Cebu Lechon “The Best Pig Ever” According to Anthony Bourdain

If you ask any Filipino for the most popular dishes in the Philippines, you will certainly get “Lechon” as an answer.

Naturally, the following question is, “where can we have the best lechon in the Philippines”?. The answer is crystal clear: Cebu lechon is the best lechon of the Philippines.

To taste the best lechon in the Philippines, after arriving in Manila, we took the next flight out to Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines. We landed in Mactan Island, which is close to Cebu City and world famous for its diving spots. Our only interest was to dive into the lechon.

While on our authentic food quest to the Philippines, we learned that a few years ago, Anthony Bourdain had also visited Cebu to experience the famous lechon!

Not only were we about to taste this Filipino food delicacy, but we were also following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain, ex-chef, TV personality, and famous food adventurer.

Let’s dive into the Cebu lechon which Anthony Bourdain described as “the best pig ever!”

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What is Lechon?

Before we dive into Cebu lechon, let’s take a step back and understand what lechon is!

Lechon is literally roasted pig. The way it is made in the Philippines, is with a whole pig cooked on a large stick over a pit filled with charcoal.

The pig is prepared in advance with seasoning placed inside the pig where the insides have been removed. Then the whole pig is cooked rotisserie style for 1.5 to 2 hours depending of the size of the pig. The best lechon is said to be made with young pigs, between two to six weeks old as they are less fatty.

Cebu lechon is a traditional dish prepared for special events or fiestas such as holidays, parties and festivals. It is best enjoyed with the whole family as there is a lot of meat to be shared!

If you don’t have the chance to get invited to a private party to share a lechon, find below some of the best places to have lechon in Cebu and in the Philippines.

roasted pig cebu lechon authentic food quest food travel experiencesLechon -whole pig roasting on a pit

How We Found Out About The Best Lechon In Cebu

Finding the local specialities is often one of the most challenging, yet fun parts of our quest for authentic food. In this case, we simply “asked”. We asked the opinions of people who know Cebu City, for the best lechon in Cebu. Just like if you wanted to find the best pizza in town, you would ask the people living there for their favorite joints.

Our search started in the U.S. even before we left to eat our way through Southeast Asia. We asked Filipino friends living in the U.S. and colleagues living in Switzerland, where to find the best lechon in Cebu. We also connected with the top Filipino food blogger, Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet for his recommendations.

Once we got to Cebu City, we started by asking our Uber driver and our Airbnb host for their top lechon recommendations. Our final confirmation came from the local Cebu tourism office.

After all the “asking”, three places kept coming up over and over again. Below, we present the best places for Cebu lechon, according to the locals!

With anton diaz cebu lechon authentic food questClaire and Rosemary with Anton Diaz from Our Awesome Planet

Rico’s “Da Best Gyud” The Best of The Best Cebu Lechon

Rico’s lechon was by far our favorite lechon in Cebu. We had dinner at the Mabolo branch location which was not too far from where we were staying.

Right away, we were welcomed into a casual environment by very friendly staff. One great feature we noticed right away about the space, is that you can watch your lechon being chopped up and prepared.

ricos lechon restaurant cebu lechon authentic food questRico's lechon Mabolo branch

As we were getting ready to place our order, we were informed that they were out of the “classic” lechon, and all they had that evening was “spicy” lechon. At this point, we didn’t know that Rico’s had invented “spicy” lechon, we simply went ahead and ordered ½ kilo of Spicy Lechon.

Plates of Rico's spicy lechon cebu lechon authentic food questPlates of Rico's spicy lechon

To go with the lechon, we ordered a side of greens and went with the local restaurant speciality, the “Trio of Seaweed Salads”. This salad was made up of three different types of seaweed (lokot, lato, and guso) all tossed together with Rico’s native fermented vinegar and seasoned with spices. And we also had a side of garlic rice to complete the meal.

Trio of seaweed salads at Rico's lechon cebu lechon authentic food questTrio of seaweed salads

What we loved about Rico’s lechon was two things. First, the skin was crispy and not fatty. Perfectly browned and each bite cracks in your mouth releasing a burst of flavors. The lechon itself was tasty and very tender cooked with a mix of garlic and leeks giving it the slightly tangy and delicious garlicky kick.

Spicy lechon at Rico's lechon cebu lechon authentic food questSpicy lechon at Rico's lechon

The Trio of Seaweed Salads was hearty and a wonderful array of flavors and textures. Having the “greens” to go along with the pork made for a less guilty pleasure.

