Alk-O-Bar: A Filipino Resto By Heart


I was driving earlier on this week along Fraser on the way home. The traffic was crawling because of some hold up in the intersection. It just happened that my car was in front where T-Hut the Chiu Chow restaurant used to be.

The new red and black signboard caught my eye. Alk-O-Bar, it says. At a glance I thought that someone had turned this place into a bar and such an odd location too for bar. But because my car wasn’t going anyway and on closer look I saw pictures of food. I thought I just pull over to the empty parking space in front of the restaurant.

The signboard does not tell the whole story. Alk-O-Bar is not a bar. It is a restaurant. Most of all the other signs indicated that they serve western food. You know things like Shrimp Cocktail, Club House Sanwiches, Chicken Wrap, Burgers, Steak, Fish & Chip.

It was the other less conspicuous half of the menu that caught my interest. It was words like sisig, menudo, pancit, tapsilog, longsilog, arroz caldo, bistek, kare kare, embotido, daing na bangus, rellenong bangus. Gosh … I don’t even know what most of these are.

But I know this will interest some of our Filipino followers, particularly Crispy Lechon and Pinoy Gourmet. So I decided to come back to TOFTT (take one for the team). Maybe I should say that I am taking one for the Pinoys and Pinays.

BTW, is using the name Pinoy and Pinay to refer to Filipinos widely accepted these days? I thought it was such a endearing name but then I checked Wikipedia and found the following:

Pinoy was used for self-identification by the first wave of Filipinos going to the continental United States before World War II and has been used both in a pejorative sense as well as a term of endearment similar to Chicano.Both Pinoy and Pinay are still regarded as derogatory by some Filipinos though they are widely used and gaining mainstream usage

Sorry if I had used the name wrong but am trying to understand more. I guess Pinoy Gourmet is one of those who proudly carries the Pinoy name.

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So yesterday on the way home from work, I decided to drop by for lunch (yeah, I start work at insane hours and end work early too). I wasn’t expecting much from Alk-O-Bar because I couldn’t find anything of them on the internet.

Alk-O-Bar had pictures of their food plastered on the wall outside the restaurant. The pictures were bright and colorful but it wasn’t particularly clear and I couldn’t make out what it really was.

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Wow, they sure … spruced up the place. A lot.

It was a nice dining environment. Very clean and very neat. They played soft music. There were two other tables taken at the time when I was there. Both Filipinos. They seems to know the owners because I overheard the customers saying “say hi to your mum OK?” on their way out.

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Out of interest, compare the picture above when Alk-O-Bar was still T-Hut. As you can see, they have the same chairs and tables. The chequered undersized booths are still there. Even the faux roof over the counter is the same. A nice coat of paint sure does wonders. It tells me that it doesn’t take a lot to make a restaurant nice and cozy.

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The menu was quite interesting. Half of it was the western dishes but it was the Filipino half that I was more interested in. The Filipino section is the one in the middle above. They even have Chop Suey, the Filipino version.

There were so many dishes I wanted to try but I am just alone. After quite a while of indecisiveness, I decided that I should get the set meal called the Filipino Meal. It is not on the take out menu above.

Alk-O-Bar-Fraser-St-Vancouver-Animated

Now, this is the part when some of you will feel your heart beating faster and harder. I know the feeling. Sometimes your heart beat so fast that you even think that you are seeing things. You would swear that the food seems to be jumping out at you.

No, don’t rub your eyes or adjust your monitor. This happens all the time when you encounter comfort food. This is what is called the “chowtimes effect”.

The Filipino Meal above is $8.50. It was awfully, awfully delicious. I am not sure about the taste to Filipinos but I was utterly impressed. For that price, I thought it was also a great deal not just because of the variety but also because of the serving size too.

The Filipino Meal consists of Chicken Sisig, Pork BBQ, Java Rice and Atchara.

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I dug into the huge mound of Java rice first. It was so inviting and I could smell it.

With rice like this, it just blew away my theory about “jhup and rice”. You don’t need jhup with this rice. No sir.

The rice by itself was so flavourful that I could just have this rice alone as an entire meal. The secret to this? Garlic and Butter.

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I mixed the Sisig with the rice. It has a nice sourish note that blends so well with the Java rice. It was the lemon (and more garlic!) along with some raw onions that makes it so delightful to eat. It also had the perfect level of moist. Sometime I come across dishes like this that are too dry.

As I was eating this I was really thinking that, oh man … this place could be a hidden gem.

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The Pork BBQ was good. I like it.

It was not thick and chunky like the ones I had seen but it wasn’t puny. It’s just that the size doesn’t jump out at me with this one. I always associate Filipino Pork BBQ as the supersized version of the Malaysian satay.

