Courtesy of Max's Positive Vibe Café
For more than a decade, a steady flow of love has been poured into Max's Positive Vibe Café. By the end of this year, the Positive Vibe Foundation estimates it will have put 1,000 graduates through the Forest Hill restaurant's employment training program for young students and people with disabilities, and, on Aug. 7 when the restaurant reopens, the Max's team will add a new kind of love to its labor: all-local.
“I sat down with the dang buffalo burger we’ve been selling — heck, since we opened 11 years ago — and then I tasted the fresh one and went, ‘Lord almighty!’ The difference is really pronounced," says executive director and general manager Garth Larcen. "It really is a better tasting meat and it was just time for us to do a little something different.”
The restaurant's retooling its menu, and its food focus, to revolve entirely around locally grown produce and locally raised meat. The dishes, Larcen says, will stay relatively the same otherwise. You'll still find the bevy of burgers — sporting everything from chili and cheddar to avocado-corn salsa with konrico — but the "buffalo" bison burgers will instead come fresh from Annie Oaks Bison Farm in Henrico, as opposed to frozen from a supplier in South Dakota, and the restaurant's grass-fed beef for burgers and sirloin steaks will be served courtesy of Leaping Waters Farm in Alleghany Springs. Fans of the salads, healthy comfort food and boxed lunches, fear not: they'll all remain in the restaurant's rotation, but with a little pep from Gary Whitecotton, the former executive chef of The Country Club of Virginia.
Whitecotton, a longtime collaborator who has helped organize food at the Positive Vibe Foundation's annual Coaches' Cook-Off, spent his summer vacation aiding the café in simplifying the menu since The Vibe's temporary stop-down, which began June 30. While he's kept the menu fairly similar but more simplistic, he has, apparently, added a marinated and grilled cauliflower steak, along with another dish or two, which are still in the works. On Aug. 7 the restaurant will return with a new paint job, some new kitchen equipment, and a focus on fresh.
"We’ve always done a little bit of [local sourcing], but on the beef side and on the bison side, we were always getting a product that wasn’t local or fresh and we have found sources now for that," says Larcen. "I mean, the flavor profile is so much better ... And we had a few things that were more chef-driven, and this is not going to be chef-driven. It’s going to be basic, simple food.”
The Positive Vibe training program will still function as it always has, and will usher in a new class of trainees next month. Proceeds from the café will continue to benefit the foundation, and you can help by eating for a good cause at the reopening, which will feature live music by local band The Taters.
Max's Positive Vibe Café is located at 2825 Hathaway Road in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center.