Jeepney, a self-proclaimed “Filipino gastropub” in the East Village, has a special place in my heart. Growing up, I either ate Filipino food at home when it was cooked by my mom, as a huge potluck spread at some kind of celebration or gathering, or at the occasional buffet that would sprout up in Houston and had Filipino shows playing on TVs around the restaurant. Eating at Jeepney was my first time eating the food of the Philippines somewhere, well, trendy. I’m not going to lie…I wasn’t used to seeing such a diverse group of ages and ethnicities at a Filipino restaurant, and I sure wasn’t used to one that exuded so much “coolness.”
Besides all that, Jeepney was where I celebrated getting my job–my first big girl job that sealed the deal of me moving to New York City. My mom was visiting at the time, and earlier that day, she had requested we eat here. When I found out I was chosen for the position that afternoon, we were ready to celebrate at Jeepney.
That first time was a Thursday night. I didn’t take pictures of what we ordered as that was months before I decided to start this blog. I do remember that people were enjoying the Kamayan night, where for $40 a person you get served a Filipino feast on a banana leaf sans utensils or plates (“kamayan” in the context of food means eating with your hands). You have to call ahead to do this, and it’s only offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so we didn’t get to try it ourselves, but it seemed like a lot of fun.
The next time I ate at Jeepney was also with my mom during another one of her visits. This time we ordered different dishes and totally pigged out. We got mango juice and buko juice (a refreshing coconut drink) to sip on and chicharon bulaklak (crispy pork ruffle fat) to snack on at the counter while we waited for a table. You might be familiar with the Spanish or Latin American chicharrón or fried pork rinds. In the Philippines, it’s a popular finger food. The bulaklak variety specifically is made from the lining of a pig’s intestine and is so named because of its shape (“bulaklak” means “flowering”). Don’t be turned off by the specifics. It’s the perfect mix of crunchy and chewy, excellent when dipped into vinegar, and totally addicting.
One of my all-time favorite Filipino dishes is pancit, so of course we had to order the pancit malabon. Pancit are noodles, and there are so many varieties of pancit dishes that can be found in the Philippines. The one we had is named after its city of origin, Malabon City, and has seafood. At Jeepney, the rice noodles were served with romesco sauce, calamari, shrimp, and hard-boiled egg. Be sure to squeeze some of the lemon wedge over everything for that nice bit of tang and freshness that goes great with seafood. Now this is Filipino go-to food!
This time around I ordered the chori burger, because I had since learned that it’s one of the restaurant’s most famous dishes and I had missed out on it last time. As you might’ve guessed, this isn’t a traditional dish but is definitely inspired by Filipino ingredients. It’s a sirloin beef and longganisa patty (longganisa is a type of pork sausage) on a challah bun served with spicy banana ketchup, aioli, and fries. Jeepney also recommends adding a fried egg on top of the burger, so even though I’m not an egg-person, I went for it. At this point in the meal, I was getting so stuffed I could only take a few bites of the burger before taking the rest home, but it was super tasty. I mean what else do you expect from a burger that won Time Out New York‘s 2014 Battle of the Burger?
Like I said before, we were pigging out here, so we didn’t stop at an appetizer and two entrees. We also ordered the bicol express, which is slow-roasted pork shoulder served with pickled chilies and baby bok choy. Jeepney puts its own spin on it, but traditionally, this dish is served as diced pork with green chilies/peppers. And speaking of chilies, be careful with those here! Things can get pretty spicy.
A meal with my mom is not complete until we have dessert. A lot of times we like to go elsewhere for a sweet finish to our meal, but we couldn’t resist the halo-halo here. Halo-Halo means “mixed together” and is a dessert made with shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans, jellos, and fruits. Frequently, it’s topped with some ube (purple yam) ice cream, which was the part I went for immediately as a kid. If you haven’t tried ube ice cream, give it a shot. It’s a wonderful shade of purple and utterly delicious. Eating this brought back so many memories of my mom breaking out the shaved ice machine to make halo-halo at home.
Now this isn’t normally something I would get excited about, but ‘m so happy to tell you that it’s best to make a reservation at this tiny restaurant so you don’t end up with a long wait and your tummy rumbling. Why am I so chipper about this? Well, that just means that people here appreciate and want Filipino food, which I absolutely love.
If you’re looking to explore more Filipino food, check out Jeepney’s sister restaurant Maharlika. Thanks for putting Filipino food on the map, guys!
Mango juice, buko, chicharon bulaklak, pancit malabon, chori burger, bicol express, halo-halo
201 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003