In search of good food at an affordable price, most of us would ditch the convenience of fast food chains and look for restaurants that serve home-cooked meals. We found a great one in uptown Cebu. STK Ta Bay sa Paolito’s Seafood House is modest and unpretentious. STK or Sugba Tuwa Kilaw are Cebuano terms on the different ways to prepare your seafood. Not to be confused with the STK in Mactan, this has a totally different flavour and vibe.
Located on a quiet road in Capitol Site (click here for a map), wedged in between private homes and lodges, STK Ta Bay is literally packed with dining patrons. You may want to call ahead to ensure a seat.
We enjoyed a steaming bowl of pork sinigang, squid ringlets swimming in oyster sauce, crispy pork platter, the traditional pancit canton and the baked scallops—one of the restaurant’s bestsellers that won our taste buds’ approval. The melted butter with a hint of cheese exploded in my mouth and made me finish off more than twenty shells. They were THAT good.
The tuna Belly and the tuna panga are also bestsellers. Most of the servings are good for 3-4 persons with prices ranging from P120 to P280, but some items on the menu are priced according to the item size like the tuna panga.
STK Ta Bay is personally managed by the Alcover family. On most nights, they will personally take your order and guide you to an available table. One of STK’s familiar smiling faces is Karen Leslie Alcover-Cabahug’s, the Operations Head of the family business. She is always seen manning the floor, making sure the orders are served on time and making acquaintances feel at home.
Karen’s infectious congeniality graces photos with national celebrities and influential politicians on a wall in the main section of the house. You can also find signed plates from high-profiled guests. Word of mouth and blog sites have helped spread the delicious news for this famous seafood house, thus attracting numerous guests despite being hidden away from the bustling streets of Capitol Site.
The house-turned-restaurant is divided into several areas—the garage-turned-entrance hall (where the grilled offerings are on display), two dining areas (one near the entrance and the other at far back) and a receiving room. Both dining areas are adorned with antique items like religious relics and old-fashioned trinkets enclosed in glass cases. Cabinets are strategically placed all over the house for viewing as you wait for your orders to be served. The receiving area is the most interesting part of the house. It’s like finding yourself in a walk-in museum paying homage to antiques. The old collections vary from ceramic jars and porcelain china sets to an old phonograph and a grandfather clock.
It almost feels like you are family guests in an exclusive dinner at the Alcovers’ ancestral home and not paying customers enjoying a hearty meal. The Alcovers clearly discovered the secret to a good business: treat the customers as guests with great food to boot.
*Photos by Kate Biol and Steph Senires.