Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A New, Old Watering Hole

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I was supposed to continue my Manila retrospective this week, but the fact is that my week didn’t really give me much time to write. I was simultaneously busy with work, busy meeting with friends, and then I had to deal with a flu, so by the end of the week – which was yesterday – I was bone-dry tired. I’d come from an afternoon out with family, and basically fell into my bed by the time I got back home. Slept for around nine hours, and it was glorious.

But since I’m already here and writing, I’d like to talk about one of the places I’ve been frequenting for the past few weeks. This would be the Oarhouse in Malate, a friendly neighborhood pub that would be the closest equivalent of Cheers in Manila.

Street view of the Oarhouse. Taken from their site

This place has been around for a fairly long time – if their claim is accurate, it’s been around since 1977.  My father used to say that the bar was originally in Mabini street, but the current iteration of Oarhouse is snugly situated near the corner of Jorge Bocobo and General Malvar streets. The entrance is unassuming, just a door with a picture window beside it, and the name of the pub displayed in metal letters on the overhang.

The current owner, Ben Razon, did a good job of continuing the pub, and you can see that the man is loved by his patrons. On slow nights, you can see him hanging out with whoever is at the bar – it doesn’t matter who it was, Sir Ben always has an ear ready for anybody. I remember when I first hung out at Oarhouse, I was a bit hesitant to approach the man when the bartenders pointed him out to me.

After a couple of beers though, I had enough liquid courage to go up to him and introduce myself. The man was very pleasant and easy to talk to, and every time I would walk into the pub, he would give me a slight nod as a welcome. And I wasn’t even one of the regular patrons of the place!

My usual routine upon entering the place: walk up to a bar, order a couple bottles of beer, one order of fried chicken necks, and a side of garlic rice. See, their menu is fairly small, but I swear, whoever does the cooking is really something else. At multiple occasions, I’ve tried their fries, sisig, beef salpicao, and their buffalo wings. Their chicken necks are my favorite, since I’m terribly partial to chicken necks, really, but the food is really, really good.

I’ve yet to try their heavy hitters – they have ribs, steak, and other amazing, tantalizing stuff on the menu – but I’ll work my way up to them someday, when I’m done enjoying the chicken necks.

If I had to name just one thing the Oarhouse has going for it, though, it’s the fact that it sells some of the coldest beers in Manila. In fact, some of the regular patrons prefer heading down to this pub over some of the other bars in the area – and Malate is home to a lot of these pubs – just because of the beer.

See, in Manila, the coldest beers are king. There’s always something special about a place that serves nice cold beer, and there aren’t many of them. Which is funny, considering that Manila is such a tepid place, and you’d imagine that an establishment making money out of serving drinks would want to make sure that people keep coming back to their establishment because their drinks are good. The Oarhouse, however, makes sure that they have cold beers at the ready – and because of this, I have nothing but unconditional love for this place.

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