Friday, September 22, 2017

#PoblacionHop: A Food and Art Hop at Makati's Poblacion with Hop Inn Makati Avenue

It was more than just a food crawl. It was a memorable immersion into one of Makati's vibrant communities...

Hop Inn Makati Avenue, in cooperation with Tralulu, recently hosted a walking tour of Poblacion's blossoming food and art scene providing key insights on the community's unique vibe and pulse. The diverse flavors and emerging art movement combine for an immersive experience in a dynamic and constantly evolving neighborhood. Founded with a rich history with one foot firmly maintaining the tradition and legacy of its storied past and another boldly advancing a step forward, Poblacion remains one of the metro's hidden gems. Take a peek and read on, or hop on, to another side of Makati's unique sights and flavors with Hop Inn Makati Avenue's Poblacion Hop... 

The Poblacion Hop included an overnight stay at the new Hop Inn Makati Avenue, conveniently located at the heart of Poblacion and near the bustling commercial and business district of Makati. Hop Inn is a growing network of budget hotels managed by The Erawan Group PLC, Thailand's leading hotel developer, operating more than 28 Hop Inn properties, and counting, in Thailand with two new hotels in the Philippines, first in Ermita and followed by Makati Avenue. Soon, you'll find Hop Inn blooming up in ASEANA, Alabang, and Tomas Morato currently in the pipeline, with plans for more hotels in Visayas and Mindanao. The distinctive colors of the hotel's facade exude a casual and youthful vibe, primarily designed for budget-conscious business and leisure travelers offering the best value stay in the metro. Travel doesn't have to cost an arm and leg, you just need to travel smart. Hop Inn Makati Avenue's superior value for money allows you to see more of the city and maximize your travel experience. And Hop Inn Makati Avenue is definitely one of the smart options in the city of Makati. Simply hop on with Hop Inn Makati Avenue's unmatched value for money advantage.

The clean and bright interiors of Hop Inn Makati Avenue's functional lobby showcases the thematic colors of the brand, with a grid map of Makati on the wall adding a modern graphic touch. Your visit to Hop Inn Makati Avenue is greeted by the warm smiles of the staff, linking a continuous chain of service and hospitality throughout your stay.

A mere seven months after opening the very first Hop Inn hotel in Ermita, Hop Inn Makati Avenue is the second property in the country as part of an aggressive expansion program. Each Hop Inn property is guided by their 4 Pillars Promise, with Cleanliness, Convenience, Comfort, and Security at the very core of the Hop Inn experience. It's a philosophy built around The Erawan Group PLC's extensive thirty-five year experience in developing and operating prestigious five-star hotels in Thailand including the Grand Hyatt and JW Marriott properties. And Hop Inn Makati Avenue was the perfect home base for the day's much anticipated hop with the Poblacion Hop (for more on Hop Inn Philippines, click on the FB Page link here at It's great to see innovative activities integrating the hotel with local businesses in the neighborhood to the benefit of the entire community. It's an innovative initiative headed by Hop Inn Makati Avenue's team that can be replicated in other Hop Inn properties.  

Hop Inn Makati offers Standard Twin and Standard Double Room accommodations with an uncluttered, minimalist and smartly designed configurations. Each room reflects the simple and no-frills approach of Hop Inn Hotels, but it has all the modern amenities you need including a flat screen TV with cable channels, split-type air con, a functional work area, hot and cold shower, hairdryer, clothes rack, towels and linen, complimentary bottled water and an in-room personal safe. Free parking, 24-Hour front desk, 24-hour security, daily housekeeping, and PWD facilities round out the essentials, plus free WiFi that allows you to stay connected with the rest of the world. It's a complete check list of everything you need for your travels, at a price that's easy on the budget with rates as low as P 1,500 net per room per night (see contact details below and call for the special introductory rates). 

A short nap in Hop Inn Makati Avenue's comfortable bed whisks you away to dreamland in no time, but this will have to wait. The tour organizers from Tralulu gathered the group together for the scheduled Poblacion Hop, a walking tour showcasing the best of Poblacion just a short walk from Hop Inn Makati Avenue. 

Named after the legendary blood-sucking creature of Mexican lore, El Chupacabra offers authentic Mexican Street Tacos, our first flavorful stop at the Poblacion Hop. Pick a spot and enjoy a few signature street tacos made from the freshest ingredients and a cold beer. Staying by the street gives you a feel of the neighborhood's beat.

