Phantom Gourmet: Max’s Tavern In Springfield
SPRINGFIELD – Where can you go for maximum freshness, maximum flavor AND maximum fun? Well, at Max’s Tavern in Springfield, it’s all delivered one plate at a time.
Located just steps away from the Basketball Hall of Fame, this casual restaurant is part steakhouse and part saloon, with a menu full of All-Star eats. The dining room may be decked out with hoops memorabilia, but the low lighting and red banquettes make it seem more like an upscale brasserie. Plus, there’s an open kitchen that’s quite popular with customers who like to pop by and visit, according to General Manager John Thomas.
“They feel comfortable going up and saying ‘Who’s the chef,’ and ‘Can I talk to Paul and say hello,’ and ‘Thanks for the steak. Thanks for the great meal.’”
“The best part about being in the open kitchen is getting to see the satisfaction on the guests’ faces,” said Chef Roberge. He has designed a menu with all of your steakhouse favorites, like the tower of fresh shellfish to start, and sizzling cuts of beef served with sides like creamy mac and cheese. The rib eye comes perfectly grilled on the bone for added flavor.
“The rib eye is the king of steaks,” explained Roberge. “It’s a man’s steak, definitely. It’s 20 ounces, bone-in, and every steak is better on a bone in my opinion. The bone imparts a lot of flavor into the meat when it cooked.”
The steak can be ordered plain or upgraded ‘a la Max’, with a creamy Gorgonzola cheese on top.
“It’s dynamite,” Thomas promises. “It makes a great steak even better.”
If you want your meat served in a more casual manner, try Max’s French Dip, topped with horseradish aioli and served alongside au jus for dipping.
“French Dip sandwich is absolutely amazing,” Thomas boasted. “It’s our prime rib with a little bit of au jus. You get to dip this beautiful sandwich into a bowl of au jus and it’s spectacular. Our au jus is so good I could drink about the glass “
Now here’s a nice surprise: the Tuna Tacos get an Asian twist, served on a fried wonton shell with a zesty wasabi cream.
“You kind of turn the taco on its head and take it away from Mexico and put in Asia. It’s a little unexpected when people get it, but everybody loves this dish,” Thomas said.
A seafood dish that’s truly a show stopper is the Grilled Maine Lobster. This head turner is split in half before it hits the grill and then served on a bed of creamy corn and leek risotto.
“Grilled lobster’s not actually dancing on a plate but it kind a looks like it,” Thomas explained. “We have a tough time fitting it on the plate actually. If the server is carrying the lobster, she should be just carrying the lobster. It’s that big.”
Your palate will certainly be stunned when it tastes the Shrimp Campanelle, featuring pasta tossed in fresh pesto made with pea tendrils, rather than basil.
“It’s a lot more mellow. The pea tendrils don’t have that in-your-face flavor. It’s more of a mellow pea flavor,” said Chef Roberge.
“You get a lot of good green pea flavor with the pesto, and not that garlicky kind of pesto you’re used to. So it’s a nice softer flavor. It tastes like summer,” added Thomas.
While the pastas are designed to be light, the salads are actually quite hearty – like the Fried Prosciutto and Cantaloupe Salad.
There’s nothing sweeter than ending your meal with desserts like the New York Style Cheesecake served on a graham cracker crust or the Pineapple Sundae with a big wedge of chocolate-covered pineapple on top.
“You eat with your eyes first and this is one of those dishes,” said Thomas. “The Pineapple Sundae is great to look at. It looks beautiful and when you dig into it, it’s even that much better.”
From the food to the beverages, everything at Max’s is much better than you might expect, including the service.
“This is the hospitality business and we do it right. Everyone that you come in contact there will say hello, will welcome you with open arms.”
You can find Max’s Tavern at the Basketball Hall of Fame at 1000 West Columbus Boulevard in Springfield, or online at maxrestaurantgroup.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.
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