More Chicago Reviews
Maxwell's at the Club Restaurant Review
Ebullient cubs fans -- sated after a late-inning come-from-behind victory over arch-rival
St. Louis -- were streaming out of Wrigley Field and heading toward the
trains that would deliver them to their homes in the 'burbs. Lauren
and I however, were already on a train that would take us in the opposite
direction: toward Chicago and a reservation at a unique venue in the
River North area of the city. Located in the prestigious East Bank
Club -- certainly a subject worthy of its own review -- a once-nameless
restaurant there has long been a significant dining destination for some of
Chicago's elite. But after extensive remodeling, the swanky eatery
reopened in October of 2008 as Maxwell's at the Club (named as a tribute to
East Bank Club's first executive director and Chicago sport legend Max
Davidson) and is available now to East Bank Club members and the general public too.
Typically referred to as "Getaway Day", a sea of humans was heading west, toward
Ogilvie Transportation Center; I felt like a salmon trying to swim upstream
as we headed east on Madison and across the Chicago River just before 5:00 on a Friday
afternoon. But a perfect and warm spring day with only a mild (albeit
cool) lake breeze was reason enough to eschew the cab ride and walk the mile
or so north to our destination.
Arriving with plenty of time before our scheduled appointment, we stopped at the bar
for a Grey Goose on the Rocks and a glass of Russian River Sonoma Cutrer
Chardonnay; the world's banking/economic crisis took an immediate hiatus.
Three musicians -- piano, bass and drum -- added to the tranquility as I
drifted, watching the ebb and flow of wait-staff calmly going about their
Had I expected anything at all, it would have been exactly what I saw as we
entered the dining room: dark wood in sections on the walls, yellowish light
streaming upward from wall fixtures as white light filtered down from tiny
recessed ceiling lights, and beautifully-framed black-and-whites of Chicago hanging
above the booths around the outside of the room. All dining tables
echoed the dark wood (perhaps cherry or mahogany), framing dark charcoal
centers; the dark wood floor was polished and bright. Silverware was
rolled in starched, golden-colored cotton napkins, and a bread plate, water
goblets and a small oil candle graced the table top. (The upholstered
chairs and booth cushions, by the way, were perfectly coordinated to
match the room decor.) An abundance of wait-staff danced a
well-choreographed pas-de-deux, gliding past tables and each other as they
effortlessly replaced an occasional utensil, removed a plate, delivered an
entree or glass of wine. Although available to non-members, Maxwell's
still exuded the look, feel, service, highly professional character and
extreme attention-to-detail that is quite properly, all Club.
No sooner had we been seated than an immaculately-dressed waiter introduced himself
and queried as to whether we would care for a cocktail or perhaps a glass of
wine before dinner. We selected a glass of La Crema Pinot Noir and
another Russian River Chardonnay as our waiter explained the menu and the
special buffet: the Friday Night Italian Buffet. A selection of
breads, crustinti, panini, focaccia and butter was delivered and we sampled the breads
as we sipped our wine and munched on the Seared Ahi Tuna --
exquisitely prepared -- that we had ordered as an appetizer. If this were simply a
business meeting, one additional appetizer -- perhaps the Jumbo Lump-Meat Crab Cakes or Colossal
Shrimp (an exquisitely slick oxymoron for an incredible dish) -- and I would
have been completely happy. The fun however, was only beginning.
In an odd turnabout, Lauren wanted to try the Italian Night Buffet (as described by our
waiter, it made my mouth water and I almost ordered it, too).
Available were anti-pasto, some wonderful salami, prosciutto, assorted
cheeses (I tried the aged parmesan and fontina: excellent) , rotisserie-chicken salad, Caesar salad, sautéed halibut with pesto, beef
in wine sauce, and
a made-to-order pasta station with homemade vegetable-stuffed ravioli,
sautéed to order with your choice of vegetables (fresh basil, broccoli,
mushrooms, red peppers, pesto, asparagus as a few examples) and a choice of
sauces. In a word: outstanding. And lest I forget, there was a
homemade cannoli for dessert that was as smooth as silk and incredibly good.
I ordered salmon. This was not just any salmon, mind you; this was an Organic
Norwegian Salmon Fillet, which I had requested grilled. It was
accompanied by a small ramekin of flame-roasted eggplant-tomato sauce and a
mini-pyramid of brown rice. A side of perfectly-roasted Brussels
Sprouts was colorful and rounded out the meal. While I have had salmon
at numerous venues in many regions, this was quite possibly some of the best
I have ever tasted: crispy where the grill marks were placed, moist and
And rather than try to pick a half-dozen or so dishes from an incredible menu, I'm
going to give you a link to it and let you see the compact selection of a
range of fare -- from light to hardy, that simply says: "Come back again...
and again, to try more of these many wonderful items." Keep in mind
though, that this is only the
dinner menu... There is also a lunch menu and a Sunday Brunch menu as well!
What really impressed me the most was perhaps the service... professional to the
Max (if you'll pardon the pun). If you have ever had the pleasure of
going to a club... for any reason, you will surely know what I mean.
As a simple example, Lauren left the table briefly to powder her nose.
No sooner had she departed than our waiter appeared and, without notice or
fanfare of any sort, quickly and quietly re-folded her napkin and placed it back on the table.
Likewise, wait-staff appeared occasionally throughout the evening and
matter-of-factly cleared plates or replaced soiled silverware with clean
versions, filled partially depleted water goblets or performed several other
tasks that easily would go unnoticed to the occasional diner. These are the
types of things that can really make dining out an enjoyable experience.
And although East Bank Club is a club, the service is extended
to everyone in the dining room -- member or not. The restaurant
managers were also omnipresent in the dining room throughout the evening,
stopping at each and every table to introduce themselves, say hello and
check to make certain that all was well. This is a very nice touch
that I'd like to see more often at all restaurants.
So on this particular evening, there was joy.. not only in Wrigleyville,
but in the River North neighborhood as well. All of the cards had
fallen (pardon that pun too) in the right places as the warmth of spring,
and the warmth, excellent dinner fare and professionalism at Maxwell's
provided a top-notch evening. I really think though, that the joy is
here at Maxwell's every night. I also think that if you would
like to treat yourself to an incredible evening out, make a plan to have
dinner at Maxwell's at the Club. I guarantee you'll truly enjoy the
Chef Mike Lodes and Executive Sous-Chef Rick Hall and their staff have done
a superlative job with the food; congrats to Restaurant General Manager
Charles Reid and Assistant Restaurant Manager Monika Lee for a
professionally-trained and very attentive dining room staff. Bravo!
located in one of Chicago's top health clubs, high quality, nutritious
food is our primary focus," says East Bank Club's Executive Chef, Mike
Lodes, who collaborated with Executive Sous-Chef and Maxwell's head
chef, Rick Hall, to develop the menu concept. "We buy the best fresh,
local and natural products possible in order to create meals that are
both pleasurable and wholesome."
By the way, the menus at Maxwell's at the Club provide patrons with nutrition information
about many dishes -- most of which are made from scratch -- including calorie count, fat content
and the number of carbohydrates. Maxwell's, is open weekdays for lunch and
dinner, plus brunch on Sundays... However, my recommendation is to
forget calorie-counting and just enjoy the excellent cuisine!
As the train rolled out of the station and back toward the western suburbs, I
had already begun to think about what I could order on my next visit...
I give Maxwell's a perfect Five Zins for a perfect evening!
Your Table is Waiting...
Photos courtesy Kurman Communications,
345 North Canal Street, Suite 1404; Chicago, IL