La Union Food Trip: 12 Restaurants Worth Traveling For [UPDATED AUGUST 2022]

With its laidback atmosphere, accessible location, and exciting surf scene, it’s no wonder La Union—fondly called “Elyu”—is a favorite weekend destination among Manileños and residents of nearby provinces. Only five hours away, San Juan, the most popular town in Elyu, is home to relaxing beaches, casual neighborhoods, and waves (literally) that attract surfers—professionals and new enthusiasts alike. Come any weekend and you will never see it devoid of tourists.

Whether you’re a surfing lover eager to fill your tummy after a long day in the water or simply a traveler enjoying the vibe and exploring the culinary scene of La Union, the province’s vibrant and emerging foodie culture is sure to find you a favorite—one place you would keep coming back to. Below, I have listed down 12 of the best places I've tried in surf town. From pizzas to moussakas, let your taste buds wander around these delicious beach finds.

This list is ranked.

1 | Kayu

For a taste of delicious low-and-slow barbecue in La Union, head over to Kayu—the first ever smokehouse in surftown—situated along MacArthur highway, near Gefseis restaurant. Its name means “wood”, representing the local materials they use to smoke their meats. The Baby Back Ribs is a must-try and is sure to steal the show, whereas the housemade Kielbasa will definitely whet your appetite for more. Try also the melt-in-the-mouth Smoked Beef and the sloppy and delicious Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, served with addicting fries. Better yet, why not just get a Smoked Meat Platter if you come with friends so you can try a little bit of everything? A perfect indulgent meal after a whole day of surfing and sightseeing in San Juan.

Highly recommended: Baby Back Ribs, Kielbasa, Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, Smoked Beef, Smoked Meat Platter
Useful tips: They sell their smoked meats frozen so make sure you take some home!

MacArthur Highway, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Mon - Thu: 12:00PM - 9:00PM; Fri - Sun: 12:00PM - 11:00PM 
Budget: PhP500 up/head

2 | The Coffee Library

where to eat in la union

Pho and Vietnamese coffee in beach town? Hell yes! This Baguio-born café serving affordable snacks, mains, all-day breakfast, desserts, and coffee now has a branch in San Juan! Their Pho Ga (chicken pho) brought me back to Saigon with its delicious broth and familiar aroma. And don’t get me started on their Vietnamese coffees—the Ca Phe Sua Chua (iced coffee with yogurt) is highly recommended while the Egg Coffee is a must-try! I wouldn't blame you though if you stick to the good ol' Ca Phe Sua Da as TCL makes the best one in the Philippines. Feeling adventurous? Try the Bac Xiu which has coconut milk. The Coffee Library also serves Filipino dishes and other comfort food—the Crispy Kare-Kare is really good.

Highly recommended: all Vietnamese coffees, pho, Crispy Kare-Kare
Useful tips: The place is always packed so bring a bit of patience. There are books on the 2nd level that you can borrow while you wait. The Egg Coffee is pretty strong and not for the faint-hearted.

The Coffee Library
MacArthur Highway, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Budget: around PhP350-PhP400/head (food and coffee)

3 | Kermit

Great food, good vibes, amazing drinks—Kermit has it all. Thus, it’s no surprise that this Italian restaurant located inside the famous Great Northwest food park is always packed with people—tourists and locals alike. The lines are crazy so make sure you bring some patience, but I hope you carry heaps of appetite too as Kermit’s servings are generous. There’s a lot of pizza and pasta options as well as some specials, like the Pizza Cresentina (tomatoes, zucchini, mozzarella, mascarpone) which I immensely enjoyed as well as the Linguine al Mare (tomatoes, olive oil, shrimp, pollock fish). Don’t skip the cocktails as they make some of the best in surftown!

Highly recommended: Pizza Cresentina, Linguine al Mare, Gambas al Aglio, Pandan Negroni, Cucumber & Basil, Aperol Spritz
Useful tips: The place is always busy so if you want a nice spot, make sure to come early (i.e. before 12PM for lunch and around 4PM if you're planning to stay for the sunset).

Kermit La Union
The Great Northwest, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Wed: 4:00PM - 11:00PM; Thu - Mon: 11:30AM - 2:00PM; 4:00PM - 11:00PM
Budget: PhP700 up/head

4 | Amare La Cucina

If you are looking to feast with the family or the gang over Italian food, make your way down to Amare La Cucina's new location in San Fernando—merely 5 minutes away from Urbiztondo. Also originally from Baguio, this Italian restaurant specializes in woodfire brick oven pizza, but its menu includes a wide selection of pasta dishes, entrees, appetizers, and desserts as well. While the food is undeniably delicious, the more remarkable part of dining here is that you can make your own pizza. Their resident pizzaiolos will assist you in the process: from tossing dough to putting the toppings.

