At Max’s of Manila: Filipino Time and Fried Chicken

If you’re going to read this blog, you might as well know something about me. I am both a night owl and an early bird. I have always loved the night — specifically, the hours from 1am-3am. I feel like anything you write during those hours can go unedited.

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This early thing is vastly a new phenomenon, spurred on by motherhood and having a high stakes job with a lot of pressure. But I love the mornings also. I love catching the sunrise; being able to tell the time by the birds beginning their pitchy chatter (I wonder what they talk about?). At a certain time I often catch leaves rustling outside our side door and I know it’s a possum settling in after a long night of adventures I will never be privy to. There’s something so alluring about being able to experience nature waking and going to bed simultaneously. To see the light gradually get brighter…the beams finally hitting our living room like it does every day; consistently. It’s this natural order and perfectness that lets me know that a heaven does exist…an idea Plato vouched for during his lifetime.

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That being said, Siena and I are usually up and ready to jam by 8am, while the rest of my family has just begun their REM cycle. A couple mornings ago I called my mother bright and early to have a “Filipino breakfast.” I seem to crave it every morning: meat, with garlic fried rice, a fried egg and a tomato. It’s so savory and meets every preference I innately have in the morning.

“Let’s go to Max’s”, she said, as she was craving bangus (fried milkfish).

“Okay,” I said as I started the mad dash to grab everything possible a 2-year-old may need in 2 hours (diapers, baby wipes, extra food, milk, etc.).

We got there at 9:30am for breakfast, which you would think would be a perfect, crowd-free time to go. But the parking lot was empty. Not a good sign — imagine our disappointment when we learned Max’s didn’t open until 11am. For breakfast? Filipino time, I thought…shaking my head. The employees hadn’t even shown up to start prepping the restaurant. I had to laugh at how over-prepared I was for the situation.

We decided to go somewhere else, but came back the next morning for lunch. Max’s had a location in SF that we used to frequent, but now they have one in Milpitas, which is much closer for us. Never heard of Max’s? Here’s a short history, via wiki:

In 1945, after World War II, American troops stationed in Quezon City became friends with Maximo Gimenez, a teacher who had graduated from Stanford University. Some soldiers came to his nearby house for a drink or two, until they insisted that they pay for their drinks.

Gimenez decided to open a café which served chicken, steak, and drinks. He was joined by his wife Mercedes, sister-in-law Felipa Serrano Sanvictores, his niece Ruby who managed the kitchen, and her husband Claro. Ruby’s fried chicken proved popular with G.I.s. and locals also began patronising the establishment.[1]

Encouraged by her mother to expand the menu and serve more Filipino food, Ruby set up the Baclaran branch along Roxas Boulevard inParañaque. They decided to name the restaurant “Max’s” after Maximo.[2]

Max’s Restaurant bills itself as “The house that fried chicken built”.[3] In 1998 it started franchising.[4]

We had typical Filipino dishes: fried calamari, lumpia shanghai, ginataang gulay (vegetables in coconut milk), fried chicken. The dishes were good, familiar. Max’s is fairly decent and “not scary” for introducing first-timers to Filipino food.

Lumpia shanghai

Lumpia shanghai

Max's famous fried chicken

Max’s famous fried chicken

The decor is also quite modern, it was heavily air conditioned and the music was Boys II Men. I liked that it had a young atmosphere. The food was good, and we all enjoyed it…including my mother, who grew up in the Philippines and immigrated here when she was in high school.

Siena and I at Max's

Siena and I at Max’s

Max’s is also situated in an Asian strip, with a plethora of Filipino markets and bakeries if you are adventurous. They sell everything from colorful, purple Filipino desserts you’ve never seen, to popular breads, to smoked fish and other specialties.

You know you're Filipino when...as a kid you gawked and reveled in Goldilocks cakes through the window displays

You know you’re Filipino when…as a kid you gawked and reveled at Goldilocks cakes through the window displays

We enjoy coming to this part of Milpitas. There is a lot of culture; a lot of hidden dishes to try — and it’s not specifically tailored to Filipino. There are other Asian ethnicities represented as well.

I better be going. I am reviewing a restaurant in Cupertino for Metro. Hope everyone has a lovely Sunday.

— Kristine

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2 thoughts on “At Max’s of Manila: Filipino Time and Fried Chicken

  1. Although Milpitas is sort of a social backwater to wanabe hipster Silicon Valley, the area is home to indigenous Asian flavors with many regional specialties within China and India. Its a sharp contrast to 20 years ago when there were less than a handful of Chinese restaurants and no Indian places to eat. The Chinese restuarants back in the day were mostly Cantonese with offerings of Sezchuan and Mandarin. Now you can eat all over China with many of the Asian stripmalls featuring regions, regional specialities and held territories. This includes HK style cafes, noodle and poridge houses, dumpling shops, hot pots, etc. Filipino restaurants have come and gone throughout the years, with some changing names and ownership. Its within the last 10-15 years that the Filipino restaurant scene in Milpitas has stabilized and even grown some. The opening of the Seasons Marketplace has certainly been a catalyst in raising the Filipino profile within the city, although Filipinos always been part of the community fabric before then. Its a bit of irony as there was a Filipino restaurant accross the street in neighboring San Jose. Sort of a manifestation of growth in the shadow of its former self.

  2. I like the caption on your last photo because yes, I did gawk at their cakes when I was a kid myself! 🙂 It’s fun reading through your blog because I see the Philippine culture from a different POV. 🙂

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