Chow for the person always on the go


Food for the person who is always on the go is the target market that the management team behind Saipan Food Express wants to reach. The name says it all, according to food service manager Ernel Rubio—they want a grab-and-go system in serving their food without compromising quality, taste, and safety.

Rubio said they thought of the idea after Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan on Aug. 2 last year. “There were long lines in some restaurants here on Saipan after Typhoon Soudelor. We wanted to have prepared grab-and-go meals. Packed and ready without neglecting the food’s quality.”

“It was also borne out of frustration like in some restaurants when dining out, you order value meals that are usually two choices but you get shortchanged with the service and quality,” Rubio said.

“We contemplated that we can offer a better service and value meals in a place where the ambience will be enjoyable and relaxing. Customers deserve no less from their hard-earned money.”

“We want to make sure that we serve quality food that’s fast with improved service. We want to give the best deal to our customers,” said Rubio, who has been in the food industry business since he was 6 years old, as his family owned a roadside eatery in Manila, Philippines.

“Some people were born with a silver spoon, I was born with a cooking spatula in my hand,” he added with a chuckle.

Rubio, who is also the Food Service manager of Barny’s Pizza, one of the leading school food service companies on the island, will implement the same principles on food safety and quality at Saipan Food Express.

The direction from the owners Jimmy Ham, a longtime businessman on the island, and Armela Ham, a former public school teacher, is to give the community a better alternative in terms of value and service, and this will be the mission that the new restaurant will pursue.

Barny’s Pizza used to be a restaurant in Susupe, but Rubio said they closed it and decided to concentrate to catering with some public and private schools on Saipan as their clients.

Why decide in opening another restaurant? “We were working full time in serving schools but we believe the timing is also right for opening another restaurant especially with a lot of ongoing construction projects. The CNMI’s economy is improving,” said Rubio.

They opened their new place at Springs Plaza in Middle Road on Feb. 29—the same facility that houses the offices of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council and the Commonwealth Casino Commission—almost a month since Bank of Hawaii opened its consolidated branch.

“We never knew Bank of Hawaii was going to transfer here at Springs Plaza when we got this place. We were fixing and finishing up construction for our new restaurant, and we’re surprised to learn that they transferred here,” said Rubio.

It was really a blessing with a lot of Bank of Hawaii’s customers going in to sample their menu that changes daily, giving them more choices.

“People who are going to the bank after doing their transactions were also surprised to find out that there’s a new restaurant here. Now the bank’s customers become our customers, aside from the employees that work in the offices near here,” said Rubio.

Aside from Filipino specialties like kare-kare, papaitan, dinuguan (fritada), Saipan Food Express also offers classic Italian lasagna, Hawaii’s Loco Moco, U.S. staples like cheeseburgers with a healthy serving of French fries on the side, local favorites like chicken kelaguen, fried parrot fish, barbecue ribs, and of course Barny’s pizza delivered hot and fresh.

“Though more on Filipino food, we decided to have fusion food. We’re also offering Chamorro, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine in our menu. Mostly popular food,” said Rubio. “We also see to it that we offer a variety of vegetable dishes. We want to inject healthy food in our menu and it is specially made for those who are into a healthy lifestyle.”

Saipan Food Express also accepts catering services for special occasions and offers delivery service with a minimum order of five bento meals.

Rubio said the concept of Saipan Food Express, highlights the relaxing feel of the beachside, the green color that dominates the place, the design of the chairs and tables, the colorful and inspiring quotes on the walls were chosen so that customers can feel a nice and relaxing ambiance. A huge photo of a clear blue sky on the beach is also plastered in one of their walls.

“We made sure to have a relaxing ambiance for our customers. And we guarantee that our food is safe and of the highest quality,” said Rubio.

For reservations or to ask for the day’s menu, call 233-3777.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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