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  • Isla Pilipina

    Post #1 - February 15th, 2016, 10:54 pm
    Post #1 - February 15th, 2016, 10:54 pm Post #1 - February 15th, 2016, 10:54 pm
    I enthusiastically nominate Isla Pilipina for a 2016 GNR award. Though its dedicated thread is still bestowed with the outdated and unfortunate commentary, “I still don’t get Filipino food,” the current ownership of Isla Pilipina has reinvented the restaurant into a true neighborhood gem, always packed with a diverse and lively crowd. With a young-ish punk rock vibe and provocative artwork, Isla Pilipina goes far beyond the tired steam-table Filipino fare that the title of the thread laments. It’s hip and edgy, but with its reservations (a must) and BYOB policies, it is a place you can comfortably take your in-laws. All of this is good, but botd nailed what has kept me coming back:

    botd wrote:I totally agreed with the title of this thread until I ate at Isla Pilipina. For whatever reason, my only encounters with the cuisine were their lumpia, Longanisa and various pork dishes, none of which ever excited me. However, this really broadened my view of the cuisine.

    The menu is indeed wide and deep, and it is impossible to explore all its facets in a single sitting. Isla Pilipina is probably best experienced family-style with a few hungry friends, and even then, we always manage to over-order. The staff here are enthusiastic when it comes to guiding you through the hits, but I have even been known to gain an introduction to a new dish just by pointing at something intriguing on another table.

    The Laing Sa Gata, a curry-like mix of taro leaves cooked with pork and shrimp in coconut milk, is homey and fulfilling and a favorite dish of mine. The Inihaw Pork, a simple yet addictive grilled pork dish, is something I just discovered and is crave-worthy. Sizzling Sisig, made up of crispy fried “nasty bits” with peppers and egg, is excellent drinking food. And of course the Crispy Pata is decadent and a show-stopper.

    The team running the place is committed to showcasing Filipino cuisine, occasionally holding special events, like a street food event where I was able to try Balut for the first (and probably last) time. But in the words of LeVar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” The forum speaks for itself:

    justjoan wrote:i've gotta rave about my lunch at isla pilipina a few weeks ago. . . . what a great deal-and what terrific food. . . . the pork broth with daikon and a little pork was outstanding. the grilled pork strips equally so. the lumpia were crunchy and not terribly greasy.”

    ronnie_suburban wrote:Kare-Kare, beef ox tail, tripe, and green beans in peanut sauce with a side of shrimp brine paste. Excellent, tender braised ox tails in a peanut-buttery sauce that wasn't over the top at all. The ultra-funky shrimp brine paste was a perfect condiment that offset the richness of the dish very well.

    Sweet Willie wrote:The grilled milkfish today was white w/charred marks of being grilled, & it was moist. DELICIOUS !

    laikom wrote:The fried chicken was perhaps the biggest surprise. It was fried so perfectly that the skin puffed up exactly like chicharones. The light dusting of spices was subtle and the flavor reminded me of something like Harold's.

    Rene G wrote:I've become a fan of Isla's lunch specials, one of the most pleasant $6 lunches around. . . . Each compact but satisfying lunch opens with a cup of soup—sinigang on this particular day. Sour (sour!) and peppery tamarind broth holds large chunks of tomato, green beans and daikon. Simple and good. . . . The plates come with a small pile of lumpia with a sweet dipping sauce, a scoop of good rice, and on this day, inihaw pork with its cup of seasoned vinegar. Sweet and salty marinated pork is expertly grilled to yield a crunchy, caramelized exterior and still-juicy insides. That little cup of leche flan might look like a comically small portion, but the stuff's so rich that it's perfect for me. Friendly service, good music, and interesting artwork add to the appeal.

    incite wrote:Lechon Kawali. Deep fried pork belly served with Filipino style gravy. To the surprise of nobody that knows me, this was my favorite of the day. I was a little afraid it might be a bit too salty, but this was perfect. Laikom was nice enough to let me take the leftovers, which were eaten as soon as I got home from the restaurant. I'm weak.

