For a dining experience to be even called such, next to the food served, it's the ambience that does the job. And that’s exactly what Choka Restaurant—a coco hut sitting right next to the beach with the pure white sand and crashing waves of San Juan, La Union as the view—aims to deliver.
Choka easily welcomes surfers, beachgoers, families, locals, and even pet-owners with its relaxed beach ambience and comfort food favorites, as the resto co-owner Clarice Urquiza told ABS-CBN Lifestyle. “I want them to feel the warmth of a home-cooked meal and be chill and at peace while sipping cold beer at the beachfront at no great expense. I want them to feel comfortable being just themselves."
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Clarice opened the restaurant with her hubby Edgar back in November 2015. The couple had just moved back from Singapore with their daughter and decided to put up a food business—in La Union to be exact, where Clarice’s maternal grandmother used to reside. “I always loved the beach and we also thought it would be a good way to restore my daughter's health (from asthma),” she recalled. “I was a child who loved to putter in the kitchen.”
Clarice saw the food business thing coming even then. She had cooked for her Sunday lunches with family way back in high school. In college, she sold brownies, boxed chocolates, and other viands by the pan. “You could say the germ of the idea to have my own restaurant started when I was pretty young," she shared.
The beachside concept circles around the Filipino’s shared sense of family, Clarice explained. The menu is well-curated with a mix of American, Filipino, and Spanish comfort food favorites by her family and friends, she added. "We sometimes mix it up and change it, it's not really one fixed menu."
Choka offers breakfast and brunch including favorite silogs, gourmet sandwiches like the avocado toast, or the author's personal favorite, the Open-Faced Omelette. Its version of Bagnet Kare-Kare, Binagoongan Rice and Barbecue, and other rice dishes and salads win for lunch options. In the afternoon, in between catching waves or while waiting for the sunset, a fresh glass of fruit shakes or local-crafted beer while munching on some Cheese Fries or Onion Rings is the picture-perfect setting. But, for Clarice, anytime one chooses to go here is always a good idea. “We're at the beachfront, so anytime is a great time, really!”
As a family-centric resto, Choka supports community activities especially those involving kids. “We try to give back," shared Clarice. "They can use the premises of Choka and in any event that we participate in, we encourage them to have a charity day for the less privileged kids, an event here they get to experience or develop a skill whether it's a free haircut, yoga, or art classes etc. Even our friendly compound guard has taken on to teaching a neighborhood kid how to read. Simple things, really.”
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Photos by Vyn Radovan | Interview by Rona Niccola Villanueva