Filipino couple serve family favorites in Chandler - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Filipino couple serve family favorites in Chandler

November 10th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Filipino couple serve family favorites in Chandler

By Melody Birkett

At My Place Cafe is a family affair, both in terms of its ownership and its offerings.

Liza Obregon and her husband Carlito opened the restaurant six years ago in Mesa and moved it last December to Chandler. And throughout that time, they have been serving up family favorites that reflect the flavors of their native Philippines

The couple met while working at Intel in their the Philippines and when Carlito decided to move to the United States in 1985, Liz recalled how she felt: “When he told me about his plans, I said, ‘You’re not coming back, I’m sure,’” said Liza.

Turns out she was wrong – kind of.

He came back for a visit but had America on his mind.

“He asked my mom, ‘What do you think Liza would do when she gets to America?’ My mom said, ‘Liza is a hardworking lady. She loves to eat. She likes to cook.’…My mom told my husband for sure that I’ll want a restaurant. He fulfilled that dream and sent me to culinary school while I was still working.”

Since she was 5, Liza had helped her mom in the kitchen.

“My mom was a very good cook,” she said. “Same with my aunt and my grandmother. So, it’s on my mom’s side.”

It wasn’t until 1998 that Liza moved to the U.S. to join her husband because she was her parents’ caregiver.

“I’m the oldest among the siblings so I had to take care of them,” said Liza, who credits the late Sen. John McCain for expediting the paperwork once she was ready to make the move.

After moving to Arizona, Liza first worked at Sears while her husband worked at Motorola and NXB. Liza attended culinary school in Scottsdale from 2004-06, finally able to begin the career she had long wanted..

Most of the recipes Liza uses are her mom’s, though she modifies them a bit.

“Like the pork sisig – it’s supposed to be the face including the ear, the nose, the chin of the pig. I don’t do it that way because I’m sure it’d be too fatty because of the skin. Here in America, they’re very particular about healthy food.

“I’ve thought about making it with pork belly. Instead. I bake the pork belly. I put it in a walk-in all night and then the next day it’s defried and chopped,” she said, adding it’s one of the more popular menu items.

Another customer favorite is the kare-kare. “It consists of oxtail, Asian vegetables like bok choy, eggplant, beans and banana blossom,” explained Liza.

“If Americans eat it, they always get surprised by the banana blossom. If you see the banana before it becomes a fruit, there’s a blossom first. The dish is made with peanut sauce. If you love peanut butter, you’re going to like that.”

What distinguishes Filipino from Chinese and Japanese cuisine is the sauces according to Liza.

“We have salty. We have sour. Our soup – we call it our comfort food. We call it sinigang. Sinigang is a tamarind base, hot soup. It’s sour.”

Beef, pork and chicken dishes can be found on the menu.

“We have the bistek and the caldereta which is beef,” Liza said. “We have the Bicol Express made with pork. These dishes come from all different kinds of provinces in the Philippines. ..Bicol itself is the name of the province. It’s salty with coconut milk and we put different kinds of pepper so it’s spicy.”

Liza said she can adjust the spice level based on the customer’s wants. Menu items are fresh and made to order.

Breakfast is served all day and includes garden fried rice and fried eggs. Protein can be added such as marinated beef tenderloin. No brown rice is served. “We will upgrade from white rice to garlic fried rice,” added Liza. “Rice with garlic is served with every meal but no veggies are added to the fried rice as you’ll find at some Asian restaurants.”

Among the more unique dishes is the bistek tagalog. “There’s lemon in there, a lot of onions. We sauté the onions, caramelize them, and we put them on top of the steak. And it’s made from soy sauce, lemon and pepper only. That’s it. And you have to tenderize it with that flavor. The lemony flavor should be balanced with the saltiness.”

Liza recommends patrons try everything.

“We make our food with love,” Liza explained. “Try our food and you won’t regret it. Most of my customers – new or old – will say it’s consistently done well.”

The couple is just happy they made it through the pandemic, crediting their faith in God. “

I give everything to Him every day,” said Liza

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