After being open a number of years some places slack off, but Max’s Grille in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park manages to keep things fresh heading into its 25th year. The menu elevates traditional American favorites with a uniquely fresh and artistic take on modern American bistro fare at reasonable prices.

Many of the dishes are grilled over mesquite and served with light sauces and reductions, emphasizing clean flavors, inventive combinations and the use of local products. The wine list is one to explore and it is easy to do so since the restaurant offers three different pour sizes of the wines available by the glass.

Appetizers range in price from soups at $7 to flatbreads, chicken wings, calamari and its signature app, duck spring rolls. We both started our meal with soup; a rich, smoky black bean topped with a dollop of poblano sour cream and a crisp and refreshing watermelon gazpacho. The watermelon added just the right amount of sweetness to the perfectly spiced dish.

Since I was dining with my non-meat eating husband, we passed on the spring rolls (I’ll get them next time) and split the buttery soft, supremely fresh and expertly sliced tuna tartar served over a refreshing Asian slaw with a yuzu ponzu sauce. We also ordered the roasted Brussels sprouts, but were barely able to put a dent into the huge mound of nutty veggies tossed with shiitake mushrooms, asiago aioli, truffle oil and balsamic dressing. Not only would this dish win over anyone who thinks they don’t like this vegetable, the portion was enough for a meal. In fact, it served as lunch for both of us the next day.

Thank goodness we left room for the entrees because they were magnificent. Since I rarely eat beef at home, I splurged on the Akaushi flat iron. The Wagyu beef arrived perfectly seared with just the right char on the grill marks done to a perfect medium rare. I hadn’t planned on doing more than tasting the Parmesan crusted steak fries, but they proved addictive. A small salad of arugula and tomatoes, tossed in truffle aioli, provided a nice break from the richness of the meat and potatoes. My husband’s crab crusted mahi-mahi arrived perfectly cooked with a crust of crab at least an inch thick. Lyonnaise potatoes with leeks, braised greens and red pepper supported the star ingredient.

We dined early, on our way to a movie screening, and discovered that we qualified for Max’s “Three Course Experience”. We weren’t even aware of the restaurant’s early bird special; order an entrée between 5-6 p.m. and you get a complimentary bottle of house wine (with the purchase of two dinners) or $5 house wine or house cocktails for individual diners. The meal also includes a select appetizer (our soups counted) and smaller portions of select desserts.

If we had ordered full-sized desserts, we wouldn’t have been able to finish them so I was grateful for the smaller portions. My husband’s Key lime pie was a perfectly acceptable example of the dessert. However, the warm flourless chocolate cake, was the sole disappointment of the evening. Not only wasn’t it warm; it was dry and tasteless. It wasn’t enough to ruin the memory of the wonderful meal that preceded it, though.

Max’s Grille
404 Plaza Real Mizner Park, Boca Raton,