August 24, 2011
Maxwell's offers East Coast pizza, served with mountain west style
By Heather L. King
Special To The Tribune
I'm suspicious about the idea that local restaurants get better when they add another location, but Maxwell's East Coast Eatery in Park City's Kimball Junction and now Salt Lake City is the exception to this rule.
The food and service are far superior at the new Salt Lake City space, while the entire operation seems to perform better at creating a welcoming environment.
The decor at both locations is the same, but the exposed ceilings are far grander in the historic downtown Boston Building, the walls of windows are more inviting and the dark wood floors just look better.
The Kimball Junction Redstone locale gets a nod for having a huge patio, but its arrangement next to what has literally become a busy playground/skate park area deters from the ambiance meant to be derived from Swaner Eco Center next door.
Service at the Park City location was truly awful on multiple visits. As we were seated one evening, diners at the table next to us stopped the hostess to request a server, saying they had been waiting for 20 minutes. We felt their pain later during our meal when no plates were cleared, my barely-picked-on slice of pizza went unnoticed, and when we requested the bill we waited another 10 minutes for it to arrive. As we left, another table seated on the patio came to the hostess desk to ask if a server could be located.
None of these service problems were evident at the downtown Salt Lake City Maxwell's, despite the restaurant having just opened in late June and doing brisk business during several weekday lunch visits.
Owner Steve Maxwell hails from New Jersey and seems to know a good New York-style thin-crust pizza, which is evident because pizza is really the big story here.
The Fat Kid Pizza menu will give movie buffs a chuckle because each of the pizzas are named after favorite East Coast movie titles. There are two sizes of pizza only: a 20-inch pie, or by-the-slice, which is delivered on a square of waxed paper emblazoned with the Fat Kid Pizza logo. While you won't see it on the menu (and only two of my waiters told me about it), you can get almost any combination of pizza made as a slice for about $5 -- just ask.
The namesake Fat Kid ($20 for a 20-inch pizza or $5 for a foldable slice the size of a dinner plate) is now my go-to lunch snack if Pie Hole isn't serving something that catches my eye first. The simplicity of the spicy pepperoni and earthy spinach topped with dollops of creamy ricotta meld together perfectly.
Other ready-made, movie-themed combinations include the Untouchables ($20; $5) featuring banana peppers, red bell peppers, jalapeños and Italian sausage; or The Godfather ($20; $5) which is a cheesefest of mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.
My first go-around with Goodfellas ($20; $5), heavily loaded with red bell peppers, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts at the Park City location, arrived with a dried-out base of cheese and raw red peppers and mushrooms. But another try at the downtown location confirmed that this combination really works when prepared correctly.
Maxwell's also offers appetizers, salads, sandwiches and pastas. Starters such as calamari ($9) and a caprese salad ($9) weren't worth the calories or steep prices, with the squid being overcooked and rubbery, and the balsamic reduction on the salad tasting instead like cheap vinegar.
On one visit, I dined with an East Coast native who proclaimed the "famous" Philly cheesesteak ($10) worthy of the name. Of particular note are the chewy Amoroso rolls brought in from Philadelphia, which hold the ideal combination of meat (thin slices of beef worth savoring or chicken); cheese (original Cheese Whiz, provolone or white American); and vegetables (mushrooms, onions, green peppers or cherry peppers).
At lunchtime (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), sandwiches (except the Philly cheesesteak) are served with a choice of crisp Caesar salad, mixed green salad with fresh vegetables and hefty croutons, French fries or soup giving you a lot of food for a good price.
The grilled chicken and roasted red pepper panini ($10) also included spinach, provolone and roasted red pepper aioli with a great kick, all served on nicely grilled focaccia.
On the dinner menu, there's the moist and chewy gnocchi with tomato basil cream sauce ($13). The combination of herbs in the gnocchi and tomato-tart cream sauce really hit the spot on a summer evening. You can combine the gnocchi as well as four other pasta options with six sauces in any manner you choose.
The Park City location offers a full bar selection, including wines by the bottle or by the glass for $6-$8. Both locations offer a slim selection of draft beer choices for $3.50-$5.
Maxwell's East Coast Eatery in downtown Salt Lake City has raised the bar for service and quality, while its Park City predecessor needs a refresher course.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.