Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mission Mavericks

I hit up Maverick on 17th and Mission last night with a few friends. Definitely an interesting spot with some good potential. It's a venture by two guys named Mike and Scott who came from Sociale on Sacramento. These are good guys, and make the restaurant a place you're rooting for.

Overall, the food was pretty damn good, and the wine was amazing. It sounds a bit weird to say, but these guys have the sides down. Everything that came as a side dish either alone or with an entree was amazing, while the actual entree meats were the most disappointing part of the meal. This is an interesting, yet gaping, hole. It reminds me of the way the Texas Rangers have been the last couple years, with a killer lineup, great defense, a strong closer, but questionable starting pitching. You're going to win some games just through pure offense, but it's tough to get to the playoffs without the steady hurlers.

This sounds negative, but it's really not, because the sides and appetizers are so good they're worth going back for alone. For apps (all were around $10), we had their Buffalo Wings which were actually frog legs, some "crab fluffs" and a side of the mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was downright incredible - rich, but not overbearing. The fluffs were very nice - fried but somehow very light. And the frog legs were great on a number of fronts. Not only were they very tasty with true buffalo-wing sauce, but they also set up the ol' "tastes-like-chicken" joke. I think the over-under on that joke being told on any given night in the restaurant is about 12.

(If you haven't yet noticed, the food has a distinctly southern feel, but not everything on the menu fits that mold.)

For entrees, we had the Prawn and Polenta special, the Liberty Duck Breast, and the Rib-Eye. The Rib-Eye (aka Kenny Rogers, the camera-man-punching ace) was a classic rib-eye steak and was the best of the three meats, though unspectacular and $28 (all the other entrees were $16-$22). The Duck Breast (Ryan Drese, 6.46 ERA last year) was tasty, but the texture was dry and boring. At least it came with a great Israeli cous-cous. The Prawn special (Chan Ho Park) had great sides of polenta and beet-tops, but the prawns weren't worth finishing. We finished the meal with a hunk of Humbolt Fog that was well put together (Francisco Cordero, of course). Overall, you know it's a good, talented kitchen, but I'll probably change my approach for ordering next time around and focus more on apps.

The great thing about all that food, is that everything tasted about 20% better simply because of the incredible wine. We had a Freeman 2003 Pinot Noir and a 2002 Primier Cru Bouchard Burgundy. Both wines were clearly well picked for the list and Mike the owner definitely has a passion for wine. Full-scale wine dorks will appreciate this place.

(How did three moderate-income fellows like us afford two $60+ bottles of wine on a Monday night? Well, that's a secret, but it involves Monday night being half-price-wine night. That's the only hint I will give you. Weekend brunch and $1 mimosas is another secret that I won't be telling you about.)

Every review I've read about Maverick mentions the gritty location, which is right next to crack alley. They installed a shade, so you feel well-separated from the neighborhood when inside the restaurant and the decor is very well put together, though a bit cramped. Cramped is part of the charm though. Venturing back out on the street after a couple bottles of wine is a funny, little shock.

I'll be back to Maverick. I'm rooting for Mike and Scott.

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