Who can’t resist that plate of juicy chicken barbecue served with yellow Java rice, thick and sweet Java sauce and atchara? This classic meal has become a familiar taste to the Filipino palate.

But before this dish became an icon, a rich tradition surrounds its maker – the now 77-year-old The Aristocrat Restaurant.

Tracing its history, the Aristocrat Restaurant’s founders, Engracia Cruz-Reyes and her husband Alex Reyes, started a humble food store in 1936 to help generate additional income for their large family composed of 13 children.

Fondly nicknamed Aling Asiang, Engracia was a housewife, while Alex was a civil servant, who later became a well respected Supreme Court associate justice.

Their food store, first dubbed “Lapu-Lapu”, was located on Marquez de Comillas (which is now known as Romualdez Street), and served simple snacks such as dinuguan and puto, arroz caldo, pancit luglug, banana fritters and lumpiang ubod.

These dishes quickly attracted the students of St. Theresa’s College, which was located near the eatery. Not long after, the food store’s faithful customers grew in number. After one Sunday excursion in Luneta, Aling Asiang thought of expanding the business and competing with other food stalls in the park.

With this plan in mind and using a battered Ford vehicle, Aling Asiang introduced her rolling canteen. Blessed with a sense of irony, Aling Asiang named it, “The Aristocrat”, intending to cater to Filipino families with small incomes and large appetites.

Later on, the restaurant, which mainly served popular Filipino dishes, eventually branched into serving continental and Chinese cuisine to their mass-based clientele at affordable prices.

Recognizing this significant contribution not only in the food industry but to society as well, the Aristocrat Restaurant was recently awarded a historical marker by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) last July 4, 2013.

“Aristocrat has been very prominent as a restaurant, that is why the Historical Commission did not hesitate to grant the historical marker to them,” Maria Serena Diokno, NHCP Chairperson said during the marker’s unveiling.

Awarding a historical marker to a restaurant isn’t common. As Diokno said, “If you are familiar with the Historical Commission, you might wonder that this marker is quite different because oftentimes, we recognize heroes, actually, or historical events, but we all know that Philippine history is not only in the field of
politics. Social history is very important, and Aristocrat Restaurant is an important part of social history. From a simple store, it has become a prominent and stable restaurant. It became known for the unique Filipino food that reflects our rich culture.”

The marker can now be seen in front of the restaurant along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. The restaurant has since grown into 11 branches and three bakeshops, with the continued mission of offering quality food at affordable prices to the succeeding generations of Filipino families.

The Aristocrat Restaurant
Manila Roxas Blvd
432 San Andres Street, Malate, Manila
Phone: 524-7671 to 80
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.