Has anyone ever heard of Hummus?

Hummus is a classic Middle Eastern blend of chickpeas, tahini and hint of garlic, drizzled with olive oil and dusted with paprika.  A delicious Mediterranean appetizer, it is  eaten with Pita bread, a round leavened flatbread generally made with wheat which one dips into it.

What about Muttabal? Another Middle East staple, it is a smokey-flavored puree of augbergine sharpened by garlic and olive oil and garnished by tahini.  Just like the Hummus, it is a good dip for the Pita bread.

And of course, there’s Lamb Tikka, much like the shawarma; the Kebabs, skewered meats (lamb, beef, chicken) and veggies which are grilled or broiled; the Tzatziki, the Chicken Tandoori, the Iraqi rice… the list goes on and on.

If you want to try these stuff and are the food lover that you say you are, then we have good news for you.  All these are now available in GenSan, in this little place called THE OLD SOUTH.

The Old South Grill and Resto Bar is GenSan’s first dining establishment to offer Meditteranean Food plus a little Spanish Cuisine.

Jointly run by brothers Attorney Onie Baliao and Butch, this GenSan restaruant is still less than a month old since it opened, but has already started to gain a sizeable following among the city’s discriminating food lovers on the lookout for something novel.

The Old South Grill and Resto Bar is not hard to find if you know your way around GenSan.  Located at the former house of Atty. Onie  which he transformed to resemble a Spanish Villa, it can be found inside the Romana Estate II, along the Mabuhay-Klinan Road.

Your landmark should be the Iglesia ni Cristo temple being constructed on the left shoulder of the Mabuhay-Klinan Road.  Just beside the construction is a roadsign leading to LC5 Farm and Resort.  Turn left here to a dirt road and immediately you will see The Old South’s building a few meters away.

Bariles and his photographer actually visited this newest GenSan restaurant at night.  They were immediately received by Atty. Onie who was Bariles’ classmate in high school at the NDDU and introduced to his brother and Master Chef Butch who is actually a practicing architect.

Business must really be good already since Bariles noticed that the place was packed with diners, some who were his friends.  He saw the svelte Sarangan beauty Kye Montemayor of Alsons who were with her family , Law Student and young businessman Dom Salazar with his fiancee, a few people from Smart Communications, and USAID Gem Davao’s lovely Sarah Matalam and her cousin, the dashing Councilor Jeng Pendatun of Maguindanao.

The Old South front yard with wooden tables laid out under a tent.
"The Old South front yard with wooden tables laid out under a tent."

Bariles was ushered inside what used to be Atty. Onie’s old living room and was amazed at its new Spanish-inspired look, which the lawyer and his brother collectively designed. On the walls are large original paintings by Master Chef Butch himself and scattered all throughout are antique fixtures from their family’s ancestral home in Glan, Sarangani Province.

Inside the Old South.  The paintings are by Butch,
"Inside the Old South. The paintings are by Butch, the antique furniture from their ancestral home in Glan, Sarangani."

On the wall beside the side door leading outside into a veranda is a portrait of their maternal grandfather, Tranquilino Ruiz, one of the very first Christians from Cebu who settled in Glan in 1914.

At that time, Glan was already a bustling community,  inhabited by different tribes, many of them Muslim converts influenced by travellers from the Middle East.

Tranquilino, who hailed from Cebu, was a very good cook and studied the locals’ way of cooking, including dishes which had Arabian influences.

He infused his knowledge of Cebuano cuisine with these, eventualy making them his own.

He would later pass his recipes on to Onie and Butch’s mother, who would also taught it to them and her other kids.

The Old South therefore is the sibling’s homage to their old man, giving the place a semblance of their historical haunt in Glan and serving food which would invoke the memories of the good old days far up in the coastal municipality of Glan, along the shores of  Sarangani Bay.

After Bariles and his photographer Marz were settled at their own table in the front yard under a tent, they noticed a big authentic Hookah infront of them.

The hookah, a traditional smoking contraption in the Middle East operates by water filtration and indirect heat. It is used for smoking tobacco fruits, and is healthier than smoking cigarettes.

Each table at The Old South is equipped with one for the use of their clients.  According to their menu,  each cone containing different flavors, is worth only P150.

If only Bariles were not recuperating from asthma at that time, he would have tried their Hookah and was so envious of the group at the other table who were having fun with theirs.

While waiting for their food, Atty. Onie revealed that the old rooms of his house are being converted into airconditioned function rooms.  In fact, a couple of groups have already booked them.

He is also busy with plans on the construction of a 20-room pension house at the back of the restaurant, which although still at the drawing board has already received inquiries from interested parties.

Finally, their food arrived – the house specialty – Mixed Kebabs with Pita Bread.

Mixed Kebabs with Pita
"Mixed Kebabs with Pita"

Dipped into The Old South‘s super mega hot green sauce and its white mayo-like sauce, the grilled beef, lamb and chicken meat rolls had to be eaten with cut-pieces of pita,  grilled eggplants, red tomatoes and white onions. The green sauce was sooooo spicy that Bariles immediately perspired from his head down, with his sweat dripping all over.  Hooossshhh!!!!  Hooot but delicious!!

Another spicy dish they had was the Chicken Tandori, actually chicken in skewers (barbecue) which had an Indian taste to it.

The Old Souths Chicken Tandori, with grilled eggplants, tomato and rice.
"The Old South's Chicken Tandori, with grilled eggplants, tomato and rice."

Bariles had no time to try the other dishes especially the Spanish offerings courtesy of the sibling’s grandfather’s recipe but will have to reserve them for another day. With more than 20 entries in their menu, it would take more than a couple of visits to try all these exotic sounding food, especially those from the land where Jesus and the prohphets once walked.

Suffice to say, the entry of The Old South Grill and Resto Bar in the gastronomic radar of GenSan abodes well for the generals on the lookout for a wider variety of cuisine.  Now the answer to the question, “Where do we eat?” has found another answer.

And we only have the late grandfather of Onie and Butch Baliao to thank for.