Sari Sari Store serves up fresh, authentic Filipino cuisine

When renowned food critic Jonathan Gold announced in his Los Angeles Times column that he visited Sari Sari Store, the newest Filipino food stall in the bustling Grand Central Market, a whopping three times in one week; it was as if almost instantly, the eatery became more jam-packed than ever.

Located near G&B Coffee, Sari Sari took over the former space of Bar Moruno, another formerly popular destination at the market. The simple food stall is best known for its quick traditional Filipino dishes such as adobo fried rice and lechon manok, or rotisserie chicken on garlic rice. Sari Sari’s rice bowls, each served with a toasty egg, are heaven at first bite. The time it took to set the food on an average weekend afternoon was just under an hour, but it was well worth the wait.

Opened by the power couple of the culinary industry, Sari Sari is not the first of Walter and Margarita Manzke’s restaurants, but is another gem to add to the pair’s collection of successful and popular restaurants. Some of the other restaurants in the Manzke empire include Petty Cash and Wildflour Café and Bakery in Manila. Before opening République, a French restaurant in Hancock Park, the Manzkes were just a couple living in the Philippines dreaming of moving to Los Angeles to pursue their culinary dreams.

Photo by Erika Lee | Daily Trojan

Margarita Manzke’s love for food and the culinary arts started at a young age — from helping her family in a kitchen at White Rock Resort to studying pastry at Le Cordon Bleu. She then received a culinary degree at The Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Those who don’t have enough time or money to spend at the beloved République restaurant will be delighted to visit Sari Sari, which provides an equally pleasant dining experience by the same chef and owners without breaking the bank. While the wait is a bit longer than most due to its increasing popularity, the hospitality makes up for it completely. Almost every menu item — whether it’s a dessert, sandwich or bowl — is under $13.

In addition to its wide variety of savory rice bowls, Sari Sari also serves halo halo, which means “mixed together” in Tagalog, and buko pie (coconut pie) — two iconic Filipino desserts. Halo halo contains coconut tapioca pudding, leche flan and chunks of fresh fruit. Those who have never tried the combination of jelly and ice cream will find it unusually refreshing and tasty.

Other favorites include the Filipino breakfast sandwich, arroz caldo (rice porridge) and tortang talong (charred eggplant) for the vegetarians.