Sagada has become quite a destination for both locals and foreign jet setters for some time now. When I first visited, it was with the goal of trekking to Mt. Kiltepan’s peak to experience how it would be like to be above the clouds—also, admittedly, to pull my very own Mace scene ala “That Thing Called Tadhana.” What I didn’t expect, however, was a quaint community filled with so many amazing food spots that made the 12-hour land travel more worth it.
The small town up in the Cordillera Mountains has a charm that’s different from your run-of-the-mill Instagram-ready destinations. For one, it hasn’t been commercialized to appeal to the tastes common to the weekend warriors of today. While it does get busy with all the tourists that trek there for a good hike or a cooler climate, it keeps its respect to the way of living of the locals there, a character that is definitely reflected by its food scene. Here are some of them that will convince you to take the long travel there.
Those who have previously visited Sagada would agree that this is one of the perfect spots to enjoy a good, hearty breakfast. Located just a short walk from the Tourist Information Center, the spacious, airy restaurant is the ideal place to grab your first bite after that half a day ride. Masferré Country Inn and Restaurant is one of the most popular accommodations in Sagada, and it does a good job with its restaurant’s offerings of meals that range from sausage and beans to the usual tapa and longganisa tandem. The meals are simple, but one bite and you’ll know the ingredients are all fresh. The restaurant also features photos of the father of Philippine Photography Eduardo Masferre, so you can walk around while waiting for your food.
Breakfast is definitely a big thing in Sagada and here’s another place that does a good job at it. Salt And Pepper can be easy to miss when you walk along the main alley where most of the town's restaurants are lined up so make sure you keep an eye out for its small signage perched above the Ug-ugo Souvenir Shop. You will be welcomed by beautiful wooden interiors when you step inside, though I recommend having your meal on the balcony overlooking the road since the main dining is a bit crowded with its tables. Compared to Masferré’s, the servings at Salt And Pepper are bigger—I almost didn’t finish my daing na bangus meal because of how much it filled my plate! Every bite is fresh to the tastebuds though. I recommend pairing your meal with a warm cup of hot chocolate for that perfect cozy morning experience.
Note: The place can get packed so it’s better to go there early if you want to experience their breakfast. I visited at around 6AM after my trek to Kiltepan Peak and had full solo access to their balcony.
One of the most sought-after places in Sagada is Yoghurt House, a two-storey building with wooden tables and a cozy interior. The restaurant is usually packed in the afternoon with both local and foreign tourists who drop by for, you guess right, their exceptional yogurt – creamy and light treats that you can garnish with granola and an assortment of other fresh fruits. If you’re looking for something heavier, the restaurant also offers meals like their breakfast sets, pasta, and sandwiches. Try the Bolognese pasta, a plate with generous cheese shreds and succulent tomatoes, and their Mexican Open-Faced Sandwiches with spicy pork cutlets and a variety of veggies. Wash everything down with the Ladies Hot Chocolate, a steaming grown-up version of hot choco with a splash of alcohol.
If you’re going deeper into Sagada, most probably to visit the popular Sumaguing Cave, then you’ll surely never miss the Sagada Lemon Pie House, a bright yellow small building tucked on the side of the road. If Laguna has the infamous Buko Pie, the Lemon Pie is Sagada’s answer to it. A slice of it makes for a refreshing afternoon snack with the perfect balance of tanginess and sweetness of its soft curd in between crunchy, freshly-baked crust. Similar to other Sagada restaurants, the Lemon Pie House also offers other dishes – the breakfast, as always, is exceptional – like omelettes and chicken adobo. Make sure to grab a box of lemon pie for pasalubong but make a reservation beforehand (yes, it is THAT popular) and just pick it up before you leave. You can also order their equally popular egg pie if you want more variety.
5. Sagada Brew
One of the newest and probably most modern-looking restaurants in Sagada is Sagada Brew. The coffee shop and brunch space looks like the friendly cafe you would see around your neighborhood, but with better food. From its name, Sagada Brew has a nice collection of coffee choices (the home blend is A+) from the classic blacks to the fancier frappes. The restaurant also offers sumptuous plates that deviate a little from the usual fares offered by other places in the area. There’s Orange Chicken, Pork Barbecue, and my favorite – Roast Beef with juicy thick slabs of well-seasoned beef slathered with gravy. Cap off your visit by ordering some of their freshly made desserts. The lava cake is a real crowd favorite.
6. Gaia Cafe
This cafe located on the way to Sumaguing Cave may be a little far from the main hub of Sagada, but it’s definitely worth a stop, especially if you need a little refreshment from your hike. The quaint kubo-type place, which is also part crafts- and bookshop, offers nourishing treats made with organic and fresh products sourced from the local farmers. You can choose from their pasta, sandwiches, and rice meals if you need to replenish your energy or opt for their lighter snacks and cookies if you’re just dropping by. I recommend the vegetable chip and dip and lemongrass tea if you want something lighter before picking up your trek. What’s great with Gaia is that it is perched on a hill that overlooks a scenic view of the rice fields of Sagada, so you can enjoy your food while enjoying beautiful views and the light breeze of the mountains. A little fun fact as well: the cafe was the shoot location for one of Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman’s scenic scenes in “That Thing Called Tadhana."
7. Vincent’s Coffee Shop and Grill/Persimmon Cafe
The night ends early for the locals of Sagada, but for visitors who are used to staying up, Vincent’s Coffee Shop and Grill – also known as Persimmon Cafe – is the perfect place to go for a quick nightcap. Though small, the cafe/grill place offers a welcoming vibe to those who want to kick back and relax with its brightly colored walls that, miraculously, do not crash with the indigenous-inspired interiors of the place. The bohemian accents add to the community-like appeal of the destination as well. Persimmon Cafe’s grilled dishes (I recommend the chicken and pork belly) are simple and may take a while to cook, but the well-marinated meat makes the waiting time worth it. Pair it with an ice cold glass of beer for that ultimate hippie feel.
Fun fact: the reason the cafe has two names is that the owner originally wanted to shorten it to improve brand recall – Vincent’s Coffee Shop and Grill is a little hard to remember. They decided to keep both, in the end, thinking that some people might not remember that they are the same establishment.