Everything You Need To Know About The Food Park Craze In Metro Manila

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The food park craze blew up on us like nobody’s business and now we have so many of them in Metro Manila.

Do you still remember what life was like pre-food park fever? Can you recall how it all started? Do you wonder how long it’s going to last?

150 Maginhawa Food Park

150 Maginhawa Food Park photo by Pam L.

Before any more food parks crop up, let’s backtrack a little bit and figure some stuff out. Like who can really take credit for starting the trend, why people love food parks so much, and if it’s safe to say that food parks are here to stay for good.

2011: Mercato Centrale and Banchetto become foodie destinations

2011 was the year of night markets. Our Awesome Planet joined forces with BGC and a bunch of other organizations to create two concepts–Mercato Centrale and Midnight Mercato. People loved that they could walk around, discover different kinds of things to eat, buy from as many stalls as they wanted, and settle down on the provided tables and chairs to enjoy their picks.

Another popular food market back in the day was Banchetto in Ortigas, dubbed as an overnight street food fiesta because it was open from Friday night until the wee hours of Saturday morning.

They would close the entire street to allow the merchants to set up shop and sell affordable goodies like burgers, all kinds of meat on a stick, and desserts. Employees working the night shift were the usual visitors chowing down at Banchetto.

Mercato Centrale

Photo from Ruth S.’s looloo review for Mercato Centrale

2012: The food truck craze begins

And then it was the time for food trucks to shine in 2012!

The first ever ‘designer’ food truck to open was Guactruck (Our Awesome Planet was behind this one, too) and they served up burrito bowls at Mercato Centrale. Several other gourmet food trucks opened shortly after and they all parked together in Makati to form Cucina Andare, the first ever food truck market in the metro!

The selection of munchables ran the gamut from hot dogs, to chicken wings, to shawarma.

2013: The food truck craze continues + the first food park opens

Adding to the food truck craze, The Backyard Food Truck Park opened in 2013 with its own fleet of food trucks parked in Capitol Commons.

In November of 2013, the first sighting of a food park called Z Compound appeared along Malingap St. near Maginhawa. Designed to be an incubator for young restaurant entrepreneurs, it quickly became a destination not just for some good grub but also for events like poetry readings or book launches. Some of their popular food stalls included Me Love You Long You Time (Southeast Asian) and Meshwe (Lebanese).

2015: Hole In The Wall jump-starts the food hall trend

Come 2015, the new trend was upscale food courts with concepts like Todd English Food Hall in SM Aura, Hole In The Wall in Century City, and SM Mega Food Hall in SM Megamall rising to popularity.

TEFH debuted with nine food stations including sushi, pizza, pasta, and grill sections, while HITW became famous for stalls like Bad Bird, The Beef, and Scout’s Honor. As for SM Mega Food Hall, people came for Frankie’s New York Buffalo Wings, The Halal Guys, and Dojo Dairy!

While that was happening in Makati and Ortigas, StrEat: Maginhawa Food Park in Quezon City was gaining steam and bringing in tons of customers (including heavy traffic) to the North. Shortly after, Box Park MNL opens along Congressional Avenue – also in Quezon City.

Makansutra, a hawker-style food court in SM Megamall was the most recent addition to the trend, featuring stalls that serve street food from all over the world.

2016: It’s official, we caught the food park fever

The food park craze finally went into full swing in 2016 and it seems to be the most enduring of all the previous trends. And maybe it’s because food parks combine everything we loved about the concepts that came before. They have the outdoor setting of night markets where you can sit down and enjoy your meal, the unique, conceptualized merchants you find in food truck parks, and the wide variety of food you get when you’re in a food court.

When asked what they like about food parks, looloo reviewer Angela Marie C. said: “Mainly the food because you can have a variety of cuisines and they tend to be more affordable. Plus the quality of food is not compromised either.” Nikki C. shared the same sentiments: The unique and variety of food offers. And for me, the location and accessibility plays a big reason to visit again and again.

The Yard

Photo from Steffhanie S.’s looloo review for The Yard

As for Sandra Y., it’s the look and vibe of food parks that draw her in. She said: “What keeps me coming back, is the nice ambiance. I love taking pics.” Midz S. is also partial to food parks that are interesting to look at and said that she would choose to go to the ones that are Insta-worthy and where she’ll feel comfortable. She also added: “I’d also go to food parks with lots of interesting food choices.”

Metro Manila’s most memorable food parks to date

The OG food parks have to make it to the most-memorable list because if it weren’t for these pioneers, the food park trend in the metro might not have even taken off. One of the oldest ones is Z Compound along Malingap Street, the alternative foodie haven for whenever the restaurants in Maginhawa are too packed. StrEat: Maginhawa Food Park has also been around for quite a while (it recently got a makeover ICYMI) and so has Boxpark MNL along Congressional.

Then there are those who have really set the bar when it comes to food and ambiance. People love Grub Hub along Congressional for its spaciousness, the themed, IG-worthy dining areas, and the wide variety of food choices (Mang Larry’s and Wicked Kitchen are just some of the sellers you’ll find here).

Another popular one is The Yard in Xavierville, raved about for its unique design (the stalls are housed inside container vans) and the fact that you get to choose from thirty unique concepts! Merkanto: International Street Food Fair in UP Village has also earned a good amount of looloo stars for its international street food, featuring goodies from Vietnam, Morocco, and Brazil!

Grub Hub

Photo from Em D.’s looloo review for Grub Hub

And then we have the food parks that are memorable simply because of how downright creative they are! Kantorini Food Park, inspired by the whitewashed houses of Santorini, looks like no other. It doesn’t hurt that they have a clever name to go with their unique look too!

Carnival Food Park, reminiscent of a perya, is another one with a fun concept. They even have game booths like how it is in real carnivals!

Will the food park trend survive or is it doomed to die out? looloo reviewers weigh in!

You could say the metro’s divided into two tribes right now–those who think food parks are here to stay and those who think it’s going to die out soon like all the other fads that came and went. Here’s what some looloo reviewers had to say about it:

“I definitely think it’s a fad, especially in particular areas where they are popping up one after the other. With the unpredictable but mostly hot weather in the Philippines, I don’t think people would like to stay outdoors for long periods of time!”–Chili G.

“I think some of the original will stay but most of them will slowly close down. There are just way too many of them with low food quality. Some are just taking advantage of the hype.”–Dennis O.

“For me, nakakasawa food park. Yung iba substandard. Ang mahal ng food. Magresto na lang ako kung magfood park. For experience, yes… masaya. But for the food, some stalls are trying hard na kinopya sa iba naman yung concept.”–EJ B.

“I think the food park trend is here to stay. It’s a nicer and hipper alternative than going to restaurants, so it’s perfect for hanging out with friends. It’s also cheaper to rent for the stall owners so easier to sustain.”–Midz S.

“I think it could stay for some time because food parks are great startups for small businesses to test out if the products they make will sell or not. It is always a great and affordable way to market a product without shelling out a lot of money. Plus food is a staple thing for everyone, if something is new, people would go try it out. Basta food kahit mahal or mura, people would still spend on it.” —Nikki C.

“I think some of them will stay because of proper pricing and variety of good food.”–Jairus D.

How about you? What do you think of the whole food park craze? Is it here to stay or nay? Leave your two cents in the comments!

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About Author

Denise Jose

Denise is a recovering food addict. She distracts herself with photography and keeps off the pounds by doing pilates. She is still struggling, however, and has occasional relapses. Her food comas are mostly induced by oily burgers and chocolate desserts.