CROSBY — Jen and Ernesto Maximo have brought a new concept to the community of Crosby.
On Tuesday, the Maximos will open North Dakota’s only Filipino restaurant in the state in Crosby.
Jen Maximo is a speech therapist at Divide County High School who moved to Crosby in 2014 from Laguna, Philippines, and her husband Ernesto Maximo, a medical lab scientist originally from Bulacan, Philippines, moved to Crosby in 2016.
The couple’s story began when Jen was 8 years old and Ernesto heard her singing at an event in one of the convention centers in the Philippines. He and his father were at the event, and he told his father, “The girl that is singing will be my girlfriend.”
When the pair was in high school, Ernesto heard Jen sing once more and fell in love all over again. Ernesto had begun his career in California and later moved to Crosby to be with Jen. The two have been married seven years and have two sons, Sebastian and Nikolas, for whom the restaurant is named.
The Karinderya by Seb & Nik, or Cafeteria by Seb & Nik in the English translation, will be open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. except for Saturdays, when the restaurant will be open from 6 p.m.-midnight.
“The community gets to experience the authentic flavors of Filipino cuisine. It makes us, as Filipino people, proud of our roots. We wanted to give voice to Filipino food, because we have so many islands and over the years of colonization from various different countries that have influenced us. Not just speaking about the U.S. and influences from Spain, but also speaking on the British, the Indian, the Malays, the Indonesian, the South Pacific islanders, the Chinese, who are a massive trade partner, and Mexico as well. We find all these little speckles of influence throughout our food. Having a Filipino restaurant will teach our guests the beauty and the diversity of our culture in terms of the food and getting people really excited about it,” said Jen Maximo.
Saturday nights at the Karinderya by Seb and Nik will be fun and entertaining with her students, she said. As a singer and voice coach, she expects to have many family-centered Saturday nights. The restaurant will have karaoke and an open mic atmosphere, and Jen Maximo and students sometimes will perform.
“Filipinos love music and food, and it’s nice to share this with our community,” she said.
The Maximo family has settled into the location of Crosby’s former longtime cafe, The Red Rooster, which shuttered its doors after 31 years in September 2021.
In a nutshell, Jen Maximo said, because her family tired of traveling hours on end to eat decent Filipino food, they decided to open their own place, and the owners of the former Red Rooster ended up leasing them the space.
“There are at least seven to 10 Filipino families living and working in Divide County as medical professionals and teachers. We are very happy to have received many compliments from not just the Filipinos in the surrounding communities but everyone else, telling us how excited they are to try some Filipino food. It’s a lot of pressure on our part, of course, but we’re making sure our quality standards are topnotch,” Jen Maximo said.
Some menu items include chicken adobo, the Filipino national dish and the couples’ favorite, which essentially is a type of chicken stew that has a tangy sweet and savory flavor.
“It has vinegar, coconut milk and soy braised chicken with garlic,” Jen Maximo said.
“Sourness is a very Filipino thing because of the role it plays in terms of fermentation, preservation and pickling,” she said. “Also because of how we see the gesture of eating a meal together. In the Philippines when you greet someone, instead of saying ‘How are you,’ it’s always ‘Have you eaten?’ I think it’s a very Asian trait where we are very generous with our food. And I think it’s because Filipinos are very hospitable. Filipino food is diverse so when experimenting with Filipino flavors and food, be open to trying new things.”
“At the end of the day, Filipino cuisine remains largely undiscovered, and I’ve made it my mission to help Filipino cuisine get the recognition it deserves,” Ernesto Maximo said.
Ernesto has left the medical field to pursue his family’s new adventure full time. Jen will continue at Divide County High School and will help operate the Karinderya by Seb and Nik.