Two-year-old Kusineros along J. Rizal Avenue in the “Tourism Mile” belt may not be as stylishly decorated as the other snack bars and restaurants in the city, but its comestibles are definitely not something to be ignored if you’re looking for affordable yet delicious off-the-grid eats.
It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall restaurants — tiny space, obscure place sense, but is food-driven and will provide the best at any given day.
Run by chef Monette Montejo, her partner Mark Antonio, and their little team of self-taught kitchen masters, Kusineros is your own little place where food quality and service do not go down with over popularity.
Chef Monette said they named the place Kusineros since she’s an all-around kusinera and it nicely sounds Mexican-Spanish-Filipino combined.
The minute you hear it, you want to go immediately to see what’s cooking and good to eat.
“It’s more Español, Mexican, and Pinoy sounding, catchy to listen to when spoken, and… of course, I’m also an all-around kusinera that’s why the name. The term becomes universal… kusinero which means it’s the home of good food prepared by a team of people who know their way around more than common ingredients and recipes in the kitchen,” she said.
Kusineros started as a pickup station for their catering business at Kuyba Almoneca, a meditation garden their family operates in Sitio Masikap, Barangay San Jose.
But it’s out of the way for their bilao (winnowing basket) orders so they opened the place for the ease of travel of their clients.
“Our plan before was to only make it as a pickup station for our bilao orders coming from Kuyba Almoneca, but the place is off the city center and our clients are having difficulty making the travel. We want to give them ease that’s why we opened this. Then later we said, why don’t we turn it to a carinderia or a food corner and sell dinuguan, sinigang… common Filipino dishes that the locals love when they eat out of their homes. It turned out okay, but we were not satisfied,” chef Monette said.
This longing to serve better food led them to bring in the traditional Mexican dish tacos into their carefully thought of specials board. Tacos are soft or crispy wheat flour tortillas filled with a variety of seasoned ground beef, lettuce, lots of cheese, and tomatoes.
A quintessential street food, the Mexican dish is small and can be had without the need for cutleries, making for that delicious bite right out of your fingertips.
Mark’s family, she said, has childhood nachos recipes they turned into salads that clicked with their regulars and new clients.
It’s another popular Mexican food that piles up triangular tortilla chips, loaded with seriously plentiful portions of cheese, ground beef, olives, salsa, and others.
They currently have two products — the regular nachos at P95 and with three dips of cheese, tomato, and mango-tomato salsa at P180.
Chef Monette said they continue to be the stars of their menu along with other Tex-Mex (Texan-Mexican) specialties like taquitos, burritos, quesadillas, and chimichanga.
The restaurant also offers Thai curry tofu and veggies, pan-grilled fish, and herbed chicken for the weight conscious, and carne asada, spareribs and classic gremolata, beef tenderloin steak, kalderata, and more for the meat lovers.
“Operating a carinderia isn’t really our forte. Add to that the fact that there’s a whole line of them that sells Pinoy viands in this strip, we decided to discontinue that. Instead, we moved forward to what we know best, manage Kusineros like how we do our catering business,” she explained.
Running a catering business, she explained, is more than making delicious food; it requires management skills, organization, and being prepared for the unexpected to improve profit margins.
Chef Monette said out of all her experiences in catering she has come to learn that not only wonderful food matters, but also competitive pricing, ensuring they are being prepared in a sanitary environment, and providing excellent service.
“Providing excellent service means being prepared to meet their expectations when they’re dining in your restaurant. I’ve learned this in my catering business… it’s not simply about preparing meals, it’s meeting the expectations of your diners,” she said.
With the completion of its second floor, Kusineros can now accommodate more customers who want to enjoy reasonably priced and delicious meals in a no-frills environment.
“If you’re already tired of home-cooked meals, have had enough of fast food, already experiencing fancy restaurant fatigue, and just looking out to enjoy comfort food that can cheer you up, try us at Kusineros,” chef Monette invites.
Kusineros is open Monday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 midnight.
They also offer catering services for parties and important occasions. Call them 09165469125 and 09152351571