Is It Any Good?

Filipino fare in Glendale.

Max's of Manila on Urbanspoon
Max of Manilla on Foodio54

This may be one of the more famous restaurants in America now. No, not because of some gastronomic innovation, but because it serves at the photo stand-in for Cattleman’s Ranch on ABC’s new (at the time of publication) hit show “Fresh Off The Boat.”

Cattleman's ranch from Fresh off the boat

But in reality, it’s Max’s of Manila, a Philippine Family Restaurant that’s been in operation since 1945.

Apparently, after the war, the eponymous Max (of the same name) used to have friend over at his house where he’d serve food. The food was so good that his friend soon insisted on paying him for his hard work. That’s when Max got the idea to open his own restaurant, and here we are.

Step inside, and you might think of such family restaurant luminaries as Carrows, Chili’s or Applebee’s. If you’re not Filipino the vibe should not put you off at all. It’s should be as familiar as Mom and Apple Pie.

It’s when you open the menu that things start to get a little adventurous, which is a good thing because you didn’t make it out of the house to go to Carrows, Chili’s or Applebee’s. I mean, c’mon. You’ve got more respect for yourself than that.

Filipino cooking is home cooking. And even though we’re talking about the Glendale-Eagle rock area of California, you and I are probably not getting the best of Filipino cuisine. No, everybody’s Mom makes the best, whether it be Sisig (which is what I’m having today), or Bangsilog (Milkfish) or Tapsilog (Marinated Beef Strips).

But since not all of us have a Filipino Mom to cook for us, Max’s it is.

You could look at Max’s of Manila (particularly their website) and get the feeling it’s a Fast Food place from the way its styled. But it’s a sit down place, and a pretty nice one. You’re not going to get five-star Arroyo Chop House Service. But the Waitstaff was friendly and helpful.

Now, there’s a part of me that wants to refer to Max’s of Manila as a 101 place, as a place you can walk into and get a basic education on Philippine cuisine and cooking.

Part of me.

You probably should know a little more than just the basics before walking in there, though the Waitstaff there is patient and friendly. I didn’t get a lot of steering to this dish or that dish at Max’s, so they must’ve figured I knew what I was doing.

Of course, I didn’t. I was winging it like I always do.

 

WHAT SHOULD I GET?: I had the Lechon Kawali (Pork Belly) Sisig. Now Sisig is a dish pretty much everyone (except vegetarians) should be able to wrap your heads around because it’s basically a sizzling plate of meat, meant to be eaten with some rice.

Max's of Manilla

Further research (thank you Wikipedia) tells me that Sisig is a Kapampangan term which means “to snack on something sour”. The sour component comes from the sour liquid the meat is usually marinated in before it’s cooked up.

You probably won’t taste that much “sour” in your Sisig when you have the Lechon Kawali at Max’s. The predominant taste to me was salt and melting fat from the Pork Belly. It’s one of those dishes, I get the feeling is best meant to be shared. The first couple of bites were intoxicating, but I felt myself slow down with the weight of the dish as time went on The next time I order it (and I can totally see myself doing that), I’m going to need some help with it.

I also had the Gulaman at Max’s. Now, a Gulaman is a drink made with Brown Sugar and Banana Juice. This…is a seriously, seriously sweet drink. It’s listed as a dessert on Wikipedia, but it was listed under beverages at Max’s. I couldn’t finish it. I really should have gotten some unsweetened Iced Tea instead. Between the Pork Belly and this, I got hit with a massive salt-sugar-melting fax brick.

It all tastes great…initially, but I was getting the “STOP!” signal early on from my stomach.Max's of Manilla

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Dare I say, this is such a generic restaurant, that there isn’t any too weird or strange happening here. It’s family oriented. It’s quiet. It’s a place to chill. That’s about it.

 

PARKING: Pretty easy. Max’s has a lot that snakes around the back so there are more spaces than you realize from just looking at it. I have seen Valet Service running at night, so no worries there.

Push comes to show (and I know they’ll just love me for saying this), you can park across the street at the Glendale Galleria, closer to Macy’s. After a half-block’s walk, you’ll be at the restaurant.

 

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Max’s of Manilla (Glendale)
313 W. Broadway
Glendale, CA 91204

Tel: (818) 637-7751

Hours:
Sunday-Thursday: 8:30 am – 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 8:30 am – 1:00 am