For the many decades that General Santos City has been named as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, most people know that a great number of its dining establishments serve the best and freshest tasting tuna dishes.
But did you know that there’s more to Gensan than just tuna?
If you have 24 hours to spare while visiting the city, we urge you to go on a gastronomic adventure around town that will convince you that the Home of the Champions has more than enough culinary delights other than tuna, that has earned it another moniker, the Food and Dining Capital of SoCCSkSarGen.
So are you ready?
After that prerequisite visit to the Gensan Fishport and ticking off from your bucket lists that “man-carrying-a-giant-tuna-on-his-shoulders” selfie, you must truly be famished. What better way for you to do than to hie off to Greenleaf Hotel (San Miguel Street) to feast on the Breakfast Buffet at their Mint Café?
Mint Café has the most extensive morning fare in the city serving a mix of Pinoy, Western and Asian dishes. The stylish place, the elegant set-up and the various food offerings are all instagram-worthy and the staff is always ready to get your egg omelet cooked just right for you.
Stretch out a little after your hearty meal and take a quick tour of the pool nearby and check out its newly opened The Pavilion just beside it. You might want to hold a party there at one point in time.
Time of cool off from a short, frenzied Pokémon-catching activity at the famed Plaza Heneral Santos that contains the remains of the city’s founder and namesake buried beneath his shrine.
Head down to nearby Tambilawan Restaurant (the most famous Halal Restaurant in Gensan) at Laurel Avenue and partake of their famous buko halo-halo and its delicious mix of fruits, mix and the softest shaved ice ever. It might look too much for you to finish but promise, after your first spoonful, you will not want to share it with anybody. (They are famous too for their Chicken Inasal, FYI.)
Now, proceed to SM City Gen. Santos and secure a table at the iconic Ranchero Nuevo, a must-visit destination in Gensan that is famous for their modern take on beloved Filipino eats.
Once there, it is a must that you order their renowned tender Baby Back Ribs that started it all for them; Karagatan Soup; Seafood Kare-Kare and being the Tuna Capital, the Crispy Fried Tuna Buntot and Grilled Juicy Tuna Belly or Jaw (Panga), among others. Then fall in love with their Kinilaw Trio and find out 3 ways that Pinoys serve the dish. If you’re more than 3, then the Inihaw Fiesta Platter or Pork Barbecue is recommended.
Wash these off with the generals’ favorite, fresh juices made from Honey Melon and Dragonfruit, harvested from the family’s own farm. You’ll be amazed at how deliciously healthy they are for you.
But if it’s Asian food for you, then walk a few meters up to Hao Chuan Modern Chinese Cuisine. The new Hao Chuan Modern Chinese Cuisine at the SM City opened just recently is now a top choice among gourmands for their delightful and creative Asian fare.
Recommended dishes in this beautifully furnished and tastefully interiored diner include (for starters) the Hao Chuan Soup which is their version of the traditional Shark’s Fin Soup; Hum Chai Pao or steamed buns with braised pork belly; Patatim; their Peking-duck inspired Peking Chicken; stir-fried Firecracker Shrimps; and, the saucy Pancit Lauriat.
Now you know how emperors eat after filling yourself up with all these delightful treats.
It is the perfect moment for dessert!
Dessert should not be too far away after that hearty lunch. Still at SM City General Santos, you could walk to either Aunt Ludi Bakeshoppe – Cafe at the 2nd floor or Café Amoree, at the Upper Floor of the Fountain Court. Further down Santiago Boulevard is JoAnn’s Bakeshop and Restaurant.
At Aunt Ludi Bakeshoppe – Cafe do not miss out on their bestselling Torta de Crema that is perfect as pasalubong. Whet your appetite for more sweet indulgences with their Ube Cake with Cream Cheese, Tres Leches, Double Decker Cheese Mousse, Rainbow Cake and White Toblerone Cheesecake. But if you have more room for it, go for their Messy Burger.
Café Amoree, on the other hand, boasts of their Red Velvet and Moist Chocolate Cakes; their Carrot and Banana Cakes; the always in demand Durian de Mercedes; and, if it’s available, their surprisingly famous Siakoy.
