It seemed like a no-brainer at the time: cruise up to Park City for the Sarah Vowell performance at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and, while I was up there, review the snazzy new restaurant/club Tatou.
Unfortunately, Tatou was closed for the ski town’s “shoulder season.” No problem, I thought; I’ll just revisit one of the premier Park City restaurants that I hadn’t been to in a while. I called Chez Betty: closed for spring break. Same situation at 350 Main: closed. Shabu: closed. Grappa: closed. Chenez: closed, permanently. Jeez, when the ski season ends in Park City, it really ends.
Then I remembered a place in Kimball Junction that a friend of mine had recommended: Maxwell’s. Perfect! I figured I’d swing by for lunch and, if the place was worthy of reviewing, I’d return for dinner, too.
Maxwell’s is located at Redstone in the recently opened Newpark Resort. When I strolled through the door, I detected a strange undertone of … chaos. Some guys at the bar were yelling “Free beer!” Others were simply staring at me. Everyone seemed off-kilter. One barfly said, “Dude, what did you do?” Since it was noontime and sunshine was streaming through the window, it took me a moment to figure out that at the very instant I walked through the front door, the power at Maxwell’s had gone out. As it turned out, somebody had struck a power pole and the power was out all through Kimball Junction and the Snyderville Basin. I wouldn’t be lunching at Maxwell’s.
Well, I was also interested in checking out Fuego Bistro & Pizzeria, located in the Prospector neighborhood, where the power was working. Fuego was supposed to be open for lunch, but the place was locked up tight. Damn. Now I was really getting hungry. So I backtracked to Flippin’ Burgers—not to review it since I’d recently done that—but simply to eat. I ordered a burger, small fries and a beer. The total came to $38 and change. “That ain’t right,” I suggested to the cashier. Even by Park City standards, $38 seems extravagant for a burger, beer and fries. Well, although Flippin’ Burgers’ electricity was working, the Kimball outage had screwed up the restaurant’s Internet server and affected their cash register’s ability to compute the cost of a meal. This was definitely not my day.
So, I kept phoning Maxwell’s. “Power back on yet?” I asked. Nope. Not yet. Finally, just before 5 p.m., I hit paydirt: “Yup, we’re back in business!” said a guy at Maxwell’s. A half-hour later, famished, I was ensconced at a Maxwell’s booth with my wife and quickly ordered an appetizer of steamed mussels ($11) and a bowl of pasta fagioli ($6). The mussels, steamed in a silky wine and garlic sauce, were luscious. But of 18 bivalves, five were unopened; obviously the mollusks could have used a couple more minutes on the stove. The pasta fagioli was a disaster. The large, shallow soup bowl was filled to the brim with bright-red canned tomatoes and not much else. The “broth” was thin, and I counted exactly three white beans, no celery or carrots, and just a small smattering of tubetti pasta. As hungry as I was, I couldn’t eat the pasta fagioli. To his credit, our server removed the offending soup from the bill without being asked.
Owner Steve Maxwell hails originally from South Jersey and operates Park City’s Sidecar club and Fat Kid Pizza on Main Street, in addition to his new eponymously named Kimball Junction eatery. I ordered the gnocchi with his “Mom Mom’s Original Gravy” ($11), and I was disappointed. I’ll bet Mom Mom didn’t serve her marinara cold at home. Mine was lukewarm, at best. That’s a shame, because the homemade gnocchi were otherwise fantastic: large, thumb-size (the size of thumb you’d remember from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), thick, chewy gnocchi bombs spiked with cheese—just the way my best friend’s Italian mom used to make ’em. Next time, I’ll try Maxwell’s brown butter-sage sauce, and hope those giant gnocchi are thoroughly warmed through.
Maxwell’s is as much bar as restaurant. In fact, the right-angle-shaped bar (literally, a corner bar) is the main focus of the place, with some 60-plus bar seats for patrons, all of which were occupied when we popped in post-Sarah Vowell for snacks and drinks. I was thrilled to find Boulevard Brewing Co. unfiltered wheat beer on tap (along with Guinness and many others), which served as the perfect foil for a plate of perfectly spiced, plump and juicy Buffalo chicken wings ($10). Wine at Maxwell’s runs the gamut from a $5 house wine (Woodbridge) to St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc and Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir from Argentina. The super-friendly service and management staff—hard-working folks like Scott, Ryan, Sarah, Lance, Seth and Darren—make visiting Maxwell’s a blast.
That lively bar, good service and 12 HD TVs are tremendously appealing. But the best reason to visit Maxwell’s is the pizza, which is extreme: You can order a $3 slice of cheese pizza or a 20-inch pie (starting at $16); there’s nothing in-between. But that’s all right, because this New York-style pie is so outstanding you’ll want all 20 inches. The pizza skin (crust, to civilians) is about 1/8-inch thick, except the outer edge, which is thick and crisp. Most of the specialty pizzas—such as the Fat Kid and The Godfather—run about $20. My favorite is a simpler pie topped solely with high-quality cheese and mild Italian sausage—lots of it ($18). It’s a pizza Steve’s Mom Mom would be proud of.
1456 New Park Blvd.