Highly recommended: Alvin’s Pizza (basil sauce with bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, and parmigiano reggiano), Pasta Ala Sardines, Seafood Aglio Olio, Carbonara, Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza, Strawberry Panna Cotta, Baby Back Ribs (cooked in brick oven)
Useful tips: Don't forget to sample their gelato—they make the most interesting flavors! Corona inspired flavor, anyone?

Amare La Cucina
MacArthur Highway, Brgy. Carlatan, Carlatan, San Fernando, La Union
Budget: PhP500 up/head

5 | Hiraya Sunset Hill

Hidden away from the bustle of Urbiztondo is Hiraya, a farm-to-table concept serving Western cuisine. The restaurant, built atop a hill with a gorgeous sunset view, is 15 to 20 minutes away from the main San Juan attractions, but trooping over to this sanctuary and hidden gem is totally worth it, believe me. The tranquil ambience of the property is sure to blow your anxiety away, and you’d just want to sit around (or lie down!) with some bites and drinks as you wait for the sunset. Try the Ham and Avocado Bruschetta made with the freshest produce and partake of their Happy Hour promo: buy 1 take 1 cocktails from 3 to 6 PM. Dining and day drinking amidst all the greens—this is the dream life!

Highly recommended: Ham and Avocado Bruschetta, Aperol Spritz
Useful tip: Hiraya also has accommodations (3 cottages as of writing) so if you're looking for a quiet escape from Urbiztondo, make sure to check these out.

Hiraya Sunset Hill
Brgy. Legleg, San Juan, La Union
Mon-Thu: 10AM - 8PM; Fri-Sun: 7AM - 9PM
Budget: PhP500 up/head

6 | Little Canggu

Ever since, a lot of the designs in San Juan have been Bali-inspired, so it was only a matter of time until an Indonesian restaurant sprang out of this area. Such was realized by Little Canggu, a little restaurant off MacArthur (beside Clean Beach) serving Balinese food. I’ve been craving for bebek goreng for weeks on end, and I finally had my fix at this restaurant—where the rendition was tasty (super crispy!) and was given a little twist (served with Chinese-style duck sauce). Everything is made in-house including the sambal, the noodles they use for bakso, and the coconut ice cream, which was divine!

Highly recommended: Bebek Goreng, Coconut Ice Cream
Useful tip: The same spot houses Little Cat Coffee, if you’re craving for a refreshing drink too.

Little Canggu
Pentecostal (between Clean Beach and Flotsam), MacArthur Highway, San Juan, La Union
Budget: PhP300 up/head


7 | Curo

It’s all about aesthetics at Curo at the Curbside Villa in La Union. But more than that, I’m happy to say that they’re not just about aesthetics—the food can stand up for itself. Whether you’re craving for a heavy breakfast, a vegan meal, some tasty appetizers to share with the gang, or scrumptious and beautifully-plated pasta dishes, Curo has something for you. I love and probably could never give up meats, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Curo Vegan Breakfast, which has sweet potato hash, assorted roasted veggies, mushrooms, and vegan cheese, as well as a side salad with an amazing citrus dressing. The Iced Latte was great and I asked them to serve the syrup separately so I can control the sweetness—they served it with a gold leaf too.

Highly recommended: Curo Vegan Breakfast, Iced Latte
Useful tip: Curbside Villa is a highly sought-after hotel with gorgeous Bali-inspired designs! Book way in advance if you wish to stay (especially if you're staying on a weekend).

Curbside Villa, San Juan, La Union
Budget: PhP500 up/head

8 | Sabong Fried Chicken

where to eat in la union
If fried chicken is your ultimate comfort food, round up the gang and troop to Sabong Fried Chicken, located in the Great Northwest complex. As with any reliable restaurant (in my opinion, at least), the menu is short and straightforward: 4 types of chicken, 4 sauces, and a variety of sides. The Original Sabong Fried Chicken has hand-cut fries and delicious homemade banana ketchup; there’s a kare-kare inspired one with honey-bagoong glaze, kare-kare sauce, and eggplant salsa (this one’s SOOO good); and a Chinese-flavored one with an 8-spice rub, pickled cabbage, and Szechuan sauce. I will travel 6 hours again for their chicken.

Highly recommended: try everything and order a variety of sides; my personal favorite is the Honey Bagoong Chicken
Useful tip: the place is always packed; line up to order your food with or without a table—you will find one sooner or later, LOL

Sabong Fried Chicken
The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop & Viewing Deck, San Juan, La Union
Budget: PhP300 up/head

9 | Halo Halo de Iloko Balay La Union

where to eat in la union
I came to Halo Halo de Iloko for the—obviously—halo-halo, but if I’ll be completely honest: I liked its savory offerings more than the famous dessert. I’m not saying that the halo-halo is ordinary; it’s incredible and loaded with traditional ingredients like tapioca, gulaman, nata de coco, kaong, beans, ube, macapuno, leche flan, cheese, and ice cream, made more special with pandan and polvoron made from ground mountain rice. But the real stars are the Ilocano dishes—especially the insanely tasty Okoy made with shrimp, squash, malunggay, bean sprouts, carrots, and housemade longganisa. The vinegar is addicting!

