Episode 20: Memories of Baguio (Part 1) – Remembering the old days at 50’s Diner!

Among my favorite restaurants in Baguio was 50’s Diner. For me, it was one of the places where I could hang out after school or work, despite being far from home or Session Road.

Visiting 50’s Diner was part of my life in Baguio. It helps that the place was a relaxing place to be in, and that they served (what I consider back then as) some of the biggest and best burgers in town.

This place was one of the places I missed terribly when I left Baguio. I did make it a point to dine there again when I got back. But when I got a chance to see it again, well… Much has changed.

50’s Diner is a retro-style diner, complete with oldies music, waitresses on rollerblades, a jukebox, ’50s style movie posters, and one of those old soda fountains. The restaurant incorporates American fastfood cuisine with the charm of the ’50s.

The diner brings to mind scenes in Hollywood movies where you walk into a restaurant in your leather jacket and jeans, order a milkshake or a burger with fries, and listen to rock-and-roll music while hanging out with your gang. I’m an 80’s person but I can’t help but feel nostalgia in places like these.

 

50’s Diner is smaller now, but it somehow retained its old ambience. The old movie posters are still on its walls. The pictures of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley, and other icons from that decade still adorn the restaurant. The jukebox still had a dedicated corner. 50’s music still plays regularly. The bar was visibly smaller and not as eye-catching as it was before, but the old vibe was still there.
 

 
My siblings and I (along with my sister’s family) had our first night-out for the new year at 50’s Diner. It’s been a long time since we last had dinner together, and this would (probably) be the first time we visited that place after a long time.

The place was jam-packed with visitors when we got there. Thankfully, we only had to wait for just a few minutes to be seated. The service is fast and friendly as well.
 
The menu hasn’t changed much; the burgers and other sandwiches were there; the spaghetti and milkshakes were there; the set meals and steaks were there; the ice cream and desserts that I remember as there too. The food is affordable and worth every centavo, and your order gets out fast.

The Pizza Burger was my favorite at 50’s Diner back then, and it still is now. The burger’s bigger than it looks like. The fries are not too salty but tasty and crispy. The patty is not as juicy as it was before, though. It’s still filling and heavy on the belly; a few bites and you’re sated.

My sister and my nieces ordered the Mamma’s Kid, a set meal with fried chicken with rice, egg, fries, pasta, and potato salad. Carbo loading much? It’s a kid’s meal, but it’s heavy enough for the little ones.

My brother ordered the Gangsta-Gangsta, a marvelously heavy and appetizing meal with fried chicken, grilled porkchop, chicken rolls, egg, vegetables in oyster sauce, and rice. Good choice.

My brother-in-law’s meal was the Swimmers, basically a seafood platter on oyster sauce with rice. Basic as it looks like, it’s light but surprisingly flavorful.

Who could forget the millkshakes? (By the way, I noticed that they serve cocktails now; I remember that they served beer, but not cocktails. And yeah, we didn’t get ice cream. Next time, next time.)

One of my biggest challenges as a newcomer in the City of Pines was eating out. I was unfamiliar with the city’s food spots,and I didn’t have the budget to eat out anyway. When I do go out, I had to travel far just to find that filling, affordable meal.

Back in college, eating at 50’s Diner was equivalent to splurging. A meal would cost me P80 or more, and my allowance isn’t that big. So when I finish an important assignment in school, I look forward to treating myself there. (Otherwise, I would just go there to drink beer. Works the same.)

(FYI, the price range here is actually around P65-230 per person.)

I got a job soon after, so it was easier to spend on dining out. I continued visiting 50’s Diner, this time with media colleagues and friends. Sometimes I would have dates there. Most of the time, I was alone.

Occasionally, my co-teachers (I worked in a Korean school) and I would dine and hang out at the diner’s second floor (the old 50’s Diner had one). That area had a billiards table and dartboards, and it was made for bigger crowds.

There was a time when, after joining a police raid or two around the city, my colleagues would end the night at 50’s Diner with a bowl of arroz caldo and coffee. Oh wait – that was about the same time “50’s Diner” was renamed “My Diner”, though I can’t remember why its name changed for a while. That’s why the place served arroz caldo. (I forgot to check if the present menu still had that.)

Eating at 50’s Diner may be expensive, but I have good memories just from hanging out there. It was easy  to find pleasure in dining in a place that’s friendly, comfortable, and relaxing; not to mention something that reminds one of good things from the past. I didn’t mind eating my sandwich or sipping my coffee by myself; going to 50’s Diner was fine as long as I could spend some quiet time. (Bonus points if you’re a fan of oldies music.)

For me, 50’s Diner was equivalent to splurging on luxurious stuff. At the same time, it is a reminder of the simple things in life worth aspiring for, things that make me happy… such as food.

Speaking of food, here’s a thought: It’s not unusual for Baguio to have a place dedicated to American cuisine. Baguio was established in 1901 as an American vacation spot, after all. And it’s not unusual for our colonizers to shove their burgers and milkshakes into our throats (in a good way).

But Baguio is also a land of inspiration, so to speak, and the same could be said when it comes to cuisine. And what way to tinker with Filipino cuisine but show off something that reflects what Baguio and the Cordilleras are all about, some of which is enjoying a simple life while aspiring for everything good in one package.

Just like what a certain Igorot businessman did with his meal.

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Up next: Inspiration and practicality give birth to a classic, complete Cordilleran set meal.

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50’s Diner

92 Upper General Luna Road, Corner Brent Road
Baguio City, Philippines


Telephone Number: 0916-6595555

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