The friendly and unpretentious ambience reminds them of a karinderiya, which is a native restaurant in the Philippines that serves precooked food. Also, it brings back memories of the turo-turo (point-point), an eatery where food is ordered by pointing at a dish.
But what attracts people to Sariling Atin is its honest-to-goodness Filipino food. Forget haute cuisine, nouvelle cuisine and other expensive-sounding gastronomic terms. Chow down on Sariling Atin tsibug (food)! Your stomach will thank you for it and you will leave the place with a big smile!
Thumbs up to the husband-and-wife restaurateurs, Roger and Ofie Dionisio. They are always busy in the kitchen. Ruben Papelera, who is Ofie’s brother and the manager, makes sure Sariling Atin is running smoothly every day.
Hard work and high standards are paying off. Roger, who is the chef, learned to cook Filipino food in—of all places—the Middle East. While working at a hotel in Kuwait, he asked other Filipinos to teach him. And was he glad he was their enthusiastic student because he has not stopped cooking Filipino food from thereon. Co-owning Sariling Atin has given him opportunities to strive for culinary excellence. “I continue to learn,” he says, “and observe what our customers like.”
On weekdays, Sariling Atin offers a combo, that is, rice and two dishes. Its breakfast fare, including bansilog (milkfish, fried rice and egg) and dilisilog (anchovy, fried rice and egg), is a popular combo. Saturdays and Sundays are buffet days, and Sariling Atin is teeming with customers. There are no reservations, and long lines are not uncommon. “Our beef kaldereta (stew),” Ofie states, “is a hit! Our customers can’t get enough of it.” Sariling Atin also takes orders from a large clientele, making its kitchen a 24-hour operation with two shifts.
Why do customers keep coming back? Danny Ogoy, a mechanic, attributes Sariling Atin’s popularity to its relaxed and homelike atmosphere. “It’s just like our family kitchen in the Philippines,” he explains. “I can come any time whenever I feel like it.”
On the other hand, Ata Simon, who works in finance, is sold on the food: “My family and I love the delectable food! I can’t ever cook like this at home.”
Daisy Neumann, who is originally from Cuba, used to have Filipino neighbors who invited her and her German-born husband, Joerg, to their parties. “My husband and I,” she says, “come to Sariling Atin when we miss our Filipino neighbors and have a hankering for real Filipino food. We just love this place.”
Gaining new customers is a cinch. Hong Kong-born Jane Moy, a retired banker, has a Filipina relative who recently introduced her to Filipino food at Sariling Atin. “I had a great time!” she exclaims. “I’ll definitely come back.”
Sariling Atin is not only a Filipino restaurant, but also everybody’s restaurant. It means more than great food. It makes the world full, satisfied and happy.
8792 Golf Road
Niles, Illinois 60056
Tel. (847) 768-1271
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., writes from Chicagoland when he is not busy traveling and loving the arts.
*Video after recipe
Sariling Atin Beef Kaldereta (Stew)
Serves 20 people.
3 pounds beef, cut into cubes
1 cup crushed garlic
2 cups sliced onion
4 cups water
5 pieces green bell pepper, cut into cubes
5 pieces red bell pepper, cut into cubes
1 cup green peas
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon chili flakes
8 pieces sliced and fried potatoes
1 cup cooking oil
salt and pepper
Saute garlic and onion. Add beef and simmer for 10 minutes. Add water and let beef boil until tender (about 4 to 5 minutes). Add tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Add bell pepper, chili flakes, green peas, and potatoes for 5 to 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot. Enjoy!
Photos and video by Ivan Kevin R. Castro
Styling by Joan Vande Kieft
More articles from Rey E. de la Cruz:
Uncle Mike's Place
June 24, 2014
The best place to go for Filipino breakfast in Chicago is in the Ukrainian Village – at Uncle Mike Grajewski’s Place.
August 11, 2014
Rey E. de la Cruz meets up with kababayans in Barcelona, Spain.
Paella In The Land Of Calatrava
October 8, 2014
Why true paella valenciana can only be had in Valencia, Spain.
October 19, 2014
Rey E. de la Cruz is delighted to spot fellow Filipinos in the former Yugoslavian republic of Croatia.
Ten Thousand Stories In Chicago’s The Field Museum
December 17, 2014
The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago subverts the “bad reasons” for its extensive collections of artifacts from other cultures.
She Spins In The Air With The Greatest Of Ease
January 26, 2015
That’s how she hangs. Sarah Angelina Bustilo Johns is a professional aerial dancer.
February 7, 2015
Rey E. de la Cruz easily rubs elbows with kababayans on his travels.
Let’s Get Digital
March 4, 2015
The City of Pines is now the seat of one of the Philippines’ premier digital arts schools.