You Grow, Grill

Restaurant expansion. It's a little like sending a child out into the world. You know your infant needs to grow. You want your tot to succeed. But there's that tug at the heart as you find yourself wishing that somehow, the kid could stay a tiny baby forever.

That's sort of how I feel about learning that Maxie's World Grill has moved to a new, bigger and better location. It's taken over the former Rascals (earlier 40th Street Grill, née Northbank Restaurant) on 40th Street just north of Camelback.

When Maxie's opened at the beginning of last year at 40th Street and Indian School, part of its charm was its offbeat location. The food was of the convenience variety, served in a converted Japanese fast-food shop. Grub included burgers, barbecue, burritos, deli sandwiches, hot dogs and salads. There was a drive-through.

But everything was prepared from scratch, to order, with top-name ingredients, like meats from Boar's Head, bratwurst from top Valley sausage shop Schreiner's, gelato from Phoenix's renowned Berto's, and tortillas crafted by Phoenix's famous Carolina's. Burgers were hand-formed Angus beef, and flank steak was USDA choice, prepared over a real wood grill. Pretty amazing for a menu where most items cost less than $6, and the most expensive thing came in at $9.25 for a half-rack of barbecued ribs served with garlic bread, salad, and a choice of fries or ranchero beans.

How great was the place? It's the only fast-food joint I've ever been where absolutely every single employee seemed genuinely happy to serve me.

The new place is a real restaurant, with tons of seating, a full bar, and even an outdoor patio with fireplace. A new dinner menu has been debuted, with highfalutin fare like spicy Cruzan halibut, Moroccan shrimp, and Jamaican jerk pork tenderloin. Vegetarians can get a fix, too, with dishes like brown rice grill with Windmill Farms (organic) vegetables and Rotelli pasta with roasted tomato sauce, mushrooms, and grilled zucchini.

Sigh. I guess I have to offer my congratulations to Maxie owner Jeff Lee.

And actually, I'll do it cheerfully. Because here's the real news: Maxie's original menu will be offered. Lee promises that, even in fancier digs, his crew (all of whom are joining him from the old place) will be as loose and friendly as they were when they won my heart, and service will continue to be fast. Prices won't skyrocket, and we can pig out until midnight seven days a week.

There's no drive-through, but Lee has in place something even more fun, at least in my book. Drinks, he says, come with little paper umbrellas.

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