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I know it is not something everyone likes but this is what I like best – sides that are seriously charred and that they have fatty parts too. Oh yeah!

The meat is a tad chewy on parts but it is also succulent. Yes, I like it is both fat and lean meat … just like a char siu satay.

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First time I had this. This is called Atchara. I was told this is pickled papaya. Very nice complement to the rice and the sisig. It added yet another dimension to each spoonful.

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The Halo-Halo ($3.25) was a bit too sweet for me. I saw that they manually shaved the ice and so the shaved ice were a bit big and it hardened. So I left it until the end of the meal to melt a bit first before I had a taste of this.

I like that they don’t have much beans in it but all in all, it was too sweet. Actually, it was super sweet. *shudder*

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Alk-O-Bar had been opened since Boxing Day last year. It is run by a father and son team. The father is the chef and the son looks after the front.

They said that business had been slow but is slowly picking up. I just think that perhaps it was because from the outside it does not say very well what they are good at. I really think that this is one Filipino restaurant that could turn out to be popular given the large Filipino community and the relative dearth of Filipino restaurants in Vancouver.

I hope some of you will give this a try and let me know what you think. I want to know if the Filipinos think this is good Filipino food or not. For me, I enjoyed this a lot.

Alk-O-Bar on UrbanspoonBUSINESS HOURS
Mon, Wed, Thu and Sun: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Fri & Sat: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Tue: Closed

54 thoughts on “Alk-O-Bar: A Filipino Resto By Heart

  1. Having mentioned that the chef-father once worked in Saudi Arabia, perhaps the name of their restaurant Alk-O-Bar comes from Al Khobar, the name of an eastern province where Saudi Aramco headquarters are located.

  2. Tried this place out a few times over the last couple of months recently. They have added a new “mix and match” menu in addition to the two original menus they have. Food is good and service is very friendly. Too bad they aren’t very busy during the dinner hours. They mentioned that you were supposed to have had an organized dinner there, did that ever happen?

    • Hi Lil: Yeah, that plan for an organized dinner in Alk-O-Bar fell through. There were a couple of issues … we could not get Alk-O-Bar to bring down the prices so that it will be a great deal … and I did not have enough hands-and-feet to pull it off. Need people’s help to make it happen. Organizing one for 50 people is not joke at all. Ben

  3. I just discovered this good Filipino restaurant in Richmond. Its called Casa Pinoy. Its on the northwest corner of Bridgeport and No. 5 road. I ordered their seafood palabok noodle and I had an OMG moment. It was so tasty. I’m going back to try their other Filipino offerings such as kare-kare, chicken pandan and crispy pata. The dishes are from 6.99 to 8.99 and they come with steamed rice. This is not a food court type restaurant. Its made to order food. The ambiance is nice too. It will rival Kumare’s ambiance,

    • Hi Dyosah: Oh … too bad that I’ll be away until early next month or else I’ll go try them. Hehehe … at least now I know where to go to eat the very moment that I land in YVR. Thanks for the very interesting review! Ben

  4. thanks for the post. i’ve been there once and what surprised me the most were the absolutely delicious french fries. best fries i’ve eaten in a long time. also very friendly service. am taking a friend there tonight, can’t wait to see what they’ll serve up 🙂

  5. Thanks Ben for taking one for the team! I walked past this place the other day but they were closed. Definitely have to try it out! I’m thinking there arent a lot of Filipino restaurants because its not as popular here as Chinese and Japanese food! When I think of good Filipino food, nothing really beats homemade – so maybe thats another reason as well?

  6. i was on fraser yesterday and noticed a new Filipino restaurant opening,Bahay Kubo, a notice at the door says they’re doing a AYCE buffet on opening day which is either today or tmr, seems like a great deal! Being curious about FIlipino cuisine has thus far rewarded me with a polvoron addiction…. so hopefully there will be sth gd to try

  7. Hi PinoyGourmet, it was also great to finally put a face on the pen name. Too bad I wasnt able to join you in the Filipino pork fest. I really wanted to go but timing just wasnt right for me. Regarding Alko-Bar, I’ve started talking to Julio the chef/owner. Unfortunately, I am a bit busy right now and it may not happen until early next month.

