Kumain ka na ba? It’s a phrase almost as common as “hello” and a sentence that can be heard from virtually any Filipino household anywhere in the world. But instead of an age-old aphorism or ancient greeting, it simply translates to “have you eaten yet?” For Filipino people everywhere, the sharing of food and meals is a tradition of almost sacred proportions: a time for old and new family members, friends and acquaintances to enjoy one other’s company or forge new connections.
With its opening in June of this year, the restaurant Bonifacio seeks to bring these traditions and Filipino cuisine to the residents of Ohio State’s campus and the Columbus area. Located at the intersection of King Ave and North Star Rd, the restaurant is home to variety of traditional Filipino dishes as well as drinks and desserts.
Despite its newness, the idea of a Columbus-area Filipino restaurant was always a dream of founder and owner Krizzia Yanga, a Filipino-American and Columbus native.
“[Bonifacio] was a passion project for me,” says Yanga. “Growing up in Central Ohio and being that kid who was always eating something ‘weird’ at home or at school really affected my identity and relationship with food. It inspired me to share this food and culture with people in Columbus.”
For Yanga, the restaurant business is nothing new. After graduating from Ohio State in 2013 with a degree in International Business and a short finance stint in Chicago, she opened the Red Velvet Café—a coffee and bake shop—in downtown Columbus in 2015. Over time, Filipino snacks, desserts and other elements found their way into the café’s menu. The resulting success of these dishes inspired Yanga to open Bonifacio.
“Once we started introducing Filipino food at the Red Velvet Café and seeing how well it was accepted, I realized it was time for more of this [food] to come to Columbus,” Yanga recalls. “It was something we’ve been thinking about since opening Red Velvet [Café], and I was finally confident Columbus could be a place where Filipino food could flourish.”
Currently, Bonifacio features a variety of items ranging from the sautéed noodle dish pancit and the tangy, slow cooked chicken adobo. The restaurant is also home to more exotic options, such as kinilaw—vinegar-cured tuna—and even the half-developed duck egg dish known as balut. No matter what the meal, however, the authenticity of the food remains a point of emphasis for those at Bonifacio.
“I hope [Bonifacio] can be a place to cultivate Filipino culture and share it in the local community,” Yanga says. “It’s really important to me that this food is authentically Filipino and we’re not watering it down.”
Despite its local roots, Bonifacio is one of the latest ventures in a nationwide effort called the Filipino Food Movement. Originating in the Bay Area of California, the movement is being spearheaded by young Filipino- American chefs and entrepreneurs looking to capture Filipino history and culture in the U.S today.
“The Filipino Food Movement was founded to create broad awareness, appreciation, and enhanced investment in Filipino Culinary Arts,” reads their online mission statement. “It is in our cuisine that we find our commonalities, rather than our differences. We identify as Filipino not only by birth but also by choice, and it is with our choice that we pledge ourselves to the promotion of our heritage through our culinary arts.”