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Did you know that the restaurant chains listed below are homegrown? Let us marvel at the beauty of their humble beginnings and how they imprinted their flavours on the heart of every Filipino today.

Even when you travel to far-flung areas of the Philippines, chances are that your eyes will gaze upon the colourful logos of restaurants like Jollibee, Yellow Cab, Tokyo Tokyo, and whatnot. The booming number of branches by these home-grown brands speak for the legacy that they have imprinted on our culture and F&B scene.

Through the years, these brands have put together a variety of comfort food and go-to guilty pleasures that the common Pinoy savours on top of his or her table— every bite reminiscent of fond memories, celebrations and happiness.

In this article, Tatler tells the story of these Filipino-owned dining chains: 

1. Yellow Cab Pizza

For giant pizzas, chicken wings and Charlie Chan noodles Yellow Cab Pizza is the brand for you. 

Founded in 2001 by entrepreneurs Eric Puno, Henry Lee and Albert Tan, Yellow Cab Pizza's theme is inspired by the black and yellow patterns seen on New York taxicabs. In its first few years in business, the pizza parlour operated a sister restaurant named Army Navy Burger Burrito; however, the latter eventually spun off as a separate group.

Today, fans outside of the Philippines can easily enjoy a slice of Yellow Cab at any of its 22 branches in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman; 12 stores in Vietnam, and one shop in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Read more: Where To Order The Best Pizzas In Metro Manila

2. Jollibee

Jollibee is arguably the most famous fast food chain in the Philippines since it was founded in the late 1970s. Among its best-selling dishes is Chicken Joy, a sweet, crispy fried chicken that captivated the appetite of Filipinos in different generations. 

In 1975, Tony Tan Caktiong together with his family opened a Magnolia ice cream shop in Cubao, Quezon City. Contrary to what the family expected, their ice cream was not their best-selling item; what people loved were their hot meals and sandwiches served at the small parlour. This urged the family to convert their shop into a fast food restaurant which today, is the juggernaut that is Jollibee.

Because of the restaurant's supporters, it was able to withstand the international chain McDonald's entry to the Philippines in 1981.

3. Pancake House

In their hopes to introduce and popularise pancakes and waffles to the Filipino market, entrepreneurs Milagros Basa, Leticia Zamora, and Carmen Zaragosa founded Pancake House in 1974. According to its pioneers, the first Pancake House branch was in Magallanes or the Ayala Arcade "seated in bright orange and pink booths, with old movie posters on the walls."

In 2000, outside management had to handle the day to day operations of the growing food chain. The Lorenzos acquired the company, turned it into Pancake House Inc., and listed it on the Philippine Stock Exchange. 

Today, the restaurant boasts over 100 of its franchises around the Philippines. 

Related: Where To Order The Best Pancakes In The Philippines

4. Mary Grace Cafe

People often joke that Mary Grace is basically the headquarters for titas (aunts) of Manila, but the famous cafe is frequented by anyone who is looking for quality food and a beautiful ambience to boot. 

Mary Grace Dimacali, the founder of the eponymously named concept, did not have any culinary background to lean on, instead she went forward with pure passion and grit. She mostly spent her time with her five children, all of whom enjoyed eating her spectacular baked goods. On the restaurant's official website, Dimacali revealed that she often surprises her kids with homemade cake on their birthdays. 

Eventually, Dimacali took interest in improving her budding talent. In 1986, she took a baking course in the United States to further enhance her skills. "I came home to harness all I had learned to perfect my own formula for a local delicacy, an ensaymada with just the right texture and flavour. After bouts of tears and frustration, countless family taste tests over Sunday lunches, and the seal of approval from them, most especially my parents, I knew I hit Eureka!"

The first-ever Mary Grace kiosk was opened in Glorietta 4 in 2002. Since then, the business has expanded to full-on cafes and is now run by the whole family. "To this day, my fascination with dough lives in my heart, alongside whipping up new recipes for all to enjoy during joyous family Sunday lunches – [which is] the source and inspiration of Mary Grace," Dimacali shared.

5. Gerry's Grill

When Gerry Apolinario opened Gerry's Grill in 1997, he wanted it to be a bar where people hung out whenever they finish their nine to five shifts at work. The restaurant, which mainly serves Filipino cuisine, opened its first branch in Tomas Morato, Quezon City.

Because of its unique theme, the bar quickly gained traction and became a favoured watering-hole for many. It has since opened 117 more branches nationwide. As of this post, the business seeks to expand to other countries like Australia, Canada, and Thailand.

More from Tatler: The Food Evangelists: Meet The People Promoting Filipino Cuisine Across The Globe

6. Figaro

Who would have thought that a humble project started by college friends would turn out to be one of the famous coffee shops in the Philippines. Figaro was established in November 1993 by friends Pacita "Chit" Juan (Figaro's former CEO) and Reena S. Francisco (Figaro's COO until 2008). 

The first Figaro branch was a small kiosk in Glorietta mall where fresh ground coffee and tea paraphernalia were sold. Initially, Juan and Francisco wanted to build a place where "Filipinos can get the perfect coffee and all the necessary accoutrements for coffee-making”.

In April 1994, the founders chose the name Figaro, a name inspired by the Barber of Seville opera. 

See also: Chit Juan On Continuing Business Amid The Covid-19 Pandemic Threat

7. Tokyo Tokyo

Tokyo Tokyo makes the flavours of Japan accessible and more relatable to the Filipino palate. Tokyo Tokyo, a restaurant owned by Hansbury Inc., opened its first branch in Makati City on 22 April 1985. It can be said that the brand is responsible for making classic Japanese dishes like tempura, tonkatsu, yakisoba, sushi and sashimi sought after by Filipino consumers.

By the end of 2013, Tokyo Tokyo had opened its doors to at least 50 locations nationwide.

8. Mang Inasal

Chicken inasal or simply "inasal" is a variant of lechon manok that marinates chicken meat in a mixture of lime, pepper, coconut vinegar, and annatto. In the Philippines, there is one place that immediately comes to mind when Filipinos crave this famous dish: Mang Inasal. 

Founded by Edgar "Injap" Sia in 2003 at the Robinsons Mall Carpark in Iloilo City, Mang Inasal was an instant success despite competing with already-established chicken restaurants like KFC and Jollibee. 

Because of its success, the Mang Inasal expanded and opened more branches in the Visayas and Mindanao regions before spreading to Metro Manila. In 2009, the restaurant has over 100 branches nationwide.

Read more: 11 Classic Filipino Dishes Everyone Needs To Try: Sinigang, Adobo, And More

9. Cabalen

If you can't choose between Filipino dishes like sinigang, adobo, or kare-kare, you need to go to Cabalen because they have it all! Cabalen, which translates to "a fellow Kapampangan," is a restaurant buffet that serves dishes from different Filipino specialities like gatang kohol (snails in coconut milk), betuteng tugak (stuffed frog), adobong pugo (quail) and the infamous balut

Maritel Nievera first opened the restaurant's door in 1974 in San Fernando, Pampanga as a small "eat-all-you-can" dining. In September 2010, Cabalen began to serve other Asian dishes ranging from Filipino, Thai, and even Japanese cuisines.

Today, its biggest branches can be found in Glorietta, TriNoma, and SM Mall of Asia.

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