their Spinach Burger Wrap. Hummus, Roasted Zucchini, Lettuce, Tomato, Muenster Cheese, and Pesto Mayo.
I think I got that wrap everyday for a whole month. I’m pretty consistent and don’t like change. Try it. It’s Delicious!
East Village, NYC
While my Hapa-ness is the product of a Chinese/Eastern European mixing of bodily fluids (you know what they say: Jews love to eat out Chinese), I feel that I’ve always been Filipino at heart. Growing up in the Bay Area, among a hearty Fil-Am population, the influence was everywhere. As a lifelong theatre person, you quickly learn that any show comprised of Asian actors is certain to be at least 80 percent Filipinos.
I’ve even made several solo pilgrimages to the Philippines, where I’ve fallen deeply in love with the hospitality, humor, history, culture and, of course, that incomparable cuisine. Give me a plate of sizzling pig parts and half a dozen bottles of San Mig on a 100-degree April afternoon in Tagaytay, and I’m a pretty happy guy.
When time and budget don’t allow for that 17-hour journey across the globe, I invariably find myself at one place: Jeepney, the aggressively triumphant lovechild of founder Nicole Ponseca and chef Miguel Trinidad. Named for the iconic tricked-out World War II jeeps that clog the Manila streets (“very traffic,” as the locals say), the East Village gastropub borrows the cornerstones of Filipino cuisine and adds a funky, mildly-upscale twist.
First-timers or the less-adventurous eater might opt for the award-winning Chori Burger, a sumptuous beef and longganisa patty topped with banana ketchup and aioli, gently enjoying the warm embrace of a challah roll. Adding a fried egg is optional, but if you pass on the opportunity, you’re just not living your full life. A previous winner of Best Burger in New York, this masterful stomach-full is one of the cheaper items on the menu, absolutely explodes with unexpected flavor and will guarantee you won’t be hungry again for the rest of the night.
If dining with a friend or two, definitely splurge on the Dampa Fry, a stunning 2-pound fresh market fish cooked to perfection and sizzling in a resplendent chili and escabeche sauce. At “Market Price,” this can cost a pretty penny, but it’s the kind of meal you’ll tell your grandkids about. A fish tasty enough to end a marriage.
You can’t go wrong with either of the pancit options, the carefully-roasted Bicol Express (pork shoulder), the Adobong Hipon (garlic-kissed full prawns) or the wildly inventive Kare Kare Fried Chicken in peanut butter gravy, accompanied by a shrimp/sweet potato puree and topped with one of those glorious aforementioned eggs.
Speaking of eggs, we need to talk about the balut. They have it. Every culture possesses a food item that no one actually likes, but everyone eats as a source of pride. Chicken feet for my people, pigs feet for Southerners, lutefisk for Scandinavians, half of the shit served at any good Jewish deli… and at the very soul of the Filipino is balut. Quite simply put, it is a fertilized duck embryo, boiled and served in the shell. In other words, a delicious miscarriage.
Upon cracking off the top of the shell, you find a rather unsettling creature, visibly unhappy and very recognizable as something that eventually would have been a bird. The texture is something like that of a gigantic oyster. The Jeepney balut is considerably less incubated than those found in the motherland, where it isn’t uncommon to find fur, beaks and other crunchy bits. This balut goes down much easier, doesn’t taste half bad and will win you the respect of the kitchen staff who enthusiastically holler, “Baaaaaa-luuuuut!” when it is served.
There is one item that is also an absolute must, simply because it is unspeakably delicious. Regardless of what you get as your main dish, PLEASE accompany it with the Batangas Bone Marrow appetizer. Roughly the length of my forearm, this savory masterpiece comes with garlic rice. You can and should add an additional bone or two for $7 apiece.
When finished sucking out that beautiful marrow, ask the waiter for a whiskey finisher, in which you hold the bone to your mouth and a shot of whiskey is poured through the empty pipeline. The spice of the spirit mixes beautifully with the marrow remnants and juices and leaves you tingling all over.
The cocktail menu is ambitious to say the least. You may enjoy the Pinay Colada, which serves two and is presented in a whole pineapple. It packs quite the punch, looks awesome and when you’re done, you have an empty pineapple to take home with you. Personally, since I’m neither on a tropical vacation nor am I a little girl, I tend to stick with a few cold San Miguel beers.
Finish the evening with their pitch-perfect Halo-Halo, accompanied by ube ice cream.
As you stagger off into the night you may contemplate what comes next now that Jeepney has turned your world upside down, torn asunder your illusions and sent the sanctuary of your former life crashing down around you. But take solace in the fact that you’ll be back again and have the chance to try a whole new list of delights.
Lumpia and chicharron and tripe and ribs and sisig. Oh, my beloved sisig, that iconic fried amalgamation of pork “nasty bits” found on every breakfast menu on Makati Avenue. Not to settle for the status quo, Jeepney’s sisig comes in taco form, married with a delicate infusion of cilantro, avocado and kalamansi.
I encourage you to be bold with your choices. I have yet to order a dish that I’ve regretted. If you can still feel your blood move, it means you haven’t had enough pork. Mabuhay!
San Francisco, CA
One of my favorite things to drink is boba milk tea or, as I like to incorrectly call it, bubble tea (Sorry, Ashley!)
There is something magical about little balls of tapioca being slurped through a straw and the sweet taste of your choice of milk tea.
Boba Guys are game changers when it comes to traditional boba tea shops. With six shops in San Fran and two in NYC, part of their philosophy is to "break down cultural barriers." And they are doing just that. It is a melting pot of consumers sucking up their bobas or homemade jellies. Their drinks are free of any artificial flavors or additives and they don't use any powders!
Real tea, people! You really can taste the difference!
When I was in college, I studied abroad in Japan. I fell in love with the country, culture and, most importantly, food. When I got back, I struggled to find this kind of food, especially the food from the swanky spots that I visited in Kyoto. Fast forward to years later of living in NYC, and I found the perfect complement to complete my feelings of nostalgia (including my first date with the love of my life)!
Oh! Taisho is a hip Japanese tapas-like restaurant. They have everything from a nutritious edamame appetizer to meat skewers to an amazing salmon avocado salad and much more. Great place for dates, group outings for some great food!
Cup & Cup
Alison Lea Bender
I love this small cafe and restaurant hidden away in the Korea Town area of Manhattan. Located on West 31st street, this place isn't quite yet hip. I love to stop in here before I head to K-Town’s main strip. Their coffee beverages are delicious and served with love and often times have adorable “latte art” as a final touch.
The last time I stopped in for my red velvet latte, the barista drew a teddy bear face with hearts onto my foam topping. They serve small lunch sets as well, including bulgogi, gochujang chicken and salmon that include a salad and rice at affordable prices. This place also turns into a dinner restaurant after 5 PM. Between the adorable beverages, delicious snacks, and chill ambiance, I’m a huge fan of this place.