Filipino fried fowl purveyors pop up in Waipahu
MAX'S OF MANILA, a restaurant chain that started in the Philippines in 1945, has opened for business in Waipahu.
Max's fried chicken is its "flagship product," said General Manager Maly San Luis, but "we're serving a full-range Filipino menu."
The menu offers lumpia, but not just the familiar meat and vegetable kind with vinegary dipping sauce. Max's also serves lumpia ubod, containing coconut heart of palm filling; crispy pata, which is a pork leg, cooked for a long time until tender and then deep-fried to give it a crispy coating; and sinigang, a tamarind-based sour soup, among other traditional offerings.
Dishes are served family style in large portions "so everybody can share a taste of everything," she said. The average check is from $10 to $15 per person.
It's like, duh! What a natural idea and why the heck didn't somebody do this before?
The company didn't start franchising in the Philippines until about 1997 and now has 115 locations. It has had company-owned locations in California for about 20 years, but only started franchising in the United States about two years ago, said San Luis.
San Luis and her family became franchisees through an acquaintance. "We heard things were going to open up for franchising and luckily the timing was right," she said.
It has taken that two years for all the pieces to come together for the first Hawaii store.
In California there are two company-owned locations and three franchised stores. The Waipahu Max's is the first of at least a few planned by the Hawaii franchisees.
"We plan to open two on the island of Oahu ... before expanding to the outer islands," San Luis said.
Max's is in Waipahu Shopping Plaza, where its neighbors include Pacific Supermarket and Savers.
"Originally the space was the Flamingo Restaurant. It was converted to a Price Busters and we converted it back" to a restaurant, she said.
The 6,300-square-foot Max's seats 200 people, 100 in the main dining room and up to 100 more in private rooms.
"Traditionally, Max's is a place where people have functions," said San Luis, having met people who had been to Max's in the Philippines for wedding receptions, children's baptismal parties and the like.
"Our first night, we had a birthday party in a function room," she giggled.
The restaurant threw open its doors Tuesday night for a soft-opening week of just dinner service to give the 42 employees some dress-rehearsal time.
Come tomorrow, Max's will offer lunch and dinner daily, with earlier service on Sunday.
Max's will open at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, closing at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
San Luis expects the restaurant to receive its liquor license in the beginning of April, but it welcomes diners to bring their own bottles until then.
The origins of Max's of Manila can be traced back to the hospitality shown by Quezon City resident Maximo Gimenez to American soldiers, according to the company Web site. A Stanford-educated teacher, Gimenez would host troops at his home, serving drinks and food, but after awhile, his guests insisted on paying.
Gimenez established a cafe, for which his niece Ruby created a unique recipe for fried chicken that "became an instant favorite with the G.I.s," according to the Web site.
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