A Good Neighbor
Maxine’s on Shine, with an Italian-esque menu, makes itself at home amid the dwellings off Mills.
The phrase “neighborhood restaurant” elicits visions of a little brasserie in Paris, or an Italian osteria—somewhere within walking distance and serving simple but well-executed meals in a relaxed setting, where wine and food can be enjoyed while locals walk by and quietly envy your choice of plate and place.
Maxine’s on Shine is just such a place, situated in the heart of a residential neighborhood near Mills Avenue. Like Dexter’s on Washington Street, which used to be the home of Orlando’s first Publix, the building began life as a small grocery store in the 1940s and somehow remained grandfathered into the extremely residential neighborhood as a place to serve food. Maxine’s closest competition is the collection of restaurants on Washington Street in Thornton Park, almost 10 blocks away.
At one time or another it was an upscale bistro, a gourmet deli, a gay-friendly restaurant, a café, an Australian bakery and several incarnations of Bravissimo, with its revolving door of owners and chefs. Tom Hughes, co-owner of Graffiti Junktion, bought the location in 2010, calling it Shine Neighborhood Kitchen, then sold it to Kirt Earhart and Earhart’s wife, Shelly “Maxine” Broadwell, this past November. Earhart, who was Hughes’ managing partner at Graffiti Junktion, changed the restaurant’s name this month, and has hired Bret Ashman, owner of Social Chameleon and Milk Bar, to man the kitchen.
Look for the big number 337 over the front door—the name of the restaurant in the window is hard to see from the street, but the outdoor seating should be a clue. We sat at one of those pleasant al fresco tables and enjoyed a glass of wine under the full moon.
Ashman is a good, inventive chef, and turns out what I would call Italianesque cuisine. The caprese salad ($9) consisted of hefty slices of tomato and cheese. Listed as buffalo mozzarella on the menu, it was actually burrata, a mix of cheese and cream encased in a skin of mozzarella. The cheese is a bit too loose textured for my taste, but most people I know are crazy about it. My dish of thick bucatini pasta served under chicken marsala ($14) was so overcooked it fell apart at the touch of a fork, but was quickly replaced with a properly toothy serving. No complaints about the chicken, tender and smoky from the grill and served in a rich mushroom and wine sauce.
High marks go to a bowl of steamed mussels ($9), a substantial serving of good-sized mollusks, the black shells glistening in a sauce of chopped garlic, butter and white wine. A liberal measure of hot pepper made the firm and exactly cooked mussels perk up and enhanced the superb flavors of the dish.
Chicken and lobster cannelloni ($16) arrived sizzling in a cast iron skillet, a huge portion of thin sheet pasta wrapped around chunks of chicken and bits of lobster, then roasted in a chunky tomato vodka sauce that tasted of fresh ingredients and hand crafting.
I can’t imagine a better state of affairs than being able to meander up the block from your house and have a supper of pasta and a bottle of prosecco, or a plate of steak and eggs for Sunday brunch. This little restaurant on Shine makes me jealous of its neighbors.
Maxine’s kitchen serves an inventive and varied Sunday brunch. Portuguese eggs ($10), featuring salt cod bacalhau and potato pancakes, and Tuscan poached eggs ($10) with prosciutto, asparagus and polenta, are just two delicacies that would go great with a mimosa ($3).
Maxine’s on Shine
337 N. Shine Ave.,