Chef Nicole Ponseca Shares Her Favorite Filipino Restaurants Around the US – Travel+Leisure

A rich island cuisine finally gets “a seat at the culinary table.”

By John Wogan December 15, 2021

“My goal is simple,” says chef and restaurateur Nicole Ponseca. “To get Filipino food a seat at the culinary table.” Filipinos make up one of the largest Asian communities in the country, she explains, “but when I was starting out, our food was primarily found on the outskirts — in places like Daly City, outside San Francisco, or Queens, New York — and in a style more reminiscent of what our grandparents would serve.”

Ponseca is the force behind popular N.Y.C. restaurant Jeepney (entrées $16–$18) and, along with its executive chef Miguel Trinidad, the co-author of the 2018 cookbook I Am a Filipino. She is also one of many chefs around the country bringing attention to the vast culinary lexicon of the Philippines. In January, Ponseca expanded her reach, opening a Miami outpost of Jeepney. These days, she says, “the scene is free from expectations and overflowing with creativity.”

Here, her spots for the best of modern Filipino American cuisine.

The Park’s Finest, Los Angeles

Johneric Concordia merges American barbecue and Filipino flavors at his Echo Park restaurant the Park’s Finest, which is inspired by the recipes his family made while he was growing up in L.A. Try Mama Leah’s Coconut Beef, stewed in coconut cream, vinegar, chili, and fish sauce. Entrées $10–$17.

A fried onion appetizer with dip


A deep-fried sweet onion with chili-crab fat mayonnaise dip at Pogiboy, in Washington, D.C.

| Credit: Courtesy of Pogiboy

Pogiboy, Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, D.C. chefs Tom Cunanan and Paolo Dungca opened Pogiboy: their tribute to Jollibee and other popular Filipino fast-food restaurants. The menu riffs on classics, like fried chicken wings — their version is spiced with tamarind and served with shrimp chips and banana ketchup. Entrées $9–$19.

Well Fed and White Rice, San Diego

This winter, chef Phillip Esteban is set to open a Filipino fine-dining restaurant — still a rarity in the U.S. — in National City, south of San Diego. Well Fed will join his fast-casual spot, White Rice, which dishes out bowls and vegan-friendly favorites in the city’s Liberty Public Market. Entrées $8–$13.

A dish of sliced steak topped w/ onions


Baka alla saltado (grilled flank steak) at Musang.

| Credit: Andrew Imanaka/Courtesy of Musang

Musang, Seattle

What began as a pop-up project by chef Melissa Miranda evolved into a brick-and-mortar spot in Seattle‘s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The three-year-old Musang — its name, “wild cat” in Tagalog, is a nod to her immigrant father’s nickname — cultivates a warm family atmosphere. The staff is ready and willing to walk newcomers through every dish, including the house specialty, kare kare, a rich, slow-cooked short-rib stew in peanut sauce. Entrées $15–$28.

Jeepney, Miami

The Miami branch of Ponseca’s popular East Village restaurant is located in Wynwood’s 1-800-Lucky food hall. It introduces Floridians to her versions of Filipino staples, like sisig tostones — fried plantains topped with chopped pork, avocado cream, and cotija cheese — and crab-fat fried rice with bok choy. Entrées $8–$17.

A version of this story first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Filipino New Wave.