The original spot in Subic Freeport Zone was slowly but steadily followed by a branch on Roxas Highway, Clark Freeport. And while it took 25 years, Meat Plus Café’s expansion has finally reached Manila with the recent opening of its third location in SM Mall of Asia.
“At that time, Subic was the hottest place to be. It was a weekend destination, and a lot of young people were volunteering under Dick Gordon,” co-owner Bambi Meer said in an exclusive interview.
After getting out of college, Bambi, together with family friends, the Tanjangcos, Tenchavezes, and Santoses, established the steak restaurant in 1993.
“We started in retail. It was Meat Plus and Toys Plus in one building. We used to specialize in Duty-Free meats and Duty-Free toys like Lisa Frank,” he said.
From a 30-seater restaurant, the 25-year-old Subic branch can now accommodate up to 200 people.
“When the Duty-Free privilege was abolished during Ramos’ term, we decided to start a restaurant and serve meals in a proper dining atmosphere. We had Tita Beth [Romualdez] to give us courses on how to build a restaurant,” he shared. “[To cook the meat purchased], we used to charge one dollar, grill it right away, and serve it on a paper plate with canned corn. A lot of people liked it.”
Following the success in Subic, the group of families established Meat Plus Specialists Phil., Inc. (MPSPI) in 2000, and has since conceptualized three more American casual dining brands namely Tender Bob’s, Kettle, and Fireside.
The new 90-seater Manila branch is brightly-lit and faces the bay and a carousel-looking structure. It is operated by Subic Duty-Free Shop Incorporated and exudes a modern casual dining experience. The design caters exclusively to its new market. The two older branches have yet to adopt to the new branding.
“What took us long to come to Manila was the challenge of keeping the prices as it is. Subic has no value-added tax. We worked out a few deals with SM Malls in order to tweak the numbers, so we can still keep it competitive,” Meer said.
Meat Plus Café allows diners to choose from the restaurant’s selection of premium steaks and have it cooked to their liking for P155 per piece. By the way, as part of their opening, you can have your steaks cooked for free until Aug. 18.
The menu is straightforward: steak and comfort food. Their steak meals like the Rib-Eye (P690) and Topsirloin (P395) are served with rice and mixed vegetables. Highly recommended sides are Mashed Potato (P70), Corn Kernel (P55), and Mixed Vegetables (P60). Aside from their steak meals, Meat Plus Café offers soups, pasta, and one of the best burgers in the city. Also try the mouthwatering signatures: the bestselling Oven Roasted Beef Belly (P365), Grilled Salmon Steak (P395), and US BBQ Short Ribs (P545). The Homemade Apple Pie (P165) makes for a great finale: at once buttery and cheesy whether served warm or chilled.
While a good steak meal and Meat Plus Café itself have become accessible, the brand manages to make your experience still special. Good service is the plus in Meat Plus.
In the fourth quarter of this year, Meat Plus Café is set to open another branch in SM Baguio.
Meat Plus Cafe is located at Level 1, North Entertainment Mall, SM Mall of Asia. You may follow them on Facebook and on Instagram at @meatpluscafe.