Maxie’s Southern Comfort – Milwaukee

May 26, 2007

Short Take: Nice place, but too spicy for our wussy mid-western taste-buds.

Long Take: Higgins was in charge of planning this week’s outing and chose Maxie’s as the middle part of long evening on the town. Maxie’s just recently opened in Milwaukee (they appear to have a location in New York, as well.) When Willamina and Higgins arrived at the restaurant, they were in a good mood– and the mood continued upon our seeing the establishment. It was 9:00 on a Friday evening and the place was still hopping. The hostesses at the door were friendly and said we would have a table in fifteen minutes (it was closer to 5.) Maxie’s has a downstairs and an upstairs– with a full bar on both levels. We chose the upstairs as it was quieter. The decor and atmosphere was quite pleasant.

Maxie’s serves Southern style food (think Missippi delta) with an upscale twist. Our server, Jessie, was very prompt and helpful. He wasn’t overly friendly, but he was attentive, polite, and very informative. After a number of questions and some deliberation, Higgins and Willamina ordered a cup of Crab and Corn Chowder, a Pulled Pork Sandwhich, and the Pan-Roasted Carolina Grouper.

Crab and Corn Chowder – Willamina and Higgins LOVE corn chowder. Crab and corn chowder, even moreso. Unfortunately, we were not impressed with this version. To its credit, it was full of crab and corn. No skimping there. To its detriment, it was full of lots of other things as well. It was a mish-mash of tastes and textures, including some spices we couldn’t identify and didn’t particularly care for. Willamina ate a couple of spoonfuls. Higgins finished it, but wouldn’t order it again. Jessie told us that many people react to the chowder by calling it very “Unusual and Interesting.” Willamina and Higgins do not believe that should be considered a compliment with chowder.

Corn Bread – Each meal is served with a basket of corn bread and a special orange infused butter. Higgins loves cornbread. This cornbread was… OK. It was extremely crumbly and not too sweet. It also didn’t have the rich corn flavor one hopes for. The orange infused butter was… very orangey. (Is that a word?) Normally, cornbread is served with a maple or honey blended butter. Orange infused butter is slightly sweet, but Higgins wasn’t a fan of it. Again, interesting– but not something to repeat.

Pulled Pork Sandwhich – The pulled pork was wonderfully cooked. It was so tender it literally melted in your mouth. It wasn’t too vinegarry, which Willamina appreciated. Unfortunately, while its heat-level was low-to-moderate, it proved to be too much for our intrepid heroes. The sandwhich comes with a large side of creamy cole-slaw. The cole-slaw was lacking in flavor– not bad, just not great. The plate also contained a large serving of BBQ Beans. If the pork was a little too hot, the BBQ Beans were unpleasantly, deceptively spicy. They also contained green peppers. Willamina and Higgins do not believe green peppers belong in BBQ Beans– or many items intended for consumption. We didn’t finish anything on this plate.

Pan-Roasted Carolina Grouper – Higgins would like to confess that he had never had grouper before and was really ordering this entree for its side-dishes, Maple-braised Collard Greens and Hushpuppies. (You may remember that Higgins has a thing for hushpuppies.) Higgins now knows that he is not terribly fond of Grouper. It is a whitefish, and fairly tasteless. The charred tomato-corn relish served over the grouper was intended to address this lack of flavor, unfortunately, it appears they had replaced the charred tomatoes with charred onions. This was not a successful substitution. Once the relish and the charred fish-skin had been removed, the Grouper was naked and exceedingly bland. The Collard Greens, on the other hand, were fantastic. They were cooked just right. Not over-cooked, as they can be sometimes. Not too sweet. Not too earthy. Layers of flavor and delicious. The hushpuppies were a little dry and not very tasty.

Beverages – Willamina had a glass of riesling, though the name escapes her and we forgot to write it down. Higgins had a bottle of Sprecher Root Beer served with a frosted glass. (The way root beer should be served.) To combat the cumulative heat of the pulled pork, Willamina also ordered a diet-cola. Maxie’s serves Black Bear soda– a small regionally-bottled brand. Willamina was not impressed.

Maxie’s had a lot of options for carnivores and vegetarians. They were friendly and the food was prepared well. If friends from the south came for a visit, we’d take them to Maxie’s. Otherwise, I’m afraid it is just more than we can handle.