by Alice Levitt
47 North Main Street, Waterbury, 244-0910
I don't often turn right when heading off the Stowe-Waterbury exit on I-89. Perhaps that's why I had never made it to Maxi's Restaurant before. It gets great reviews on 7 Nights and is a member of the Vermont Fresh Network, both excellent endorsements. Sunday, I finally took that right turn.
The casual set-up included a lunch counter overlooking TVs playing a Lifetime Original Movie, several tables and this painting (right). My kind of place. The comfort food on the menu looked good, too. Hot turkey sandwiches, smoked gouda macaroni and cheese... All the comfort favorites.
I took a risk and chose chicken piccata — not exactly home-style American, but the promise of capers and artichokes on top was irresistible.
The green hue of everything on the plate (right) should indicate the freshness of the dish. Squash was lightly sautéed in little more than olive oil and salt and pepper. The edges were caramelized to delectable sweetness, but the vegetables weren't cooked so much that they lost their integrity in terms of flavor or texture.
The chicken breast was on the small side, but there's an option to order two. I wouldn't have needed to but for the fact that a tendon ran along the edge of mine, causing me to lose a fair portion of the already small breast. Too bad, because it was delicious. The combined zip of buttery lemon and cured artichoke and capers was like a taste of sunshine. The rice pilaf appeared to be of the Near East variety, not exactly homemade but one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
The seemingly conventional shepherd's pie (right) turned out to be anything but. Dominated by fresh sweet corn, the dish was far lighter than most versions.
The thin layer of mashed potatoes took on more of a pie crust role than that of a leading player. It was nice and creamy, especially with its topping of sharp cheddar, but more of the flavor came from the beef and coarsely chopped onions beneath.
Without a heavy sauce to tie everything together, the pie was somewhat dry, but had a cleaner taste than most, almost as if it had been grilled. Not your average shepherd's pie, for sure.
Neither was the chocolate-chip-cookie sundae. First, its size must be taken into account — the cookie itself weighed in at close to a pound. It was chewy with chunks of bittersweet chocolate that melted with the vanilla ice cream on top.
The chocolate syrup on top was almost extraneous, but I can't say that I minded too much. Whipped cream and not one but three cherries on top completed the gut-busting dish.
Now I know that when I want good old American food with a little something extra, I can take that right turn at Waterbury. I already have plans for you, homemade chocolate lava cake. Be afraid.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.