Secret Menus and Pop-Ups to Honor San Francisco's Filipino Food Scene

Fried chicken with Pandan Mochi Waffles from Little Skillet (Albert Law)

Did you know the SOMA district in San Francisco is the Filipino Cultural Heritage district?

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In April 2016, former mayor Ed Lee and the city’s Board of Supervisors recognized the need to preserve “the living landmark that is the Filipino community in the South of Market neighborhood and established the SoMa Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District.” Since then, community organizers have worked hard to make the existing Filipino community more visible to the rest of the Bay Area.

Dinuguan from Manila Bowl
Dinuguan from Manila Bowl (Albert Law)

That's where Desi Danganan, the executive director of Kultivate Labs, a local non-profit business accelerator, comes in. One of his team’s first projects to promote Filipino culture, food and art was a carefully curated night market festival called UNDISCOVERED SF that first launched in August 2017. It became a monthly summer festival, but, if you look at UNDISCOVERED SF’s social media presence today, you’ll see that is has been taken over by a special event called Kulinary Confidential.

When asked for more details, Danganan explained, “Kulinary Confidential is a delicious way to explore the incredible Filipino food scene that exists in our city. The Bay Area is home to the largest population of Filipinos in the country, and there’s so much undiscovered culinary talent here. These chefs are pushing the boundaries of Filipino cuisine and reinterpreting it a uniquely Filipino-American perspective.”

Sarap Shop’s Mystery bag will include their signature Halo Halo Milk Tea and a mystery flavor of onigiri.
Sarap Shop’s Mystery bag will include their signature Halo Halo Milk Tea and a mystery flavor of onigiri. (Albert Law)

With participation from 7 restaurants and 16 chefs, this two-week affair will showcase the vibrant flavors of the Philippines through two self-guided food crawls featuring secret, off-menu dishes chosen by the chefs themselves. You could munch on Toyomansi-glazed Fried Chicken & Pandan Mochi Waffle at Little Skillet or try your luck with the Mystery Bag at Sarap Shop — just 2 out of 8 options available to passport holders!

You might know a thing or two about lumpia, sisig, and other delicious Filipino fare but the tasting passport will help you dive into the cuisine with a little help from chefs and their special off-the-menu items. After all, what better way to learn about another culture than through their cuisine? Plus, each week has a different lineup of participating restaurants and secret dishes to keep things fresh. To keep the messaging concise, all of the participating restaurants and pop-up dinners are located within SOMA Pilipinas, San Francisco’s Filipino cultural district.

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Note: You can ONLY get the secret menu items by redeeming purchased passport tickets.

Lechon Kawali tacos from Mestiza
Lechon Kawali tacos from Mestiza (Albert Law)

There will also be 6 pop-up dinners where chefs will show off their creative interpretations of Filipino cuisine, like an elegant, modern Filipino tasting menu from Pinoy Heritage’s Chef Francis Ang or a flavorful Filipino and Japanese mashup from Ox & Tiger chefs EJ Macayan and Hitomi Wada.

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Tasting passports clock in at $48 and pop-up meal tickets range from $65-90. You can purchase your tickets here. Go eat some delicious food and feel good while doing so because 5% of ticket sales go to Balboa High School’s Tagalog immersion trip! Thanks in part to donations, 20+ students will go to the Philippines to learn about their cultural roots and practice Tagalog.

Check it out and make sure to give feedback to the team! “If the participating chefs and public are happy and our efforts are helping to energize the conversation about Filipino food in the Bay Area, then I don’t see why we wouldn’t do this again. I can imagine us doing more thematic events like an all ube Kulinary Confidential,” says Danganan. An all ube tasting event? Sign me up.

See below for the full list of secret menu items and pop-up dinners.

Secret Menu Items

Week 1 (April 1-7)

  1. Lechon Kawali Tacos & Coconut Horchata at Mestiza (crispy pork belly tacos)
  2. Dinuguan at Manila Bowl (pork blood stew with rice cakes)
  3. Filipino Fried Chicken at Alchemy x SFC Christian Ciscle (pineapple mochi, spiced batter, soy chile sauce)
  4. Mystery Bag at Sarap Shop (Sarap’s signature Halo Halo Milk Tea and a mystery flavor of onigiri)

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Week 2 (April 8-14)

  1. Chicken Escabeche at Alchemy (coconut vinegar marinated fried chicken thigh, calamansi tartar sauce, cabbage, tomato salad)
  2. Chicken Afritada at JT’s (chicken tomato and vegetable stew)
  3. Toyomansi-glazed Fried Chicken & Pandan Mochi Waffle at Little Skillet
  4. Adobo Carnitas with Dirty Rice at Senor Sisig
Adobo Carnitas with Dirty Rice
Adobo Carnitas with Dirty Rice (Albert Law)

Pop-Up Dinners

  • April 1: Rod Reyes of Barya Kitchen
    • 5-course meal of classic Filipino dishes with a modern spin at Copyright Cocktail Kitchen, $65
  • April 6: EJ Macayan + Hitomi Wada of Ox & Tiger
    • 6-course meal fusing Filipino and Japanese flavors at Joint Venture, $70
  • April 7: Marc Pescon of Aliwang Lutu
    • 3-course Filipino ‘Kamayan’ with a French twist at Executive Order, $90
  • April 8: Yana Gilbuena of Salo Series + author of No Forks Given
    • Family-style ‘Kamayan’ spread of 6 dishes featuring island-inspired flavors at Mestiza, $70
  • April 13: Francis Ang of Pinoy Heritage
    • 8-course modern Filipino at Picnic on Third, $80
  • April 14: Aileen Suzara of Sariwa
    • Meal will highlight the deep influences of Indian influences on Filipino flavors and show a contemporary take on Aileen’s blended roots at Mestiza, $65

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