Compared to the school I go to, the University of Santo Tomas has a gigantic lot that I could easily get lost in. I consider the campus grounds as a small community within itself with its own hospital, park (Lover’s Lane), and dining establishments (the famed parking lot).
Going right outside the school is like having an adventure as well. Each gate leads to different streets and side streets with multitudes of small stores, restaurants, and street vendors. I drag M over there if I want to look for something cheap and simple for lunch.
A few weeks ago, we decided to hang around the area again and seeing as we were on a tight budget, the ideal cost per meal would have to be less than P100. And while that same P100 can only get you KFC, McDonald’s, or Jollibee over at my school, the options seemed endless when it came to the UST area. So we set about looking for a nice, filling meal that wouldn’t spell the end of our cash.
M recalled Lopez Canteen, a small karinderya type of place that he used to frequent after basketball practice. He liked that they had nice, inexpensive food even from before. The problem is that, the last time he was there, 1 of their 2 branches had closed down and so he didn’t know if they were still operating. Luckily, we ran into a friend of his and she told us that the canteen’s 2nd branch is still there.
The owner recognized M right away and they exchanged a couple of pleasantries while I had a look around. True to its description, the establishment is a simple old canteen with long tables and stools. If the place is full, you can share one of the tables with other diners. I was glad to see that the place was equipped with the necessary permits (BIR and Sanitary), because a lot of small operations can try to cheat their way out of it.
We sat near the back, in front of the counter. I noticed that they also sell palabok by the bilao (basket). I was told by M that he once celebrated his birthday by buying a bilao for his teammates.
By then, the whole trip to UST had starved me and I was ready to order. I got a plate of spaghetti in a combo meal which cost around P65. (The combo at +P15 includes buttered toast and a bottle of Magnolia fruit drink, while the regular spaghetti without bread or drink is around P50.) They served me a full plate of spicy-sweet spaghetti, complete with meaty sahog. I walked out of there stuffed.
M, who is the eternal rice-eater, called for some porkchop and fried lumpia meal, which came with drink and a bowl of soup. They gave 2 small bowls of sauces and were careful to indicate which one was for the porkchop and which one was for the lumpia. If I remember correctly, that whole meal cost him about P70. And he was also nice and full when we got out of there.
I asked to take a picture of friendly Mr. Lopez, and he gamely posed.
I plan to go back next time to try their highly recommended palabok. 🙂
After that big meal, I asked to visit Simple Line to get some budget-friendly milk tea. We went to the Dapitan branch where it was 80% kitchen and 20% actual space to stand in. The impatient cashier dude kept asking for my order every minute or so, and fickle me would just study the menu and tell him to hold on a minute.
I decided on the Large Oolong Milk Tea (P60) after that particularly heavy meal. Silly me forgot to tell them to lessen the sugar, so never mind. But then I found out that the orders don’t come with pearls by default. You have to add P5.00, so I asked them if I could just get an additional order of pearls. The guy at the counter said that my cup had already been sealed. They didn’t really offer to just reseal my cup, so I left feeling a little irritated.
Then I got the idea to visit their 2nd branch in nearby V. Concecpcion St. and ask if they could spare me the extra pearls.
Just as we arrived, a gaggle of students were already lined up in front of the counter. I had to wait for them to finish before I could even get near the cashier. At first, the lady said that they could only give extra pearls if it was already part of a previous order. I thanked her and was about to leave when she called me back and said that she would just add it to the check of another order they were processing and charge me the P5, so that their order pad would still reflect the additional pearls.
I was so pleased that I thanked her repeatedly. The pearls just complete the experience, and this branch totally made up for the impatient cashier from the other branch.
This might be the start of a favorite restaurant and milk tea place at UST…