The recommended drink to accompany the lechon is the Cucumansi Quencher. This refreshing and iced drink has Calamansi (a typical Filipino lime) and cucumbers. The perfect drink to tame the spice and flush away any guilt.

Delicious Cucumansi juice

When we finished our meal, we looked around and took inspiration from nearby tables ordering dessert. We got tempted by the house specialty, Oreo Mango Float. Not your typical Oreos, this dessert was made up of layers of tasty Graham crackers, with fresh mango slices in between and topped with homemade cream.

With Filipino mangos listed as the sweetest in the world, by the Guinness Book of World Records, you cannot go wrong with this luscious dessert.

mango dessert Oreo Mango Float cebu lechon authentic food questOreo Mango Float

Overall, Rico’s lechon is excellent and lives up to being “the best lechon.” What makes the lechon outstanding, is the use of native and organic pigs. The garlic lechon is quite exceptional and full of flavor.  Summed up in their slogan “Da Best Gyud”, this is really the place to go for the best lechon in Cebu.

 

READ MORE: Why Rico’s Lechon is The Best Lechon in Cebu

Where

Rico’s Lechon

Two locations, Mabolo Branch in Cebu City and on Mactan Promenade on Mactan Island.

A third location is slated to open by year end 2016.

Price range for a Medium Platter (2-3 people) of lechon,  P310 – P340, Approx.: $6.34 – $7.02 USD

CNT Lechon

With locals especially those in Cebu recommending CNT, we were excited to try out their version of lechon. To find CNT lechon, we had to go to the mall, Ayala Center in Cebu.

In our previous article, 10 interesting facts you need to know about food in the Philippines, one of the surprising observations we made is that dining takes place at the mall.

cnt lechon cebu lechon authentic food quest

After watching the “chopper” cut up the pork, we settled in to try the local favorite, CNT lechon.

On the whole, we enjoyed the CNT lechon. The skin was crispy though a little fatty. The pork itself was very tender. While we found the lechon quite tasty, we noticed that it had a lot more bones than meat.

Overall, the experience at the mall is casual and many people were taking their orders to go. For delicious lechon to go or to enjoy in a relaxed environment, head out to the mall for CNT lechon.

cebu lechon at cnt lechon authentic food questA plate of lechon at CNT Lechon

Where

CNT Lechon

Three locations in Cebu City

Price range for a Medium Platter (2-3 people) of lechon, P320, Approx.: $6.60 USD

Zubuchon

Described as “commercial” by locals, Zubuchon is certainly very famous for its marketing appeal. However, it doesn’t earn the title of  tastiest lechon from the locals.

Zubuchon was definitively on our “to do/eat” list,  and we were set to check out one the local store in our neighborhood.

zubuchon restaurant cebu lechon authentic food quest

From the outside, the restaurant is very clean and welcoming. As soon as we stepped in, we were welcomed by the staff. Right away we noticed the Anthony Bourdain quote: “Best pig ever”. Nice endorsement though we found out that Anthony Bourdain talked about lechon prior to Zubuchon opening…

roasted pig zubuchon cebu lechon authentic food quest

The menu was well designed with great pictures with a large selection of local dishes. You have the feel of a more trendy restaurant as compared to a local food joints. We ordered the Zubuchon medium platter, and an eggplant salad (ensaladang talong) to go along with it.

Menu at ZubuchonMenu at Zubuchon

The lechon was good though we found it a bit fatty and lacking the full flavor experience of Rico’s lechon. The salad was a fresh and light with a slightly tangy taste.

A plate of lechon at Zubuchon cebu lechon authentic food questA plate of lechon at Zubuchon

Overall, Zubuchon provides a modern and clean experience. It is a nice restaurant to try local specialties beyond lechon. Though if you are looking to have the best Cebu lechon, it may be better to look at the options above!

Where

Zubuchon

8 locations in Cebu City and Mactan Island

Price range for a Medium Platter (2-3 persons) of lechon P330, Approx.: $6.81USD

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In Summary

If your travels take you to the Philippines, you have to taste lechon and if possible, Cebu lechon. The great news is that you don’t have to order the whole roasted pig to try lechon! You can simply order by the kilo and taste the delicious crunchy skin with and the unique flavors and seasonings.

Don’t fall for the commercial restaurants and marketing hype. Try lechon at different places and make up your own opinion about the best lechon in Cebu. However, if you can only try Cebu lechon once, we recommend you go with Rico’s lechon!

