5 best Filipino restaurants in metro Phoenix: carinderia, bbq, bakery – The Arizona Republic

After a day slurping pancit noodles all over Phoenix and Glendale, I couldn’t believe it when I saw the Filipino movie trailer appear on the screen at the AMC theater. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, though. I’d spotted the colorful movie posters at my second Filipino market of the day, piled up next to steaming trays of pork adobo.
“Easter Sunday is the Filipino Superbowl,” a narrator said as the giant family bickered with each other like the cast of “Meet the Fockers.” 
The comedy, called “Easter Sunday,” is advertised as a love letter to the Filipino American community, which just happens to be the second largest Asian American group in the United States. Here in Arizona, Filipino Americans even outnumber Chinese Americans, with recent census numbers at more than 53,000.
Much of this community is concentrated west of the I-17, where earlier that day I was able to visit three different Filipino restaurants in a three-mile radius, piling shrimp paste onto peanut kare kare and mixing up a snow cone with coconut and ube ice cream.
But the biggest presence may be in Chandler, where you’ll find Filipino cafeterias, a Jollibee fast food joint and the restaurant that started my obsession with this complex and flavorful cuisine, At My Place Cafe
But there’s a whole world to enjoy, from traditional steam table cafeterias to hipster barbecue spots and bakeries. So, after several months of enjoying fiery skewers and purple pastries, these are my five favorite Filipino restaurants and food stands in metro Phoenix.
Carinderia is a budget-friendly way of eating in the Philippines that’s very popular here in Arizona. In this format, traditional dishes are served cafeteria style next to scoops of white rice. I visited several of these restaurants and was most impressed by Nanay’s in Chandler, which drew a healthy crowd during the lunch rush.
On a recent afternoon, I received a veritable smorgasbord of classics like bistek Tagalog, caldereta and a shrimpy vegetable stir fry called pinakbet, piled into plastic tubs and served on trays, all for about $15 per person. The buffet line seemed to go faster here than other spots, ensuring maximum freshness.   
Details: 2390 N. Alma School Road #103, Chandler. 480-821-7906, nanayaz.com.
Pastry cases full of Filipino sweet buns polvorones cookies and purple “ubiscotti” were the first thing I noticed when I walked into this strip mall gem.
One of three Filipino restaurants in the neighborhood directly north of the old Metrocenter mall, Casa Filipina has been around since 2006. During my visit, owner Tony Menendez was cooking and serving all the food, but I suspect his wife Tess was nearby. 
The couple make a mean plate of fried pork lumpia, which have a gamey kick to the meat. The sweet ketchup hot dog spaghetti had me feeling like a kid when I scooped it up from the paper plate. But the best thing I tried was the halo halo shaved ice for dessert, packed with jellies and coconut and topped with flan and ube ice cream. I also took home a tray of bright purple puto, a cornbread like cake made from fermented rice and flavored with ube. That was worth the trip alone. 
Details: 3531 W. Thunderbird Road, Phoenix. 602-942-1258, casafilipina.com.
John Cornelio is a Filipino barbecue whisperer. His sweet charcoal grilled meats have been firing up all over Instagram lately after he traded his previous digs at the Uptown Farmers Market for a regular stall at The Pemberton downtown. 
I love a good lunch plate and Toduken perfects the genre with a beautiful bulb of white rice capped with a garlicky “umami crunch” and a hearty portion of creamy mac salad made with thick spiral macaroni.
I was sharing my plate with a friend, but those chicken thighs, glazed in sweet teriyaki and blackened on the grill, were so scandalously good that I got territorial over the last few bites. Next time, I’ll definitely get my own.
Details: Inside The Pemberton, 1121 N. Second St., Phoenix. instagram.com/toduken_bbq/?hl=en
This little gem across the street from the Chandler Fashion Center serves an exciting array of Filipino dishes made family style and fresh to order.
I first tasted Flordeliza Obregon’s food at her original restaurant in Mesa and was blown away by her all day breakfast silog. But from there I tried the lomi, a decked out Filipino version of egg drop soup with a thick yellow broth with a medley of tofu and fish balls and cakes.
The tour de force is the sizzling sisig, a cast iron pan of chopped pork belly sprinkled with onions and Thai chile pepper. As the smoke disperses, pierce the raw egg with your fork and spread the yolk around so it cooks like scrambled eggs.
Details: 3450 W. Chandler Blvd., Suite #9, Chandler. 480-838-1008, facebook.com/atmyplacecafeaz.
At My Place review: A quest for crispy sisig took me here. I found much more to love
Inside a building that once housed a Korean barbecue joint, Flaming Pig lets you grill your own skewers of Filipino barbecue meats flavored with sweet banana ketchup and calamansi. The grill might be the main spectacle, but a lechon kawali was the star of the show.
The cubes of crispy fried pork belly had three distinct layers that I pulled apart and enjoyed individually. The top layer of crunchy skin gave way to a layer of glistening fat perched atop supple pork meat. I dunked them in peppery brown gravy that’s fortified with pig liver paste. 
Sometimes, I found myself reaching for vinegar or salty soy to cut through all that richness, but more often, I savored them in single bites, my eyes closed in blissful concentration.
Details: 1534 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 623-999-7446, flaming-pig.com.
What to eat at Flaming Pig: Pork reigns at this new Filipino restaurant in Phoenix
Reach reporter Andi Berlin at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook @andiberlin,  Instagram @andiberlin or Twitter @andiberlin.
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