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Ask any local which restaurants offer the most authentic Ilonggo fare in the region, and chances are they’ll include Tatoy’s high up in their list of places to eat. The restaurant prides itself for offering sumptuous local dishes that best represent Iloilo’s local flavors and unique cuisine.
Their specialty is the “daraag” or native “lechon manok”, a barbecued chicken dish that is prepared by marinating the meat in vinegar and calamansi, then stuffed with lemongrass and sampalok leaves.
It is then grilled over hot charcoals, where the combination of fire and local stuffing transforms it into a mouthwatering chicken dish so flavorful it doesn’t need any additional dipping sauce when eaten. The one thing that sets it apart is the use of the native chicken, which is typically leaner and gamier that most types of poultry.
Of course you can’t miss their other speciality: seafood. Founder and owner Honorato Tiburan Espinosa or Tatoy was a fisherman in the 1970’s when he opened the restaurant, so when he first set up shop along Villa Beach in Arevalo, he knew where to find the freshest catch for his new venture.
He also happened to have a gift for cooking delicious food that customers enjoyed, and Tatoy’s reputation for fresh seafood and delicious “daraag” grew so that what started out as a nondescript nipa shack by the beach with three tables flourished into the iconic Tatoy’s we know today.
Some of the seafood crowd favorites include kinilaw, which is fresh fish cooked in a spicy vinegar marinade, oysters, grilled boneless bangus or milkfish, fish shop, and grilled stuffed squid, and buttered shrimp.
It is the perfect venue for large groups or families with equally large appetites. They also have a variety of food that is offered “turo-turo” style, which are prepared dishes displayed behind a glass counter where you can simply choose and point to a dish that you want to eat, cafeteria style.