Eats More Fun in Mati, Davao Oriental

Seaside's famous empanada at Php 160/box of 15
Besides its awe-inspiring beauty, Mati, Davao Oriental's capital, also boasts gastronomic treats that are both unique and familiar. Like foodie destinations such as Dumaguete, Baguio, Cebu, and Bacolod, this city also promises to fill your tummy with delectable local fare that are worth checking out. Here, read on and indulge.

Seaside Restaurant
Quezon Street,
Mati City, Davao Oriental

Located along the baywalk (yes, the baywalk, not the seaside as most part of the sea has been reclaimed and turned into a baywalk), this restaurant is home to the famous empanada and lumpia, both are favorite snacks and pasalubong by locals and tourists alike. 

The warm, flaky crust of the empanada will definitely lure you to eat more, or more so, will entice you to bring home a box or two. Inside is a well-seasoned savory filling combined with boiled egg--indeed a delight!

Do not underestimate Seaside's lumpia even if it has  one major ingredient only--ubod (coconut pith). Unique as it is, the crunchy sticks is best savored while it's hot. Pair this with a glass of ice-cold Coke Zero (my personal bet) and you're good to go.

Seaside's famous lumpia
Besides empanada and lumpia, Seaside is also a famous lunch and dinner place in Mati. On our first day, we had a scrumptious SuTuKil lunch with our hosts from the City Tourism Office. Su stands for sugba or grilled; Tu for tuwa or soup; and Kil for kilawin, a raw dish with vinegar and spices.

The soup and grilled pork might be ordinary for you, but I dare you try (and finish) the kilawing bariles (tuna). Fresh and without a hint of even the slightest fishy aftertaste, the dish made me dream of kilawin for a few nights. And did I tell you I don't usually eat dishes with raw vinegar? This dish deserves an exemption, though. It is that good and I am not exaggerating.

Roll 'n Roast Bar and Grill
Rizal Street, 
Mati City, Davao Oriental

Another popular dining spot is the Roll 'n Roast Bar and Grill. Cozy as it is, the place is famous for intimate dates and even group dinners. 

While it is famous for its grilled native chicken and roasted pork belly, the silent blockbuster hit for us was the deep-fried catfish. Served crispy on the outside and tender inside (not even a hint of dryness, that is), this dish is a definite must-try. 

We also had the chicken soup--close to the Tagalog version of the tinola but tastes less gingery. It reminds me of the chicken nilagpang at Bob Nowong in Lake Sebu, sans the milk. The grilled native chicken is well-seasoned both in and out, and is perfect to pair with a steaming cup of rice. Oh, and be prepared to have a second cup!

Homey and cosy Rolls 'n Roasts

Charcoal-grilled native chicken
With Sir Dashiel Indelible, Jr., Kel Mackenzie, Mayor Carlo Luis Rabat,
Vice Mayor Glenda Rabat Gayta, and Efren Reyes, Jr.

Grilled native chicken
The star of the night: deep-fried catfish
Chicken soup
Dinner is served!
Picnic at the Menzi Beach Park and Campsite
Dahican Beach,
Mati City, Davao Oriental

For a relaxing, laid-back vibe, have a no-frills picnic lunch by the beach at Menzi. We had a scrumptious lunch in one of the beachside tables and the views beckon. You are free to eat with your bare hands, of course!

When dining by the sea, it is but apt to eat fresh seafoods. We had spicy squid and grilled fish (which Kel bought from the fishermen on our way back from dolphin watching in Mayo Bay). We had buco juice, which was just as refreshing, and fruits that are popular in the region: durian, lansones, and rambutan.

Spicy squid
Grilled fish
The Great Durian Challenge
Pastel at Menzi Beach Park and Campsite
Dahican Beach, 
Mati City, Davao Oriental

"Nakakain ka na ba ng pastel?" says Sir Dashiel. "Alin Sir, yung sa CDO, yung tinapay na may yema sa loob?" and then we both laughed. No, he wasn't referring to the same pastel. What he was talking about was the halal version of pastel, which is brown rice topped with chicken flakes and wrapped in leaves. You can have one from one of the stores on the side of Menzi Beach Park and Campsite. This side is supposedly the Muslim corner. 

Their version of pastel is similar to our version of binalot, only that this is made of brown rice. We paired it with boiled egg and local corn coffee. I must say this is one of best breakfasts we had during our stay, not to mention one of the most affordable. At Php 15 each, pastel is a full meal in itself.


Davao Oriental's Pastel from Matet Garcia Reyes on Vimeo.

Pusit All-You-Can and Boodle Fight with the Amihan Team
Dahican Beach
Mati City, Davao Oriental

Not that there's an eat-all-you-can restaurant serving unlimited squid, but since squid is abundant in Mayo Bay, you can buy a kilo for a song. So, for those who are like me who loves inky adobong pusit, check this place out!

At the fishing village
Pusit, pusit some more!
Our lunch at Jun Plaza's place
Gone in 10 seconds
Besides the inky squid, one of our most memorable times in Mati was having a boodle fight with the Amihan Team. It was so nice to share a meal with them, and more so, hearing their stories both of success and challenges. It was a no-frills dinner--no fancy ambience, no fancy plating. Just good food and good company. And the best part of it was, we ate altogether like a local. If given a chance, I would love to do this again.

To know more about the Amihan Team, you may visit

With the Amihan Team, Sir Dashiel Indelible, Jr., and Sir Jun Plaza
Lami kaayo!

Daghang salamat to Mati City Mayor Carlo Luis Rabat, Ms. Jing Rabat, Sir Dashiel Indelible, Jr., Marvin Bandigan, and Sir Jun Plaza for making our stay in Mati a memorable one.

You may check out their website at


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