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Maxine’s on Shine

Written By Scott Joseph On October 16, 2012

Maxine copyThat little place on Shine Avenue in the Colonial South neighborhood, the only business besides the downtown YMCA among the old homes for blocks in every direction, has had a few tenants over the years. It was probably a neighborhood market at its provenance, but for the last couple of decades it has been a number of eateries.

I have reviewed it as the East Side Cafe, Derby Court, Shine Avenue Deli, Deli Down Under (I actually missed that one), Kia Rose, Union, Union City Tavern, Bravissimo, and, most recently and ever so briefly, Shine Neighborhood Kitchen. Now it is known as Maxine’s on Shine.

What is it about the place that would run through more than 10 concepts in only 20 years? Part of it is the limitations of the kitchen. The place is tiny, so the retrofitted kitchen area is too. That puts restrictions on the kinds of food a restaurant can offer. You’d think the deli businesses would have thrived, since sandwiches can be done with less equipment. But apparently the people who gravitate to the restaurant are looking for something more substantial.

It’s my guess that too many of the previous tenants tried to give it to them, without much success (obviously). I was encouraged when I first visited Shine Neighborhood Kitchen when it opened in 2010, and disappointed when I heard that it would be sold by the restaurant’s partners, the owners of Graffiti Junktion among them.

But the good news is that it was bought by one of the other partners, Kirt Earhart and his wife, Maxine, who lends not only her name to the new concept but her iconic appearance, complete with red frame glasses, to the logo. Even better news: the restaurant has never been better, and it is turning into exactly the neighborhood boite it was always meant to be.

I had the opportunity to experience the new Maxine’s as part of a dinner that was purchased at auction as a benefit for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. My dinner companions and I started in the funky gathering room at the rear of the restaurant and nibbled on assorted cheeses, including a delicious Machego, while we sipped a dry sparkler from Ferrari.

At our table in the cozy dining room, we started with poached lobster meat served as a bruschetta, with white truffle oil drizzles, fried shallots, tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. There was even a little more of the yummy Manchego shaved onto the french bread slices.

A subtly flavored bisque of roasted red bell peppers was next, followed by crab cannelloni, tender pasta cylinders filled with a mix of crab claw meat, spinach, mushrooms and creamy ricotta cheese. The sauce also featured roasted red bell peppers blended with tomatoes.

The next course was a “duet of steaks,” one beef and the other swordfish. The black angus filet was beautifully cooked to a red medium-rare and served with a pinot noir and mushroom cream sauce. The swordfish steak was firm and flavorful and served with sea scallops with roasted garlic, topped with shallot-dill butter sauce. I liked them both, but I think I give the nod to the fish.

Desserts included flourless chocolate torte, flan, tiramisu and vanilla cheesecake with berry sauce. Three cheers for the flan.

Owner Earhart tirelessly works the room, a constant presence at all the tables. He is the consummate host, and he appears to be having as good a time as he wants his guests to have. (If you’re thinking you might like to own a restaurant, spend an evening watching Earhart work and ask yourself if you’re willing to put that effort into it.) Earhart’s past as a wine purveyor informs the fine list of wines and beers.

Maxine’s offers entertainment on many evenings, and because we were there on a Thursday, we were treated to a cellist from the philharmonic. The dulcet tones of the skilled musician were perfect for the room. The atmosphere at Maxine’s is just about perfect, a comfortable bistro, a bar, a sidewalk cafe, a meeting place. It’s romantic or it’s convivial — your choice.

Although there have been many tenants that have preceded Maxine’s on Shine, I think it’s going to be a good long time before anyone else need apply.

Maxine’s on Shine is at 337 N. Sine Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday and for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Here is a link to maxinesonshine.com. The phone number is 407-674-6841.{jcomments on}

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