The dining room at Maximillian's Café can be summed up in one word: peach. The concrete walls are peach. The concrete floor is peach. Peach. Peach. Peach. Overhead, a single fan swirls slowly beneath a dusty ceiling. A couple grimy windows offer views of a dirt parking lot. Customers—mostly folks taking a lunch break—crowd three of the room's 10 tables. Conversation bounces off the hard surfaces all around.
It may seem slow back here, but that's hardly the case down the hall, where you place your order in a window that offers a view of the Gillespie Park eatery's madhouse kitchen. The space is a blurry swirl of activity, with sandwiches and salads being prepped and tossed together in Styrofoam boxes that are then dumped in white plastic bags. All that food isn't going to the peach room; delivery and takeout orders clearly make up a major portion of Maximillian's biz. The phone rings constantly. The line never quite disappears.
That focus on delivery and takeout makes sense, because one of the most curious things about Maximillian's is its location. Located on the northwest corner of 10th Street and Goodrich Avenue, the restaurant is surrounded mostly by residential homes. It's so well-hidden you could easily pass it a dozen times before noticing it, even though it's just north of downtown proper and is a terrific destination for a quick in-and-out lunch.
The restaurant concentrates on lunchtime classics like sandwiches, salads and wraps, with both a two-page regular menu and a spread of daily specials posted next to the kitchen window. It's sub-zero outside right now (or 64 degrees, close enough), so soup is sounding spectacular. The specials menu offers a Maryland crab bisque ($3.25-$3.95), hot and fortifying enough to restore me after my trip through the Sarasota Arctic. The soup comes out colored a rusty orange, with a thick, sticky texture that brings life back to my nearly blue extremities. The crab has cooked down into the merest threads of meat, but the crustacean's inimitable sea spray flavor infuses everything in my Styro bowl.
A salad follows the soup. I'm always amazed at how difficult it is to find a reasonably priced salad in this town. For $7.45, Maximillian's is today offering a quite-fresh blue cheese walnut salad, dotted with cubed hunks of chicken breast, curly strips of crispy bacon, sliced strawberries, tomato wedges and dried cranberries. It's not a particularly inventive mix, but the price and flavor are right on. A pleasant-enough balsamic vinaigrette binds everything together.
A word of warning about Maximillian's brownies ($1.95). Well known for murdering healthy-diet resolutions citywide, the restaurant's goodies are about the size of a stapler, wrapped in plastic and shingled in a small basket next to the register. I'm not a huge brownie guy (most taste just fine, nothing more), but Maximillian's may have achieved peak brownie. Delicately crusted. Dense but not dry. Moist but still stable and chewy. I'd eat one every day if I could. Without one, a trip here just isn't complete.
Maximillian's Café is located at 1695 10th St., Sarasota. It is open 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 941-330-0245 or 941-544-6961 or visit maximillianscafe.com for more info.