All around Cubao Expo, major changes are happening. A row of glitzy condominiums are being constructed on one side and a tall tower on the other. In front of it is the boom currently happening at the Araneta Center (well technically directly in front of it is the really old cubao bus terminal but that’s bound to change in the coming years). But Cubao X itself is as relaxed as it had always been.
Here’s a fact for you, the super popular Sweet Ecstacy in Makati? It actually began serving their burgers and shakes here at Cubao Expo. This week I’ll show you two places here where I go to enjoy some quick drinks and bites (if I can) whenever I’m in our Araneta Center office: Green Halo and The Appraisery.
Seems like these days Green Halo only opens in the evenings whereas when I first got to go here it was around 4 pm. Major bummer, I could really enjoy a tarragon tea shake during a hot Metro Manila afternoon.
Green Halo started out as an artsy cafe in artsy Cubao Expo, aiming to serve diners organic food at super affordable prices. Now its more like a place designed by a little girl that serves beer and has a few burly men working the kitchen. Think about that for a while.
If you are on a very tight budget and aiming to get a taste of some pretty unusual drinks then this is the place for you!
Ube Shake, Tarragon Tea Shake, and Calamansi Juice
Ube Shake: It’s Ube Halaya blended with ice. Straight up ube flavor in a mason jar (and yes it’s purple!). The ube, however, is pretty dense and sinks quickly to the bottom of the glass. If you drink it from a straw then you’re bound to finish all that Ube and be left with a considerable amount of ice.
Tarragon Tea Shake: Tarragon is an herb that has a pretty intense flavor and you get that at the first sip. Then you get a pretty cool sensation in your throat that intensifies the coldness of the ice. I don’t thinks it’s fresh tarragon that’s blended though but rather just concentrate. That’s actually quite common in some parts of Europe according to good ‘ole Google.
Calamansi Juice: Do I really have to describe this? It just has a faint hint of sourness and just the right amount of sweet. Very refreshing and may remind you of your mom’s homemade remedy for the common cold.
Uncooked bite-sized pieces of carrots, cucumber, and lettuce tossed with an Asian vinagrette that has a considerable amount of sesame oil. Pretty healthy serving too for a price that’s barely 100 Php.
Spicy Stir Fried Chicken
One thing I can’t bust about this dish is that the chicken was cooked well without being dry. But it has no spice whatsoever! Those bell peppers help to add some smokiness and pops up the color of the dish but is no way bringing the spice! This was all rounded up with a simple soy based sauce. This was pretty tasty but oh so not spicy!
Mushroom and Basil Sandwich
This one shows that organic food is not what Green Halo is aiming for anymore. Those are a lot of diced canned mushrooms slathered with pesto sauce. It’s bland. I won’t recommend ordering this.
I grew up eating chocnut. Heck I still enjoying eating some of those today. At first glance (if you get past the flowery mug) this looks like ordinary instant coffee. Then you take that first sip and you are immediately reminded of childhood. Why didn’t I think of doing this on my own before? But when all that nostalgia wears-off you are reminded that you paid a lot for instant coffee combined with processed bars that mimic peanut butter.
Other notable things to try: Gayuma drink; Spicy Coffee; Malunggay Pasta; Minty Coffee
It’s a Board Game Cafe that has it’s own cult following and not as popular as other gaming cafes. Be forewarned, you may find hardcore table top gamers here.
Disclaimer: This is not an internet cafe. That trend bottomed out eons ago.
The name was devised when it was still in Annapolis, Greenhills where it was more a clothing store that serves coffee. Once it relocated to Cubao X, the gaming cafe concept became more pronounced since I hear the owner is a hardcore gamer himself.
The owner, Vince, is pretty welcoming and is willing to teach you how to play a game as long as you buy something from the shop (coffee included!). Since he grew up in Seattle, he’s more comfortable speaking English but he can understand Filipino. He’s a pretty good barista too and The Ap has some pretty wicked drinks!
Schublig – Seattle Style
Some states in the USA are known for serving up their dogs unique to their own area. New York’s is typically served with mustard and sauerkraut and in Chicago it has this distinct large dill pickle and never with ketchup. Seattle’s dogs are served with cream cheese and grilled/caramelized onions. As you can see in the picture that is exactly what this is along with mustard. I-love-mustard!
The schublig is very meaty and smoky. All that flavor come together pretty well and you get a very satisfying sandwich. The side of cassava chips is an excellent alternative to potato chips. You have to pay extra to have the sausage done Seattle style but believe me it will be well worth it!
Sweet Grilled Panini
A very popular dessert in The Ap is the Ap Tart. It is so popular that it is usually sold-out, as was during this day. We got the next best thing though in the Sweet Grilled Panini.
Sandwiched between those whole wheat Gardenia (not a sponsor) bread slices is fruit jam and marshmallows. You try to get some of that caramel sauce at the bottom with each bite and you get to enjoy an unusual dessert with a lot of different texture. And you know what? It actually works! The whipped cream on the side is just fluff.
I am still pretty much amazed that with the boom of specialty coffee shops here in Metro Manila, The Ap still has a good cup of latte under 100 Php. Again, I am not a coffee connoisseur, but I know if the coffee I’m drinking is pretty good. And this is phenomenal!
It’s bold with a pronounced hint of chocolate and that’s not because of the chocolate added on the latte art. I take coffee straight, I do not add sweetener of any sort unless I have to buy those damned Starbucks Christmas drinks just to get may planner. I take coffee straight. The flavors of this is intense with a balanced infusion of cream milk. The satisfaction I get is the same every time. You have got to come down here and try this.
Other things to try: Kumbaya; All their other coffee/tea drinks; Their plethora of cocktails (iced, cold, hot); Wreck-it-Ralph; The Big Mig; Ap Tart (if you’re lucky).
I prefer The Appraisery over Green Halo but the latter has some pros of its own. Think about it this way: If you want good coffee, be able to play board games, and get a good Seattle Style dog then go straight to the Ap; If you’re on a budget and really hungry (and it’s evening) – head on over to Green Halo.
If you go to Green Halo and say it’s because you want to enjoy good coffee, and you are not a student anymore, then please read up on my 2014 coffee place list and wait for the 2015 list. I will show that there are far more better drinks than instant coffee with Chocnut. If you want organic food then I suggest you start with Potts Point Cafe. If you really just love Green Halo then go ahead and maybe I’ll see you there some day while I enjoy a Tarragon Tea Shake.
Have you been to any of these two places? Do you agree with my insights about each one? Let me know in the comments section below or send me mail at firstname.lastname@example.org