A bistro’s take on lunch harks back to simpler times
A straight-up dining joint brings back the pleasure of sandwiches for lunch
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.