Imagine this: a dining room oh-so dimly lit by red incandescent bulbs. Walls filled with scribbles ranging from friendly greetings to the borderline obscene. Mariachi music blaring in the background. Expats and tourists gorging on divine tacos and cheap beer.

Mexico? I wish.

Johann wishes he was in Cancun.
Johann wishes he was in Cancun.

Savoring all these, it’s easy to forget you’re just outside the central business district of Makati. One of the latest – perhaps even the latest – player in the burgeoning Mexican restaurant scene in Manila, El Chupacabra has grown from an obscure neighborhood diner into a popular hangout in the Bel-Air area.

el chupacabra

el chupacabra bar

Hidden from the busy Gil Puyat Avenue, El Chupacabra feels like it’s well out of the way despite the crowds that fill the limited tables every evening. The name translates as “goat sucker,” from the mythical creature supposedly roaming Central America. What that has to do with the restaurant itself, I don’t know, except maybe to imply that the place was just once the stuff of rumors and became the beneficiary of good word-of-mouth advertising. Reportedly patterned after the Mexican street dining scene, majority of the tables are literally on the street, and it’s a testament to the place’s charisma that despite its cramped space, customers continue to flock to dine, drink, and generally be merry. Which isn’t really surprising, since its chilled out vibe invites you to just linger and engage in long conversations.

inside dining room

walls

Nevertheless, El Chupacabra‘s real draw cards are its barbecues and street tacos. We never got to try the barbecues but these maybe the best tacos I ever had, and I’m just slightly exaggerating. Moreover, at just around PHP 95 to PHP 135, they’re relatively affordable, though it’s highly doubtful you’ll stop at one. Must-tries are the Carne Asada and San Francisco-Style Lean Pork Sisig, both filled with really flavorful meat and served with soft corn tortillas.

Carne Asada and San Francisco-Style Lean Pork Sisig Street Tacos (PHP 95.00 each) with Chupadita (lime and rum, PHP 100.00 per glass)

For non-meat eaters, there are a few vegetarian – even vegan – items, such as Soyrizo Con Papas. It’s mock chorizo with potatoes, but it’s no less delicious than the other items.

Soyrizo Con Papas Soft Taco (PHP 125.00)
Soyrizo Con Papas Soft Taco (PHP 125.00)

Since El Chupacabra is owned by the same guys behind Mexicali, there are some items here that should be familiar to those who frequent the popular homegrown Tex-Mex chain. If you want the usual standbys, there are burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, burgers and fries.

El Chupacabra
5782 Felipe Street,
Makati
(02) 895 1919
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