As Maxwell's Speakeasy approaches its second birthday next month, the still relatively new-feeling Tacoma spot has been through some ups and downs. Those include changes in management, and an identity crisis or two - but they have finally gotten it down.
Maxwell's Speakeasy Restaurant and Lounge, on the corner of 6th Avenue and Saint Helens Avenue, offers a classy, upscale atmosphere and casual fine dining that customers can customize to their budget or occasion.
"We're finally starting to find ourselves as a restaurant, and we're developing a base clientele," said Executive Chef Matt Colony, who started with Maxwell's grand-opening two years ago.
He and restaurant manager Adam Clark, who has been with Maxwell's since October 2009, take pride in running the snazzy joint that genuinely offers something for all types of diners.
"We wanted something neighborhoody, but something that people don't feel like they're just sitting in a pub," Colony said. "We get a lot of people that drive here, but we want more people on foot."
The "neighborhoody" feel Colony is referring to is impeccably executed. Sitting amid hundreds of condos and with other beloved restaurants and bars in walking distance (Doyle's Pub, The Hub and Puget Sound Pizza, to name a few), Maxwell's fills a niche long left vacant in the 6th Avenue and Saint Helens neighborhood. They do it by offering high-caliber food, drinks, service and atmosphere, but at a fraction of the cost during their twice daily happy hour specials.
The dim lighting, relaxed but classy atmosphere, jazzy tunes and professional service also makes Maxwell's a superb candidate for a special occasion meal, or an impressive date, in addition to being a great happy-hour spot.
The menu is what Colony describes as "rustic fine dining." It includes home-style inspired entrees and starters that meet the high standards set by other local fine-dining establishments, but with options that don't necessarily have to gouge the pocketbook.
Signature plates include Maxwell's Cioppino (an abundant serving of lobster, mussels, clams, prawns and salmon in a spicy fennel tomato broth for $25), cider-brined pork chops with grilled asparagus, homemade apple chutney, black mustard seed aioli and fries ($19) and the ever-popular Walker Burger, topped with applewood smoked bacon, arugula, tomato, white cheddar and grilled onion aioli and fries for $12.
The lounge menu offers even more affordable items consistent with the executive chef's tastes, and is made even cheaper during happy hour. Many of the lounge menu features (including entrees like the Walker Burger and pan-seared albacore, salads, soups and appetizers like charcuterie selections, artisan cheeses, a pound of wings and warm bread with blue cheese butter) are in the $5 to $10 range (or less) with $4 wells and $3 beers.
Colony noted that business has been good for the restaurant since the beginning of the year; the happy-hour food and drink specials are a big draw for many of the regulars.
"A lot of people still don't know about us, or they do but think we're really expensive," he noted. "You could come here and make it an expensive dinner, but that's up to you. We have plenty of options that make it affordable."
Maxwell's offers happy hour from 4-6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Tuesday through Friday, and all night Saturday and Monday. Tuesdays and Thursdays Maxwell's offers half-price bottles of wine and $2 drafts on Wednesdays. Open from 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. on Saturdays. 454 St. Helens Ave. (253) 683-4115.