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Bar Review: Maxwell’s

Submitted by on November 15, 2009 – 1:52 PMNo Comment
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501 Main St
Islip, NY 11751
Tel: 631.210.0011

Times of Operation: Sun-Thurs: 12 PM – Late
Fri-Sat: 12 PM – Very late

Best Time to Go: Late Night Happy Hour on Saturday nights from 10 PM to 1 AM to enjoy the local crowd, or after 10 on weekdays to just get a feel for the atmosphere and to avoid the crowds and sample unique beer selection.

MaxwellsWhen Maxwell Lessing first began providing service to coffee shops in downtown Manhattan in 1890, it is almost certain he did not foresee his business lasting well into the next 119 years.

Mawells’s American Bar and Grille is the newest addition to the Lessing family’s enormous resume of restaurants, bars and catering halls across Long Island and Manhattan. The big name, however, does nothing to daunt the quaint Main Street bar in Islip.

Maxwell’s of Islip is exactly what a hometown Main Street bar should be. The décor has that old-school Long Island fisherman vibe, with a huge ocean kayak hanging directly between the bar and dining room and the warm, homely hard-wood cabin-esque surroundings. It also helps that the oversized bar is extremely accommodating and the staff is fantastically attentive.

Walking into Maxwell’s on a weekday is like entering the cozy cottage of an old friend. One is warmly welcomed by a very friendly staff and, for those who are Islip-bred, there is always the opportunity to chance upon an old friend and share a drink, even if the familiar faces come from the staff themselves.

The staff is very locally based, as most of those who serve you at Maxwell’s reside in Islip, East Islip, or Bayshore, which creates even more incentive to pay a visit. It is very possible those who live in the area will know a staff-member pretty closely. The staff is also very knowledgeable, helping even the cheap-can or Mike’s Hard aficionado make a suitable beer selection. For one who particularly enjoys a darker beer, our waitress Lauren quickly recommended Peak Organic’s Espresso Amber Ale, which easily became the drink of the night.

Peak Organic’s Espresso Amber Ale is a Portland, Maine-brewed beer which uses real, organically grown, coffee beans grown and harvested right in Maine. The Espresso Amber delivers the most realistic coffee taste there is to be had and that is due largely to the local organic coffee bean harvest of which Peak Organic is in such strong support. Of course, Espresso Amber Ale is only one of three Peak Organic brews proudly sold at Maxwell’s, standing alongside the brewery’s Nut Brown Ale and Pale Ale. The Nut Brown does lack the nutty taste it boasts, but it definitely stands up as a formidable brew, with all the palate-pleasing plusses of your average brown ale, in addition to containing all the perks of being organically brewed.

Another big (literally) highlight of Maxwell’s is the availability of Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant bastard IPA. The 7.2% ABV India Pale Ale is appropriately listed  as the first beer mentioned in Maxwell’s leather-bound craft beer menu, which the Lessing’s staff is more than happy to bring to customers. The IPA is not for the faint at heart — or tongue — because this wonderfully bitter IPA packs quite a punch. Of course, this is not to mention the bottle is more than twice as big as the average beer container at one pint, six ounces. Be careful when ordering, the label itself tells drinkers they are “not worthy” of such a beer.

Don’t like stronger, darker beers, but still want to taste a wholesome, organic brew? Baltimore’s Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat offers drinkers a more palatable alternative to the average sugar-loaded fruit-flavored beer. While most fruity derivatives focus much too heavily on sweeteners and additives, Oxford’s Raspberry Wheat provides a more delicate sensation, much like that of a raspberry-flavored seltzer. The Raspberry Wheat is a great alternative to mass-produced wheat beers like Blue Moon or Shock Top, but — as far as organic beers go — the Peak Organic selection takes home the gold for flavor and originality.

Even as after-hours on a Monday night sink in, the Maxwell’s crew is extremely accommodating in allowing its clientele to seat themselves in the dining room when the bar gets too crowded. The bottom line: Maxwell’s is a great place to hang out after work; sit down and have a conversation with friends, old and new; or even to have a party night, as the bar hosts live music every now and then and specials for all occasions.

Weekends do get relatively crowded when the 35 and older crowd flocks in (not a bad thing by any means) to enjoy the music, catch up after work, or just hang out and enjoy a good craft beer with some finely cooked bistro-style bar food. Weekends do tend to get a little loud, but not so much to drive customers away. The live music that is performed at the bar is almost always acoustic and is rarely anything new or interesting. But live music in and of itself is sometimes enough to draw a crowd, and that crowd often tends to be a fun-loving one.

There is always a way to find enjoyment at Maxwell’s, no matter what day of the week you visit. However, even packed-out holidays at this Main Street pub and eatery are enjoyable, as seasonal beers are served and an open-armed environment awaits any who enter. The food is simple and enjoyable (burgers, sandwiches, fried bar bites) and the beer is affordable, especially for the unique selection of organic and craft beers offered. Maxwell’s is, again, exactly what a Main Street bar in a small community should be. It is warm, welcoming, and — above all — provides everything needed to have a good time.

Pros: Great organic and craft beer selection; terrific staff; affordable prices in a great atmosphere.

Cons: Pretty loud and crowded on weekends and holidays, but the clientele are usually of a mild-mannered nature so this evens itself out.

Rating: 5 out of 5