Highly recommended: Okoy, Seafood Sinigang, Bagnet with KBL, Halo-Halo
Useful tip: avoid the lunchtime (i.e. 11:30AM – 1:30PM) if you don’t want to wait for a table

Halo Halo de Iloko Balay La Union
12 Zandueta St., San Fernando La Union
Budget: PhP400 up/head

10 | Gefseis Greek Grill

where to eat in la union
There are not too many Greek restaurants in the country, so when one pops out, people are usually curious to try it. Gefseis is no exception, an open-air, blue-and-white restaurant situated right in front of the beach. With an extensive and fresh menu, Gefseis promises a delicious and somewhat healthier dining experience as they are heavy on veggies and grilled meats. The Grilled Tuna is a good choice for those looking for seafood; however, I recommend trying their Moussaka composed of layers of eggplant and minced meat, topped with béchamel.

Highly recommended: grilled tuna, ribs, moussaka
Useful tip: don’t be discouraged by the unappetizing photos from the menu—their food is delicious.

Gefseis Greek Grill
Urbiztondo Beach, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Budget: PhP300 up/head


11 | Funky Quarters

What was once a quiet area now houses a designer hotel called Funky Quarters, with a gorgeous rooftop restaurant. “Mabibitin ka sa isa, masarap kasi sya,” the server said when I asked to try their birria taco. I had just come from a heavy meal and just wanted to drink, but was also curious about their birria. So I ended up ordering the platter of four consisting of different kinds of meats, and guess what? I finished four! The birria, although it could use some spice, is delicious but the pork one was outstanding. I meant to go back to try more of their offerings but I was unable to, so I guess I’ll do that on my next La Union trip!

Highly recommended: Birria taco, crispy pork taco
Useful tips: If tequila is your poison, you'll be delighted with Funky Quarters' tequila-heavy cocktail menu.

Funky Quarters
MacArthur Highway, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Budget: PhP400 up/head

12 | Flotsam and Jetsam

where to eat in la union
If there’s a place that fully encapsulates my perceived vibe of La Union, it’s definitely Flotsam and Jetsam. Artsy. Chill. Communal. The restaurant makes you want to stay there for long hours—we especially loved the little covered area littered with cushions, where people sit, sleep, drink, and basically do nothing! Whether you’re thirsty for some ice cold beer or good brick-oven pizzas, Flotsam and Jetsam is the perfect place. I loved the Margherita Pizza, perfect in between sips of beer.

Highly recommended: the pizzas
Useful tips: at night, the vibe slightly changes from super chill to upbeat, especially when DJs play and attract throngs of partygoers. The place becomes so packed then—luckily, you can just grab a bean bag or a banig and sit anywhere.

Flotsam and Jetsam
MacArthur Highway, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Budget: around PhP400 up/head

Runners Up

These places are worth noting but are not officially in my top list yet because: (1) I only tried one or two items that weren’t exactly in the mindblowing level; (2) I couldn’t decide completely if they are “worth traveling for” because of the limited things I tried and my short visit, but I loved my experience that I’m willing to give them another try once I visit again.

1 | Clean Beach

If you wish to laze around while drinking refreshing coffees all day, go to Clean Beach and grab a seat in its alfresco beachfront area. The menu has mouthwatering all-day breakfast options but I only had coffee when I visited. However, I loved the vibe here and I liked the coffee I ordered—thus, it’s in my runners up list and I would definitely visit again.

2 | Scallywag

After a really disappointing Southeast Asian meal somewhere else, I hopped over to Scallywag and ordered a Thai-style omelette—a redemption meal indeed! Their menu changes every few months or so, but the mainstays are the Ilonggo specialties like kansi. I must come back and try!

3 | Asian Eats

This one came as a recommendation from a friend—and luckily, the day she mentioned it was the day I passed right by this shop. It’s a simple place serving dim sum and noodles. The Scallop Dumplings were so good that I had to order again.

4 | Masa

I will never understand crazy long lines—whether it’s donuts, milk tea, or bread—so the first time I went to Masa and there was a queue, I promptly left. I came back on a Wednesday and the restaurant was barely full. The croissants and the famed pan de coco are truly good indeed, but unfortunately I didn’t get to try the brunch/breakfast plates (I probably will next time—if there’s no line). Oh, but skip the coffee.

Have you been to La Union? What other places have you tried? If you're a local, which is your favorite?

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