I discovered I’m Skewed Filipino Restaurant & Market by chance, driving through Niceville on my way to the Mid-Bay Bridge. Within a week my family and I stopped by for dinner. The restaurant sits in a small row of shops on Highway 20 East (a/k/a SR-20) There’s a table and chairs outside, but it was a rainy night, so we ducked indoors.
The market section lies to the immediate right, a corner with racks and shelves of boxes, bags and bottles of Filipino and Southeast Asian staples, spices, condiments, canned and boxed foods. They sell canned coconut cream (which my dairy-averse wife uses to make ice cream) at about half what we’d been paying at our regular grocery store. Check it out—you might find some bargains of your own.
That can wait until after dinner, though. Walking straight ahead toward the back will put you in front of a buffet-style cart of house specialties, allowing you to see what’s available. There’s a chalkboard menu on the wall, offering dinner combos of one, two or three meat or vegetable entrees with a choice of sides.
Every item is labeled, and if you are not familiar with Filipino cuisine, the staff—it’s very much a family business—can answer your questions. Once you order and pay, you take your food to an adjoining dining room, where there are tables, a self-service fountain for soft drinks, seating along the wall, and a pool table.
Filipino cuisine resists easy classification. It’s a hybrid of Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and American cooking, with cultural contributions from more than 100 ethnic and linguistic groups of people in the Philippine islands. Pork and chicken are foundational, along with fish, rice and noodles. Roasting and grilling are popular cooking methods, and there’s plenty of spice, rich sauces and stews, fruits and vegetables.
One of the emblematic dishes is lechon (whole roast pig), which I’m Skewed offers every Saturday (first come, first served).
The menu can vary, but the night we were there they were serving chicken sisig (grilled chopped meat with onions, chili and lemon juice), pork Bicol Express (pork with chilis and coconut milk), chicken adobo (chicken with vinegar, soy sauce, and pepper), chicken afritada (stewed with carrots, bell peppers, peas and potatoes), chicken teriyaki, grilled marinated pork and chicken skewers, curry, dinuguan (pork stewed with pigs blood, vinegar and spice—sold out that night, unfortunately), pancit (thin noodles with vegetables), rice, and lumpia (a cousin of fried spring roll, filled with ground beef, also available filled with banana).
Other items listed on sample menus include kare-kare (stew with peanut sauce), pinakbet (sautéed mixed vegetables), and pork sinigang (in sour soup with vegetables).
My wife and I decided to get a two-entree and a three-entree combo, with pancit, lumpia and soup as sides. Our daughter Grace could graze. She was more interested that night in playing on the pool table, a new skill she more or less acquired by watching some of the other kids in the restaurant.
We ordered pork Bicol Express, stewed chicken, chicken teriyaki, chicken sisig and chicken adobo. Portions are generous, and with the sides and a cup of soup (I think it might have been pork bone broth, but did not get a chance to ask) we ended up taking some home.
It was a carnivore’s treat, with lots of tender chunks and shreds of chicken and pork. The meats are cooked down to melting tenderness, and the root vegetables add sweetness, texture and an extra layer of comfort. The sisig was our all-time favorite, rich but tangy, with a spicy kick. The teriyaki was less sweet than what you commonly get, and that was fine with me.
Lumpia is one of those finger foods that can easily become a habit. They’re slightly thinner than traditional spring rolls (almost like Mexican flautas), stuffed full of meat and fried snapping crisp. The house probably sells a lot of lumpia party trays on game weekends.
The menu listed some desserts—flan, banana lumpia, and halo halo (a cold, evaporated milk-based sweet with fruits and other garnishes). We passed, though I’d like to give the latter a try sometime.
I’m Skewed started out as a food truck business in the Eglin Air Force Base area (still in operation), and the truck reportedly serves some 200 customers daily. The opening of the dine-in restaurant and grocery in Niceville can only broaden the fanbase. It’s a club worth joining.
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