My second day in Hayward I had a little more time to explore and drove around a bit before picking a lunch spot to check out. In a nondescript, half-vacant strip mall in the middle of a residential area off of Hesperian, Taste of Manila holds court at lunch time and through the afternoon.
The menu, priced at $4.50 per entrée with rice and soup, changes daily. The day’s offerings included: beef nilaga, chicken/pork adobo, pork binagoongan, pancit bihon, adobong pusit, and the two standing dishes, BBQ chicken and palabok. I admired the trays of dessert in the counter display case, and learned that these change every day too. The sweet Filipina grandmother took my order at the counter, relayed it to the kitchen, and then brought my food to the table.
New to me was the Adobong Pusit lunch special with soup, $4.50. So of course I had to try that. Most of the lunch entrees include rice and soup, but for this one the side of rice was $1.25 extra. The fresh squid, including the tentacles and roe sacs, was cooked in its own ink with a touch of vinegar, onions, and topped with fried garlic. The squid was thoroughly cooked such that the texture became tender again and the roe was firm. The briny, black-as-night saucing was delicious with the lively acidic lift and garlicky aroma.
Then for dessert, the Special Halo Halo, $4. Topped with small scoops of mango, ube, and avocado ice cream, this had everything I could imagine and probably then some for the most fully packed and colorful example I've run across. Young coconut, cubes of leche flan, jellies, some barley-like grain, jackfruit, sweetened condensed milk, tropical fruits, and more. All eyes in the small dining room were watching me try to figure out how to eat this, and a couple other patrons called out to me to mix the crushed ice with all the goodies on the bottom.
The grandma came over to my table to check on me. She said that the adobong pusit isn’t on the menu often, maybe a couple times a month when she can get fresh squid, so I was lucky to stumble on it. She explained that the halo-halo is always available and what Taste of Manila is known for. If I returned around 2:30pm, she said there would be a line every afternoon for halo halo orders. She was quite proud that this is a regular stop for tour groups and long-time customers come here from San Jose and San Francisco with ice packed in chests to take multiple orders home with them.
Only open from noon to 5pm, closed Mondays. Cash only.
Taste of Manila
2619 Oliver Dr, Hayward, CA 94545
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