Updated 21:13 PM PHT Wed, April 12, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — When more than half of the city retreats to fresher destinations to make the most out of the holidays, those that opt to stick around find that open restaurants are few and far between. Enter street corner convenience stores. If there was one thing that had your back during late drunken nights, painfully early mornings, and afternoons too hot to walk to the nearest restaurants, it’s been these 24-hour blessings.
Now, they’re here to get you through Holy Week as well, with meals that are meatless or otherwise.
In Manila, 7-Eleven shops are the easiest convenience stores to come by. Standard siopaos are available, though for just a little more, their premium line is worth checking out. Larger and stuffed with a little more filling, premium buns come in asado, bola-bola with salted egg, tocino, and chicken asado. The 7-Eleven rice meals range from beef gyudon and chicken curry, to their line of Chef Creations by Claude Tayag, which comes in pork picadillo, binagoongan, and pulled pork with adobo dip.
They’ve also got fried chicken on the hot racks which, if you stick around to eat it, comes with the option of unlimited rice and gravy. Not counting the canned goods you can get off the shelf, the only savory non-meat meal to get is the tuna omelette. Stick around for the sweets, which include Slurpees and fundae cones (though only in selected stores), fruit cups, a Nutella grilled pancake, and tiny buns filled with chocolate or salted egg custard.
Leave it to this Japanese brand to serve up rolls filled with spicy shrimp tempura, fried shrimp, and chicken teriyaki. On occasion, they’ll even have katsudon and cold noodles. For quick meals you can take with you, Family Mart has sandwiches like egg salad, tuna, sausage or corned beef with eggs, and a chicken club. Wheat bread sandwiches are also offered in fillings that include kani with mango, and Philly cheese. Acceptably flaky empanadas on their display are stuffed with Jamaican beef, and mushroom with cheese. For meatless options, Family Mart has dishes like the aglio olio with Spanish sardines and creamy tuna linguine.
Lawson has a pretty good mix of meals up on their boards, which varies from a range of greens, down to pastries by BreadTalk. The salad bowls here look pretty fresh, and for ₱79 a pack, they make for a worthwhile meatless meal. They’ve got it in Caesar, Garden, Green, Oriental, Sicilian, and Mexican.
Fried options include chicken katsu, fried chicken, fried dumplings, and chicken karaage. Sandwiches and stuffed savory breads here are also pretty interesting. You can get a pizza boat, a fried bread-encased cheese dog, small cheese balls, and baked sandwiches that come in bacon and corn, or ham with veggies. Pair the meal up with a cool drink of Hong Kong-style milk tea or matcha latte.
The dessert list here has a good thing going for it, like Tokyo-style caramel or banana cakes, white chocolate matcha parfait, and even a coffee jelly cup with a head of cream. But Lawson’s claim to fame is its soft serve ice cream, in its signature bamboo charcoal flavor. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to catch the flavors they roll out when you least expect them to, such as cherry blossom and Japanese honeydew.
Of the convenience stores we’ve rounded up, Ministop proves to be the place with the most variety of rice meals. They’ve got rice bowls with fish steak, gravy pork, dinuguan, chicken teriyaki, chicken sisig, Bicol express, and lechon kawali — and that’s just half of it. Savory buns here come in asado, bola-bola, and spicy sesame tuna, while paos with sweet fillings come in custard, and ube-macapuno. Their normal sandwiches are generous three-tier stacks, while the Kariman is their fried sandwich option.
Not to be missed is their trademark Uncle John’s fried chicken, which has earned a cult following through the years. Get a piece with rice or take the party to-go with a bucket of fried chicken in six or ten-piece tubs.