I get a lot of press releases and a lot of voice mail, but I gather a good deal of my restaurant information from that most professional of sources, my car.
Like everyone else in Dallas, I spend half my waking hours behind the wheel, and cue in to changes in the restaurant scene when I notice the signs have changed while I'm driving down McKinney or Elm or heading out on Preston.
The problem is, I don't drive around Plano or Richardson that much--or Far North Dallas, for that matter. So I miss stuff, and I do appreciate it when those whose neighborhoods these are let me know what's going on out there. (I wish more of you wrote in.)
Fortunately, readers in Far North Dallas evidently love to correspond, and they also seem to have strong feelings about where they eat. Recently, a place called Maxine's was the subject of several passionate faxes sent to the office by a fan. It's in Far North Dallas (on Frankford Road, but you won't catch me mistaking it for Plano, no sirree), and it's exactly the kind of place I would never have heard about if someone hadn't let me know.
It's right next to the late Accolades, but it's camouflaged to look like a chain restaurant--it could've been designed by Brinker's people--with a semi-open kitchen and brick arches. You'd expect an illustrated laminated menu and some copyrighted dishes.
But this is the only Maxine's there is. And they have one specialty that makes the place stand out which will probably not be picked up by a chain, and which the fax pointed out: hickory-grilled gorgonzola, raisin, and spinach pizza.
Yes, you read me right. Who could resist checking that out?
There's lots of other stuff, too. In fact, this is a jewel of a family restaurant--there's a nice selection of beers and wine by the glass; there's a kids' menu.
Mine had Mexican food and conservative pizzas while I enjoyed a lovely platter of grilled salmon--I skipped the mayonnaise-y sauce and ate the fish with just a squeeze of lemon. It had the deliciously rich crust and rare meat of a good steak.
As a side, I chose the grilled vegetables--long ovals of squash and zucchini, tender-crisp and striped from the grill, and a big slab of portobello. Sort of an updated surf 'n' turf--surf 'n' fungi.
Big tears of romaine leaves were coated with a dressing more like creamy Italian than Caesar; the garden salad came with cruets of oil and vinegar, which I hate. I can't toss a salad in those individual bowls, and end up with some leaves doused in vinegar, others soaked in oil, and others dry.
But about this pizza. A thin, hand-formed crust, powdered with flour, barely smoked from the grill, held the unlikely trio of toppings--fresh bits of spinach and darkly sweet raisin nuggets to offset the faintly bitter, buttery, and slightly stinky cheese lumps melting over the top. A decadent blending of tastes, a sophisticated blending of flavors.
Maybe a little much for a meal, perhaps better suited for a first course, but memorable; unusual. I'm glad I know about it. Thanks, Brenda, wherever you are.
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Maxine's Restaurant, 19009 Preston Road, 407-9191. Open Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Gorgonzola, spinach, and raisin pizza $7.75
Grilled salmon $13.