Friday, November 21, 2008

Butuan Night: Rosario’s, Caraga Square and Woodstock!

After some rest after roaming around the city and a little reflecting of what I have just seen and encountered, I was again ready to go, this time to find dinner and whatever night entertainment I could chance upon.

Another lesson: be very courteous or try to develop an easy topic before you ask hotel staff a direct question such as “where can I eat good food around here” or anything similar. When I asked that question at the Luciana Inn front staff, his face obviously turned sour and said “why sir, don’t you like the food in our hotel” – and I quoted that word-for-word in English! To appease him, I said “oh no no, I don’t mean that, I just want to eat in a restaurant where the locals usually hang out”.

Another lesson learned: “where the locals usually hang-out” would mostly illicit a response pointing you to the nearest Jollibee, McDonalds or Chowking – in that order hehehe! But after some small talk, the hotel staff did pepper me with a barrage of names and places, many of which actually were already on my list. So there, I got confirmationS on where to go for a dinner!

First up was the barbecue grill area near the police station. Three reasons I wanted to go there: 1) it was suggested by an online friend who recently visited Butuan, 2) I saw it early this afternoon, and 3) it was suggested by the hotel staff! However… I did not eat there hehe! The aromas were enticing, the chicken looked delectable, the seafood looked fresh and there were probably hundreds of stalls/stores to choose from. And it looked as if a 5th of the city’s population were already there for dinner! Everyone young and old, families or friends all looked they were having a grand time. But for some reason I chickened out. It suddenly felt too awkward for me to be having my dinner alone amidst hundreds of people! Thought I might have looked pathetic in any bench or table there hehe! And I felt that since there was nothing to watch as you eat dinner, people’s eyes would probably stray and fix upon me and take pity at my solitary self, munching barbecued half of chicken or skewered chunks of meat! If only my travel gang were with me, those grilled things must have tasted well with beer! Ahh!

Narra Restaurant was next on my list. And taking a tricycle, this restaurant is not near ha?! It’s almost where the Balanghay museum is, way up at Barangay Libertad. On arrival, I was so surprised why there were no diners at 730PM of a Saturday! But the place looks tidy clean and beautiful. Must be nice to hang-out in the native Filipino setting of the restaurant. I checked out the menu. Everything looked delicious to me. Yep, as expected (from my research), the uniformed waitresses told me their garlic chicken was not to be missed. Oh there were two women happily dining. But on closer look, they seemed to be part of the restaurant’s crews. I asked what day and time does this restaurant get a lot of people. The reply was ‘tomorrow noontime’! Just as I thought, this place must be a good Sunday lunch destination for families. Nope, I did not eat there too. Rode a multicab going back to the city center. I wanted to check out instead, something that I saw!

Rosario’s Grill House. I saw this well-lighted and seemingly new restaurant on my way to Narra. It never was on my list so I mustered it must be new. Even as I alighted from the multicab, I knew this place must be worth a peek. I was wrong! It was not just worth a peep but it was well worth to pick as my dinner place for the night! Yep, this place is new and has a new kind of style/setting. It attempts to fuse the fastfood, pastry shop and the fine dining all in one place. So don’t be confused if you’re at the big parking area wondering which Rosario’s is, since all of it is! There is a cute little entrance-way where a dainty row of glass shelves offering pastries and cakes and what have yas! You turn left to enter the door to the fine dining area (the Chinese cuisine here is fantastic). Yes, the tables are round usually for 10 or more and clothed with mostly white where the silverware, plates and goblets shimmer. There are rectangular tables too with upholstered seats like in the olden US diners but just the same the setting is more formal and air-conditioned of the hotel or Chinese-restaurant kind. Back out to the pastry area, you turn right to the doorframe that leads you to the open-air fast-food style part of the restaurant. In fact, if you do not enter through the pastry section, the bigger entrance-way without doors to the grill area is on the right also just in front of where you park. Now choosing your food is a bit tricky if you are like me “takaw-tikim”. At the formal side of the restaurant, their servings are usually big (for groups/families). While at the fast-food area, the servings are mostly good for a single mouth hehe!

