New York City has a lot of great Filipino restaurants, and like many of Cyndi Lauper’s childhood memories and the contemporary art museum where we once saw a Lizzo show, many of them are in Queens - specifically along a strip of Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside between 63rd and 71st Street called Little Manila, but it doesn’t end there. Below, you’ll find a handful of spots in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens where you’ll find the best version of one of our favorite Filipino dishes, sisig. It comes in many forms of calamansi-seasoned meat, fish, or tofu, but it’s usually a pork dish served in a sizzling cast-iron skillet with onions, jalapeños, and a raw egg. Find out what sets each one apart from the rest.
Right underneath the 7 train line on Roosevelt Ave in Woodside, Renee’s has been making excellent Filipino food since 1992. But even in 2020, this casual neighborhood spot has people lining up for a seat on its tiny sidewalk patio. One of the many reasons this place is so popular is its sisig, made exclusively with pieces of pig head. The result is a crunchy meat salad with grilled onions and a sprinkle of crunchy chicharron. The chunks of pork are so nicely charred, it seems each individual piece gets its own real estate on the grill - only to be removed just a second before it gets too crispy.
Right next door to Renee’s, Kusina is the new neighbor with a big personality. Its curbside patio has a DJ booth, two covered seating areas, and feels about as close to a party restaurant as you can find in the midst of a global pandemic. The food here is great, especially the sisig, which involves pieces of caramelized pork cooked with soy sauce, giving the dish both sweet and salty elements. Order it with an egg on top and record yourself taking the first bite so you’ll have something to watch the next time you need a reminder of what happiness looks like.
If we could, we’d replace the fruit bowl on our kitchen counter with an order of Ihawan’s sisig and reach for spicy spoonfuls of pork parts and jalapeno whenever we need a quick snack. It’s the best sisig we’ve had in the city, which isn’t much of a surprise since this place is best known for its excellent BBQ. There are two sisig options on the menu at Ihawan, both involving pork. But our favorite, the sizzling sisig, is crispy, fatty, and tastes like it’s been cooked with lots of tart calamansi. The result is a spicy meat dish that’s bold enough to encourage your eyebrows to overtake your forehead. Ihawan is also right around the corner from Kusina and Renee’s, so you could easily fill a weekend afternoon with a sisig crawl around this busy block in Woodside.
This BYOB Filipino spot in Carroll Gardens is a great place to know about for a handful of reasons. Those who live nearby have probably already taken advantage of the spacious backyard patio, since it rarely gets packed. But their pork sisig is easily some of the best we’ve had in Brooklyn, and you should consider ordering two portions of it. A pleasantly sour platter of tender meat topped with raw egg and huge chunks of chicharron, someone needs this entree catered at their wedding. The only downside is that the portion size: it’s way too small. So take our advice and order at least one per person, and try a few other things on their menu like the tuna kilawin with chunks of fresh mango and taro chips.
Mama Fina’s is officially called Mama Fina’s House of Sisig. And that’s probably because the sisig here should always be a priority. We like the pork one best because it’s especially soft, with crispy-crunchy outer edges, but they serve chicken and fish options as well. Order a few types to experience the same kind of fundamental joy humans have historically felt while sharing meat. And whether you want to eat it on their sidewalk patio or on your couch at home, we hope you’ll agree it’s one of the overall best dishes you’ll find in the East Village.
Unlike the other three Woodside Filipino spots on this guide, the sisig at Tito Rad’s Grill is made up entirely of pork belly. And like a great French 75 or your high school skincare routine, this sisig proves that a little bit of lemon juice can go a long way. Each bite of nicely acidic meat overtakes your innocent taste buds with all things sweet, charred, chewy, and crunchy. With sisig this special, and in such huge portions, Tito’s is a great spot to try with a small group - whether that means eating inside their casual dining room or getting takeout to bring home is totally up to you.
If you’re going to get jealous about one thing on someone else’s table at this Lower East Side spot, it’s the pork sisig. The dish has the food equivalent of “curb appeal,” with its glistening pieces of charred pork head cooked in chili and a whole raw egg waiting to be split down the middle. And since this Thai/Filipino restaurant is operating as a takeout window with a few seat-yourself tables right now, it’ll be easier than ever to find an excuse not to share with whoever you’re eating with.