Unwilling to wait the announced forty minutes for a table at Druther's, (a concert at SPAC would likely clear out most tables at that time) we decided to walk over to Max London's where we probably had not been in well over a year. They looked pretty busy also, but our willingness to sit at a high-top table allowed us to be seated immediately.
We had a good view of all that was going on throughout the restaurant - bar, kitchen and dining room. More on that later. We were promptly provided with water and two different kinds of bread in a basket. My only complaint of the evening was not knowing which container had the vinegar and which had the oil.
My wife decided to try one of the more interesting sounding cocktails, a Strawberry Basil Sour ($11), while I chose a New York craft draft, Captain Lawrence IPA ($7). The Sour, interestingly, was made with rum and the strawberry flavor did not make it overly sweet. The IPA had a very nice hoppy flavor and would have only cost $4 if we had arrived 20 minutes earlier prior to 6 pm during Happy Hour.
Neither one of us was immensely hungry, but there were a couple of appetizers that we were very interested in trying before we selected our entrees. Our server was more than helpful at this point as we asked her about the portion sizes. She advised us that both of our app considerations were large enough and filling to serve two people prior to entrees. She recommended ordering only one app. But our desire to try interesting sounding food caused us to still order both apps with the caveat that we could always take home what we didn't finish of our entrees. Our server agreed.
So what was it that had such a strong temptation to our taste buds? Chickpea Polenta Fries ($9.50) with a black olive aioli, and Bolinhos de Bacalhau ($9) with an aioli. The chickpea and polenta mix was shaped to look like large French fries, 6 to an order (see my photo for the four remaining). They had a nice crispy outside and a soft inside. The flavor was good even before dipping them into the black olive aioli. The bolinhos (salt codfish cakes), 5 to an order (all intact for the photo), were light and flavorful with just a hint of spiciness to the aioli. And it turns out our server's advise was accurate, we both could probably have stopped eating at this point, but we would persevere.
My wife ordered the Shrimp & Chorizo Pizza ($16) - wood-fired with shrimp, chorizo, idiazabal cheese, romesco crema, and serrano chilies. This was a wonderful mix of flavors and textures with a good amount of spiciness on a typically thin crust for wood firing. Most of it came home with us.
I had the night's special Burger ($16), with lettuce, tomato, bacon (really good bacon!), cheese, and a sauce of which I don't recall the name or ingredients. I ordered it medium-rare and my picture will let you decide if that is what I received. I've had more flavorful meat, but the consistency and juiciness were right-on. There had to easily be three-quarters of a pound of burger here. It was billed as being raised locally, and as good as it was I didn't mind how messy it was to eat. Did I mention the delicious bacon in it?
A large cup of coffee was $3. My wife saw French presses on a shelf and was expecting to receive one of those, so she was a bit disappointed when she didn't. But it was a full-bodied coffee with good flavor.
I've mentioned how helpful our server was as I had been taking special note of the staff since I'd read a number of reviews that focused on the poor service here. Every worker I observed was fully attentive to each of his or her customers. There was no ignoring customers or socializing among staff. Our server Becky, seemed to be taking charge at times, letting the rest of the staff know how many burgers were left and when they were 86'd. She was very familiar with each of the dishes we were ordering and even described a variation in the preparation of one dish if we were to ever come for brunch. Our experience here justifies all of the stars for their creativeness, quality and service for the casual type restaurant they are.
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