Lunch with Louie at Max's
Santa Barbara food reviews with Louie the pessimist food critic
Sep 22, 10:39 PM (PT)
Yesterday was Max’s birthday. If he is still alive, he will be 18 by now. That’s pretty old for a Springer Spaniel, but if anybody deserves to live that long in the canine world it’s Max. He was not your typical dog - after all, he suffered from ADD, and according to his vet, he was also bipolar. In common terms, he was afflicted with manic-depression. Max just couldn’t stop. He would run around our yard from dawn to dusk, stop to eat something and continue until complete exhaustion would take over his poor body. At night, completely spent, he would collapse and sleep for a few hours before waking up to continue with his routine. Max inspired above all, a feeling of compassion and every once in a while he would stop, kiss us and look at us with those wonderful brown eyes that were basically saying, “I am sorry”.
We loved Max without reservation, and every year since his departure to our friends’ ranch in Montana, we celebrate his birth and hope he is still taking his owners for a walk. It was never the other way around - you never took Max for a stroll - he did the strolling and you just hung on for dear life. So, what better place than Max’s, located at 3514 State Street, for a birthday lunch in honor of Max?
Max’s is a coffee shop that aspires to be considered a restaurant, but just doesn’t try hard enough. It’s difficult to consider it a restaurant, as it is open for dinner only once a week. So, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but basically its intentions are to stay open without too many commitments.
We had no problem getting a table when we arrived, but shortly after we got there, the place was filled to the brim. What’s up with that? Well it seems that Max’s is a hangout and cool place to have lunch for seniors. I had trouble-keeping Ed from being refused service for appearing too young. I had to act as his sponsor in order to get them to let him stay. Not really, but the clientele seemed to be overwhelmingly older and local.
Our waitress was very sweet, giving and experienced, so we ordered promptly and without too much research - a Chinese Chicken Salad and a Turkey on Rye with Avocado that came with a bowl of Tortilla Soup. What is Tortilla Soup anyway? And who claims the patent to it? Go to Paris, Madrid or Rome and order tortilla soup, and good luck. This one came with a large dose of hominy that overwhelmed whatever else was in the soup. I asked for a bag to take the hominy home, as I personally detest the stuff, but I got an ample smile in return. I was going to give it to my dog since he cannot eat grapes anymore, and this hominy is similar looking, at least in its circular appearance.
The turkey was very good and appeared to be devoid of chemicals and additives, just roasted and flat. The avocado was nature’s gift to the event. Mother nature was never wrong, with her vegetables and fruits anyway. She made a couple of mistakes in the human department, but as you know we have to deal with them the best we can. It’s too bad about the rye bread that came on the turkey sandwich. It crumbled easily and was past its prime. As for the Chinese Chicken Salad - it was absolutely mediocre. There was a lot of lettuce, some chicken and mounds of water chestnuts that overpowered the entire dish. Two miniscule pieces of Chinese peas, 6 or 7 strings of Chinese fried noodles, and some slivered almonds completed the dish. The dressing was insipid and meaningless. You couldn’t like it and you couldn’t hate it. It meant nothing. Apparently, the water chestnuts were tossed into the salad after it was seasoned, as they were totally devoid of any flavor at all. From the can, to the plate - just as long as it fits the theme.
Max’s is a coffee shop with some attractive items described on the menu, but still serves coffee shop food in a coffee shop atmosphere. The ambiance for me was strictly, “lunch at the local retirement home”.
In local news, Santa Barbara’s Bay Café has decided to destroy its wonderful image and well-deserved reputation by eliminating the availability of just plain good bread and instead serving those dreadful garlic rolls, a la Pallazio Trattoria. Welcome to the world of self-destruction.
Farewell to Abdi’s - good intentions, but a bad and cursed location.
When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending a valentine
Birthday greeting, bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Would you still need me
Would you still feed me
When I’m sixty four
I will go to Max’s on State for lunch
And meet with all the other old bunch
Would you still need me
Would you still feed me
When I’m sixty four.
Tam tam. Good night from Louie.