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Max Palay and Drew McGillawee

From Babka Buns to Pizza: Friend Bakery and Pizzerria, owned by Max Palay and Drew McGillawee, Located in South Osborne Has Delicious Offerings

by Rhonda Spivak, Sept 9, 2023


I’ve had an opportunity to visit Friend Bakery and Pizzeria and taste a variety of their offerings, and everything I’ve had has been delicious, which is why I highly recommend going there. Friend Bakery and Pizzeria-at 380 Osborne Street south in Fort Rouge- which opened its doors in March 2023,  is owned by two nice Jewish guys, Max Palay and Drew McGillawee.  Max is the baker, and his partner Drew takes care of  marketing & business relations.  What is truly unique is that their establishment  is a combination bakery (during the day) and pizza place (after 5 p.m.), with both dine-in or take out options.
How did the two nice Jewish guys get to know eachother? ‘We've known each other for roughly two decades through various parts of the Jewish Community, but started to really become friends at Camp Massad around 2012,” says Max,  the son of  Murray Palay and Ivy Kopstein.
‘We discovered we had many shared interests like discussing Maccabia scores, future programming camp ideas and the foods we loved to eat and cook at home,” adds Drew, who did a four year stint  as a the Program Director of Camp Massad, and is the son of  Jackie Werbuk and Peter McGillawee.
What made these two young men decide to open a bakery? ‘We have been wanting to own a business together and/or work together outside of camp for a really long time. We brewed beer for awhile with some friends and thought it would be fun to own a brewery but I don't think anyone else actually liked our beer so shifted the thought to maybe opening a restaurant of some kind, Drew explains.
Max says, “ I have had a dream of owning my own food business for pretty much as long as I can remember. After a few years working in the world of accounting I decided to give it a serious shot. Drew was the first person I thought of to bring on board to help me run the bakery. I quit my accounting job in 2020, so from conception, location scouting and floor plans to official opening was about 3 years.”
The bakery has many “popular” favourites, “including our brown butter chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon knots. The babka buns are also in high demand! ,” Drew notes. In the weekday evenings and weekends, Friend Bakery makes pizzas “We currently have six options on the menu with a special during most weekends. Our most popular pizzas are our pepperoo and mush music,” Max states.  
Max and Drew chose an optimal location for their bakery. “I was looking for a space for quite a while, in various neighbourhoods, nothing really fit the needs of a small bakery. When this location was brought to my attention, seeing that a brand new residential building had gone up in South Osborne with commercial real estate space on the main floor, made sense to me. Knowing that this area was surrounded by local food businesses, and with a built in customer base, with no neighbourhood bakery, I thought it would be a great fit. It is a growing neighbourhood with lots of young families, as well as condos around. This type of mixed real estate is more common in big cities outside of Winnipeg, so I've been really happy to see this model work here,”says Max.

The response has been very positive.” We have been really happy with the response so far, especially from the South Osborne area which has been extremely welcoming ,” Drew indicates. Max adds, ‘The response has been great. Since we are still pretty new, we have lots of people coming in for the first time so that's been exciting. We've started to do some wholesale orders for local restaurants too. My goal is to make people happy with good food, and so far we seem to be accomplishing that.”
The bakery has lots of customers from all background  but on Fridays, it definitely attracts a lot of Jewish customers. (Friend Bakery makes great challahs!). A lot of Jewish customers come for the Babka buns (Editor’s note: My son wolfed down a Babka bun and said “it was really good.”) .Drew notes that  they pre-sold round challahs for the High Holidays and sold out of them.
When asked about any plans to make gluten free products, Max replies, “It’s on our radar for sure.”
When asked how he comes up with his recipes, Max says, “A  lot of trial and error. I am self-taught but obsessively consume food media and read a lot of books and recipes to draw inspiration from. I would say my recipes are a combination of inspiration from other bakers with my own creative spin. Stuff like the Challah and Babka are definitely inspired by my Jewish cultural background, but I want to be as accessible to everyone as possible.’
The Winnipeg Jewish Review also asked Max what is the “secret” to being a good baker. “I think I'm still trying to figure that out! I've never been one to be secretive. I guess I'd say be don't be afraid to try new things, lots of patience, one chef always says "you learn things when you burn things", so if it doesn't work out the first time, which it usually doesn't, learn and move forward. Even on the crazy days I try to remember we're not out here saving lives, just trying to make people happy with great quality bread and baked goods.”
To check out the offerings for baked goods and pizza, go to:
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.