A Style of Residence – Cincinnati Journal

A Style of Residence – Cincinnati Journal

Driving by the eclectic foodscape that traces U.S. Route 42, it’s straightforward to overlook International Delicacies. Amid the indicators and photos of dishes from locations like Mexico, Italy, and Jamaica, you’ll be forgiven for lacking the dishes from proprietor Kris Wirtjes’s native Philippines. That is emblematic of Filipino meals normally right here within the tri-state. Till very just lately, you’ll have been hard-pressed to search out Filipino meals on any native menu, irrespective of how eclectic. However that is beginning to change, thanks largely to the efforts of three ladies: Wirtjes, Christine McDay of Christine’s Informal Eating in Western Hills, and Krizzia Yanga, who just lately opened Gabriela Filipina Kantina on the new Manufacturing facility 52 growth in Norwood. Every of their takes on the delicacies they grew up consuming are to not be missed.

Kris Wirtjes.


Wirtjes moved right here 34 years in the past from the Philippines and initially labored within the banking trade. Skilled cooking was in her blood—her dad and mom owned a restaurant in Mindanao, a lush province within the Southern Philippines—and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than she carried the culinary torch stateside.

In 1997, Wirtjes opened Blesame Catering, the place she cooked for the native Filipino neighborhood in addition to main corporations like P&G, Kao, and GE. Blesame can be a staple at native festivals like BLINK and the Asian Meals Fest. She parlayed this success into her restaurant, which she opened final 12 months within the former Udupi area in Sharonville.

The Filipino dishes listed below are traditional consolation meals, served with a hearty hominess that appears to come back from Wirtjes’s personal kitchen. Undoubtedly strive the lumpia, usually described as “Filipino eggrolls.” Lengthy, skinny, and flaky, it’s historically crammed with floor pork and sliced greens (usually carrots and cabbage) and served with a vinegary dipping sauce. Wirtjes’s proprietary sauce combines vinegar, brown sugar, honey, and lemon, bringing a zesty sweetness to the savory lumpia. For her tackle the long-lasting Filipino dish, strive the pork adobo ribs. Adobo—slow-cooked meat (usually hen or pork) sometimes marinated in some mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns—is arguably the preferred entrée within the Philippines.

Christine McDay.


Like International Delicacies, Christine’s Informal Eating contains a mishmash of cuisines. You’ll discover meatloaf, spaghetti, and BLTs, however you’ll additionally discover lumpia, pork adobo, and pancit, a standard Filipino dish of skinny, translucent rice noodles, usually combined with meat and greens (Christine’s model comes with hen, carrots, and inexperienced beans).

My order of pancit got here with one of many restaurant’s many Filipino combo plates, which included two skewers of completely grilled pork and a thick lumpia. The thickness stems from necessity fairly than private desire; McDay couldn’t discover a provider that carries the thinner Filipino-style rice wrapper in bulk, so she began experimenting with egg roll wrappers, thickening the sauce to match. She now sells greater than 400 a day.

In keeping with McDay, the native Filipino neighborhood actually began displaying up as soon as she put halo-halo (Tagalog for “mix-mix”) on the menu. Not for the faint of urge for food, the dessert is available in a large, chilled glass which may properly have been used for Perkins’s sundaes. The bottom of shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk is combined with extra components than I’ve the area to call right here, however crimson beans, fried bananas, creamed corn, and Ube ice cream all make appearances. Proof that typically extra is extra, the mashup one way or the other works.

A glass of halo-halo at Christine’s.

A restaurant trade veteran, McDay labored at Cancun’s for 13 years earlier than venturing out on her personal (Mexican meals is closely featured on Christine’s menu). She realized her dream of opening her namesake restaurant in 2015, renting an area on Harrison Avenue. In 2021, she purchased and moved into her present area off Glenway. Properly on its approach to changing into a west facet establishment, Christine’s has one thing for everybody, particularly if you’re searching for a big plate of Filipino consolation meals and a large halo-halo.

At Gabriela Filipina Kantina, the meals is fully Filipino, which implies it’s additionally a bit of Spanish. That’s as a result of the Philippines was a Spanish colony for greater than 300 years. In keeping with Yanga, Gabriela acknowledges the Spanish affect on Filipino meals and tradition whereas additionally celebrating the Philippines’ resistance to Spanish colonization.

For the latter, look no additional than the restaurant’s title. Gabriela is called for Gabriela Silang, a feminine revolutionary who was executed in 1763 for main a resistance motion in opposition to Spanish occupation. By paying homage to Silang, Gabriela honors not solely mentioned motion, however Filipina ladies normally.

Gabriela Filipina Kantina.


As an illustration, Gabriela’s lechon, which is Spanish for “roasted suckling pig,” is in style within the Philippines, however variations exist in Spain and plenty of of its former colonies. Gabriela’s options moist chunks of fatty pork made much more scrumptious when dipped within the zesty sawsawan sauce, an onion-flecked mix of soy sauce and vinegar.

Yanga was born within the Philippines however moved to the U.S. together with her household as a baby, ultimately settling within the Columbus space, the place she began experimenting with Filipino brunches, which repeatedly introduced traces out the door.

She determined to convey her vibrant, festive tackle Filipino meals right down to Cincinnati as a result of lots of her Columbus prospects drove up from this space. Her expertise, like Wirtjes’s, reveals that individuals are prepared to journey for good Filipino meals. Fortunately, right here within the tri-state, we now not should journey very far.

International Delicacies, 11707 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville, (513) 883-8932

Christine’s Informal Eating, 3360 Westbourne Dr., Western Hills (513) 574-1273, christinescasualdining.com

Gabriela Filipina Kantina, 2750 Park Ave., Suite E, Norwood, (378) 978-3928. gabrielafilipina.com

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