JoAnn’s Bakeshop & Restaurant boasts of their iconic siopao that has been around since the 60s. Either that or partake of their numerous baked delights like their cakes, pastries, cookies, breads and cupcakes!
All these establishments also serve rice and pasta meals so you have a lot of decision-making to do while there.
It’s Coffee Time!
The burgeoning coffee shop business is also evident in the Tuna Capital. For local brews, the perfect place could be either at Coffee Lover at the Gensan High Street, National Highway; or Coffee Club 101 at Robinsons Place Gensan or their newer branch at SM City General Santos.
Coffee Lover takes prides in their assortment of inexpensive coffee and teas (most are below P100) and their famous seasonal wall décor that has been the fave backdrop of a million and one selfies.
Coffee Club 101, on the other hand, which is the biggest and most luxurious, serves up their own hot and cold blends that includes Strawberry Smoothie, Durian Cheesecake Coffee; Milk Shakes such as Coffee Club 101 Delight and Milky Way; and Fraps like Mocha Butterscotch and Raspberry Caramella.
Any of these will surely satisfy your cravings for delicious coffee and tea, for that matter. We swear.
At night fall and after that rejuvenating foot massage at Atman Urban Day Spa along Magsaysay Avenue, you will not be disappointed at the variety of local dining choices that Gensan offers. Here are a few.
If it’s steaks for you, the original Cottonbowl Grill and Steak House, established in the 1960s is on everybody’s list. Located at Ramos Extension in Barangay Lagao, they serve the juiciest beef steaks topped with their delectable homemade sauce that has been their secret weapon of sorts for generations. If you are on a diet, then there’s their assortment of burgers for you to choose from.
Red Trellis Seafood Garden at Valley High Compound, National Highway, has been a favorite among epicureans in the know, among the generals. Dinner has to consist of their Crabs in Coco Milk, Grilled Prawns in Lemon Sauce and Steamed Pompano or Lapu-Lapu. They also have live fish and other crustaceans in a giant aquarium, which you can select for cooking, in whatever style you want.
For those with more adventurous tastes, Spice n’ Wok fits the bill. An Indian restaurant located at Gensan’s emerging Food District at Quirino Avenue, it whips up authentic Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean and other Asian dishes. Must-tries are their Chicken Masala, Beef Kofta, Kebabs, Chappati, Nasi Goreng, Bumbu Rujak, etc. You can have them served fiery or mildly hot.
However, if you want super yummy Tinolang Native Manok and try their unique Native Manok Kare-kare, there’s only Fonti’s Cafe at East Asia Royale Arcade for you. You can finish these with any of their delectable and decadent cakes.
For that nightcap, we are recommending PBA Sports Bar at Gensan High Street, National Highway, and its succulent array of bar and beer food that you could enjoy with presumably the coldest beers in the city. Watch your pick of sports from any of the 10 giant TV screens adorning the bar located at the 2nd Floor of Gensan High Street.
Then there’s Veranza Mall at J. Catolico Avenue, which features a live band every night starting at 7pm at their open activity center.. Beer is cheapest here and food can be ordered from the roving waiters of the mall’s dining establishments.
But if you want a quieter evening, then continue your food discovery at the Caffe Firenzo, that does not only serve a good selection of local and imported beer but the best pizza too. Open 24/7, you can find it at the SunCity Suites Arcade, along the National Highway.
If you are craving for the tapsi kind, then hie off to Tap-C and Burger right across SM City Gen. Santos at San Miguel Street. Not only is it famous for its very affordable Tapsi Meals but is now well-known for its Major League Burgers. It is a fitting meal before heading off to bed.
Last but not the least are more restaurants at the Valley High along the National Highway that are among the best after-dinner haunts in Gensan. You can choose from Big Ben’s and C Bistro plus the aforementioned Red Trellis and the Café Amoree branch there.
All these could surely make for an enjoyable night to finish your foodie tour and convince you that indeed, General Santos City is the Food and Dining Capital of South Central Mindanao.
NOTE: This is the unedited version of our article of the same title at LAAN MAGAZINE, published as an in-bus travel and advertising magazine of Yellow Bus Inc., in SoCCSkSargen, Mindanao.