I first met Legaya Cristobal about five years ago. While driving along University Avenue with Mrs. Eater on a Saturday night, we stumbled onto this tiny diner filled with the personality. I always check out restaurants in my “unknown” mode, so we walked in, and found Filipino cuisine sitting in warming trays, but with a fragrance that made our mouths water. Legaya, or Leah as she's know quietly scooped up mounds of this classy cuisine as we pointed to whatever looked good. As we were waiting, we glanced around her restaurant, if you can call it that.
This tiny building, about the size of the average living room, had no tables, but the walls were filled with pictures of children, along with a few religious references. I asked Leah about them, and she said they were her adopted children, from third world countries around the world. I saw a tip jar, and as I was placing a bill in it, Leah turned to me, and said all tips go to “her kids”, ending with a hearty “God Bless You”. When Mrs. Eater and I went home and tried the food, it ended up being the finest Filipino cuisine we had ever tried. I called Leah to arrange a time I could bring the camera in to do her story, and she was enthusiastic, and insistent I include her kids in the story. “No problem” I said, “just as long as I show your restaurant and that incredible food fo yours.
Leah was charming when I arrived, filled with personality, telling me about how she grew up in the Philippines, and how she had learned cooking from there, and brought the authentic recipes with her to the good old USA. Leah was not only good hearted and a skillful cook, but she had a great sense of humor. When I asked her if she minded if I called her diner a hole-in-the-wall, she laughed and added that it was her spirited hole in the wall. On September 30, Leah passed away at the all too young age of 54. She left two children, one grandchild and hundreds of fans of her incredible cuisine, served in an extraordinary, spirited, hole-in-the-wall. We will all miss her, but at least, up in heaven I know the quality of the food just went up a notch.
- Name: Leah's Filipino Food