La Tabacalera is a new dining and lifestyle center in Laoag, the capital city of Ilocos Norte. There were a handful of food and retail shops open during our visit. We spent dinner and the rest of the evening hanging out at La Tabacalera.
I get excited about developments like this (in towns and cities across the Philippines) because it means another cool place to hangout when I get to visit the area.
La Tabacalera added a cosmopolitan flavor to Laoag but not so much as to overpower its provincial charms.
A visitor would immediately notice these contrasts because of La Tabacalera’s location, sitting right beside the Museo Ilocos Norte, an old brick structure formerly used as a camalig (rice granary) and now transformed into a museum.
I liked how both buildings were made from the same elements: brick, wood, and iron. I’m not sure if this was intended but I really liked the resemblance.
The architecture of La Tabacalera seemed, to me, like a modern deconstructed interpretation of the heritage structure beside it.
I can’t help but appreciate the imposing ironwork of the canopy and the elegant outdoor chandelier. The leaf pattern design and wood elements brought a feel of nature to the place. The brick columns also made the building blend well with the other heritage structures in the area.
Dinner at Johnny Moon Cafe
For dinner our hosts led us to Johnny Moon Cafe, a fusion restaurant serving traditional Ilocano favorites in western flair. Johnny Moon Cafe took a fun approach by incorporating a quirky wild west feel to its interiors.
Now on to the food!
Food was really good overall. The crispy dinuguan was definitely the standout during our meal. We also liked the colorful presentation of the chicharon flakes.
Tupig con tsokolate was okay but that’s just because I’m not a dessert person. The Dragon fruit rolls was just okay also. I wasn’t too sold on its earthy taste.
Johnny Moon has some more interesting signature dishes like bagnet sandwich, Laureana’s pasta verde, and poque-poque lasagna. Prices aren’t too steep with diners spending around P100-P200 per person.
Johnny Moon reference
The walls were adorned by colorful pop art murals inspired from old paintings and recurrent display of a man sporting a handle bar mustache.
If the others didn’t point it out I would’ve never figured out that “Johnny Moon” is the English transliteration of “Juan Luna,” the Ilocano Filipino artist and activist known for painting the “Spoliarium.”
Johnny Moon = Juan Luna, the guy in the murals and inspiration for the concept of the restaurant.
On the second level of La Tabacalera is Samtoy Books, the first bookstore in Ilocos that features Ilocano classics and fascinating literature from local born talents.
Lacasa Ilokano Crafts
Lacasa Ilokano Crafts offered a lot of nice pasalubong finds like Ilocos Norte branded clothing, mugs, fashion accessories, and the like.
Other shops in La Tabacalera include Cheesecake, etc., Gerry’s Grill, Export Queen, Karimadon, Wade Shoes, Jelly Bean, and Folded and Hung.