With my love for Filipino food, it would make me more than happy to see Filipino food and restaurants spread throughout South Jersey. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I went to my favorite Filipino restaurant, Manila Cafe, and had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the owner, Arlyn Baker. She has such a passion for her business, after all, she does cook every meal herself. Her menu changes daily because her food is cooked fresh.
200 Larchmont Blvd
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Q:) What part of the Philippines are you from?
Q:) What island is that from?
A:) Region 8, Visayas region
Q:) How long has Manila Cafe been open?
A:) Almost 3 years. November 27 will be 3 years. Next month.
Q:) In your eyes, what makes Filipino restaurants different from any other restaurants in South Jersey?
A:) I think Filipino food is healthy. We have fresh products and I don’t use MSG as well. My food, what I put in there is really [fresh]. I cook it in the morning because some people will cook it the night before but that’s a no-no for me. Mine is quantity and quality. I think that’s the big difference from other people and a lot of other people say that too. I hear that.
Q:) Has the diversity of cultures that come in here changed since you first started?
A:) Yea. Last time, it was all Filipino[people], but now I have all Caucasian[people] coming. This is really why I opened a Filipino restaurant because I noticed when I went to other Filipino restaurants, I noticed it was all Filipino people in there. I was thinking to myself, I was in merchandising before for 14 years & I said to my husband… you know what? I need to open a restaurant. I need to promote Filipino food because Filipino food is actually healthy, and we need to promote to other people. I’m thinking to myself, Chinese food make it. Why not Filipino food? My husband said I think you’re the first one that can do it. Now it’s like all cultures that come in my restaurant.
My technique is to give them samples. We have a lot of people coming in here. All cultures, I give them samples to taste the Filipino food and then they will come back.
This is what I love to do. It’s like I’m cooking for a visitor, not commercialized.
Q:) Do you have any future goals for your restaurant?
A:) Yes I do. Actually, my plan is to expand and what I want to expand is; I want a bakery and a restaurant. Because I noticed there’s not [many] bakeries in this area, and that’s the purpose of my going back to the Philippines(Sunday), to learn how to bake.
Q:) How do you think we could spread Filipino food and restaurants through South Jersey?
A:) Word of mouth really. I have my own webpage. We also have catering so when people have parties, I have people call me and tell me that they’ve never been to the restaurant before, but they’ve tasted the food from parties and they love it. But other than that, word of mouth.