Located at Felipe Street, El Chupacabra is one of the traiblazing pioneers in Poblacion. Start with El Chupacabra's Gringas, soft flour quesadillas filled with Cheese, Garlic & Onion (P 141) and served with a creamy dip, tart salsa, and green chili sauce. The comforting flavor of the soft tortilla is followed by the richness of the cheese, the subtle nutty notes from the garlic and the whisper of sweetness from the onions, each transformed by the three different sauces so each bite is different. Other fillings tasty include Carne Asada (P 213), Chorizo, Soyrizo, Lengua de Carnitas (P 208), Bacon (P 269), Pollo Asado, Grilled Veggies, Picadillo (P 178), Cheese & Garlic (P 137), and Jalapeno and Cheese (P 141). Make sure to try a variety of street tacos on your visit to El Chupacabra.

El Chupacabra offers a variety of Mexican dishes, from Burritos to Chimichangas, Enchiladas and Rice Plates, but it's their Street Tacos that's always been their all-time best-seller. And it's the real thing, with a soft corn taco made from real corn masa. And no, you won't find the "gringo-style" crispy corn taco shell with lettuce and cheese at El Chupacabra. Nope. Just Mexican Street Tacos the way it should be. The San Francisco-Style Lean Pork Sisig Street Taco (P 135) combines the comfortingly familiar flavors of pork sisig in a Mexican-style street taco that will leave you asking for another one. Topped with chopped onions, fresh cilantro and fresh salsa, the flavors and savory richness of the pork come through capped by the distinct notes of the different toppings. The onions and cilantro tempers the richness of the pork for balanced notes, and the soft corn taco completes the flavors. Other street taco variants include the Carne Asada (P 110), Carnitas (P 110), Al Pastor (P 110), Baja California Fish Taco (P 140), Pollo Asado (P 110), Vegetariano (P 110), Picadillo (P 110), Camarones Ala Diabla (P 160), Lengua (P 140), Barbacoa De Res (P 140), Chorizo Con Papas (P 140), Soyrizo Con Papas (P 135), Gonzo Chicken Adobo (P 110), and Cabrito (P 170). Authentic and real Mexican style street food at El Chupacabra, the perfect first stop on our Poblacion Hop (for more on El Chupacabra, Home of the Street Taco, visit their FB Page at

A short walk around the neighborhood leads us to Lobo Filipino Tavern in Durban Street, our second stop at the Poblacion Hop. Inspired by the unwavering spirit of the wolf, Lobo Filipino Tavern serves homestyle Filipino cuisine from cherished family recipes, including some interesting classic dishes with a modern spin.

Inside, the rustic wooden tables and chairs add a comforting old world charm to the place. Tagged as one of Lifestyle Asia's Top 30 Homegrown Philippine Brands, Lobo Filipino Tavern pays tribute to the diverse flavors and rich culinary heritage of the land with each dish. Authenticity is infused with inventive takes on traditional local cuisine for another unique dining experience in Poblacion. The signature Kinilaw na Tanigue (P 195) kicked off our feast of local flavors, with tender wahoo marinated in coconut vinegar, lime, peppers, chili and mangoes. A local version of ceviche, Lobo Filipino Tavern's delicate kinilaw preserves the fresh and clean notes of the fish, kicked up by the sharp notes of the coconut vinegar and lime. Other kinilaw variants include Tuna (P 185), Salmon (P 220), Shrimp (P 195), and Oysters (P 195). You can also opt for the Sinuglaw (P 250), with fresh fish topped with grilled pork. 

On a cloudy day, there's nothing quite like a steaming hot bowl of Sinigang na Baboy (P 225), with slabs of pork belly and fresh vegetables in a tart and sour tamarind broth. The broth just cleanses the palate, opening it up for the subtle sweetness of the vegetables and the delicate notes of the pork.

The Signature Kare-Kare (P 295) is another comforting dish at Lobo Filipino Tavern, taking you back to childhood summers and grandma's homemade dishes. Lobo Filipino Tavern's own version includes a combination of tender beef short ribs, ox tripe, and ox tongue for rich beefy notes along with fresh vegetables in a thick peanut sauce. Trust me, you'll want some extra rice with this. Have a meal as a lone wolf or bring the rest of the pack at Lobo Filipino Tavern for some seriously good eats.

