Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ooo-La-La, Maxine's Restaurant & GastroBar a Little Francois on the North Shore

Maxine's Restaurant and Bar, located at 521 Franklin St., in uptown Michigan City, successfully captures the ambiance and flair of a cafe on a tucked away street in Paris. Recently, I took members of my family to the restaurant for a late Saturday evening supper. Now, this was not my first visit,being a local and all, but, it was the first full-meal experience. We were delightfully  met by the restaurant Dining Room manager, who cheerfully remembered me from the time before. (Even remembered that I am a radio show host and intend on having Maxine's as a featured guest!) It was close to a year ago that I visited Maxine's with a friend. We enjoyed a simple salad, soup and a small plate. It was delightful, but, the full-on dining experience would have to wait to a later date and believe me it was spectacular!

The menu boasts traditional French cuisine, with a blending of North American favorites. Let's call it French fusion. We kicked it off with a couple cocktails as it was close to impossible to settle on an entree for the evening. The selection was outstanding. So wonderful that it made the choice close to impossible. The custom made cocktails were very tasty and had a wonderful boutique flair to it. I chose the spiced pear martini, which was chosen off of their specialty martini menu. It was indeed special. The featured appetizer for the evening was a Yellowtail Tuna-cake with Sirachi aioli, pictured below and borrowed off of Maxine's Facebook page.
It was the perfect beginner. My dining companions enjoyed a crock of the signature French onion soup. Unlike many French onion soup creations, this was cooked perfectly with the perfect consistency and quantity of onions present. The broth was rich, dark and not overly cheesy. Perfection!
For our entrees we selected: Cioppino: a tomato base, mussels, crab, cod, scallops, shrimp, garlic, dish, served with French bread to dip the delectable gravy. One of my party chose the Maxine salad with salmon (cooked to order) while,  I chose the house ribeye steak topped with blue cheese. Each dish was delicious and served with your choice of sides as well as fresh, warm bread.

It is important to note that the $$ was very reasonable, almost shockingly low. Truly a value for the quality and overall atmosphere. A couple of items to note: Live music would have been a wonderful addition on a Saturday night. Maybe a cocktail pianist, acoustic musicians, anything more than that would totally steal from the sequestered feel of this quaint Saturday night getaway. Additionally, and this is not a reflection on the restaurant management, was the clamor of children at a table nearby. Now, I love children and have 3 of my own grand-babies, but, somehow on a late Saturday night, an all adult vibe is greatly appreciated. Again, this is a plus to the owners as they welcome any and all, it is merely an observation. Which brings me to this very important aspect of Maxine's and the restaurants of Michigan City, Indiana. All are welcome and encouraged to come on in! 

 It is important to note that there was seating near the bar and tucked away in lovely alcove seating. (this is where I sat with my friend the first time we visited Maxine's) We did not request private seating. A great deal of our recent conversation was about the incredible mural that covers the wall from ceiling to floor and along the entire length of the restaurant. (Make sure you look for the rabbit in the fine silk hat!) Another item to note, and again, it doesn't take away from the fabulous food was that either Maxine's really love Christmas and left Christmas decor up among the frogs, or it was a seasonal oversight. Because my family was so taken by the overall decor and feel of the place, they were in sensory overload. (They recently spent a very romantic vacation in France, so you can imagine)

Maxine's is truly one of the high points of Michigan City, Indiana. As the North-end, Uptown area of Michigan City continues to expand and develop, we are sure to see Maxine's continue to be one of the best places to dine in the City By the Lake. The independently owned and operated restaurants throughout the "route 12 corridor" are among the best, from Chicago to South Bend. Make a point of stopping in soon. It is truly worth the train ticket in from downtown Chicago, or a leisurely drive along the Lake Shore. Locals should give it a try as well, especially during the week when they have fabulous mid-week $12 Special.

Maxine's Restaurant and Gastropub, located at 521 Franklin St., Michigan City Indiana. 219.872.4500

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