It does happen: You plan on checking out a newly opened restaurant only to ditch the idea last minute for something familiar and homegrown, still preferring the place you often come back to, where the food is good, the atmosphere makes you feel instantly feel at home and the people who welcome you with warm smiles are like family.
Ka Tunying’s Café—whose owner and founder are Filipino broadcast journalist and radio commentator Anthony “Ka Tunying” Taberna and his wife Rossel—is one of those places that has been a part of family bonding, get-togethers, office lunches and after-work dinners.
While many are drawn to its menu of local favorites, the restaurant has strived to evolve with the times by introducing innovative spins to traditional Filipino food.
From Nueva Ecija to Manila
Taberna grew up in Nueva Ecija where his family owned and ran a local panaderya called “Ka Tunying’s Tinapay, Kape, at Iba Pa” (which later became “Tunying’s Bread”).
Named after his father, Antonio Taberna, Sr. (the original Ka Tunying), the bakeshop somewhat became a town destination over the years. Some customers even brought their signature crinkles and Spanish bread as baon and pasalubong when travelling to Manila. These breads soon found their way to supermarket fairs and pop-up bazaars around the metro.
It was only a matter of time then that customers clamored for a brick and mortar store in the big city that would sell the scrumptious treats.
The growing demand for Tunying’s crinkles and bread gave the husband-and-wife team the push they needed to venture into the food business. Aside from baked products, the couple also thought of offering food Filipinos can’t live without.
“My wife is from Laguna and both of us love bread and home-cooked meals prepared by her Mommy Marilou and my Nanay Benny,” the TV-radio host shared with the media during the launch of the Timog branch.
It was in August 2015 that Ka Tunying’s Café opened its doors on Visayas Avenue debuting a complete menu offering for breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. The restaurant also introduced the Manila crowd to their unique coolers.
Soon after, the couple opened branches in Timog Avenue and at NAIA Terminal 3 to make it accessible to more people including balikbayans and OFWs craving for a taste of home.
“It’s been two years since we opened our first Metro Manila branch on Visayas Avenue. Even more I realized that operating a food business is like having a program on television and radio because you cannot stagnate, you should always be open for changes,” the broadcaster said.
“There is a continuing evolution. Our own concepts need to be enhanced. The taste buds of Filipinos are always changing. It’s the age of millennials and it is imperative that we keep up with them,” he added.
Filipino food with a twist
Staying true to its roots has always been part of the appeal of Ka Tunying’s Café, which has held on to its well-loved dishes in spite of the barrage of new food offerings.
There’s the bestseller Arroz Ala Tunying and Cabanatuan Longsilog with choices of recado, batutay and hamonado. The Umagang Kay Sarap dishes are available all-day with other must-try dishes like Tsamporado with Tuyo Flakes and Creamy Baked Bangus.
Dishes that people are coming back for are called Sikat Dito which include those with unique twists such as the creamy Tinapa Carbonara and Ka-Love-Asa Lasagna. Ka Tunying’s Café also brought something from the province, foremost of which is Pancit Ni Nanay Benny, a family recipe developed by his mom.
Baked fresh every day like the Kamote Cheesebread and Kalabasa Ensaymada among others, the breads remain a favorite of their suki and even new customers.
Another innovation of Ka Tunying’s Café is its evolution as venue for social and corporate functions. In the Timog branch, for example, there are two function rooms that could each accommodate up to 20 persons for those who want a more cozy setting.