Hometown Cafe is a nostalgic glimpse of Subic’s past through a contemporary lens

Co-owner and photographer RG Medestomas has successfully created something deeper, more meaningful than just an IG-worthy cafe.

US President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “If we are to exert the slightest influence in Western Asia, it is of the highest importance that we have a naval station in Subic Bay.”

For almost a century, Subic Bay was home to an American Naval base, inevitably amalgamating with the locals. It only closed after Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991 and the Philippine Senate rejected an extension of the treaty. You might not need to know this tidbit of information when visiting the new location of Hometown Cafe Subic, but it does shed some insight into why it’s designed the way it is.

They spent two years at the WOW World Complex with white interiors and skim coated walls. It was nice, but definitely looked like almost every other cafe out there. Earlier this year, The Guardian published an article entitled “The Tyranny of the Algorithm: Why Every Coffee Shop Looks the Same,” basically explaining how social media is molding the demographic and driving cafes to design their interiors according to what consumers rewarded.

Hometown Cafe Subic tells the story of the former US Naval Base. Photos by Jar Concengco

Hometown Cafe Subic co-owner and photographer RG Medestomas has created something deeper, more meaningful than just an IG-worthy cafe.

 “After two years of being operational at our previous location, we sat down as a team and decided that we wanted to tell a story. With our name alone, we could play around a lot. So we reflected and thought that our original concept of Hometown played it on the safe side. So I said, I think it’s time to come up with a more solid identity for Hometown. We agreed that Hometown’s story needed to be richer. Since we are in Subic, let’s tell the story of Subic.”

They started from scratch with a new location at The Garden By Pacific Ace, which used to be the site of Times Square Cinema, and enlisted architect and designer Brian Ver to design its interiors.

The owner‘s design brief to architect Brian Ver was to create an American diner that pulls from different eras.

“This project was interesting because there can be so many iterations of what a ‘hometown’ can be. It can really vary per location. I explored it architecturally also,” Ver says.

Medestomas’ design brief to Ver was to create an American diner that pulls from different eras. This particular location would be able to bring enough context the cafe’s design.

“This is one of the few diner spaces here in the Philippines where it doesn’t feel out of place. Form wise it’s really a diner in its essence but we did change a few things like this table,” Ver refers to the tables with thin stainless steel surfaces. “We kept the same form, but less as thematic because it’s really easy to become a ‘Disneyland’ when you do interiors. So you have to keep it minimal and keep the materiality honest.”

Dramatic fins rise up over the wood veneer-clad wall at the far end and up to the high ceiling (they also cleverly hide wiring). The counter with retro diner barstools and the banquette style seating evoke the 50s while opting to go muted for the flooring with a minimalist Machuca tile. The menu is placed on a light up board above the counter, hiding unsightly pipes within. A lamp by &Tradition and wooden shelves by Lamana add a contemporary twist to the mix.

“The space is very grand when you walk in. But it’s very cozy once you sit down. How do you manage to make a space with a four-meter high ceiling cozy? But we managed to do it,” Ver says.

What’s also different about this new evolution of Hometown Cafe Subic is that they now serve plates of food. “So many of our customers started requesting for food and more seating. Our menu is primarily American but we couldn’t do away with the silogs,” says Medestomas.

Medestomas worked with Chef Alphonse Sotero of Lampara to develop the menu. Chicken & Waffle tops a thick buttermilk waffle with southern-style fried chicken, gravy and a spicy honey using Carolina Reaper peppers. Their silogs come in the usual—pork longganisa, beef tapa and chicken tocino—but have house made atchara and an unexpected but deliciously smoky spoonful of babaganoush on the side.

The spacious and cozy interiors of Hometown Cafe Subic pull you in.

For their pastries, they work with chef Wolen Superal. “He’s part of the Philippine team of bakers that compete around the world,” adds Medestomas. Their pastry offerings are a sophisticated collection of Viennoisserie such as flaky croissants and pain au chocolat. Also available are madeleines and caneles to pair with your coffee.

Proudly serving specialty coffee, Hometown Cafe Subic roasts their beans in house and hopes to source local beans soon. Their Sea Salt Latte uses artisanal salt from Botolan, Zambales called Asin sa Buy-o. The end of the counter is where their knowledgeable barista can do pour overs and explain the origin and terroir of the particular bean. Among the many non-coffee drinks is a fine matcha that they will whisk and prepare in front of you.

Medestomas believes that as a business owner, he and his team can never be complacent. “It’s like what I tell my team, we have to do better every day,” he says. He has invested in his team of baristas with workshops and continues to source local ingredients for his menu.

Hometown Cafe Subic is a glimpse of the area’s nostalgic past with a contemporary lens. It is also an exemplary effort of using this story to develop a space that not only unique but also meaningful.

The new lifestyle.