I love dining out. Takeout brought in just doesn’t have the same excitement as sitting in a restaurant, where attractive meals are prepared and served by professionals. Dinner in a Styrofoam container with compartments just doesn’t cut it.
Maria Papa’s “518 Restaurants,” unlike internet search engines, has operated like a reliable friend, recommending new places for takeout meals. Phase 2 of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for gently reopening New York state allowed outdoor dining with masks and social distancing. But despite the governor’s “permission,” I’m not ready. Phoning in an order and using curbside pickup continues to be my method of choice.
So I was enthusiastic when a supportive customer praised Maxon’s American Grill on “518 Restaurants.” She had raved about the prime rib, but that was only available on Thursday, and it was Saturday.
The menu listed common items, but often with a twist. For instance, B.L.T. Dip featured cheeses, bacon, tomato and scallions melted together and topped with more bacon, tomato and shredded lettuce, served with buttered toast ($9.99). Fried Pickles were dill pickle spears fried to a golden brown and served with a parmesan peppercorn dressing ($7). Their 50/50 Burger is a “heart unhealthy” patty made from 50 percent ground bacon and 50 percent ground beef, served on a pretzel roll and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and customer’s choice of cheese ($11.99).
Entrees of meatloaf, chicken and biscuits, brown-sugar glazed salmon and balsamic chicken ($12.99-$15.99) were also available for diners that craved something more substantial.
Although neither my guest nor I was famished, we each decided ordering an appetizer and an entrée would permit us to get the lay of the land. Reliable Guest ordered Grandmas’s Chips ($6.99) for us to munch on before enjoying his Santa Fe Salad with ranch dressing ($10.99). I chose an order of medium hot wings ($10.99) to fill in the gap.
Grandma outdid herself in the chip department. We all know that Saratoga Springs is the birthplace of the potato chip, so it is no surprise to find “homemade” chips on a local menu. These were cut thicker than the usual variety, which allowed them to maintain the subtle flavor of real potatoes. They were salted sufficiently to intensify that flavor without overpowering the chips. A slightly garlicky cheese dipping sauce accompanied Grandma’s Chips, making this good appetizer even better.
Guest’s Santa Fe Salad did not stray far from the expected, but I marveled at how it had been arranged in the ubiquitous Styrofoam container. Medium-sized cucumber coins were placed in the corners, while mixed greens, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, crushed Tostitos, bits of red onion, black beans and corn salsa were heaped in the center. Four thin slices of fresh avocado huddled to one side of the box, and a small capped container of chipotle dressing was tucked in.
My medium wings were more than adequate. Crisp celery and carrot sticks were tucked into a corner between the Styrofoam and the protective paper under the wings. The blue cheese dipping sauce, contained safely in its own lidded cup, was sturdy enough to stand up to the heat of the wings but mild enough not to camouflage the flavor.
My entrée of brown-sugar glazed salmon was still warm off the grill and perfectly cooked. I donated a small piece to augment guest’s salad, enjoyed some of the fish myself and still had enough for brunch the next day. I chose sides of mundane “seasoned” (read “salty”) corn and broccoli florets, though my secret heart would have preferred rice, which was not available.
While it is difficult to assess service under our present COVID-19 guidelines, After ordering, my guest reported that Marriah’s phone-side manner was courteous and helpful. Although we had specified a hefty tip to be added to our credit card payment, for whatever reason, it was omitted. This slip in our credit card payment will be amended in the near future. Restaurant workers have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, and in my estimation should be generously tipped.
Maxon’s American Grill
WHEN: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $44.96 for two appetizers and two entrees, but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Parking lot, accessible, credit cards, takeout best if ordered in advance