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Filipino restaurant brings taste of Cebu and 'lots of love' to Mounds View

Kusina executive chef Jailin Tabares is sharing her family recipes that she grew up cooking in the Philippines.

MOUNDS VIEW, Minnesota — Jailin Tabares has fond memories of growing up near the ocean in the Philippines. Her family lived in a rural area of Bato, Toledo City, Cebu, in a home with no electricity. 

"Our house was across from the ocean and our backyard was full of vegetables," Tabares recalled. "No refrigeration at that time when I was a kid. We'll just pick up some veggies in the back and my dad's coming from the ocean. We get the fish and start filleting it. I was 7 and start filleting the fish." 

Those early days of preparing food with her parents resulted in a lifelong love for cooking. 

"If you love cooking, you have to put a love to it in your food and the people will taste it," said Tabares, who immigrated to Minnesota in the '90s. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Jailin Tabares with her mom, also known as Lola Nating.

Tabares is now sharing her love for cooking — along with her family's recipes — with fellow Minnesotans. 

Tabares and her husband, Scott Zimmer, first opened a food truck called Inday's Kitchen in the spring of 2021. The couple then opened the restaurant Kusina in August 2022. 

Kusina is located in Mounds View in the same building as the Filipino Village Grocery Store. It's a Pinoy Turo-Turo — meaning "point-point" or cafeteria-style restaurant. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Kusina is a Pino Turo-Turo — meaning "point-point" or cafeteria-style restaurant.

"I'm from Cebu so our cooking is mostly Visayan style. When you go to the north part — Manila — their food is kind of in the sour notes. So we have the sweet and savory in our parts of Cebu," Tabares said. 

Tabares said a majority of the menu was inspired by her mom's cooking. 

"I love to share to the people our Philippine food... Visayan, actually. The recipes come from my mom. It actually passes from her grandma to her... to her, to me. I don't know where it passes next because my daughter doesn't want to cook," said Tabares, laughing. 

On Wednesday, Tabares was prepping humba — a popular pork belly dish. Tabares uses her mom's recipe and calls it on the menu "Lola Nating's Humba." 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Jailin Tabares preps Lola Nating's Humba on Wednesday morning.

Their pancit dish uses two types of noodles and is a vegetarian option. Another popular dish is Tabares' dad's recipe for dinuguan, a pork blood stew. While Tabares' dad died 12 years ago, she found cooking dinuguan was one way to feel close to him. 

"It's just beautiful that I have it all from my family. I'm really thankful for the Lord that I have it all from my mom and dad," she said. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
First-time customers can choose to get a sample platter.

Tabares said she avoids adding salt to her dishes and takes pride in providing healthier options. 

"I only use it [salt] to brine my pork and then use it for baking into my cake. That's the only time I use salt," she said. 

On Thursday, the lunch hour rush included Maija Sedzielarz of Fridley. 

"We were just so impressed with everything we had. It was so tasty," Sedzielarz said. 

Miscela Holmquist is originally from the Philippines and said, "I just love the food here. Really close to authentic. So if I'm really craving Filipino food, I don't need to cook. I just come here." 

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Taiber is visiting her daughter in Minnesota. While she lives in South Carolina, she's originally from the Philippines. 

"It just reminds me of when my Lola would cook," Taiber said. "It just brings me back to home." 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Kusina opened in August 2022.

During the lunch hour, Tabares went around the tables to greet customers. She stopped at one table and said, "Remember, a lot of love in there." 

Tabares and Zimmer also love to give back to the Philippines. 

Fifty-percent of tips, and a percentage of sales from Inday's Kitchen, are donated to Tumbler of Hope in the Philippines. Founder Tony Galon gives tumblers to students in the mountain schools to reduce the use of plastic water bottles. 

Kusina will also hold a fundraiser on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. for Foundation for Philippine Medical Missions (FPMM). The Minnesota-based nonprofit provides free medical care to the communities of the Philippines in need. 

All proceeds from the event will be used to pay for the medicine, supplies and other expenses needed for the medical, dental and optical mission that is scheduled for next month. Pre-sale tickets are $40 and tickets will also be available at the door for $50. 

Ticket cost covers your meal and donation to FPMM. 

2408 County Rd I
Mounds View, MN 55112

Thursday-Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

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