All photos by Wyatt Ong/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Have you ever decided where to eat by checking if the place offered free Wi-Fi?
Some days, the daily grind drives me to look elsewhere for a place to hunker down and plug in. I'm lucky that the nature of my job allows me to work anywhere.
Can a public place be quiet? Absolutely, especially when the headphones come on and you settle in a corner to turn away from the crowd.
Here are just a few spots from my growing list of go-to restaurants and coffee shops with steady free Wi-Fi. Many of these are close to the Ortigas area, where I work, and a few tucked into the metro's many malls.
Here's my completely informal criteria for choosing:
The space isn't very large, but it's very homey and cozy, with cushioned seats, large throw pillows, and a very nice window seat (photographed above). There's a selection of Korean eats, but don't miss the bingsu or shaved ice dessert, perfect for a summer day.
Tip: There's an outlet right by the window seat. The place is also located very closely to Ha-Neul minimart, where you can pick up more Korean treats.
United Coffee, 16 United Street, Kapitolyo
It's very easy to fall in love with United Coffee in Kapitolyo. Tucked away among the restaurants of 16 United Street, it's uncommonly sunny and bright. The Wi-Fi is strong and steady and the place is very conducive for work, a great setting for a productive afternoon.
The Ortigas branch of B&P All Day Breakfast has booths with high backs all lined up on the first floor, perfect for hiding away to work alone or with a quiet group. The booths do run beside their partially open kitchen, but it's nothing earphones won't fix.
If the booths feel too tight, there are a few tables in front of the restaurant too, and more on the second floor, lit by the sunlight streaming in from their high windows.
If you want an early start, B&P serves specialty coffee by Australian-based roaster, Di Bella Coffee. Their Chocolate S'mores (P175 per 200g), made of graham crackers, dark, milk, or white chocolate, and marshmallows, are also a great snack option for keeping energized and awake.
Linguini Fini, SM Mega Fashion Hall
A free-Wi-Fi gem at the mall – strong connection, great music (jazz and rock tunes, one time they played Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" and that felt good), and attentive staff who will be more than glad to list their own recommendations. That's apart from the great food. (READ: Touring Linguini Fini and 5 Mega Fashion Hall restaurants)
The place isn't too brightly lit, acoustics well-managed – a welcome break from an office's fluorescent lights and endless chatter.
Linguini Fini also boasts modern, attention-capturing artwork by Dee Jae Pa'este, beautifully showcased by what looks to be the restaurant's best lit section in the back, a great spot for meetings over a meal.
And of course, the food is excellent. Get the pappardelle "nose to tail" pasta, or check here for more tasty offerings. Recently, the restaurant launched portion sizes too (small, medium, large) – so if you're just visiting for an hour or so, you won't have to get a full-sized meal.
Bonus: Every single booth on the left side is equipped with a working outlet. Yes!
Tip: Just a few paces away, 8 Cuts, from Moment Group, which also handles Linguini Fini, also has Wi-Fi.
French Baker Salon De The, SM Mega Fashion Hall
SM Megamall does have free Wi-Fi, but the connection isn't always stable for me and there is a time limit. So I truly appreciate the strong Wi-Fi at the French Baker at SM Mega Fashion Hall, across Tim Ho Wan.
Bonus: Make sure you get one of the booths in the inner corner of the restaurant – each one has an outlet where you can plug in. The booths are padded (feels...so...cozy, you'll want to nap) and the place is decorated in shades of calming blue. There's plenty of space to put your things, too, so you won't have to put them on the floor.
Get the ice coffee for a strong, flavorful jolt. The food is all right, plenty of pastries to choose from, including light and heavy options.
EPIC Coffee Roastery, East Capitol Drive
When I was there just a few days ago, everybody else around me appeared to be working or studying, too, lending the place a peaceful, serene feel. There's music, but it isn't too loud.
The coffee's great, too – and just being in a different neighborhood, being able to take a walk outside and visit Kapitolyo's many great neighboring restaurants, is a treat.
The time I visited, this was the encouraging sign outside:
Note: The outlets are right by the wall, and there aren't too many – so pick out your seat right away.
Bonus: Walk a few steps to Ramen Cool, where there's also Wi-Fi, if you aren't looking for a cafe setting.
Arya, Shangri-La Mall
Right across busy Italianni's at the Shangri-La mall is Arya, less crowded and boasting these great window seats on the side, with plenty of natural light. Come in the afternoon, well past lunchtime, to work during the restaurant's non-peak hours.
I once visited and ordered a light snack that proved to be just the right energy booster – a light salad of tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and olive oil.
Don't miss it – it's all the way up on the 6th floor, connecting the east wing to the older part of the mall.
UCC Third Wave, Estancia Mall
Not all the UCC Cafes in Manila have Wi-Fi, but the ones with the "Third Wave" attached to the name usually do.
The newer one that opened at Estancia Mall is a great option. It is a little pricey – my iced latte cost P180 – but the atmosphere is modern yet warm, the Wi-Fi is strong, and the restaurant feels light and airy, with a nice view of Capitol Commons, and plenty of natural light.
My favorite place to sit is at the counter with bar stools, photographed above. There are bag hooks under the tables and plenty of outlets so you can charge.
Tip: Just a few paces away, Florabel restaurant also offers free Wi-Fi, with plenty of food and beverage options. Estancia mall does have Wi-Fi, but in some areas, it isn't great.
Aside from my Pasig/Mandaluyong haunts, these two spots in Katipunan (among many, I'm sure!) also have great Wi-Fi.
Roku Sushi+Ramen, 5/F Oracle Building, Katipunan Ave.
I've visited several times for a sushi roll fix – and the great Wi-Fi. It was no trouble being stuck there as I waited out a rainy afternoon. The variety on the menu is a plus.
Despite the other branches, which I'm sure are lovely, there's a special place in the "good memories" part of my mind's eye for Xocolat and its Original Sin a la mode, just off Katipunan across Ateneo de Manila University.
The stuff of college memories at Xocolat
Back in college, I used to go there for group study sessions, meetings with classmates, coffee dates with friends. Today, I still visit – to catch up with buddies, and sometimes, to work and make use of the Wi-Fi, sure and steady.
This list is by no means complete, missing many great spots, no doubt, in other areas like Makati, Taguig, Manila, and so on. Feel free to add your own Wi-Fi spots to the list via the comments below, and we'll add them right in if you can send us a picture.
Enjoy! – Rappler.com
All photos by Wyatt Ong/Rappler