Words by Maffi Deparis
It is common in small communities to have places where locals like to hang out away from the tourist traffic that invades White Beach. In these discreet places—the island’s best kept secrets—people come together to feel the warmth and sense of community. For many, it is the simple comfort food of Smoke Resto that does it. Owned and managed by Rea Anchores and her husband Ancho, the restaurant has won not just the loyalty of locals and tourists alike, but also a Best Bulalo award in 2011 on the website So Pinoy sponsored by Unilever.
Situated in D’Mall Palengke some footsteps away from Crafts, it has been doing very well in the hearts of locals and tourists for almost nine years.
Originally from Manila, Rea and her husband Ancho were attracted to the island like many before them. They found a home as well as the original Smoke and turned it into a successful business venture in Filipino comfort food. Rea explains that they wanted a place where they could serve food on a budget, having been backpackers themselves. They wanted to serve Filipino food but not in turo-turo style, fresh food but prepared using the traditional home cooking methods of well-loved carinderias. Catering primarily to the sports community and locals in the beginning, Smoke found its target clients in people drawn to the unbeatable prices. In December 2004 it got more noticed because of kiteboarders frequenting the place; in 2007 it finally became a local household name.
“Our meals are a hundred pesos,” says Rea. “Our bulalo is huge, even I can’t finish a small order on my own. We usually have people sharing a huge serving, except for the rice bowl [which is single serving]. Salpicao is also a local favorite. Vegetarian food is available for those so inclined. Comfort food is good, delicious, and affordable as well. Some people come in saying Smoke is expensive, but some love it and are forever devoted. There is a mix of different kinds of people who come to eat here.”
“We’re not yet one hundred percent environment-friendly, but we try our best to reuse plastic containers, and as much as possible we avoid using Styrofoam. I’d rather that people return the containers so we can reuse them. We recycle oil containers, you can find them in the walls of our house!” Rea explains that the walls incorporate recycled oil containers, and they got the inspiration from a man in Manila who used Coke bottles for his walls. She also actively supports the Ati community in Boracay, helping them out in their dragonboat team.
For Rea, people who make a difference on the island are Elena Brugger for her work at Philippine Red Cross and the mangrove rehabilitations, Julia Lervik from Lemon with her Flying Foxes campaign, Dieter Schrottman who is behind the tree planting project, and Katia Kalyani who is managing the Ocean Hour beach clean-ups.
“It’s almost like a business, being able to manage the island!” she gushes as well about our young mayor, John Yap. Concerns about fastfood chains popping up and taking over small businesses are among the main issues business owners on the island have to face. The future of the island remains uncertain in light of the grand scale publicity it has received yet again for the year 2012, but like Smoke, the places where we eat must also have a heart, not just an impressive menu. Smoke continues to serve the island community with affordable, environmentally conscious food and with a lot of good will. It continues to champion the simple native delights of Filipino cuisine, Boracay island-style.