A bistro’s take on lunch harks back to sim­pler times

A straight-up din­ing joint brings back the plea­sure of sand­wiches for lunch

Cebu Living - - Contents - By PRIS­TINE L. DE LEON Im­ages by JILSON SECKLER TIU

There’s an air of machismo ev­i­dent in the new din­ing hub at Cy­ber­gate. As cor­po­rate chef Pa­trick Cor­pus puts it, should the dainty Abaca Bak­ing Com­pany have a son that would be The Luncheonette—boy­ish, brusque, yet charm­ingly well-man­nered.

At 10 in the morn­ing, when the mall has just opened, there’s al­ready a group of burger-hun­gry folks seated on the leather stools by the counter, or­der­ing brunch and ad­dress­ing the cooks on a first-name ba­sis. “They’re here al­most ev­ery day,” Cor­pus says. The Luncheonette isn’t so much an au­then­tic repli­ca­tion of lun­cheonettes in five and dimes abroad, but sim­ply a ref­er­ence to a time when peo­ple took it easy, sa­vored their sand­wiches, and ini­ti­ated ram­bling con­ver­sa­tions with a stranger just as hun­gry as they were.

“There’s a big, big dif­fer­ence be­tween eat­ing a burger on a white plate with a fork and knife, and hold­ing it with your bare hands,” says Cor­pus. Din­ers forego their knives and forks af­ter cut­ting up the burg­ers, then grab the bread with their bare hands.

There are cer­tain un­spo­ken rules on how to eat a burger, but Cor­pus ed­u­cates us on how to pre­pare it right. For one, they make their in­gre­di­ents from scratch. They smash the patty, cre­at­ing a crisp outer layer that breaks when you bite. Sink your teeth deeper into the flesh, though, and it’s just as juicy.

The Patty Melt is made with just meat and caramelized onions. “Ex­pats stay­ing here would say ‘I haven’t tried the Patty Melt in 20 years. It’s like tak­ing me back to my child­hood,” says Cor­pus. There’s also the clas­sic Reuben, sliced in half with its crunchy, lightly browned crust, de­liv­er­ing a sud­den cit­rusy kick and the fla­vor of melted cheese. Jake’s Hot Chicken, from its crunchy outer por­tion down to the vel­vety feel of the greens and the hot, spicy in­sin­u­a­tions, is a bold take on a clas­sic burger.

“Burg­ers back then were some­thing like that. You cre­ate nostal­gia for the peo­ple who have ac­tu­ally tried it be­fore,” says Cor­pus. Din­ers may re­mem­ber the per­fect burger from their child­hood, from one of the state­side lun­cheonettes, or just from an episode in a car­toon show. What­ever the case, ex­haust the bot­tles of mus­tard and ketchup at your dis­posal and eat with your bare hands if you’re feel­ing ma­cho. “Bring your date, too,” Cor­pus quips. “It’s go­ing to break the ice, and it’s go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The Luncheonette. GF Robin­son’s Cy­ber­gate, Don Gil Gar­cia Street, Capi­tol Site, Cebu City.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: REUBEN SAND­WICH; JAKE’S HOT CHICKEN;

THE BAR-STOOL SEAT­ING AND IN­DUS­TRIAL OVER­HEAD LIGHT­ING

IS REM­I­NIS­CENT OF ’ 40S AND ’ 50S AMER­I­CAN LUN­CHEONETTES.

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