Oak Park's Only Filipino Restaurant: Lola Tining's Cuisine

Kawali, adobo, longaniza and lots of other good stuff

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By David Hammond

Oak Park has only one Filipino restaurant, more than most Chicago suburbs.

Lola Tining's Cuisine (1141 Garfield) is right across from the Volvo tower, in a small, unprepossessing shopping mall. You've probably driven by it many times.

First time I walked into Lola's, the nice lady at the hot table looked up at me as though to say, "Are you sure you're in the right place?"

My appearance, I suppose, screams gringo, but I've long been a fan of Filipino food. Based on that first visit, I wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune/Redeye in praise of the lechon kawali, incredibly delicious cubes of boiled and fried pork belly:

"glistening nuggets of pork, alternating layers of fat and meat, crunchy and soft, oozing glorious juice with every bite. You feel you probably should stop after one piece; you know you definitely should stop after two pieces; shame vanishes with the third piece, and then you'll likely keep eating it for as long as humanly possible. Take note, it's dangerous." 

When I went back to Lola's last week, I got a lunch combo; pork adobo, kinapusan, ginataan calabasa, garlic rice and a skewer of longaniza.

Adobo is perhaps the most beloved Filipino food; it's a stew, usually pork but any meat can be used, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and various spices (usually garlic, but it varies; , as with many traditional dishes, adobo is open to random improvisation).

Sarahlynn Pablo, my friend and co-founder of Filipino Kitchen, once told me that "Adobo is a comforting childhood memory, but the aroma is strong. When we've made adobo, we'd close all the doors to our rooms. Some people may not like it, but for me, it's a beautiful cloud of smells."

Lola's makes new dishes all the time. The last time I visited, I was introduced to kinapusan, a kind of fried bacon and, as manager Ashley Strong mentioned, "it's pretty much the same as lecon kawali, but meatier."

The ginataan calabasa is also an item I hadn't seen before: it's squash stew, with green beans, coconut milk, and shrimp, very mild, and a good foil to the lush pork that I also had on my plate.

With the lunch combo, I always get garlic rice. The alternative is white rice, which is okay, but why would you not want something tastier?

The longaniza is a sweet sausage, which I adore. I encountered a smaller version of these sausages in Bangkok, where I bought them every chance I got; I like the ones at Lola's even better because…they're bigger.

Everyone is a food explorer these days, open to trying new foods because they want to learn about other cultures but also because there's a lot of deliciousness out there. If you want to sample the Filipino version of deliciousness, you now know where to go.





Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad

Latest Comments