No Filipino meal is complete without adobo, and Lobo's Lamb Adobo (P 275) is a tasty variation of the classic dish. The fork-tender Australian Lamb adds a distinct richness to the dish, with its subtle gamey notes layered with the nutty hints of garlic and olive oil and tempered by the tartness of the atchara and pickled mangoes. All the distinct flavors come together in a seamless blend, and yes, extra rice please. Sumptuous, homestyle flavors of traditional dishes recreated daily at Lobo Filipino Tavern, it's like coming home for a meal at your favorite aunt's place, and another flavorful stop in our Poblacion Hop (for more on Lobo Filipino Tavern, check out their FB Page at

But there's more. It was time to hit another culinary landmark in Poblacion. Formerly a sari-sari store frequented by Melvin Viceral and Franco Ocampo for a pack of cigarettes during countless drinking binges, the spot has been transformed into one of the neighborhood's coolest establishments serving grilled yakitori and cold beers. This is Tambai, where hanging out is taken to a whole new level of savory flavors. The name itself is a witty play on the local "tambay" which means to hang-out and the Japanese-inspired yakitori specialties.

Slapped with a smooth yet bare concrete wall for that modern urban look, Tambai still retains the feel of the original sari-sari store with its street side benches and tables along Felipe Street. Can there be anything cooler than a bunch of freshly grilled skewers and cold brew right on the street? You can also move inside and enjoy your yakitori... the US Beef Isaw (P 60 per stick), tender beef innards delicately grilled for that balanced charred finish. Each tender bite delivers the bold notes of beef capped by the smoky notes of the charred outer layer. Just perfect. Pile on the sticks, and the beer, at Tambai.

The innards are cleaned well delivering fresh notes, and the contrasting textures of the tender meat with the light crispness of the charred portions make this a real winner. It's local street food with a Japanese spin, and Tambai's got the goods when it comes to savory grilled skewered meat including US Pork (P 45), US Chicken Leg (P 45), US Chicken Liver (P 40), US Chicken Gizzard (P 40), Quail Egg and Bacon (P 60), US Beef Rib Finger (P 180) and Japanese Sausage (P 50) as well as vegetarian options like Roast Garlic Basil (P 30), Tomato/Bell Pepper (P 30), and Zucchini (P 45). Make it a real meal with Tambai's Japanese Rice (P 50) and Kimchi Rice (P 70).

Not to be missed is Tambai's Kushikatsu or fried sticks like the Tofuyaki (P 70) drizzled with Japanese mayo and Japanese spices. Crisp on the outside and soft inside, the delicate notes of the tofu are kicked up by the spices and perfectly finished by the creamy mayo. One more? Absolutely, with another ice-cold brew. Grilled and deep-fried skewers with a cold beer, just can't get better than that.

If you enjoy tofu, you'll love this one. Other signature Kushikatsu fried variants include the Soft Shell Crab (P 300), Not Dori (P 140 Alaskan Pollock), Cherry Tomato (P 40), Zucchini (P 50), Chicken Skin (P 150), Fried Chicken Wings (P 120), Soshallots (P 40), Pork Katsu Curry Bun (P 180) and Not Dori Sandwich (P 160). Good food, good times and good vibes, it's all here at Tambai (for more on Tambai and cool #tambaisessions, visit their FB Page at

Then, Tambai had one more tasty surprise. Save some room for Tambai's crispy Chicken Skin (P 150), drizzled with a mildly sweet sauce. With sweet and salty notes in one crunchy bite, washed down by another cold beer, you'd love to stay just a little longer. Once you start, you just can't stop. And why not, you're in Tambai so just go with flow.

But Poblacion has even more dining spots to offer, including classic comfort food at Bucky's. From garden-fresh salads to hearty sandwiches, tasty appetizers to Chef's specials, desserts, their signature brownies, soft-serve ice cream, gourmet coffee from Yardstick and indulgent parfaits, Bucky's is a one-stop dining destination in itself at Poblacion. Located along Don Pedro, Bucky's was the last stop in our Poblacion Hop.

Described by the owners as the grown-up version of the classic mozzarella sticks, the Mozza Nugs (P 225) at Bucky's are perfectly executed with a crisp outer layer of breading evenly fried topped with herbs. An audible crunch announces each and every bite followed by the oozing creamy mozzarella lining your palate with its richness. A dip in the vibrant and tart marinara sauce completes the flavors. Say cheese? Say Mozza Nugs. 

Bucky's also served one of their newest dishes, the Bucky's Fried Chicken with Roasted Garlic Mash, Braised Red Cabbage and Gravy is a complete meal in itself. The chicken is expertly fried, with a crisp outer layer over juicy chicken. The garlic hints added another dimension of flavor to the soft mash, with the braised cabbage providing more flavor and texture. Even as the group took turns in taking a number of photos, the skin remained crisp and the meat stayed moist and juicy. It's a winner chicken dinner perfect any time of day. Bucky's has other new dishes on the menu, including Swedish Meatballs with Warm Marble Potato Salad, Cauliflower Salad with Carabao Ricotta, Pickled Onions, Capers, Eggplant, Greens, and Radishes, and Crispy Baked Potato with Smoked Bacon, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Yogurt, just some of the reasons to come back to Poblacion.  

