Last December, Chef Rhyan Guevarra and his wife Chi had a conversation in Hudson Yards over a Fuku chicken sandwich. Rhyan mentioned how good the sandwich was and Chi agreed, but she added that she thought he could make something like it too. “She asked, ‘Why don’t you do it?’” Chef Rhyan recalled his wife saying about starting a food business. “And I thought, why don’t I do it?” And that was the beginning of AmBoy Eats.
AmBoy Eats kicked off later that month, with a handful of Filipino brunch items on the menu and offering delivery to select Queens neighborhoods. Over the next few months, they expanded their delivery range and their menu, and their customer base grew. Nowadays, they focus on pop-up events instead, with Rhyan serving up brunch items, tacos, and specials and Chi working as the Director of Operations. Most recently, I was able to go to their brunch pop-up at Bee Cafe in Woodside and grab a delicious combo plate of the Code Purple (ube french toast) and Beef Norte.
The name “AmBoy Eats” comes from Rhyan’s trip to the Philippines years ago that changed how he thought about the word amboy—a term that is often used to describe Filipino Americans and is a portmanteau of “American” and “boy.” Rhyan says the word stuck out to him, and I definitely think that his culinary creations mirror the meaning of it. When I asked him why he chose to start with brunch foods, he answered that he wanted to take an Americanized brunch item (such as french toast) and combine it with Filipino flavors (like ube).
And of course, the food is really damn good. Take ten years of Chef Rhyan’s kitchen experience and creative Filipino flavors—the food never disappoints! AmBoy Eats was my first real experience having Filipino cuisine, and I lucked out because I talked to Chef Rhyan right before he launched AmBoy’s Mother’s Day special: Mama Raquel’s Palabok. This special noodle dish had shrimp sauce, ground pork, chicharron, and was topped off with shrimp and quail egg. It’s his mom’s recipe, which the chef holds close to his heart, and it had incredible aroma and flavor. It was savory and rich, and it was so good I kept eating even after I was full.
The brunch food is the same story: the Code Purple has multiple ube components and is not too sweet (which is very important for Asian sweets), and the Beef Norte is savory with a slight kick. And the best part is that you don’t have to choose between a sweet and a savory brunch! I loved the use of tater tots for the norte, which were still crispy when I had some the next day. The ube syrup, spread, and otap crunch make for a delicious and unique textural experience. I was really excited to eat the leftovers Monday morning; it made a gloomy Monday a whole lot better.
The portions at AmBoy are generous because they “make the food big enough to share and connect with others,” according to Rhyan. With that, I think AmBoy Eats captured the key element of brunch and food in general: being together with people you enjoy. Brunch isn’t just popular because of the mimosas and the pancakes; it’s such a big deal because you get to sit with people you love and talk about your workweek or what stupid thing you did on Saturday night. Chef Rhyan loves feeding his family and taking care of them, and in a way, he wants to feed your fam too, whomever that may include.