Isla Pilipiana (2501 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL) has one foot in the old world and one in the new. The menu features classic Filipino dishes, but the menu itself is designed in an edgy, loopy hand drawn style (even with a reference to Eminem lyrics, see if you can spot them) – which seems to be the perfect summary of what Isla Pilipiana is all about. Isla Pilipiana is a small place with modern decor, and is located in a strip mall just off the main Lincoln Square drag, so you might miss it.
We went with our two friends, and none of the four of us had ever had Filipino fare before (only snacks). To start with, we split an order of mini fried eggrolls – Lumpia Shanghai ($3 for 10). Each couple, by chance (or luck) ordered Pancit Bihon ($7) and Adobo Pork ($8), two of the most classic dishes. The Lumpia Shanghai came out in short order, and were truly fresh and tasty. The Pancit consisted of thin rice noodles sauteed with vegetables and chicken, a dish with Chinese influences. The noodles were tasty and flavorful, and felt like an update riff with fried rice crossed with Hong Kong style Singapore noodles.The adobo came with pieces of pork in a thick gravy of soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, which had a deep long-simmered flavor.
We gobbled up our meal and no time, and were even happier about the super low prices (don’t forget the lunch specials too, if you are really on a budget). For dessert you have to try the emblematic halo halo ($6) – shaved ice topped with fruit and red beans. Oh, and if you need one more reason to go, it is BYOB. One of our friends brought a Singha beer and other tables seemed to be enjoying wine. Isla Pilipiana is a comfortable, low-key place to enjoy some Filipino food – for experts and newbies alike.