Before any other name in barbecue came to town, there already was Aling Neneng’s Barbecue Restaurant. Even before we came to like other barbeques, we already loved coming back for more Aling Neneng’s Barbecue Restaurant. After almost 8 years, we came back to check this old-time favorite.
There are quiet afternoons when you’re driving and suddenly you crave something. It’s like your subconscious is tickling your taste buds and some miniature creature, resembling someone with a burning trident, is hovering above your ear, reminding you that a favorite food item lurks somewhere in the area.
It’s like, “Di ba may masarap na pagkain dito?” And just like that, the eyes of your car companions, probably bored to death on their seats, twinkle with an intensity that rivals the very first time they fell in love.
Then your collective brains jump into the dustbin of culinary memory lane, furiously leafing through the mental menu of dishes and places that you’ve encountered. Barbecue! When in Manila, Aling Nene is just around the corner.
The restaurant logo proudly proclaims “since 1955” under the name “Aling Nene’s Express.” It started with the late Remedios “Aling Nene” Santiago-Cabate and husband Isidro “Mang Siding” Cabate. For a restaurant that started with taxi and jeepney drivers as its main clientele, Aling Nene’s Barbecue has gone a long way, with branches and franchises.
Aling Nene’s is one of the best pork BBQs around. The poster hanging on a wall beside the entrance, bestowed by a food and lifestyle magazine, proudly proclaims that Aling Nene’s is a member of the Top Ten Pork Barbecue around. This is hardly a surprise considering that Aling Neneng’s stands shoulder to shoulder with other brands. And did we mention already that Aling Nene’s is one of our favorites?
Back in college and even while working in Makati, we would take regular lunch forays here. There’s chicken baticolon (gizzard) or pork atay (liver) for variety, but it’s all about the pork BBQ even if Aling Nene’s offers other Filipino foods like dinuguan, chicharong bulaklak, lechon and kinilaw. The pork barbecue is soft, soaked with flavor.
The restaurant along Osmena Highway requires a major face lift. Service and general attitude of its crew should be brought to a higher level. It cannot remain complacent because competitors are growing by the day. What was once the best could be made the best again.
It’s sad to see that Aling Neneng’s needs to step up its game to stay ahead of the barbeque wars. Aling Nene’s has been overtaken by younger competitors like Ineng’s. Still, it’s definitely in our Top 5 and with its original taste, it’s not difficult for Aling Nene’s to regain the No. 1 spot. Let’s wait and see.