  8. Crispy,When can We have a chowdown at Alko-bar??Nice to finally meet you in person last night.btw go for it crispy_lechon.com,I promise to support the blog

  9. Hi Ben, I was just kidding on the Will Blog for Food blog. I dont think I have the dedication like you have to maintain a food blog. Out of curiosity I googled “Will Blog for Food”. There are already a number of food blogs with that title. Its not really a unique idea after all. 🙂

  10. Totally agree LR When in doubt fry it,Thats how I had my Scorpion,Centipede and Starfish in Beijing,All Deep Fried.Deep Fried kills all the bugs

  11. I don’t know much about Filipino cuisine. From Filipino employees at my last workplace, I learned that it appears to be traditionally more meat. One of the women working in our dept., joked that if she didn’t know what to do with an unfamiliar meat, etc., they fried it. So maybe someone can summarize how it is different from other East Asian cuisines. I realize there are some overlaps.

      • Actually if there is an unfamiliar meat, it is chopped up and made into sisig. Filipino sisig is versatile like the adobo. You can use any kind of meat to make sisig. Traditional sisig is made up of chopped up grilled pork face but you can also have chicken sisig, squid sisig, lechon sisig, mystery meat sisig, etc. LOL

  12. Thanks for taking another hit for the team! We all benefit from it. Also, thanks for explaining the Chowtimes effect because I thought it was my heart. No, wait. My heart actually was racing when I saw those food pictures ;o)

    • Hi Donna: Hehehe … I actually felt my heart racing when the dish was served. So I made a note to replicate the experience on this post. Funny, huh? 🙂 Ben

      • *gasp* … I just checked and the crispy-lechon.com domain name is still available. 🙂 Only $11.80 a year … about equivalent in costs of a plate of pork sisig and side plate of Java rice. Ben

      • Hi Ben, I checked it too and you’re right its still available. Hmmm “Crispy Lechon Eats” food blog. Sounds good to me. LOL.

      • Hi Ben. Its so tempting to start a food blog. However, I cant eat out as much as the food bloggers do. Firstly, mo-chien lah (no money). Secondly, unlike you and Suanne who maintain your weight even with a lot of eating, I will balloon for sure if I do the same. As I mentioned to you before, I still cant get rid of the 3 lbs I gained during the last 8GTCC dinner at Red Star. I think I’ll have to keep it for good. 😦

      • Hey I got an idea. Seeing that food establishments are eager to have their restaurants featured in a blog post, I can start a new food blog titled. “Will Blog for Food”. LOL. Its a win-win situation. I can eat for free and the restaurants will get their internet exposure. Whatdya guys think? LOL.

      • Hi Crispy: Hmmm … you are brilliant! A blog called “Will Blog for Food” would be unique and different from other blog. It’s a chicken and egg kind of question … you gotta figure out how to first get enough readers before restaurants will give you free food. Give it a go, Crispy … I am serious … and I know everyone else is supporting you too. You don’t need a single cent to start blogging but if there is one advise, start with WordPress … you will not regret it in the long run. Ben

      • I agree Crispy. I have a hard time shaking off extra weight. When I married R, I gained 5 lbs in a week and everyone noticed and mentionned it. So if you imagine us being married x years by x weight and you know how small I used to be. BTW, if Crispy doesn’t set up the next meal here, I may have to organize one. That food just jumps out at you. 🙂 I can’t help it, the food is pulling me in. I must go there. Maybe I’ll just suggest a walk and end up there with R. Thanks Ben for being the adventuresome one to check out these discoveries. I think we see these discoveries but something like the name confuses us on the type of restaurant and so we never investigate further.

      • Hi Nancy: Great to meet you and R again last night. About your comment of me being adventuresome, sometimes I ask myself what it is really. Sometimes I do ask myself if it is my writing style that makes a mountain out of a mole hill. I always have this fear in me that perhaps after people going to places I rave about (eg Alk-O-Bar), they will discover that it is not what they read about on chowtimes. I think I better tone down my excitement so as not to set too high an expectation to everyone. 🙂 Ben

      • Hi Nancy, thank you for your offer. I’m thinking perhaps we can work together to set up the next dinner here. Im just worried if we will have a big table to accommodate all of us. From Ben’s picture it looks like their biggest table sits 10. I can start the ball rolling by calling them.

      • I second Ben and third(?) JLC. I’m a total noob when it comes to Filipino cuisine, so this would be a good educational meal for me.

        Crispy, let us know when you’ve organized something (LOL). I think you have me direct email. If not, get it from Uncle Ben.

      • OK Crispy, we can certainly check on the details of the restaurant and how they could accomodate groups. Ben has my contact info, so I’m game to help set it up with you.

  13. Wow, what a gem you’ve discovered, Ben! I echo what Crispy said, I wanted to taste the food as I read and saw the pictures. It’ll add to our “places-to-go-for-lunch” roster. Thanks for the food adventure. You manage to make it interesting and fun. Looking forward to go there soon. Cheers, 🙂

  14. I saw some advertisement of this restaurant on a local Filipino paper just last week. The restaurant name is a bit strange and that’s probably why not a lot of Filipinos know about it. Same with a Filipino restaurant in Richmond at No. 5 road and Bridgeport. The place is called Agatha & something. It’s right at the corner where KFC used to be – across the Chevron station.

