Café Kapitan Captivates With Old-world Charm and Sumptuous Dishes
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Dining in Cafe Kapitan is like being transported into the past, specifically during the Spanish era. This is not surprising since the restaurant, opened in February 1995, was housed inside a building that traced its roots to the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. It was built around 1887 as the house of Don Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevara, the father of Marikina’s shoe industry.
The two-storey building, known as Kapitan Moy, is rich in history. It became the headquarters of the Japanese during the Japanese occupation and before that, it was the house of the American Tribunal during the American occupation. Later on, it was converted into a primary school – Marikina Elementary School – in 1907 to 1955.
In 1995, then Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando turned Kapitan Moy into the city’s Sentro Pangkultura (Cultural Center) and had invited the Lim couple – John Jay Jaime and Aurora – to open up a restaurant at the ground floor to serve the needs of the occupants and visitors of the building.
Mr. Lim, who already owned a Chinese restaurant -- Lim Palace – and grew up in a family that used to run three restaurants, two in Marikina and one in Pasay along the then Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard), immediately liked the idea.
At that time, Mrs. Lim was hesitant to take the Mayor’s offer. The site where the restaurant would be built was not appealing – the floor was not cemented and it was muddy, while the whole place was dark like a “tunnel.”
But her husband, who had an affinity with the building since this was where he studied grades one to four, and the exact location where the proposed restaurant would be built used to be his classroom. Eventually, Mrs. Lim was convinced by her husband.
A Wishing Well Inside a Spanish-style Restaurant
“My husband is a visionary,” says Mrs. Lim. “He is proven right. We are doing well. Customers keep coming back. We have become the favorite place for family celebrations such as baptisms, weddings, birthdays, debuts, graduations. Marikinos always bring their balikbayan friends and relatives here.”
Looking at the restaurant’s interior today, you would never guess that it used to be a dark, muddy, dungeon-like place that Mrs. Lim describes. The floor is shiny, chairs and tables all made in Vigan are inviting, eye-catching chandeliers made of paellera and recycled wood that used to be railway tiles hang on the ceiling, and the piece-de-resistance, a wishing well that’s at the corner of the restaurant.
Just like the building, the wishing well has an interesting story.
During the Spanish time, the restaurant’s location used to be a stable for horses. The water from the well was used to bath and quench the thirst of the horses. When it was converted into a headquarters and an office by the Japanese and Americans, the well was covered. But when the Lims took over the place, Mr. Lim decided to dig it up and incorporate it into the restaurant’s interior, adding more charm into the place.
Actually, the well is not a wishing well. But one of the customers decided to throw coins and wished for a husband. Another one also threw a coin and wished to land a job abroad. Both wishes came true. When other customers learned about it, they followed suit.
Soon enough, the well has become a “wishing well” and today it is teeming with coins and bills. Mrs. Lim says even foreigners join the fun and would throw dollar bills and coins into the well.
The couple plans to donate the coins and bills to the church.
An Institution in Marikina
One of the pioneers in the city’s now vibrant food scene, the 22-year-old Café Kapitan has become an institution in Marikina, largely known for its charming place and delectable but affordable food, as well as the couple’s personal touch. They entertain and interact with their customers regularly.
Mrs. Lim, a retired bank employee, fondly recalls that they had customers whose baptism was celebrated in the restaurant, and then years later, her debut, graduation and then her wedding. Some families had celebrated all their children’s baptism and other memorable events in the restaurant.
Café Kapitan serves traditional Spanish and Filipino dishes such as paella valenciana, crab omelet, crispy chicken, pancit canton, chicken in garlic sauce, dishes that are also the bestsellers.
Don’t be fooled by its expensive appearance, the food here is easy on the budget. A meal would normally cost P250 to P300 including drinks.
Since the restaurant closes early at night, at around 6 in the evening, it is advisable to call in advance when booking for a dinner so that they can extend the closing time.
323 J.P. Rizal Street, Sta. Elena, Marikina
(02) 646 4303
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on weekends can be extended depending on the wish of the customers.
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