It’s a Filipino Fiesta at Max’s of Manila

Cover Story Features

October 14, 2012

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Max’s of Manila is celebrating 67 years of serving pure, authentic Filipino cuisine, and is a restaurant steeped in history. Nowadays, you’ll find this acclaimed restaurant chain across the globe, with more than 100 branches throughout the Philippines, two in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi, two in Canada and eight branches in the U.S. Here at home, we’re fortunate to have two Max’s locations to call our own. The first restaurant opened in Waipahu in 2006 followed by the Dillingham branch in 2010.

Journey back in time to the year 1945: Max’s of Manila’s continued success traces back to its founder Maximo Gimenez, a Stanford-educated teacher, who after World War II, befriended American occupation troops stationed at Quezon City, Philippines. The soldiers would oftentimes enjoy meals at Gimenez’s home and soon insisted that they pay for the delicious fare.

“Max’s food became so popular and loved by the American soldiers that they encouraged him to open a restaurant. That’s when Max’s Restaurant came to be,” says Maly San Luis, general manager of the Dillingham and Waipahu locations. “Max’s started off as a chicken cafe that served chicken, steak and drinks, but then, of course, Filipino staples began to emerge as well.”

Gimenez’s wife, Mercedes, sister-in-law Felipa and niece Ruby helped to manage the cafe, and it was Ruby who concocted a special recipe for chicken, which stands as the best-selling dish among patrons to this day.

“Our chicken is unique because we don’t batter our chicken, it’s not breaded — it’s 100 percent pure chicken,” San Luis explains. “What you get is meat that is tender and moist on the inside, and a skin that is so crispy and delicious.”

Priced at $7.95 for a half chicken and $13.50 for a whole chicken, San Luis says Max’s Fried Chicken has been a household name with Filipino families for decades. In fact, Max’s of Manila also is affectionately known as “the house that fried chicken built.”

Currently, the restaurant is gearing up for its Anniversary Chicken Blow Out set for Oct. 16.

“From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Max’s Whole Fried Chicken will be offered at 50 percent off for dine-in and takeout customers at both locations,” San Luis says.

And to extend the anniversary festivities, Max’s of Manila will continue to give thanks to its loyal customers by distributing $3 off coupons Oct. 16 as well. These coupons are valid Monday through Friday throughout the month at your next dine-in visit to the restaurant with a minimum food purchase of $30. This coupon cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions.

“This is our way of giving back to our customers and saying thank you for their continued support throughout the years,” San Luis says with a smile. “We cater to a lot of Filipinos from the Mainland or the Philippines in search of Filipino food, and we also cater to many Hawaii-based Filipinos who miss the food in the Philippines.”

According to San Luis, however, Max’s has been reaching out to a a diverse array of other ethnic groups as well. “Our restaurant is a good place for first-timers to get an introduction to Filipino food. We’re one of the few Filipino restaurants that cook-to-order and we feature more Central Filipino-style cuisine, which you would find in Metro Manila,” she adds.

In addition to Max’s Fried Chicken, signature items off the menu include Lumpiang Shanghai ($7.25), Pancit Canton ($8.50), Kare-Kare ($12.50/$18.95) and Crispy Pata ($12.95/$16.95).

Lumpiang Shanghai is a popular Filipino-style egg roll appetizer that features a tasty mix of ground pork and vegetables deep-fried and wrapped in a pastry wrapper, served with a sweet and sour sauce.

A staple in Filipino dining is Pancit Canton, fresh egg noodle stir-fried and served with vegetables, pork, chicken and shrimp, and topped with green onions.

Kare-Kare and Crispy Pata are considered house specialties, and for good reason. Kare-Kare presents diners with tender stewed oxtail and beef shank simmered in a rich peanut sauce. This native delicacy also is served with shrimp paste for additional zest. And meat lovers can’t seem to get enough of Crispy Pata, pork knuckles simmered in a special marinade and deep-fried to perfection.

“Our food is home-cooked Filipino food and people really appreciate that. Nowadays, people are short on time, so it can be difficult to cook a meal from scratch, so that’s what we provide,” San Luis states.

And with the holiday season fast approaching, Max’s of Manila is ready to take on the many holiday parties with its function rooms, which are ideal for private parties and in-house catering. Both branches have recently expanded their seating to accommodate larger parties. Dillingham can host parties of up to 170 individuals, and Waipahu can seat parties of up to 200.

“We do catering by the pan as well,” San Luis adds. “Of course, for those who choose not to dine-in, you can take your meal to go at any time.”

So, whether you choose to dine-in or takeout, it’s always a Filipino fiesta at Max’s of Manila, where everything is “sarap (delicious) to the bone!”

Max’s of Manila

801 Dillingham Blvd., Honolulu (also located in Waipahu Shopping Plaza)
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.9 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96817

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best