Every neighbourhood needs a go-to spot for grabbing a bite, meeting a friend, or relaxing on a sun-dappled patio. For those in that fast-moving zone on the north end of the Burrard Bridge between Yaletown and the West End, their new local hang opened this spring, and it's an all-day European-styled restaurant called Maxine's Cafe & Bar.
Maxine's - a sibling to fellow downtowners Tableau Bar Bistro and Homer St. Cafe and Bar - took over the space that had previously been home to the cycling and Italianate cafe Musette. Musette managed to escape the perils of the then-impending COVID-19 pandemic when the coffee and casual eats spot closed its doors for good in February 2020.
Fast forward a year later and Maxine's was in the works, renovating the light-filled ground floor space to take on a Paris-by-way-of-New-York feel, with decor touches honouring women - the latter taking its cue from Maxine, the lane and cross-street of the bistro, named for Maxine MacGilvray. Part of the West End's project to name streets after women who impacted the neighbourhood, Maxine Lane pays tribute to chemist and business owner MacGilvray, who had a line of cosmetics and ran a beauty school on Bidwell.
Maxine's also honours the European approach to the neighbourhood joint, which has seen increasing appeal in Vancouver in recent years. It's an aesthetically pleasing place to have a morning coffee - or grab one to go - that seamlessly transitions to become where you can sit down for a high-quality lunch, enjoy a great happy hour, or settle in for dinner.
However, the day is divided into three segments at Maxine's, starting with brunch, which is offered daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and features breakfast dishes - big and small, including their well-regarded Dutch Baby, a souffled pancake sizzled up in a cast iron skillet - as well as lunch items like salads, a burger, sandwiches, and heartier plates.
Happy Hour is offered from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and includes house wines for $6 and $5 highballs, with things like the burger, oysters, their stunning golden-crisp fries, and a few more selections on the food side, and several drinks on the cocktail side.
Maxine's dinner menu is on offer from 5 p.m. onward and showcases French-Italian influences with a lot of Pacific Northwest sensibilities. Catch some serious bistro vibes with their velvet-tender filet steak and a brimming tall cup of house fries (aka frites) with your choice of mayo or ketchup (or both!) for dipping. Silen slices of tuna are accented with pickled fennel, slivers of jalapeno, briny olives, and creamy avocado in the crudo starter.
A robust kale salad with Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower echoes a classic Caesar with its lacy thin crispy bread "crouton" and creamy, garlicky dressing with nutty parmesan. Grilled sourdough gets a beautiful schmear of tonnato (tuna) sauce before being decked out with white anchovies and capers - a beautiful foil for a crisp, fruity glass of French rosé, which cuts through its richness and salt.
Though they have very B.C.-meets-bistro fare like classic roast chicken, wild salmon with a potato salad (another spot where that tonnato sauce comes into play), and mussels with fries, they're also making pasta dishes, like an addicting plate of Linguine alle Vongole. It's a simple dish, which Chef Bobby Milheron opts to present with the plump clams freed of their shells; it's beautifully done, complete with a little kick from Calabrian chili.
If you can manage to, save room for dessert. Maxine's is serving up a decadent eclair coated in thick dark chocolate with hazelnuts that's filled with a dulce de leche cream. The same logic from your appetizers applies: team this lux treat up with some bubbles from the wine list to cut a beautiful line into all that glorious sugar.
Maxine's is located at 1325 Burrard Street and is offering dine-in, both indoors as well as on their 24-seat patio Thursday through Sunday, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place that currently include dividers between tables and masks for staff and guests. Take-out and delivery is also available.