Trenton just got a little more international on the dining front.
Randy and Rosalie “Sally” Arcega, who grew up in The Philippines, have opened Kain Tayo Filipino Cuisine in an historic storefront on Broadway Street. Customers don’t always know what to order, but they like the idea of trying something new.
“I go through and explain everything, and then they’ll make their choices,” said Shaun Nelson, 28, of Trenton, who’s been working the counter since the restaurant opened in April. “Some people just ask, ‘What should I order?’”
For newbies, Shaun often recommends the Chicken Adobo.
“It’s good for getting your foot in the door,” he said. “It has chicken and potatoes, and that’s something people are used to. Then the other ingredients are garlic and onion and peppercorns and soy sauce.”
Camaron Rebosado is another good option for those who don’t want to stray too far from the familiar.
“It’s fried shrimp,” Shaun said. “It’s put through an egg wash, then it’s floured and pan-fried.”
Other dishes include Picadillo, Tinola, Mechado, Ginisang Togue, Monggo, Sweet and Sour Pork, Chicken Curry and Chicken Tenders with housemade garlic sauce. All entries cost $7.99 with two sides.
Daily menus posted on Facebook
The Arcegas post Kain Tayo menus, which change daily, on their Facebook page.
“We cook everything fresh, and pretty much everything has garlic and onion,” Sally said. “We eat four times a day with rice in The Philippines — breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. We can’t survive without rice.”
Customer Jane Heil, 56, of Trenton, already has become a regular. She’s been stopping in once a week for Lumpiang Shanghai, a side dish of spring rolls stuffed with veggies and ground pork.
“They’re really good, and they’re reasonably priced — five for $2,” she said. “You can’t beat that. But today, I also got the Camaron Rebosado and the Pancit (Filipino fried rice noodles).”
Ann and Bill Zeisset tried the restaurant for the first time recently. They enjoyed the Mechado (tomato-based beef stew) with Lumpiang Shanghai and Pancit.
“I don’t understand it all,” Ann, 73, said of the menu. “But (Shaun) did a nice job of explaining it to us. We have friends from the Philippines, Dr. Garcia and his wife, and also our previous doctor was from The Philippines.”
Couple started with food stands
Randy, 42, and Sally, 47, were neighbors as children in The Philippines, before Randy’s family moved to Hawaii and other states. His American stepfather served in the U.S. Marines and Army. Sally’s family was in the restaurant business.
The couple reunited in 2000, got married in 2005 and moved to Trenton in 2011. They worked a variety of jobs to pay the bills, but Sally wanted more.
“One day, we went to a Filipino restaurant in St. Louis, and I told my husband, ‘I’m going to have my own restaurant in five years,’” she said. “That was my dream. That is my passion. I love to cook.”
The Arcegas began selling Filipino dishes — made from recipes handed down by Sally’s grandmother — at festivals in Mascoutah, New Baden and Lebanon. They always sold out.
“People would say, ‘Why don’t you open a restaurant?’” Randy said.
The positive feedback gave the couple confidence to rent a vacant storefront at 2 W. Broadway St. that most recently housed a Subway restaurant. “Kain Tayo” means “Let’s Eat” in Filipino.
Family helps with cooking, cleaning
Randy’s mother, Josephine Kandler, assists the couple with the restaurant.
“If we are super busy, and we run out of lumbiang, she is the one who rolls them,” Randy said. “It’s not really hard. It’s just time-consuming, and she’s really good at it.”
The Arcegas’ son, Jeross, 14, helps after school. He cleans tables, sweeps the floor and makes a dessert called “Halo-Halo,” which is shaved ice with sweet beans and evaporated milk, topped with ice cream.
Jeross will be an eighth-grader at Wesclin Middle School in Trenton.
“My friends and my teachers have come here, and they said nice things,” he said. “They said the food is very good.”
Eating at Kain Tayo was a particular treat for Richard Navasca, a native of The Philippines who recently visited the Arcegas in Trenton. He’s been friends with Randy since both lived in Hawaii.
Navasca, 42, is a contractor at an air base in Qatar, where he can’t eat one of his favorite Filipino dishes, Dinuguan, a stew of pork belly cooked in pig’s blood with vinegar and spices. He noted that it’s prohibitively expensive to buy pork in the Islamic country of Qatar.
“I haven’t tried everything (at Kain Tayo), but the Dinuguan was really good,” he said.
Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call 618-224-6102.