Claire and Rosemary at Rico's lechon cebu lechon authentic food questDelicious lechon at Rico's

Have you had lechon or Cebu lechon before? If so tell us what you think of it and if not would you be interested in trying it?

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58 thoughts on “Cebu Lechon “The Best Pig Ever” According to Anthony Bourdain”

  1. I’ve never personally tried a cebu food trip myself but my friends all recommended it. And after seeing your post, let’s just say I found my next destination. Thanks so much for sharing! Any updates though if they’re still available there?

    Reply
  2. Does anyone even know that the original lechon purveyor in the Philippines is in La Loma? This is a district in Quezon City, once the country’s capital. I grew up in this place and if you are from somewhere else and are asking for directions, La Loma Lechon ni Mang Tomas is a popular reference and landmark. These places you mentioned here are new and are simply copycats of the original. Laloma Lechon ni Mang Tomas had been famous for decades – since early 60’s in fact There was no Internet to promote them but I feel we have to give credit where credit is due. Now, there are hundreds of lechon places but I will never trade the original for the more hyped up ones. I have to try Ricos just so to confirm your claims that indeed they are better than the La Loma Lechon ni Mang Tomas. But I much doubt that it is. I’d say go for the original….why buy the cover when you can get the original product? Authentic Philippine lechon, this is the place to go!

    Reply
  3. I second (or third) the Carcar lechon. I had Ricos and it was amazing, and very comparable to the ones we got at the market in Carcar. The fiancé made us get off the bus to try it since she’s never been to southern Cebu before. It was amazing and I’d love to compare them together.
    Thanks for the interesting article!
    Apir!

    Reply
    • Awesome to hear you loved the article. That’s funny that you got off the bus to explore Southern Cebu. So glad you got a chance to experience Rico’s. We haven’t tried lechon from Carcar. Adding that to our list for our next visit to the Philippines. Cheers.

      Reply
  4. Hi Rosemary and Claire!

    It’s great to hear you visited Cebu just for the lechon and enjoyed it as well. But before Rico’s lechon became the byword for lechon Cebu to most locals and tourists, there were Carcar and Talisay lechon styles, both of which used to vie for the best lechons in Cebu. Luckily for Rico’s, social media has helped tremendously to its ascent to stardom as its started relatively recently during the age of social media.

    If you find Rico’s lechon the best, wait until you try Carcar City’s version or even Talisay City’s version of their lechon. These two cities were arch-rivals when it comes to the best lechons in Cebu for many years before the age of social media and proliferation of food shows on TV.

    If you ever get another chance to visit Cebu next time, check out Talisay City and Carcar City’s own version of lechon. Talisay is just a short taxi or Uber/Grab ride away from downtown Cebu City. Carcar, on the other hand, is a small city 40 kilometers further to the south. Carcar is also known as having the best pork cracklings (locals call chicharon) in Cebu.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much Girogio for the tips about Talisay City and Carcar city’s versions of lechon. We can’t wait to go back to Cebu for the lechon and we’ll certainly check these arch- rival cities out. We appreciate the tips, thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  5. OMG! Cebu is my birthplace. Reading through your post about my hometown makes me proud about it and miss it at the same time. When did you go there? I went home last August. It would have been nice to meet other bloggers interested with our letchon. (wink) If ever you visit Cebu again. Go to Carcar, it’s in the southern part of Cebu. They make the tastiest and most delicious letchon. I really love your post.

    Reply
    • That’s awesome Synz. So glad you enjoyed reading about Cebu. We had a great time visiting the city and especially the lechon. So many delicious options 🙂 Thanks for the tip about Carcar. We’ll certainly check it out when we are next in Cebu. Thanks for your comments!!

      Reply
    • That’s great that you remember the show. It was quite an experience sampling the lechon from the different places. We much preferred Rico’s lechon over Zubuchon, which they claim Anthony Bourdain declared the “best pork ever.” Regardless, you will not go wrong with lechon in Cebu City. Thanks Gabby for your comments.

      Reply
    • Pork dominates in the Philippines and lechon is the preferred “fiesta” food. Nevertheless, you can find several options beyond pork and lots of unique greens and fruits. Glad you enjoyed the juice and desserts at Rico’s lechon. Thanks for your comments, Neha.

