Watch CBS News

How Kusina brings Filipino family recipes to Mounds View

How Kusina brings Filipino family recipes to Mounds View
How Kusina brings Filipino family recipes to Mounds View 09:38

MOUNDS VIEW, Minn. — The first ingredient in all of Kusina's cooking is love — that's what owner and chef Jailin Tabares emphasizes to her customers that walk through the door.

Tabares is a warm, motherly figure who opened the restaurant alongside her husband Scott Zimmer in the summer of 2022. She had experience in the restaurant sphere, having worked in five-star restaurants back in the Philippines and in some hotels in Minneapolis.

But when her mother, now 89 years old, gave her handwritten family recipes, Tabares turned to Zimmer and said "we have to do something about this." The pair opened a food truck and treated it as a hobby for a few years before deciding to venture into the restaurant business.

"I have to make sure I won't say anything (to my husband)," Tabares said. "Every time I was like 'I wish I have a food truck,' he built me one. He built the food truck and then 'oh, maybe have a deli,' and he built me this and it became a restaurant. I can't wish for anything anymore." 


The food on the menu is mostly from the Cebu region on the archipelago, where Tabares was born and raised. She described her childhood as materially poor but surrounded by nature — the ocean, the garden, the vegetables in the back yard. When she was growing up, her parents were known as the best chefs in the region.

Her food is sweeter than what comes from the northern region of the Philippines, which has more notes of vinegar. But what she treasures most is the humba — her mother's pork belly recipe — and the dinuguan, a pork blood stew which she said represents her late father. She likes to serve them together so there's pieces of her mother, her father, and herself on the table.


The dinuguan in particular is popular with the customers, who tell her that they can't taste the iron in the stew. 

"And I always tell them," Tabares said. "It's because there's so much love to it, you know. That's what we got. Lots of love."

She's proud that her customers come from all over the region to taste her food — some even drive from Canada and the Dakotas.

She recalled once when a few nurses came back from a trip to the Philippines and told her they had been to a couple famous restaurants, but nothing could beat the taste of her halo halo. Tabares is excited that she was able to make her own ice cream — flavors from ube and mango to the leafy, fresh buco pandan, which Zimmer insists will "become the next ube" and skyrocket in popularity over the next few years.

"This is probably my passion," Tabares said. "Every one of us has a gift and I think I got gifted to be a chef."


Tabares uses her gift to give back to her community in the Philippines as well; in the corner of the restauarant she sells shirts, bags, necklaces, and keychains that all contribute to the organization Tumbler of Hope. The goal is to give kids in the Philippines a tumbler so they can refill their water, instead of relying on single-use plastics.


"I told my husband, if we can help, why not?" Tabares said.

For now, Tabares and Zimmer spend long days at the restaurant, cooking and preparing and getting to know their customers. 

"I always tell people that when you come to Kusina don't think about this as a restaurant," she said. "Think of this as a home. And we welcome you. We welcome you home "

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.