8314 Chapel Hill Road
Maximillian’s Grill, not to be confused with Maximillian’s Pizza Kitchen next door though I’m going out on a limb and saying they’re related, appeared this year on Greg Cox’s annual list of top 20 Triangle restaurants. It always flies under my radar; I keep forgetting people have recommended it, but the placement on Cox’s list stuck it firmly in mind this time.
The menu is manic, reaching into Asian, Mexican, Southern, and Nouveau American cuisines, sometimes all in the same dish. Spiciness in many forms is its main unifier. Usually the spice is conveyed through sauces with names like hellfire, demon, and voodoo. As a lover of all things fiery and kitsch, that is not a problem for me. Our waitress deserves bonus points for remembering the details of 2 appetizer specials, 6 entrée specials, and 2 dessert specials. This is not a restaurant that dreams small.
With that sort of menu, I expected a bolder atmosphere, but Maximillian’s sticks with a cigar room and steakhouse feel. It’s pretty dark (standard apologies for the photos), and walnut wood paneled the walls. It’s also rather cold early evening, likely due to the floor-length windows and stone-tiled floor. But the place warmed up well enough when more people came in. By 7 pm, it was hopping. Contemporary pop played from hidden speakers.
The wine list underwhelmed, mainly because the cheapest glasses are $10. The cocktails are similarly priced, so I chose one of those instead, the Blood and Sand.
It took an imaginative route toward a manhattan’s flavors by combining salty caramel vodka, Dewar’s scotch, vermouth, an orange twist, and a maraschino cherry. Pretty in the glass, and I was surprised by how the caramel’s sweetness imparted bourbon characteristics to the Scotch, thus invoking my impression of it as a roundabout manhattan. The caramel note lingered pleasantly.by