It's an entertaining concept, and there are now plenty of upscale restaurants where you can watch cooks prepare your meal. Emeril's has its food bar, for instance, and I've long regarded the handful of bar stools facing the tiny kitchen at One Restaurant in the Riverbend as some of the best seats in town because they allow such a detailed view into the preparation of your meal. Even the updated, post-Katrina reincarnation of Ye Olde College Inn, that once crotchety old dining den, has two seats facing the kitchen, for those interested enough to watch orders of onion rings and sheets of paneed veal come together.
But Maximo's is different. While these other examples all offer a few curious patrons windows into the cooking action, the kitchen at Maximo's dominates the entire restaurant. When something flares up on the grill, everyone in the rear dining room sees it and most respond with a united chorus of "ohh, ahh," or something of the like.
Sitting at the dining counter is like being at the footlights, but a spot in one of the booths raised slightly across the room is more like watching from box seats. This kitchen seems so much like a stage, in fact, that on one visit when a pair of the cooks started quietly singing a song as they worked, I found myself humming along. There's really no such thing as dining alone when you eat at Maximo's food bar.
- Ian McNulty