FilAm Eatery & BBQ
14185 Beach Blvd #3
Jacksonville, FL 32250
A few months ago, I wrote a review for JC Fil Cuisine on Beach Blvd and raved about its authenticity to Filipino food and culture. It became my go-to and most recommended Filipino restaurant. I was so disappointed when I went there for dinner one night and saw they had closed permanently. So my search began anew to get my authentic Filipino food fix. Little did I know I’d find it so quickly and just a few miles down Beach Blvd past JC Fil Cuisine.
FilAm Eatery & BBQ is the definition of a “hole-n-the-wall” restaurant. It’s in a small strip mall on Beach Blvd that if you weren’t looking for it, you’d miss it. The restaurant itself is small, only about 4 to 6 tables or so inside. We were greeted by a tiny Filipino woman that I wanted to call nanay so bad, but found a way to restrain myself and maintain a modicum of dignity. She was kind and welcomed us as if we were walking into her own kitchen.
We sat down and perused the menu and it had all the Filipino greatest hits: Pancit, Chicken and Pork Adobo, Sinigang, etc. Not only do they serve authentic Filipino food, but they also have an American BBQ section serving classical American BBQ ribs and sides such as mac-and-cheese, green beans, and coleslaw. I didn’t try the BBQ this go around; I was on a Filipino journey and a side trip to Memphis was not on the itinerary.
We decided to order some of the classics of Filipino cuisine. Beef lumpia for an appetizer, Sisig, Kare Kare, Arroz Caldo, and Lechon Kawali for the mains. All the mains came with a side of either garlic or steamed white rice.
Lumpia is a quintessential Filipino appetizer. It’s most people’s entry point into Filipino food; the “gateway drug,” if you will, into the wonderful world of Filipino food. And FilAm’s is as addictive as they come. They’re deep fried to a perfect golden brown and wonderfully crunchy. The ground beef had a great flavor and texture that helped counter the crunchiness. 12 come to an order and it sounds like a lot, but within about a minute they were all gone and I was sad. They came with a side of a house made dipping sauce that’s similar to duck sauce. It was a touch sweet and complimented the savory-ness of the Lumpia well.
It was a good thing we ordered a quick cooking appetizer, because everything is made to order. So after we ate the Lumpia, it took awhile for the mains to hit the table. Luckily we came in for a late lunch/early dinner so it was during a non-rush time of day. There was only one other family in the restaurant. I can only imagine it was a full house. Pack your patience.
Our patience was rewarded when the Sisig came to the table. FilAm offers a mild and spicy Sisig in both regular and sizzling presentations. I ordered the mild sizzling variety and it did not disappoint. It came to the table hot and sizzling as advertised, with the rendered pork fat bubbling around the sides of the cast iron pan. Traditionally, Sisig is made with the off parts of the pig; ears, jowl, snout, tongue, etc. FilAm’s version is a little more palatable to Western sensibilities as it uses diced pork belly. The diced pork is sautéed with onion, spices, lemon juice, and topped with a raw egg. Since it comes sizzling and hot to the table, mixing the raw egg with the rest of the platter essentially cooks the egg and also adds a bit of sauciness to the dish with the yolk. This Sisig had a great balance of flavors; the richness of the pork and the acidity of the lemon. The pork belly rendered off just the right amount of fat to coat the palate, but not feel greasy. The spices elevated the flavor of the pork and kept me coming back for more.
Up next was the soups/stews; Kare Kare and Arroz Caldo. Kare Kare is an oxtail (sometimes neck bones) stew made with green beans, bok choy, and other vegetables all braised in a creamy peanut sauce. The real star of Kare Kare is the peanut sauce. Sure, the oxtail is the protein of the dish, but it’s the peanut sauce that ratchets up the flavor of everything in the stew and is great mixed with the side of garlic steamed rice. FilAm’s peanut sauce was perfect. It definitely had a peanut flavor, but didn’t overwhelm anything else in the bowl. The oxtail was tender and was easy to pick away from the bone. The green beans and bok choy still maintained their structural integrity among the stew; vibrant in color, still a bit crunchy and adding their texture and earthy, but mild flavor to the overall dish.
Arroz Caldo is a chicken and rice based soup with a heavy helping of ginger and garlic and a hardboiled egg for good measure. It’s very garlic and ginger forward with large slices of ginger and whole garlic cloves in the soup. It’s also a favorite of mine, because it’s a great remedy for colds, flues, or other sinus maladies. Because of the prominence of garlic and ginger, it adds a good amount of flavor that punches through the sickness and helps clear up those clogged sinuses. Sick or not, it’s a wonderful Filipino comfort food that’ll cure what ails you, whether it’s a stuffy nose or a broken heart.**
Rounding out our lunch was Lechon Kawali. If you’ve ever seen Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” Philippines episode, traditional Lechon is an hours long affair of a whole pig roasted over a spit usually reserved for special occasions. In fact, an occasion isn’t considered special unless whole hog Lechon is served. For restaurants, it may be a bit unrealistic to do whole hog, spit roasted Lechon on a daily basis, so most serve a variant of it called Lechon Kawali. Lechon Kawali is large diced pork belly seasoned and deep fried. The hallmark of traditional lechon is the crispy, almost glass-like exterior skin. Lechon Kawali’s version is deep fried, not roasted, so you don’t get that same type of pork skin texture that only a long, low and slow roasting will get you. What you do get, however, is still great. Lechon Kawali is more like a pork rind with a thick slice of bacon attached to it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fantastic and a great snack. I could’ve eaten those little deep fried pork cubes by the handful. It’s served with a sweet and savory pork liver sauce on the side. It too was great and added a nice, sweet counterbalance to the rich pork.
So while a favorite Filipino restaurant may have died, another has risen to take its place. FilAm Eatery & BBQ is the real deal and great little spot for an authentic Filipino food experience.
**I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I’m also not a paid spokesperson. This is simply my anecdotal personal experience with Arroz Caldo. The opinions expressed on this site and by its reviewers are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Please consult a local physician or other health care professional for your specific health care and/or medical needs or concerns.