    BR wrote:If you haven't been to Isla Pilipina in the last year or two, it's really about time you return. This place has really upped its game and is now putting out some stellar food.

    Isla Pilipina
    2501 W Lawrence Ave,
    Chicago, IL 60625
    773. 271.2988
    http://islapilipina.com/
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.
  • Post #2 - February 16th, 2016, 10:55 am
    Post #2 - February 16th, 2016, 10:55 am Post #2 - February 16th, 2016, 10:55 am
    I fully support this nomination and I'm kicking myself for not making it right away when nominations opened up. Isla Pilipina is a gem of a restaurant. Whenever I want to introduce someone to Filipino food, I take them here.
  • Post #3 - February 18th, 2016, 9:51 am
    Post #3 - February 18th, 2016, 9:51 am Post #3 - February 18th, 2016, 9:51 am
    Supported! I love Isla Pilipina very much and often daydream about that lechon.
    Dearest Chicago on Web
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  • Post #4 - February 18th, 2016, 1:28 pm
    Post #4 - February 18th, 2016, 1:28 pm Post #4 - February 18th, 2016, 1:28 pm
    Not only does ISLA deserve a GNR nomination for its food alone- but Ray the owner deserves a nomination for the hippest soundtrack of any Filipino restaurant I've ever been to.

    His lunch special rocks even though sadly they raise the price a bit. (Now$8.00 from a ridiculously affordable $5.95!!)

    Additionally, every time I meet a Chicagoan who is of Filipino Origin, and ask them where is their favorite Filipino restaurant? 9 times out of 10 they respond ISLA Pilipina!
    Hell Ya- give Ray and his friendly staff the props they deserve!
  • Post #5 - February 18th, 2016, 8:10 pm
    Post #5 - February 18th, 2016, 8:10 pm Post #5 - February 18th, 2016, 8:10 pm
    I was going to make this nomination if Teresa hadn't spoken for it and I'm so glad she did!

    I love Isla Pilipina--so many delicious must-haves that I don't go as often as I want to because I always think of it as a place that needs a sizeable group to do it justice. For anyone who hasn't been, GO--in fact, I hope we can plan a meal during the consideration period to get those who may be thinking of the "old" IP as not worthy of a GNR in to try it again!

    If you go, don't miss the little lumpia cigars of goodness, grilled milkfish, fried chicken, grilled inihaw pork, the gargantuan pata knuckle, taro leaves with pork and shrimp, lechon kawali, kare kare, garlic rice and halo-halo--see what I mean?

    A big thumbs up for Isla Pilipina as a GNR!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #6 - February 18th, 2016, 8:15 pm
    Post #6 - February 18th, 2016, 8:15 pm Post #6 - February 18th, 2016, 8:15 pm
    I am among those who think IP is not worthy of a GNR, based on meals I've had in the past. I'd welcome a chance to give it another go, since so many people are singing its praises. Count me in if anyone organizes a meal there.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - February 18th, 2016, 8:36 pm
    Post #7 - February 18th, 2016, 8:36 pm Post #7 - February 18th, 2016, 8:36 pm
    I'm with SteveZ: it might be the best Philippino food around, but it's like the world's tallest midget. Except for lumpia, nothing excited me there.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #8 - February 21st, 2016, 6:07 pm
    Post #8 - February 21st, 2016, 6:07 pm Post #8 - February 21st, 2016, 6:07 pm
    Wholeheartedly support this nomination. We love La Isla so much they're catering our wedding this summer. Not everything is unique or mind-altering, sure; much of that likely comes from an understandable ignorance of Filipino food on the part of many Chicagoans. However, everything is absolutely legit and satisfying. Sure, fried chicken isn't making any waves, but it's a solid rendition. Putting hot dogs in spaghetti might seem a bit off to most Americans, but it's comfort food to Filipinos.

    As for the things I really like? Lechon kawali, laing, inihaw pork, mixed adobo, obviously the lumpia, kare kare, crispy pata...love it all. Oh, and the dinuguan--perhaps my favorite blood dish! About the only thing that's a bit off to me is the pancit palabok, which I sometimes like at other places but don't particularly care for here. Everything else, I like or love.

