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Hundreds Line Up Weekly for a Taste of This Astounding Filipino Buffet in Artesia

Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride brings in over 200 people for its twice-a-week Filipino food buffet

Filipino food arrayed into a buffet with metal containers.
Buffet dishes from Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride on Wednesday nights in Artesia.

Southeast LA’s Gateway Cities pulse with cultural diversity. Long Beach thrives on Cambodian cuisine while Artesia and Cerritos flourish with Filipino eateries and bakeries. On Wednesday nights, Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride in Artesia becomes a Filipino food hotspot, pulling in over 200 diners to its extravagant dinner buffet. From steamed lobster and guisado noodles to beef kare-kare and lechon kawali, the spread is a feast for hungry appetites.

Mekeni, which translates to “come over” in the Kapampangan dialect of the northern Philippines, lives up to its motto by inviting guests in with a warm welcome. Opened in November 2022 by Felina and Moises Simbulan, the restaurant exudes a festive ambiance. The space has floor-to-ceiling windows with long white hanging chandeliers, well-spaced tables, and an open kitchen behind the bar where the buffet awaits.

Felina Simbulan hails from Pampanga, a province renowned as the culinary capital of the Philippines. “I’m passionate about my food and my heritage,” says Simbulan. “And I wanted to create a place where homesick Filipinos and curious food enthusiasts could come together for a flavorful meal.” With nearly 18 percent of the population in Artesia of Filipino descent, including its former Mayor and current Councilmember Melissa Ramoso, Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride fits right in with the neighborhood’s thriving Filipino culinary scene.

Driven by community support, the Simbulans, who have a successful home health agency business, made an impulsive decision to open a restaurant. Felina turned to her friend, the owner of LA Brisket, for expert counsel on securing permits, registration, licensing, restaurant insurance, space and equipment planning, and hiring employees.

Filipino woman wearing a blue dress stands next to a buffet of Filipino dishes.
Felina Simbulan with an enthusiastic customer to the right, standing by her midweek Filipino buffet at Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride.
Diners sit around at Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride.
Diners sit around at Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride.

“My experience lies in the kitchen, not in launching a restaurant,” says Simbulan, who underscores that the unwavering support of people lining up for a taste of her food mere months after opening is the reason for its success. Mekeni introduced a weekend breakfast buffet towards the end of 2022, serving an array of the beloved Filipino silog breakfast classics. The feast is a mouthwatering sight of steaming trays piled high with succulent tocino (cured pork belly), fragrant longganisa sweet sausages, aromatic sinangág fried garlic rice, and scrambled eggs.

After the weekend buffet soared in popularity, they added in a Wednesday dinner buffet, positioned midweek to allow the kitchen time to prepare for the weekend breakfast. Just like breakfast, the dinner buffet showcases a rotating selection of Filipino dishes that are typically served at lively family gatherings.

Platters of crispy calamari, flaky lumpia rolls, and crunchy chicharon bulaklak beckon, starting the seemingly endless procession of food. They’re followed by entrees of coconut-scented ginataan lobster tails, binagoongan talong (smoky fried eggplant), ginisang ampalaya (stir-fried bitter melon), succulent pork adobo, and a Pampanga favorite, sizzling pork sisig tossed with a spicy sour dressing.

Make sure to leave space for the irresistible ginataang bilo bilo, a dessert soup brimming with velvety coconut broth containing tender sweet potato, creamy plantain, ripe jackfruit, and chewy glutinous rice balls. Served with fresh strawberries, it’s a pretty unforgettable way to end a meal.

With the resounding success of their weekly buffets spreading through word of mouth, Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride looks ahead to a promising future. The restaurant aims to open a private event room and broaden its catering services to further increase business later this year.

“Twice during my dinner, Felina emerged from the kitchen carrying a birthday cake to sing happy birthday to guests celebrating,” says customer Ryann Vanier. “Her ability to transform strangers into family, whether they were first-timers like me or loyal regulars, is truly remarkable.”

Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride’s Wednesday dinner buffet is from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on the weekends from 8 a.m to 11 a.m. Dinner is $35 per person ($20 for kids) and brunch is $22 per person ($10 for kids) including non-alcoholic drinks. Reservations are encouraged at least 3 days in advance by calling (562) 512-0749.

Traditional Filipino dishes from Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride at a buffet.
Traditional Filipino dishes from Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride.
The elegant interior of Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride with chandeliers and white curtains.
The elegant interior of Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride.
Exterior of a Filipino restaurant in an LA suburb with glass window and colorful signage.
Outside Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride in Artesia.
Ginataan lobster tails from the buffet at Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride in a buffet tray.
Ginataan lobster tails from the buffet at Mekeni Pinoy’s Pride.