    Pinoy and Pinay is very common and widely used. Personally, I don’t use those terms when I’m talking with Filipino friends/people. Some accept the two names with no problem, some get offended. I use Filipino/Pilipino (guy or girl) or Filipina/Pilipina (girl), for me… these are more proper than Pinoy/Pinay.

    • Hi Jeprox: Reading your comment, I am just thinking how a name of a restaurant is so important. I felt that the name Alk-O-Bar says nothing about the restaurant except to conjure images of a drinking bar. LOL! IF … IF … if Alk-O-Bar want to showcase their Filipino cooking, then they should use name that reminds people of home. You know, like Little Ongpin, Pinpin, Cucina Manila and names like that. Heck, I think that even a name like Crispy Lechon or Pinoy Gourmet makes a great replacement name for Alk-O-Bar. Agree? 🙂 Ben

      • Ben, totally agree with you that a restaurant’s name should have a correlation to the cuisine they serve! From the name, it sounded like another bubble tea place or a “drinks” only place!

      • i agree! 🙂

        i just noticed now the pictures you took show some kind of menu posted on the wall with chinese writing? am i correct?

        really strange, a filipino restaurant with name that don’t even sound filipino and some chinese writings posted on the wall. 🙂

      • Jeprox, the pic you’re looking at was from the previous T-Hut resto: http://goo.gl/6tLvB

        Whereas from Ben’s description, the current Alk-O-Bar interior is the pic where the walls are red.

        Yeah, it sure is a rather odd name. Maybe a chowdown there will give Ben the opportunity to ask the owner the idea behind the name.

      • Hi LotusRapper: Oh … that reminds me too … that I asked about the origin of the name of the restaurant. The ALK in Alk-O-Bar refers to the initials of the three sons of the chef. The son-waiter pointed to one of the initial and said that is his name but I did not ask which one. Not very helpful I know. 🙂 Ben

      • The name probably is a reference to a city in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia: Al-Khobar. I’m guessing that’s where the father used to work as a chef.

      • Its possible that ALK may be the acronym of the owner’s name. Filipinos tend to do that with their business names. I remember my parents named their business with the combination of their names. BTW, jeprox mentioned a Filipino restaurant in Bridgeport named Isaac and Agatha. Its actually the names of the owners children.

  15. Good find Ben. I think I’ve walked by this place earlier this year and just neglected to note it down given the multitude of restaurants I haven’t tried in that district. I’ll have to add it to my ridiculously long wishlist now. It’ll take me years to go through it all…

    • Hi Quenchiest: LOL! I know what you mean about long wishlist. We have one and every time it gets too long, we thrash it and start all over again! 🙂 Ben

  16. Hi Ben, thank you for this good find. The food looks really delicious. First time I come across a pork barbq meal that comes with sisig. Definitely a winner. I tell you Ben, the way you describe the food, it makes me want to go there right at this moment. Very descriptive and enticing. I’d be curious to try their other food offerings such as those popular Filipino dishes you mentioned. As for the halo-halo, they usually use evaporated milk which is not really sweet. But maybe they added some sugar syrup in it that made it too sweet.

    BTW, Pinoy and Pinay are accepted terms within the Filipino community here and in the Philippines. The derogatory term is FLIP which originated in the US. According to Wikipedia.

    “While Flip is usually used inoffensively, the folk etymology of the term is that it is an acronym for “f***ing little island people” which was allegedly coined by American soldiers during World War II. In response, many young Filipino Americans changed the first word of the acronym to funny, fine, or friendly. In the Philippines, the slang flip was invariably used as an acronym for “fine-looking island people” by several advertisements.”

  17. Their halo halo looks small though…looks like a scoop of stuff and the rest are just ice…..may i suggest next time you ask the milk on the side….so you will control the sweetness

    • Hi Bulakz: Good advice about asking for the milk to be served on the side. Yeah, the halo halo is not good at all. I remember the ones that Suanne made once in the Richmond Community Kitchen. I guess this is how Halo Halo looks like huh? :-O

  18. Hi Ben Thanks for discovery,I will check it out,I had heard that the owner was a Chef at White Spot for many years and that could account for his expertise for Western Food.I think He decided to hedge his bets by attempting to cater to a broader market just like Kumare serves Thai and Filipino food

    • Hi Pinoy Gourmet: Now that you mention it … the son of the owner told me that his dad (the chef) also used to work as a chef in the Saudi Arabia. I forgot to mention this when I wrote this post. Ben

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