DINING: No waffling, Maxine's delivers

June 15, 2009

It felt weird to pull into a gas station parking lot in search of lunch. But we forgot we were in a former auto repair shop as soon as we walked into Maxine's Chicken & Waffles (132 N. East St., 423-3300), attached to the Citgo station at Ohio and East streets.

For one thing, it's huge—no discarded Burger Chef booths tucked in among the motor oil and pine tree deodorizers here. Maxine's is a full fledged restaurant that just happens to share a building with a different kind of gas peddler.

Named for Maxine Redmon Bunnell, a 30-year hospital cafeteria veteran who raised nine children on Indianapolis' south side, the eatery has a decidedly down home feel. This is the stuff southern grandmas served up for Sunday dinner, right down to the Sweet Tea ($1.99).

Our meal got off to a surprising—but welcome—start when our server delivered a basket of fried cornbread accompanied by peach butter. I'm not a fan of cornbread or peaches, but found myself battling my friend for the last one.

Appetites whetted, we turned to the main attraction. There were other choices, but, come on, we really had no choice but to order Maxine's namesake dish: Chicken and Waffles. The $9.25 entree, a giant waffle fresh off the iron, came topped with three hearty chicken wings. No drummettes here—these babies are full size and satisfying. Diners with smaller appetites could choose the $5 special instead, forgoing two of the wings.

And oh, those wings. The breading was crispy and well-seasoned without overpowering the tender meat—nothing like the fast-food varieties that are more batter than bird. The waffle, served with the same sweet peach butter, likewise was hot and tasty.

Our other selection came from the $5 menu, five cheaper versions of popular entrees. My choice: the BBQ Turkey Sandwich, which was served with a choice of cole slaw, fries or house potatoes.

Tender chunks of off-the-bone turkey (no deli meat need apply) was simmered in Maxine's own sweet barbecue sauce, then piled on top of a Kaiser roll—creating a much more flavorful combination than I expected. I went with the house potatoes, chunks of starchy goodness fried with onions, spices and enough oil to make things interesting. Yum.

Maxine's only misstep: We had to remind our server to bring us our drinks, only to discover that the Diet Coke had run dry. I almost asked my cousin to run to the store, until I remembered—this isn't Grandma's house. But it's close.

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