    Is the Filipino food scene here truly a midget? Maybe. Misunderstood seems more likely. Regardless, still think this place is best-in-show with its spot-on food, family-friendly atmosphere (I've never eaten here without family!), and otherwise unassuming quality.
  • Post #9 - February 21st, 2016, 7:41 pm
    Post #9 - February 21st, 2016, 7:41 pm Post #9 - February 21st, 2016, 7:41 pm
    I have opened countless people's minds regarding Filipino food simply by recommending Isla to them. They take a cuisine that is sadly generally regarded as bland or unsophisticated and open your eyes to the how the cuisine can really shine. They don't just do this with a couple dishes, but with a vast menu with a huge range of preparations and flavors. A place like this is exactly what the GNR list is for, to highlight a standout example of a cuisine, or enlightening skeptics of one cuisine or another. Isla does both, and is a slamdunk GNR across the board, in my book.

    (P.S. It still maintain that the LTH mods should really separate the main Isla thread into 2, considering it retains none of the same owners or cooks, none of the original menu, and a new name even!)
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #10 - February 23rd, 2016, 2:34 pm
    Post #10 - February 23rd, 2016, 2:34 pm Post #10 - February 23rd, 2016, 2:34 pm
    Better than most the food I ate the Philippines. Definitely support
  • Post #11 - February 23rd, 2016, 5:32 pm
    Post #11 - February 23rd, 2016, 5:32 pm Post #11 - February 23rd, 2016, 5:32 pm
    Adding my thumbs-up on Isla Pilipina as GNR. Two good friends who are Filipino each independently arranged group dinner outings to IP to share with their non-Filipino friends an outstanding example of their native cuisine. I was more than happy to tag along as someone not yet fully hip to the awesomeness, and have since had more than a few such dinners with other newbies. And they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on!
    /shampoo commercial
    We crack us up.
  • Post #12 - February 24th, 2016, 10:22 pm
    Post #12 - February 24th, 2016, 10:22 pm Post #12 - February 24th, 2016, 10:22 pm
    To add to the chorus, I've never had better Filipino. Love all the simply prepared giant hunks o' meat– crackly skinned pata and that fried chicken (wtf is up with banana ketchup tho) and charred little whole fishies. And the Laing sa gata is a great example of the soulfulness of the cooking here, making up for the lack of shock-and-awe spicing of other SE Asian cuisines with comforting rib-sticking-ed-ness. And quite a hip spot at that, love their graphic design.
  • Post #13 - March 2nd, 2016, 1:30 pm
    Post #13 - March 2nd, 2016, 1:30 pm Post #13 - March 2nd, 2016, 1:30 pm
    Isla Pilipina does a terrific job of appealing to a broad audience while maintaining a daring menu. On one visit I asked them how they made their dinuguan, knowing fully well that the dish is supposed to be made with pork blood. The waiter quietly pulled me aside, and said, don't tell anyone, but the special ingredient is blood. I love that they cover it up by calling it "special gravy" on the menu.

    Filipino food has always been under rated in my book, so I'm thrilled to support Isla for GNR.
  • Post #14 - March 6th, 2016, 11:04 pm
    Post #14 - March 6th, 2016, 11:04 pm Post #14 - March 6th, 2016, 11:04 pm
    turkob wrote:Filipino food has always been under rated in my book, so I'm thrilled to support Isla for GNR.

    Agree with above. I had a rocky start with Isla Pilipina but new owners and years later its a friendly flavorful favorite.
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #15 - March 7th, 2016, 12:55 pm
    Post #15 - March 7th, 2016, 12:55 pm Post #15 - March 7th, 2016, 12:55 pm
    Isla Pilipina was on my short list, as well. I think it's a great nomination, one which I fully support.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #16 - March 11th, 2016, 7:47 pm
    Post #16 - March 11th, 2016, 7:47 pm Post #16 - March 11th, 2016, 7:47 pm
    Terrific lunch today, enjoyable meal, great company, friendly professional service and reasonable pricing.

    Yes for GNR!

    Isla Pilipina, count me a Fan!
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow

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