Written by Kevin Choa / Photography by Paolo Pareno
If there’s anything I’ve learned from spending time looking for the perfect workspace, it’s that I always want something more from an already-enhanced version of a café. Perhaps it’s a quiet space closer to where I live, offers food I can eat at any time of the day, or where I can ask questions on assignments if I need it. After all, students like myself could always use that extra spark of energy to keep them recharged and focused at work.
Built by a former teacher right below his own home, Quarks and Quills might just be the go-to café for students living up North. Delicious food on the cheap available all day? Check. Quiet, distraction-free space? Check. A stone’s throw away from home? Check.
Add in a full-blown tutorial center that will soon have its own space right above the café, and you not only get a good space to work, but also one to help you finish it, too. Also, if any place name translates to “sharp” (quills) and “electric” (quarks), there’s really no turning down this place as a mind-sharpening, energy-boosting destination.
Let’s start with and focus on the food. After all, it’s always a bad idea to work on an empty stomach, right? There isn’t a lot of items on the menu, but more than enough choices of munchies for every imaginable hour of the day. Of course, a café like this couldn’t run without an all-day breakfast, which they conveniently have for 200 pesos or less. This isn’t the usual silog (garlic fried rice, eggs, and some form of meat or fish) you’d get elsewhere; their version has much more meat and substance that could rival a higher-end coffee shop’s version.
Bubble Waffles for breakfast? Why not? (Breakfast Bubble Waffle Set – P195; Breakfast Bubble Waffle – P80 à la carte)
They also have bubble waffles for breakfast, because pancakes are everywhere and they’re either boring or too tiny.
Lunch and dinner fare are no slouch, either. It’s not exactly as cheap as breakfast, but no single item breaks the 400-peso mark. Still, these prices are for what they call Executive Meals. They’re not kidding. With gigantic slabs of meat, a mountain-sized portion of either rice or mashed potato, and roasted vegetables thrown in on the side, their take on what most of us would call lunch or dinner definitely keeps us away from the munchies. They’re perfect for big appetites and for those who just want to drown themselves out in food at the end of a long, stressful day.
A truly gigantic lunch or dinner feast. (BSS [Big, Soft, Savory] Porkchop – P335)
Feeling fancy? Have some Angus Hanger Steak with Black Pepper Gravy (P388).
Besides the Executive Meals, Quarks and Quills also has a roster of pasta and omurice dishes available all day. At 300 pesos or less, they’re great for those who need substance without busting guts or wallets.
The miso-salmon omurice (P255), a sweet touch to a sour day.
It’s all up to personal choice here, but our favorite of the bunch is the miso-salmon omurice. With a fluffy and savory omelette enveloping the sweet-salty flavor of the miso-salmon rice, topped with sweet miso glaze, it’s a perfect meal in itself for those looking for some sweetness after a sour or bitter day.
Pretty hefty, isn’t it?
Tinapa Wontons (P105) in their crispy and golden brown glory.
For those just looking for something to munch on, snacks are also available all day.
Dip these wontons into their Spicy Tamarind Vinaigrette and you can forget about street food for a while.
The usual fries, cheese sticks, and chicken pops are there, but our pick has to be the Tinapa Wontons. The smoky, savory flavor of the tinapa (smoked milkfish) pairs well with the sweet and spicy Tamarind Vinaigrette. It sounds like street food to some, but it somehow manages to evoke that feeling without all the grease and grime they’re known and dreaded for.
A café wouldn’t be complete without some sweets and some drinks to wash everything down.
Everyone can use some sweet in their life. (Mango Graham Cake – P135 for a slice or P1,050 for a whole)
Our favorite pairing? A slice of their Mango Graham Cake and a cup of Hot Chocolate. Sinful? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely. These rich and sweet treats might just be the perfect closer for a good day or a nice pick-me-up for a rather disappointing one. After all, there isn’t many other ways of making your day better than food (and particularly, sweets) can.
Here’s something to wash it all down.
L-R: Hot Chocolate – P80, Strawberries and Cream Frappe – P95, Iced Matcha Latte – P100
Let’s move on to the space. It’s quite small with just a handful of tables, but arguably more conducive to studying than most big cafés anywhere else. Even at full occupancy, it’s quiet enough for you to hear a pen drop loud and clear. There’s no music in the background, and even the service staff won’t endlessly approach you like they do in other places.
For those who work better with music, you’ll probably have earphones or headphones anyway; better off than distracting other people. This makes the entire space flexible to almost every studying or working style, which is always a plus for any café.
Beyond the food and its quiet space, Quarks and Quills also has its very own tutorial center, located right above the dining room. Clearly, the owner hasn’t left his old job and continues to do what he does best: teach. While some of the rooms planned for it haven’t been completed yet, the center is up and running and continues to accept any willing student.
This, for me, is what separates it from any other café or even tutorial center I’ve ever been to. I’ve had so many instances trying to consult with either my teachers or professors when I’m stuck working in a café, with e-mail or even text isn’t a sustainable option to ask questions. These tutorial services might not be free, but definitely worth the cost of having to waste so much time stuck on one item. After all, time is both limited and priceless in getting the work done.
Finally, this café has one of the best locations for most Northerners. Situated near Banawe and the large residential communities near it, it’s perfect for those who want to stay away from the distractions of working at home without having to look far. It’s also accessible to commuters, thanks to the many jeepney and bus terminals a few blocks away in Quezon Avenue and Banawe itself.
Quarks and Quills Study Center and Work Café
43-H N. Roxas corner Apo Streets, Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City
Open daily: 7AM – 11PM
871 9502 / 0995 174 9332