September 10, 2014

Weekend Getaway: Baguio City Eats - Café By The Ruins - A Place for Friendship and Fresh Food

The last time I was in Baguio was exactly 10 years ago. We were constantly being invited by friends and had several plans to go up there before, but the travel time was too long and it would eat at least 1- 1 ½ days of our vacation (which we couldn’t afford because we only take 2-3 days off from work quarterly). That’s the reason that for the past years we opted to go to other places which are easily reachable by airplane instead. I mean for example, going to Coron or Puerto Princesa by plane will only take 45 minutes to an hour, while going to Laiya Batangas takes a good 3-4 hours (by land). And before, going up to Baguio would take 6-8 hours!

Not until recently that we found out that another highway, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), is now operational and that it would make the travel time to Baguio cut in half. One of our married friends who recently bought an SUV invited us to go on a road trip so that they can break-in their new wheels and it was Labor Day Weekend (in the U.S., which is the holiday we follow in our line of work); the timing couldn’t be more perfect so we decided to join them.

There were 6 of us on this trip and most of us, it was a long long time since we went to Baguio. Some of us was there when they were still kids, so I wasn't the title holder for the one-who-hasn’t-been-to-Baguio-in-decades. And was pretty cool to be back in back and enjoy the super cold weather of the City of Pines.

While we drive towards Baguio , I was on my phone looking for places to visit and places to eat once we get there. And I have found many blogs recommending Café By The Ruins -- it is in fact one of the best restaurants in Baguio. I thought our group wouldn’t want to eat here because most people would love to sip on hot soup when in this cold mountain community weather. So I was glad they all conceded that we have our early dinner at Café By The Ruins. It was also raining quite hard that afternoon that our friends probably got felt lazy to look for another place to eat.

Café By The Ruins is an established restaurant in Baguio City just near the City Hall; it has been operating for around 25 years already. It was called Café By The Ruins because it was built upon what was once a garden theatre and the residence of the last American Governor General in the Philippines, this place was almost completely destroyed during World War II.

Although I t was raining hard and made the Baguio temperature even colder, we decided to sit on the tables at the lanai/garden. The gloominess of the weather didn’t take away the cozy-ness that Café By The Ruins exudes. I enjoyed being there, even before we started ordering I already roam around and took pictures, well you know me, I’m a sucker for places with great ambiance and decors. I love places that are Instagram/Pinterest-worthy. I believe that a restaurant’s great ambiance adds up to having a great experience while dining, do you think so too?

mezzanine area

Café By The Ruins’ menu is designed to feature the natural and local ingredients of the Cordillera region but with the mix of international; cuisine too. What I love about their menu is that most of the ingredients are homegrown or made by the restaurant itself, like their pastries, cheese, spreads, jams, teas and coffee. If you’re not familiar, Baguio and neighboring towns are one of the major sources and producers of the vegetables that we see in our local markets and groceries. So Café By The Ruins (and probably all restaurants in Baguio) gets theirs in its freshest state.

It was kinda hard to decide on what to order not only because you have so many choices written on the menu, but more than that, everything sounds good. Food offerings by Café By The Ruins consisted of breakfast selections, breads, spreads, signature main dishes, pasta, salads, appetizers, coffee, chocolate, tea, soups and some desserts, well they covered all bases actually. And btw, I read from somewhere that they constantly change their menu or add something new, but don’t worry the old time faves are staying put. So these are what we ordered:

Baguio Bagnet – comes with Sagada Mountain rice, Podas bagoong (fermented fish), tomato relish and Dinengdeng soup. I didn’t get to try this though, I was too shy (yeah right) to take a piece from our friend’s plate. But just by looking at it, it seemed that it’s a winner.

photo c/o Cafe By The Ruins

The men ordered the Lamb Kebab which comes with a Sagada Mountain rice and 2 dips (raita and  Café By The Ruins’ own version of peanut sauce, their lambs are grown in Tarlac, btw). At first I thought it was pricey for a kebab, but I was like slap in the face for being wrong when the waiter served the Kebabs. Starting from the presentation, you already know they are something else, I really loved how they plated it, the contrast of something foreign served on a native clay stove (yes it’s actually a stove).

The men were in unison when they said how good the kebab was, and they have only tasted  the mushroom that was on the top of the kebab. I was so intrigued that I took a mushroom (plus a piece of the lamb of course lol!). And man, they were right, I was smitten by these kebabs right away, the mushroom was crunchy and fresh, the lamb was tender and not oily, another winner!

coal to keep the kebab warm

I and Mij ordered the Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Grilled Chicken. The serving of both the pasta and the chicken were so generous and being a cheese-lover ( I mean I would literally eat anything with cheese as ingredient) I really loved what I ordered. Although I must admit I couldn't determine how Ricotta cheese is tasted different from other cheeses, well, I couldn't care less, all I know is that it tasted good!

For our drinks, we tried:

Chai Tea (Hot): strong black tea steeped with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, topped with frothed milk

Iced Chai Tea: frosty spiced tea with cold frothed milk

Ruins Coffee: filtered with cardamom, topped with whipped cream, moscovado sugar and cinnamon  powder

Café By The Ruins is a bit pricey, however, the taste, the quality and quantity of their food for me is worth what you’ll shell out after dining here. Let’s be honest, it’s not regularly that you get what your money’s worth; there are those restaurants that are so expensive but the food is just blah, while there are those that those that are affordable yet serve pretty good food (say, like Suzuki Japanese Carinderia). But then there are those that are a little bit over our budgets but are at par to the taste we are expecting for the money that we’ll be paying.

Parking is limited and people would usually wait a couple of minutes before getting a table especially during peak hours and seasons (fortunately for us, we were in Baguio on a Monday and at around 3-4:00 pm). Before I forget, they accept credit cards too, in case you don’t have cash or forgot to withdraw from the ATM.

If ever I'll be given the chance to go to Baguio again, Café By The Ruins would definitely be part of the itinerary. I'm excited to try their other menu offerings especially any of their best sellers.

Café By The Ruins
23 Chuntug St Baguio City,
Benguet, Philippines
Contact No: (074) 442-4010
Facebook Page:

Baguio Travel Diary Series:
Baguio City Eats: Café By The Ruins - A Place for Friendship and Fresh Food
Baguio City Eats: Ketchup Community
Baguio City Eats: Choco-late de Batirol - Reviving Traditions

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  1. Very nice and thanks for sharing your experiences and photos. You all look great! I think the food is always the best part.

  2. I hope that next time our beautiful city you'll get to try Good Taste, it is a local restaurant here in Baguio. Cafe by the ruins is a nice place to be.


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