      Reply
    • That’s great that it is similar to a luau. Would love for you to try lechon and tell us the similarities/differences. The oreo mango float is to die for. If you do make it to Cebu City, do eat at Rico’s lechon 🙂 Thanks Anisa

      Reply
    • You can probably find pig cooked over the pit in most places, but the lechon in Cebu is the best place in the Philippines. Hope you can get to visit the Philippines soon and try it out for yourself there!! Thanks Brigitte for your comments.

      Reply
  6. In general, Cebu Lechon is great, but when you put several plates of Cebu lechon next to each other, that’s when you notice the difference. When I went to Cebu, I thought my first taste of lechon was already heavenly, but my friends just laughed and said, “Wait ’til you try Rico’s.” And oh my goodness, they were right. Rico’s really is the best gyud! Especially the suckling pig one. Oh-lala! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 😀

    Reply
    • You are so right Sarah, the best way to compare the lechon is to have them side by side. Your friends were totally right, everything else was simply preparation for Rico’s Lechon. The best guyd!!! Appreciate your comments!

      Reply
  7. Wow looks good! Although, I am a vegetarian, I will definitely pass on this tip to all my meat loving travellers out there! Sounds like you had a fantastic meal! I gotta say, the greens and the desert looked so delicious! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed the review India. What do you call the spit roast in your area? Indeed, a trip to the Philippines and Cebu City would be worthwhile. Be sure to eat at Rico’s Lechon and enjoy the crispy skin and tender meat 🙂

      Reply
    • It is indeed worth a trip to Cebu for the lechon if you are going to be in the Philippines. Anthony Bourdain did say Cebu has the best lechon and you will find it at Rico’s lechon!! Please do let us know what you think after your trip. Thanks John and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or tips as you prepare for your trip.

      Reply
  8. Hello, This is the second time I have heard about lechon and very curious, It looks wonderful. We often have pig roast cooked the same style over and outside rotisserie and it’s wonderful. What I am wondering is how a good old American pig roast differs or compares to Lechon. I would imagine the spices would be different and have you had both to compare. I’m just really curious because I love it and would love to try Lechon!

    Reply
    • You would certainly enjoy lechon in Cebu. The big differences you will find are in the spices used, how the pigs are raised and of course the age of the pigs when they are cooked. If you make it to the Philippines, do build in time to visit Cebu. Thanks for your comments!!

      Reply
  9. Hi Guys,

    Looks amazing 🙂 Reminds me of Babi Guling in Bali. We saw these joints throughout the island, marked by the easy to understand sign of a pig on a spit 😉 Tasty as can be I am sure. But I’d have to fly solo as my wife is a vegetarian. But not a militant vegetarian, who’d divorce me for going to a sucking pig joint LOL. Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Thanks Ryan. Looks amazing and tastes delicious. That’s interesting that there is something similar in Bali, I’m sure it is as delicious. Given that you have a supportive wife, don’t hesitate to add Cebu to your travels plan 🙂 Cheers!

      Reply
    • Actually Fiona, lechon does have it’ roots in Spain. After all, the Spanish did colonize the Philippines. So, if you are mildly addicted to suckling pig in Spain…lechon in Cebu will have the same effect!! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Reply
  10. This reminds me of Peking ducks in China! I haven’t tried Lechon but I am definitely tempted to try after reading this post. Thanks for the recommendations of where to try it, too. Zubuchon looks like it has some clever marketing techniques! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Katja. So glad this article has inspired you to try lechon 🙂 Zubuchon has done a great job with their marketing, but the pork could be improved! If you get to try lechon, please do let us know what you think. Cheers.

      Reply
    • You are so right Carol, we were quite surprised to find out how popular the “mall” is as a dining destination. The quality of food at the malls is quite good and indeed a lesson for the U.S. Thanks for your comments 🙂

      Reply
  11. We went to Zubuchon with the Philippines TPB and are so disappointed to find out this isn’t the place Anthony Bourdain crowned the best roast pork!! Haha we were tricked! Your face looks familiar as we were in Philippines for TBEX as well! It’s nice to run into your blog and see your experiences as well! Great coverage on the lechon in Cebu! I would love to go back and try all these other restaurants you went as well! Just another great reason to go back!

    Reply
    • You are right, so many great reasons to go back to the Philippines. And, lechon in Cebu is just one more 🙂 Yes, we were at TBEX, too bad we did not meet in person, but are at least connecting here 🙂 Glad you enjoyed reading the article. Cheers!

      Reply

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