Mezza Norte Night Food Market (UP-AyalaLand Technohub, Quezon City)

There’s a new hangout in town, a night food market in the middle of the open space haven called UP-AyalaLand Technohub. It’s just across the street from the University of the Philippines Diliman, along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. The night food market, called Mezza Norte, is a splendid mix of tried and tested comfort food to the more sophisticated variants.

A food market must be a good business. Unlike in a mall where shoppers go for a number of reasons, patrons visit a food market to eat. Hungry food explorers (im)patiently wait for tables to be available and some start eating while standing on the sidelines. A foodie doesn’t go to a food market for window shopping.

And there’s no need for fancy ambiance. It’s a market for crying out loud. At Mezza Norte, plain red plastic chairs and tables are arranged in rows inside the gigantic white tents. Bare-bone food stalls line up the edge of the tents, as a whole looking pretty much like nets of fish cages that lock the fish, er, hungry patrons, in the middle. Come to think of it, this is a physical demonstration of what “captured market” means.

But captured market, this is not. Guests are free to try out established restaurants at the half-moon shaped main area of the UP-AyalaLand Technohub, including FlapJacks, Yellow Cab, BonChon, Cafe Breton, Razon’s and, of course, the home of insanely delicious Filipino food, the Kanin Club.

We suspect that Mezza Norte is eating into the market of these restaurants. The previous 5:00/6:00 p.m. opening of culinary feast was moved to 9:00 p.m. Bummer, yes, because the SECOND time we tried to check the place, we arrived at 6:00 p.m., the time indicated in the website. We had to go back another night, tonight, to fit in the new schedule — 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. (the FIRST time we went here was a Sunday and we learned that Mezza Norte is open only from Thursday to Saturday).

People happily dart in and out to explore the market. The one important lesson we learned on this trip is not to make hasty decisions when making a purchase. First, don’t go in too hungry because the tendency is to buy the first available food in sight. Just like any market, the Mezza Norte night food market is meant to be explored. Really, good things come to those who wait.

Second, don’t buy food based on the length of line in a particular food stall. We bought barbecue and isaw from a stall serving a mile-long queue of hungry souls and the choice was not that rewarding. Ok, the “mile-long queue” is an exaggeration, but the “not that rewarding” part is an understatement.

Third, know your stomach. A food market is not a single concept place. There’s a profusion of recipes, kinds of cuisines and ways of cooking. There are burgers and pizzas, BBQs and sandwiches, baby back ribs and steaks, cakes and pastries, sisig and isaw, tapsilog and bagnet variants. And that’s only one side of the fence.

Fourth, be considerate. You’ll be surprised with the number of people that flock here. So many hungry mouths to feed, so few tables. It’s perfectly ok to enjoy, but it would also be nice not to stay too long.

Fifth, pace yourself. Yes, we love to sit down and expect all the food groups to be on the table. That’s possible in a food market, but a difficult feat to accomplish. Not everyone can go around and seek food because a table must first be secured and, more importantly, someone has to play the useless role, stuck to the table to tell hungry souls that the table and chairs are taken. People line up in all stalls and while some lines are longer than others, multiply the few minutes of waiting time with the number of food items to buy, and you’ll end up eating cold food.

So, take it one food group at a time. This is a market, yes, but it’s like a formal meal. Get the appetizer, then head back to the table. Get the main course, then back to the table. Same with dessert and other food items the group may desire. There are no waiters or servers, so be a cowboy/cowgirl. This is a food market, so explore and enjoy. Have fun. Burp!

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