Trick: after sitting a while at the air-conditioned area, reading the menu, I just ordered some dimsum that I think I could finish. Then I walked towards the open area, chose a table and ordered my dinner. Oh btw, crew uniforms are different between the two dining areas! And so you guessed it, two waiters separately came to serve my food – one was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt with tie, another one in jeans and a tee printed with the restaurant’s name! Why did I do this? At the formal dining area, all 5 or 6 groups were families while at the fast-food area people were also in groups but there was that big flat-screen TV busy with the news – so I would not catch attention. PLUS, I could smoke without leaving my table!

Oh the night-life! Caraga Square was of course it and I went directly there after Rosario’s. My badness! Not only was the place jam-packed, even the street in front of it was crowded with cars, motorcycles and the younger set of the city. Some even opted to linger or wait for their friends across the street. Oh, this is not just a street, it’s actually the Maharlika hi-way. I inched my way to the entrance which was made narrow by a boarded-up wall to prevent outsiders from seeing what’s inside. Amid the boisterous crowds and an unusually loud boom-boom of the music, I asked a guard… yeah, great… a concert by some band from Manila was just about to begin plus there were other local bands alternating with them and beer was on a special prize aside from that free-bottle that comes along with the entrance ticket! Thus the big big crowd of black-shirted kids with either a cap or the long hairstyle hiding their eyes! Ah, I said this night was not for me and Caraga Square to tango! With a promise to return tomorrow night, I backed out and proceeded to Plan B!

Plan B was walking onwards to Woodstock. Nope, this was not on my list but just the same was one of the places the hotel staff told me about when I asked for something that has “performer”. Caraga Square, mind you, was on my list.

One word about Woodstock? DARK! Yes I am getting older, but this place is too dark than usual. It sits on the second level of a building. Went up the stairs and entered the door which is on the left. I could not see the tables and chairs, only a lot of heads when they move against the spot lights to the stage. The atmosphere is that of a dark and damp seedy place. But I was thankful it was not a rock band this time. It was just a duo of acoustic singers – more of that later.

I was still literally at the doorway looking at the bar directly across me hoping a crew will spot and approach me. There were Taglish speaking booze guzzlers in a lively conversation at some lounge-style seats just inches to my left. While to my right was surely the main area of the place that I could not see except the stage. All of a sudden there was a voice just by my elbow level asking me “table for how many sir”! As I moved to approach the voice, I accidentally stepped on his foot and he stood up. Oh so this was a waiter sitting by a vacant table nearest the entrance. After saying a quick sorry, I told him I was alone. And he offered me the very same table and chair that he just rose from. How big was this square table? Probably less than two feet on any side! I was happy that table was by a small window and the very first thing placed on my table was an ash tray! Yey! So I ordered SanMigLight. When the menu was given to me, I did not touch it. Aside from the fact that I just had a gluttonous splurge at Rosario’s, the look and feel of Woodstock did not feel like I wanted to eat anything!

Well, the band/singers were on break so I killed time looking very hard around while I drank my beer. And there were many things I learned. Examples? Like if it is still there today, the dusty window grill just inches away from me is rusted to the core no junk-shop will probably buy it! Why do I say that? Had the mistake of touching or holding unto it when I stood up for the toilets, golly, the oxidized flakes from the grill clung to my palm! Ah hey, though this restaurant has bands performing, this place is not probably named after the event (Woodstock). I would guess it is because of the wood bounty in Butuan. And that is probably the reason why their chairs, benches and tables are all made of wood. This place is a “stock of wood”! or “stack” probably! The owners are not unfamiliar to wood too! They are one of the big political clans in the area known to have grown wealthy out of the wood business in the first place. How do I know about those? Just keep reading!

Waiter pulled out the empty chair across me and dragged it behind me so that he was again by the door – probably his assignment to station himself there. Since he was a whispering distance, I took the chance of throwing in a few questions like “who was that loungy area to the left of the door for?” The reply was ‘for those who prefer to be far from the band” and many many more!

The acoustic singers went on and they’re one of the best tandems I have come across so far. Lady’s raspy voice is really for the acoustic type of songs and the guy plucked his guitar with such ease. Their voices blended well too! Here is a clip.

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