- Maxine's signature dish, chicken and waffles. Photo by Mark Lee.
If you plan to visit Maxine's for Sunday lunch just after church lets out, as we recently had the good fortune to do, be prepared for a lengthy wait. This place is hopping: the moment you set foot in the door you can't help but notice that here are a lot of people having a really great time eating really great food. It's a festive atmosphere and a refreshing reminder that good food doesn't have to be a plodding, serious affair.
Sunday is also a good time to come if you find yourself a touch ragged about the gills from the previous night's excesses. As fast food restaurants have known for decades, the perfect remedy for a moderate hangover, apart from a couple of Aleve, is a hearty dose of salt, sugar and fat. Maxine's offers all three in ample quantities, so those who worship their body-temples and eschew free radicals should probably skip the rest of this review and head straight for the macrobiotic section of the paper.
Occupying what might have once been an office building, Maxine's simple décor keeps your focus firmly on your dining companions and on the food. There are no big-screen TVs to distract from the main event, so after a few minutes' hungrily waiting, one's attention naturally begins to wander towards the heaping plates being delivered to every table but yours, laden with piles of catfish, chicken, and the eponymous steering wheel-sized waffles.
Fortunately, just before hypoglycemia sets in, a matronly server shimmies to the rescue, bringing huge tumblers of the best sweet tea I've ever tasted, and a small plate of utterly delicious corn meal pancakes and a side of whipped peach butter. As the minutes tick by, more tea comes, blood sugar is restored, and finally the main courses arrive: six huge fillets of blackened catfish, a plate of brontosaurus-sized chicken wings with the aforementioned waffle, all accompanied by sides of mac and cheese, coleslaw, fried green tomatoes, collard greens and candied yams.
As expected, everything is delicious: simple, really fresh and perfectly prepared. The collard greens marginally win the day and disappear in seconds. My catfish, salty as a jolly jack tar, might be considered excessively seasoned by classical standards, but that's how this kind of steroidal comfort food ought to be prepared. If Maxine's served beer I would have notched up a half gallon by the time I was part way through the main course, but the sweet tea sufficed, thank you. My wife's chicken, amazingly moist and succulent, was little short of perfect, the waffle fluffy and fresh as can be.
Prices at Maxine's are astonishingly reasonable, with most entrees under $12. Our bill for lunch for two came in at around $35, including a number of side dishes. Although the menu offers barbecue, burgers and sandwiches, I know that on my next visit I'll probably head straight for the chicken and waffles for a rematch. Simple fresh food lovingly prepared. What more could a body need?