Cap your feast with Bucky's signature parfaits for a sweet ending. The Original Parfait (P 220) with Original Bucky, velvety smooth and creamy soft serve, salted caramel, chewy marshmallows and BB Polvoron (L) simply tastes as good as it looks. Piled high and smothered with a variety of indulgent toppings, it's an all-out dessert for an epic finale to a memorable food crawl at Poblacion. The S'mores Parfait (P 220) with S'mores cookies, soft serve, salted caramel, marshmallows, and BB Polvoron recreates a childhood favorite in a no-holds barred and decadent dessert. It's a shame to hold back on desserts, more so with these signature parfait creations from Bucky's. So go ahead and indulge, you're in the 'hood where good food rules (for more on Bucky's, visit their FB Page at

A short walk to Palma Street revealed yet another facet of Poblacion, infusing colorful layers in the rich and vibrant tapestry of the neighborhood. An art gallery, photo studio and events venue, Pineapple Lab is the community's arts and performance hub designed to engage audiences and art lovers in a meaningful discourse. Art and cocktails? Count me in...

For Andrei Paminutuan, Jodinand Aguillon, and James Lim, our graceful hosts at Pineapple Lab, it's all about bringing art to the streets, to the people, and to the community. Pineapple Lab is committed to seeking innovative ways to present the works of both local and international artists and collaborators and providing easy access.

And the space is impressive. At the second floor, the mixed medium art installation of Belsazar II is an expression of varied emotions and visual rage, with each brush stroke a reflection of his own personal struggles. As you walk through the installation, there is an undeniable and frenzied vibe that creeps up on you, heightened by the starkness of the contrasting monochromatic black & white tones. The elaborate piece pulls you in and engages you in an interactive manner, highlighted by the question "why are you?" that still lingers on long after the visit. 

The steps leading up to Belsazar II's impressive art piece on the second floor of Pineapple Lab is at first chaotic and seemingly violent with swirls and splashes of black paint on concrete, but then it becomes more personal in an introspective way, luring you to dig deeper. Chaos is then replaced by a quiet and serene tranquility.

The question continues to linger in your head, and you'll need another round of vodka to find some clarity. And it always works. And that's what makes Pineapple Lab special, making real and relevant connections on a personal level with its modern art collections and exhibits. With a little help from the cocktails. And I'm loving it.

And just in case you need another cocktail to free your mind to figure it all out, Belsazar II describes his intent and purpose on one of the walls to guide you along his impressive piece. But if you're still thirsty for another cocktail, Pineapple Lab's fully-stocked bar's got you covered.

That day, the works of Sherwin Sacramento were also showcased at the ground floor, stunning images and patterns of the artist's personal meditation. The Head Maze and Human Maze collection of Sherwin Sacramento recreates the myriad and complex stream of sensations, yet there is only one line that links the brain and heart to complete the concept of wholesomeness. The collection takes you on another personal journey, weaving different emotions. Who knew you could find such a place in Poblacion?

Sherwin Sacramento takes you back in time with his series of lithographs using fish oil ink on cotton paper and printed at a traditional Florentine stamperia with a machine from the 1800's for visually stunning results. It's a cool blend of old and new, and yet another peek at the creative process. It's a visual feast that feeds the eyes, making the Poblacion Hop not only a gastronomic tour but a sensory experience as well.  

Pineapple Lab's F&B Manager, Janice Buenaventura, made sure everyone had a fresh cocktail. With another cocktail, pick a spot and let your mind do the walking. Pineapple Lab is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm except for events and performances (click for more info).

A short walk takes you back to Hop Inn Makati Avenue, back to where it all began, for a restful night's sleep. It's been a full day of culinary discoveries matched with an equally insightful peek at the neighborhood's art movement, as a hot shower and comfy bed with smooth and crisp white sheets awaits. It's a great way to cap a full day experience. 

The next morning, refreshed and well-rested, it was time to say goodbye to Hop Inn Makati Avenue. Five memorable stops in Poblacion and one relaxing and worry-free evening at Hop Inn Makati Avenue, that's all you need to immerse yourself completely in one of Makati's oldest, historic yet modern and progressive neighborhoods. But Poblacion and Hop Inn Makati Avenue have so much more to offer, and it's your turn to find that out with your very own Poblacion Hop...

Hop Inn Makati Avenue is located at 7806 Makati Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City or call +632 816-7866 or +632 816-7876 (Fax) or email for inquiries and reservations. You can also visit their website and FB Page at and for more information and updates.

For more on Tralulu, a digital local travel booking platform, check out their FB Page here at

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