A Karinderiya of Our Very Own in Chicago

 The crowd says number one to Ofie and Roger Dionisio (seated) of Sariling Atin Restaurant. (Photo by Ivan Kevin R. Castro)

The crowd says number one to Ofie and Roger Dionisio (seated) of Sariling Atin Restaurant. (Photo by Ivan Kevin R. Castro)

Asian buffet restaurants have been sprouting in Niles, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Filipinos seem to always know where there is delicious food, and they are usually the first patrons. There is a saying in Chicagoland (Chicago and suburbs) that if you want to see a lot of Filipinos, go to a restaurant that serves a good buffet. However, when the novelty of new Asian buffet restaurants has worn off, Filipinos in Chicagoland go back to a classic standby. And that--hands down—is Sariling Atin! Meaning, our very own. Filipinos have reasons to claim Sariling Atin as their own.

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.

 Thumbs up to the husband-and-wife restaurateurs of Sariling Atin ,  Roger and Ofie Dionisio! (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Thumbs up to the husband-and-wife restaurateurs of Sariling Atin, Roger and Ofie Dionisio! (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

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.”

 Chef Roger Dionisio of Sariling Atin Restaurant never stops improving his culinary skills. (Photo by Ivan Kevin R. Castro)

Chef Roger Dionisio of Sariling Atin Restaurant never stops improving his culinary skills. (Photo by Ivan Kevin R. Castro)

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.”  

 Sariling Atin Restaurant is a busy center for taking out or dining in. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Sariling Atin Restaurant is a busy center for taking out or dining in. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

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.

Sariling Atin
8792 Golf Road
Niles, Illinois 60056
Tel. (847) 768-1271
E-mail address: sarilingatin2011@gmail.com
Website: www.sariling-atin.com


 Rey E. de la Cruz

Rey E. de la Cruz

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)

  Sariling Atin  Restaurant’s beef  kaldereta  (stew). (Styling by Joan Vande Kieft. Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Sariling Atin Restaurant’s beef kaldereta (stew). (Styling by Joan Vande Kieft. Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

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!

*Video

Photos and video by Ivan Kevin R. Castro
Styling by Joan Vande Kieft


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