Best Eats + Restaurants

What Happened to Food Parks? Where Foodies Should Eat Instead

Cheap eats don’t have to be sold in food parks. Read on and find where to eat instead.

By: Patricia Marie Prado | September 18, 2018
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alternative to food parks

Are we done with food parks?

Two years ago, a trip to the nearest food park in your area would’ve been a great idea if you’re looking for cheap eats. These then new style of dining, that rounds up a number of food concessionaires offering various cuisine, has taken the Philippine culinary industry by storm. For a while, many people have enjoyed these food parks, and all the gimmick they have to offer. Fast forward to today, most of the early players are gradually closing their doors.

What happened to these food parks? Where should we eat instead? Read on for our observations and our awesome alternatives to our once favorite food spots.

1. Odd locations

alternative to food parks

With its odd locations, are food parks still worth the drive?

Regardless if it’s located in the oddest part of the city, people used to drive for miles just to check out the latest food park to taste what they are offering. Eventually, these difficult-to-find locations have taken their toll to these food parks.

Just like any business, location is still key. Most of these food parks are situated in areas that offer large room for dining, but not really a convenient place to visit a couple of days a week. Eventually, people started to lose interest in these food parks. Not to mention the lack of parking space in these places also make them a not-so-suitable dining of choice.

2. Repetitive offerings

halternative to food parks

Lack of proper curation of offerings also became a downfall for food parks.

In the heydays of food parks, it seems like each one always has something new to offer. There’s one that serves a deep-fried butterfly squid, one that offers affordable Japanese fares, and another that creates the most outrageous cocktails. But the more food parks that opened, people soon realized that they offer almost the same food options.

Despite the concepts and gimmicks, the lack of proper curation of food offerings became unattractive especially to millennials, who easily lose interest. More often than not, you’ll see the same set of concessionaires or mix of cuisines in every food park.

3. Lack of authenticity

alternative to food parks

Many thought these food parks will become Manila’s answer to hawker centers.

Image: @robjonas

If you’ve been around Asia, you might be familiar with hawker centers popular amongst our neighboring countries. These hawker centers are open-spaced dining options where one can order affordable authentic local cuisine. Many hope that the food park craze would become just like the hawker centers of Singapore. Unfortunately, the lack of authenticity, depending solely on being “unique” eventually made food parks lose their luster [1].

Hawker centers became known for serving food that showcases the heritage and culture of their city. But with the food parks’ hype-based cuisine and hybrid cooking, it’s no wonder they weren’t able to match the famous hawker centers’ charm.

4. Poor facilities

alternative to food parks

With this crowd, many food parks’ limited facilities eventually caught up with them.

Image: The Yard Underground Pasig

Initially, the idea of dining outdoor or in repurposed container vans was once an exciting idea. The lack of workable and movable space also became one of the downfalls of food parks. For one, not having enough ventilation made it uneasy for diners to stay for longer periods, especially with the country’s mostly humid weather. And once the rain started to pour, the lack of proper shield from the elements also became a source of discomfort.

5. Questionable quality

alternative to food parks

With the quality in question, many doubt if food parks are still worth their money.

Poor facilities not only affect the diners, but the vendors as well. With the small space, fitting in a good kitchen to produce quality meals also became a challenge. Most of these vendors can only fit in small appliances like microwaves and refrigerators, hindering them from serving good quality meals and fresh dishes.

And with the poor quality matched with a hefty price tag, most diners would rather dine in their favorite restaurant than in a food park.


So with all these problems that loom around food parks, where do we eat instead?

1. Night Food Markets

alternative to food parks

Night food markets are located in easy-to-access location with a great number of food vendors.

Image: huei_7866

The first alternative to food parks can be night food markets. They are the predecessor of the food parks that we know today, and have been operating since the late 2000’s. If you are into no-frills dining but still want that wide range of option that you get from food parks, night food markets are the way to go. Most of these night food markets are also located in areas that have good foot traffic making them easy to find. Mercato Centrale, for one, has branches in Bonifacio Global City, Makati City, and Eastwood City.

2. Weekend Markets

alternative to food parks

Who knew you could find freshly-made pizza in a weekend market?

Images: @legazpisundaymarket, @sanlim69

Another great substitute to food parks are weekend markets. Aside from food food, you can also find a variety of great finds from plants, to clothes, and more.

As for the meals, weekend markets are also notorious for incubating a wide variety of vendors ranging from local fares to international flavors as well as vegan and organic finds. Weekend markets like Legazpi Sunday Market, Salcedo Saturday Market, and Sidcor Sunday Market all carry that authenticity you wouldn’t find in a food park. They make waking up as early as 7:00 AM on a weekend worth the effort.

3. Dampa

alternative to food parks

Craving for fresh seafood? Why not head to a dampa instead?

Images: @kor_jake, @juan1eduardo

Dampa (hut or shack) are also a great dining option if you’re done with food parks. Dampas may not have that extensive array of food compared to food parks, but what you’ll get instead are fresh seafood. And the best part: you can have it cooked the way you want it.

Dampas are can also be found in various locations in the Metro, and often offers a spacious dining area. One dampa worth visiting is the one in Seaside Macapagal Boulevard. The restaurants here have air-conditioning, have great parking, and have a wide range of seafood you can choose from.

4. Food Halls

alternative to food parks

Food halls are similar to food parks but better.

Image: Jack Raso

If you’re still into the food park craze but want a more comfortable version, then food halls can be your best bet. Food halls are indoor dining areas that also offer a variety of dishes and cuisines. Although they have the characteristics of a food park, food halls offer a more comfortable location and well-curated food option with great quality.

Some of the successful food halls you can find in the Metro include Todd English Food Hall, SM Mega Food Hall, and Hole in the Wall. They might be a little expensive but you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.

Do you think food parks are over or are they still worth another visit? Let us know in the comments section.

Check out our list of food parks in Metro Manila or browse the Dining & Leisure category of the Yoorekka Directory.

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About Patricia Marie Prado
Patricia came from the field of business and accounting but is now pursuing her dreams of being a writer. She is a self-confessed introvert and is passionate about reading, travelling, writing, movies, coffee and God. When she's not writing, she loves discovering new coffee shops/cafe and doing TV-series marathons.
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Disclaimer: All articles in the Consumers Magazine of Yoorekka are for general information and entertainment purposes only. Although careful research has been made in writing them, Yoorekka does not make any warranty about the completeness and accuracy of all information presented in our articles. Our content is not intended to be used in place of legal, medical, or any professional advice.
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