Autumn Leaves

Craving Fall? Salisbury Steak at Max's Wine Dive Will Help You Pretend

A dish rarely seen at restaurants means you can at least eat like the season is changing.

By Alice Levitt November 4, 2016

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Classic Salisbury Steak, $19.

It's ****ing November. The temperature is in the 90s. Lots of people warned me when I moved to Houston about the summers. That went better than expected. But as a great lover of autumn, this is messing with my mind. In my native northeast, there have already been frosts. Today in Burlington, Vt., which I left for the last time just less than a year ago, it's an unseasonably warm 43 degrees. Apparently, Jacques Prévert should had lived here—he never would have missed that lost love "when autumn leaves start to fall." 

What's a New England girl to do? Eat her fall feelings, of course. And last night, Max's Wine Dive provided me with a particularly appropriate way to do it. Salisbury steak is said to be the invention of 19th century New York physician and early low-carb evangelist James Salisbury. It's a dish that simply BREATHES northern climes. And it's something that generally exists only at home, either in your mother's kitchen, or coming out of your microwave in the form of a Hungry Man dinner.

I found it strangely charming, then, that it's a centerpiece of the new fall menu at Max's right along with similarly homey pot roast. Thankfully, the recipe has little in common with Mr. Swanson's, though I wouldn't have objected to one of those tire-flavored tiny brownies on the side. Instead, Washington Avenue location executive chef Rob Warner prepares a version that's uncommonly vegetable heavy. Peas, green beans and whole miniature carrots are bathed in a lemon-suffused beurre blanc. This smack of citrus informs the entire fatty plate, seeping into both truffle mashed potatoes below and mushroom gravy above. That's already enough going on that Dr. Salisbury's grill-marked beef patty and a pile of fried onions seem almost incidental. Almost.

And by the time I left dinner last night, it was at least in the 70s. I could pretend, at least for a moment, that fall had finally fallen. And if that was stretching it, at least I'd just finished my meal with a deep-fried apple-walnut pie.

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