By PAOLA NAVARETTE
New York Steak meal
From a steak retail outlet restaurant in the ’90s, distinguished by its globallysourced products, Meat Plus Café at Subic Freeport Zone has become one of the must-visit food destinations for tourists and locals alike. The original spot was slowly but steadily followed by a branch on Roxas Highway, Clark Freeport. And while it took 25 years, Meat Plus Café’s expansion has finally reached Manila with the opening of its third location at SM Mall of Asia. The new 90-seater Manila branch is brightly lit and faces the bay. It exudes a modern casual dining experience. The design caters exclusively to the new market, which the two older branches have yet to adopt.
Meat Plus Café Mall of Asia interior
“At that time, Subic was the hottest place to be. It was a weekend destination, and a lot of young people were volunteering under Dick Gordon,” coowner Bambi Meer said. After getting out of college, Bambi, together with family friends—the Tenchavez, Tanjangco, and Santos families—established the steak restaurant in 1993.
“We started in retail. It was Meat Plus and Toys Plus in one building,” Meer said. “All we wanted was a place where people could come for the shopping and stay for the food…When the Duty-Free privilege was abolished during [President] Ramos’ term, we decided to start a restaurant and serve meals in a proper dining atmosphere.”
Co-founders Chiloy Santos, Bambi Meer, Pacquito Tanjangco, and Patrick Tanjangco
Twenty-five years later, the 30-seater Subic branch has grown into a 250-seater that serves a variety of affordable US-certified steaks such as Rib Eye, Topsirloin, New York, and Sirloin to travelers in need of a pit stop, and to diners who journey to eat there.
For first-timers, Bambi recommends the bestsellers, Oven Roasted Belly with Rice, and US BBQ Short Ribs. Burger lovers can have a fill, too, of juicy offerings like the Cheese Burger, and the Meat Plus Burger, a double serving of patties grilled to perfection. There’s also a Sea Burger.
Meat Plus Burger and Fries
“We used to charge one dollar to cook the meat purchased, grill it right away, and serve it on a paper plate with canned corn. A lot of people liked it,” Meer explained. “When we opened Meat Plus and chose the word ‘plus,’ it means that we would sell meat together with other items such as spaghetti and chicken. But the brand has been there for so long that we all have our different stories, and that’s the ‘plus.’ It is how you relate to the brand and create memorable experiences while inside the store.”
Following the success in Subic, the group of families established Meat Plus Specialists Phil., Inc. in 2000, and has since conceptualized three more American casual dining brands namely Kettle, Tender Bob’s, and Fireside.
Grilled Salmon Steak
“For us, the ‘plus’ side is whatever we put onto the plate. You’re not just serving food, you’re giving a little of yourself to the customer, whether you’re sweating it out in the kitchen or trying to make the food taste better. Every restaurant should imbibe that,” he added.
In the fourth quarter of the year, Meat Plus Café is poised to open another branch at SM Baguio.
Homemade Apple Pie
“What really made us decide to come in is Manila’s bustling food scene. But the challenge was keeping the price as it is because Subic has no value-dded tax,” Meer said. “We worked out a few deals with SM Malls in order to tweak the numbers, so we can still keep it competitive.”
Meat Plus Cafe is located at Level 1, North Entertainment Mall, SM Mall of Asia. @meatpluscafe.