What began as a pandemic times meal delivery service that quickly took off and spawned a food stall at the Liberty Public Market in Liberty Station is now a stand-alone restaurant in Normal Heights. Landing on Adams Avenue, the new White Rice Bodega puts a fast-casual spin on Filipino cuisine courtesy of Phillip Esteban, Eater’s 2021 chef of the year.
Esteban’s menu revolves around silog, a staple Filipino dish of garlic rice and meat or other accompaniments, offered here with the convenience of a rice bowl topped with everything from crispy pork belly and grilled chicken to a vegan sisig made with mushrooms and tofu. Other popular dishes include kinalaw, an appetizer of local albacore marinated in coconut milk and aromatics, spring rolls with a meat or vegetable filling, and purple-hued ube pandesal, a pull-apart loaf of sweet bread served with whipped ube butter. Other desserts and drinks range from taho, a snack of silken tofu, sago pearls, and fresh fruit syrup, to calamansi iced tea and ube milk tea.
Brand new for this location is a beer and wine list that includes San Miguel, the most popular beer in the Philippines, and a selection of natural wine.
Designed to evoke the feeling of a Filipino sari-sari, or corner bodega, the Adams Avenue restaurant operates out of a 600-square-foot kitchen space with a walk-up window for service. There are currently about 20 seats on the outdoor dining patio but Esteban says an incoming parklet should double the capacity.
Though it’s been doing a few test run days this week, White Rice Bodega will close through the weekend and open officially on Monday, September 19 at 11 a.m.
Under the umbrella of his hospitality collective Open Gym, Esteban also operates Weapon Ramen at Liberty Public Market and Market on 8th as well as Wordsmith, a culinary store, at the National City food hall. The chef tells Eater that he has more projects in the works for National City and elsewhere in San Diego, including the opening of several more White Rice locations in the next two years.
White Rice Bodega, 3586 Adams Avenue Suite 100. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.