Gaya Gaya, Filipino chef Danilo ‘DJ’ Tangalin’s latest project, closes

Danilo "DJ" Tangalin, executive chef of Gaya Gaya, announced on New Year's Day that the restaurant has closed.
Danilo “DJ” Tangalin, executive chef of Gaya Gaya, announced on New Year’s Day that the restaurant has closed.
(Photo by Aleya Zenieris )

Filipino restaurant on Miramar Road shuts down, citing an upcoming rent increase and the minimum wage hike


Gaya Gaya, the latest culinary effort by prominent local Filipino chef Danilo ‘DJ’ Tangalin, has closed.

In a heartfelt Facebook post New Year’s Day, Tangalin thanked his customers and said: “With a heavy heart, we are announcing we are no longer going to continue serving at the Miramar location. We are facing a rent increase for 2020, and with the upcoming minimum wage increase, we will have a difficult time operating such a huge restaurant.”

The restaurant — at 7580 Miramar Road — opened last spring after Tangalin and business partner Archie Soria took over the space formerly occupied by another Filipino restaurant, Sarap Filipino Kitchen.

Tangalin added that he and his team hope to move to a new location.

“Fear not as the dream is not dead,” he said in his post, “and we will soon be looking for a new home, something small and manageable. We will be on the lookout for venues to do occasional pop-ups as well.”

Reached on New Year’s Day, Tangalin confirmed the news and said: “We didn’t want to prolong and just pulled the Band-Aid. We actually already did our last service last Sunday. We had to raise new funds October heading into November, and it was pretty much playing catch up at that point.”

Gaya Gaya was the culmination of years of hard work for Tangalin, who made a name for himself by championing the local Filipino food movement, collaborating with fellow Filipino chefs to move the cuisine into the mainstream.

Over the years, he cooked in some of San Diego’s most prominent and dynamic kitchens — from Sea 180 Coastal Tavern to JRDN to Tidal and, most recently, Bivouac Ciderworks.

He left Bivouac Ciderworks last year to launch a new project with business partner Soria: a higher-end Filipino restaurant called Maya. Last summer, months after Gaya Gaya’s opening, Tangalin said he had been pursuing four culinary concepts, and Maya was set to launch first. But when an opportunity surfaced, they shuffled the cards and launched the more casual Gaya Gaya first instead.

The brick-and-mortar Gaya Gaya — “copycat” in Tangalin’s native Tagalog — was his attempt to take dishes with deep Filipino roots and make them his own.

The menu was stacked with a mix of traditional Filipino dishes and fresh takes on classics. The Filipino flavor was front and center, albeit with twists here and there — all with Tangalin’s culinary imprint.

“Basically, what we wanted to do is copy not necessarily 100 percent of Filipino recipes but copy the roots and traditions of Filipino hospitality,” Tangalin said last summer. “So for me, when we sat down and asked ourselves what are we trying to do, we’re not just trying to open a Filipino restaurant. We want to open a place where people can experience Filipino hospitality and Filipino dining experience.”

Tangalin respected the classics by serving house staples such as pork adobo and lumpia, but he wasn’t afraid to give dishes a more modern twist. The ubiquitous root vegetable known as ube surfaced in his popular adobo fried chicken and ube waffles, a dish he first served at Bivouac Ciderworks in North Park.

“2020 is all about new beginnings so that is what we shall do,” he said in his post. “From our family to yours, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will forever appreciate the love and support you all gave us.”


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