August 24, 2019

Winnipeg
29° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Max's Restaurant offers a taste of the Philippines

Casual dining chain delivers tasty home-style dishes

Opinion

Max’s Restaurant started out in Quezon City, Philippines, in 1945, first feeding American G.I.s with chicken and fries and then boosting the menu with Filipino favourites. Opening dozens of restaurants in its home country, the popular franchise later expanded with locations across the Middle East and North America.

This is Winnipeg’s first Max’s. Located on the St. James commercial strip, the 4,500-square-foot venue offers a casual dine-in format in a modern setting, with a sleek black, white and red colour scheme and big windows. As with many mid-range franchises, the draw here isn’t originality but familiarity. There are a few weaknesses in the lineup, but overall, Max’s delivers tasty home-style dishes.

Max’s signature offering is fried chicken — the resto’s slogan is “The house that fried chicken built” — and options include a half or whole bird that comes on a platter with a scattering of nice, thick-cut fries and a big knife and fork for carving. Unlike standard North American-style fried chicken, which relies on breading, Max’s chicken is all about crackly, crisp skin. The meat is moist and tender — but not suspiciously moist and tender, as with some over-processed supermarket chickens.

For accompaniment, there is a trio of bottled sauces placed at every table — Tabasco, Worcestershire and banana ketchup. A server recommended mixing and matching for a desired balance of spicy, salty and sweet.

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Max’s Restaurant started out in Quezon City, Philippines, in 1945, first feeding American G.I.s with chicken and fries and then boosting the menu with Filipino favourites. Opening dozens of restaurants in its home country, the popular franchise later expanded with locations across the Middle East and North America.

Restaurant Review

Max’s Restaurant

1255 St James St.
431-998-6297

Max’s Restaurant

1255 St James St.
431-998-6297

Go for: Filipino food in a sleek setting
Best bet: the signature fried chicken
Apps: $3.99-11.99; shared mains: $15.99-24.99

Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

★★★1/2 stars

 

STAR POWER

★★★★★ Excellent
★★★★ Very Good
★★★ Good
★★ Mediocre
★ Substandard
No stars Not recommended

This is Winnipeg’s first Max’s. Located on the St. James commercial strip, the 4,500-square-foot venue offers a casual dine-in format in a modern setting, with a sleek black, white and red colour scheme and big windows. As with many mid-range franchises, the draw here isn’t originality but familiarity. There are a few weaknesses in the lineup, but overall, Max’s delivers tasty home-style dishes.

Max’s signature offering is fried chicken — the resto’s slogan is "The house that fried chicken built" — and options include a half or whole bird that comes on a platter with a scattering of nice, thick-cut fries and a big knife and fork for carving. Unlike standard North American-style fried chicken, which relies on breading, Max’s chicken is all about crackly, crisp skin. The meat is moist and tender — but not suspiciously moist and tender, as with some over-processed supermarket chickens.

For accompaniment, there is a trio of bottled sauces placed at every table — Tabasco, Worcestershire and banana ketchup. A server recommended mixing and matching for a desired balance of spicy, salty and sweet.

Co-owners Arnel Alibin (left) and Jessica Sunico at Max's, a Filipino chain on St. James Street. (Photos by Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Co-owners Arnel Alibin (left) and Jessica Sunico at Max's, a Filipino chain on St. James Street. (Photos by Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Appetizers include lumpiang Shanghai — the deep-fried spring rolls are crispy but the pork filling needs a bit more taste — and lumpiang ubon,with hearts of palm cut into matchsticks and a few bits of pork and shrimp brought together in tender crepe-like wrappers and covered in a sweet sauce.

(Oh, and last week when I lamented there was nowhere to go for fried chicken skins now that the Sherbrook Deli had taken them off the menu? Well, you can get them here.)

Big shareable dishes include kare-kare, a stew made with oxtail, which means lots of bone and nubbly bits but also lots of taste. The dish could have used some more veg, which include pechay and skinny snake beans, but there’s lots of thick, rich, peanutty sauce, as well as an accompanying dollop of bagoong alamang, a salty fermented shrimp paste that brings a depth of flavour and can also be used to cut the dish’s slight sweetness.

The halo-halo ice cream dessert.

The halo-halo ice cream dessert.

The bulalo, a traditional soup, comes in a footed pot, jammed with massive beef shanks, the bones protruding over the top, along with corn cobs and cabbage. All of these elemental ingredients yield a marrow broth that is light in colour but filled with subtle, savoury taste.

The menu also includes a variety of noodle and rice dishes. The noodles in the pancit palabok were a little over-cooked, but the crispy pork on top was very good, with tender meat and crackling skin. Sticky garlic rice is aromatic and handy for soaking up sauces.

Then there are the desserts. We watched several giant halo-halo concoctions go by, exuberant celebrations of too-muchness with many multi-coloured toppings, but opted instead for simpler scoops of plain coconut and ube ice cream, both of which were good. The gorgeously coloured ube prompted a lengthy discussion around our table about the purple yam’s hard-to-pin-down taste, which is both delicious and elusive.

The fried chicken at Max’s, a Filipino chain on St. James Street. Unlike North American-style fried chicken, which relies on breading for its crunch, Max’s chicken is all about crackly, crisp skin.

The fried chicken at Max’s, a Filipino chain on St. James Street. Unlike North American-style fried chicken, which relies on breading for its crunch, Max’s chicken is all about crackly, crisp skin.

Max’s caramel bars are trademarked, but they are also the only sweet not made fresh in-house but brought in from the Philippines, each bar in its own plastic wrap. They taste like soft, sweet comfort food.

Max’s doesn’t serve alcohol, but drink options include calamansi juice, made from a fabulous hybrid citrus and served here with shaved ice, making it very refreshing, as well as coconut and mango flavours.

The place is buzzingly busy, so be prepared to wait for a table around peak times, especially at the weekend. Service is warm and welcoming but can be disorganized, with long lulls.

Later this year, Max’s will expand its menu, but its selection of Filipino favourites feels pretty expansive already.

The caramel bars are soft, sweet comfort food brought in from the Philippines.

The caramel bars are soft, sweet comfort food brought in from the Philippines.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.