1400 National Drive • Westlake, LA
Psst. Can you keep a secret? Yeah, it seems that these days, nobody can when it comes to a new restaurant opening its doors in Southwest Louisiana. Although the newest addition to our dining portfolio hasn’t officially had its grand opening, The Max, located at Westlake’s National Golf Club of Louisiana, has gained an immense amount of popularity with its newness.
I’m not particularly fond of writing about restaurants which are so new. I’m a firm believer in giving the entire crew, from the chef and cooks, to servers and hosts, the time they need to grow and find their rhythm. However, the feedback I’ve been hearing has me believing The Max is on the right track more quickly than other restaurants have been.
What is The Max? The administration and architects for the City of Westlake created the restaurant and future amenities on the property so that it would become self-sustaining in its operations, reducing and eventually eliminating the amount of the general funds needed to carry the expense.
Named with heritage and pride in mind, the restaurant is called The Max as an homage to Max Caldarera, a tenured and successful coach for Westlake High School who continued to serve the interests of the community after retiring from the gridiron.
My wife and I arrived at the large two-story building and proceeded to make our way upstairs to the restaurant. Although we made the mistake of going to the rear of the building, we were able to gain access from the upper patio and weave our way around the dining room to the lobby, where several other diners were waiting.
At the host’s station, a friendly Sybil welcomed us to The Max and informed us there was a 45-minute wait. I replied that wasn’t a problem as I took in the visuals of the dining room. The interior was tall and robust with large exposed trusses overhead. There was an abundance of elegant wood trim on the windows and doors of the deep olive room.
As there were several families waiting for their opportunity to dine, I asked Sybil if we might be able to find seats at the bar. She said if there were any available, we were welcome to them. It took a few minutes for a pair to open up. We proceeded to the bar.
As busy as it was, it was only a few seconds before bartender Payton asked to take our drink order and offered a pair of menus to us.
The menu selections were impressive. Appetizers included alligator, wings, crab cakes and boudin egg rolls. Entrees ranged from soups and salads, burgers, steaks, pasta, fish and potatoes to the Cajun Étouffée, a recipe entrusted to the restaurant from the family of Max Caldarera.
As my wife and I were contemplating our options, Cody, a young man sitting next to me, grinned as a hefty baked potato loaded with fried shrimp, bacon, cheese and étouffée was placed before him. When I saw it, I nearly altered my order.
I opted to begin with chargrilled oysters and house-fried pork skins with beer cheese. The arrangement of oysters with tasso and Creole sauce arrived. Although the oysters were a tad under-temped, a quick run through the broiler remedied the situation.
The light and crunchy seasoned pork skins were served warm with a melted beer cheese sauce for dipping.
My wife, Shyla, chose the shrimp and grits as her entrée. I couldn’t resist trying the namesake The Max burger.
We received a stunning display of New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and fresh, delicate greens atop a bed of creamy cheddar grits served with crispy brussels sprouts and chunky bits of bacon. The shrimp were crisp, with a touch of sweet in the sauce. The savory came through in every bite.
The Max burger doesn’t mess around. It’s a full half pound of pure grilled beef with the burger standards: lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.
What sets The Max apart? Add pepper Jack cheese, top off the patty with a heap of crawfish étouffée, layer all those between the buns and add sidewinder fries. Chances are, you won’t be able to finish it all, and will have no room whatsoever for dessert.
I never expect a new restaurant to be flawless in the opening weeks, and staff should rightfully be forgiven as they progress. For The Max to handle the amount of traffic we witnessed with only minor hiccups is impressive. The team was extremely professional in their presence and attitude; the food, delicious. It all took place in a cheerful and attractive setting overlooking the golf course.
My family and I wish you all a Happy New Year.