Immediately after bemoaning the recent closure of two beloved restaurants — G.Michael’s Bistro & Bar and Wildflower Cafe — a friend and I moved on to the broader topic of the local dining scene in general. The continuing pandemic has clearly affected things in ways it may take years to fully digest, we mutually proclaimed as only two sages cradling beverages in a semi-reputable establishment can mutually proclaim.
Addressing the situation further, my pal suggested that the kind of traditional, order-and-linger restaurants he tends to prefer might be fading away. “It’s like everybody wants to eat at Budd Dairy,” he said.
Although exaggerating for effect, he raised a good point about the seat-yourself, eat-and-go oriented, trendy Italian Village food hall with multiple food stalls, which is owned and operated by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
Here’s another good point about Budd Dairy: It inhabits the only preserved-and-restored big old charming building in town that offers free parking, three bars, numerous outdoor eating spaces, plus quickly served and generally delicious Filipino-style fare prepared by a woman-owned eatery.
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That owner is Krizzia Yanga and the eatery is Boni Filipino Street Food. As its name will convey to ear-to-the-ground chowhounds, Boni is a scaled-down offshoot of Bonifacio in Grandview, Yanga’s fashionable flagship restaurant.
Just as “Boni” is a shortened version of Bonifacio, the younger sibling’s menu is considerably smaller than Bonifacio’s. Boni’s offerings basically amount to four rice-based bowls, spring rolls, a few kebabs and some tropical drinks (one is a standout, which I’ll get to later).
Don’t expect Boni’s streamlined dishes to display the attractive plating and sophistication for which Bonifacio is known. But do expect them to offer lively colors, flavors and textures. Oh, and plenty of garlic.
The foundation of every bowl is rice yellowed by annatto and accented with toasted garlic. Customers then have two garnishing approaches to choose from: market style, featuring a loose, red-cabbage-based slaw, plus a salad of appealingly smoke-scented corn and tomatoes; and street style (my strongly preferred option, it’s $1 more than market style), featuring crinkly and addictive fried bok choy leaves, atchara (think Filipino sauerkraut made with unripe papaya), cornick (brittle, fun-to-crunch Filipino corn nuts) and hot sauce.
Diners can expect some variability in bowl components and proportions. Uncredited cilantro, scallions or roasted red peppers might show up, and the market-style slaw might be virtually undressed or, preferably, enlivened by a pesto-like sauce.
A choice of four proteins contributes heft. My favorites were the smoky, grilled chile-garlic shrimp ($14 for a market style bowl; $15 for street style) and the soy-and-vinegar-flavored, stewed dark meat chicken adobo ($12 and $13). Still, I’d gladly gobble another bowl assembled with the grilled pork-belly segments ($13 and $14) or the crunchy deep-fried tofu cubes ($12 and $13) drizzled with a sweet Thai-style chile sauce.
Boni’s kebabs — aka “sticks” (two come per order) — all tasted good, too. And except for the lemongrass-scented but somewhat dry and not-served-warm-enough chicken inasal ($8), they exhibited fine grilling techniques. Sausage fans and garlic lovers — I qualify — will enjoy the sweet longanisa ($8) with crispy garnishes. The likewise garnish-happy crispy bok choy ($6) is worth any difficulty it takes to nibble unwieldy, wooden-stick-speared leaves.
Whether filled with veggies or spiced pork essentially mashed into a paste, the crispy lumpia — Filipino spring rolls ($3.50 for two) — are quite easy to eat. They go down even easier while sipping nutty and mildly sweet coconut water ($6) through a straw.
At Boni, this nutrient-rich thin liquid is presented in the actual coconut, which is opened to order by a member of the super-friendly staff using a mallet and a special tool. Where else in town but Boni at Budd Dairy are you going to get a healthful, refreshing drink served as entertainingly as that?
Boni Filipino Street Food
Budd Dairy Food Hall
1086 N. Fourth St., Italian Village