This favorite haunt has earned a boost from celebrity chef Erwan Heussaff, who marveled at the
flavors of its menu, something locals are used to. For this Baguio Day, allow me to celebrate, Luisas Café and its owner, Roland Wong. IN THE era of themed cafes and exotic restaurants setting up shop in the city, one café has carried on for years with tried and tested recipes and simple community camaraderie.

Session Road is home to one of the oldest restaurants in the city, Luisa’s Café, a popular stop for locals who want to sit and chat over breakfast, the Chinese restaurant has literally endured time.
Luisa’s, named after the family matriarch, set up shop in the Pine City in Carantes Street in the early 60’s before transferring to the Session road. The café maintains a simple Chinese menu and its traditional dumbwaiter to transport food from the first to the second floor with staff neither trained nor schooled in the newest hotel and restaurant colleges.

The noodles of Luisa’s are also legendary, handmade and fresh every day, as it supplies a number of restaurants, so don’t be surprised if your favorite pancit canton or beef mami noodles is actually from this Session road café. The interior of the café is nothing fabulous, it has wrought iron chairs with maroon upholstery, round tables with the iconic lazy susan’s and the paint job is lovingly done by Cheong Loy, its owner, son of Luisa and heir apparent of their noodle empire.

Chong Loy towers over the entire operations of the café, he is huge [tall is what I mean] but has a bigger heart [even if he insists otherwise], he will be ready to explain something to you, if you have the time to listen to his “analizations” [yes, that is a word, in the Luisa’s dictionary]. Some would even say the ambiance of the café will transport you back in time, well, maybe it will, locals don’t care for fancy seats in this town; they just want a homey café.

The cashier counter is cluttered, with the boxed pigeon holes for orders and payments scribbled on recycled paper cut by hand and with the cash register recently upgraded maybe in the last 15 years to the digital one [the old kaha is kept in a bodega by its owners, who refuse to part with it despite prodding by persistent writers]. The counter is also laden with sheets of paper placed in between the glass panels, they are debts acquired by regulars over the years, yes, “sign chits,” were allowed at a time but were misused by some and to this day have their bills unpaid to the amusement of its

Fronting the cashier is the siopao counter where the meat and chorizo is likewise displayed; this area is also where noodles are assembled with a clear glass street view of meal preparation open to
curious eyes. At the glass counters, one can see a mismatch if items for sale, from the traditional Chinese herbs and spices to soy and oyster sauce [they sell it by the tub], sardines [you can ask the staff to cook it for you if you feel like eating], peanuts [one with dilis and spices and one of the SungSung band, repacked and retailed], dried garlic, mushrooms and other secret ingredients you will need the owner to explain.

Personnel are called by their first names [they don’t have name tags nor uniforms so locals know their names by simply asking and chatting to them daily] with the mandatory “ate” or “manang” title seen to fit their mood or age. The short staircase to the second floor is flanked by a Media box [Pigeon Hole} for the Radio, TV and Print media to use, often it is cluttered by envelopes, papers and invitations sent to members of the media for pick up.

The café has become a second office of newsmen [and women] of the city, often seen converging at a round table on the second floor, glued to their laptops, with coffee in hand. At any given hour, if you are looking for a journalist, you will most likely find them at Luisa’s or not, get information on how to contact them. At the farther end of the second floor, there is a space dedicated for dart enthusiasts who have made the café their headquarters.

During afternoons, after the lunch rush, there is a space where employees sleep, waiting for their next shift, it’s for all to see in a corner of the café where the rice sacks are set up, where the dilapidated seats are relegated to – that’s how authentic the café is. The charm of Luisa lies not in its appearance but in its quiet supremacy and stubborn will to continue a tradition of a matriarch who believed that business in the highlands would prosper.

This writer remembers Luisa’s café as an “After Sunday Mass Treat” with grandmother and now as a hangout and second office to her and other media colleagues. She also remembers Insok, the old man who smoked and used to sleep in the café until he got too sick to do it.

Amianan Balita Ngayon