Restaurant Profile: Maximal Impression

A Cary mainstay for more than three decades, Maximillians keeps delighting locals

Signature dish voodoo tuna involves intricate layers of flavor.
Signature dish voodoo tuna involves intricate layers of flavor.
Black bean and corn ravioli is topped with chipotle sauce and pico de gallo.
Black bean and corn ravioli is topped with chipotle sauce and pico de gallo.
The delightfully simple grilled caesar salad includes massive scratch-made croutons.
The delightfully simple grilled caesar salad includes massive scratch-made croutons.
The exquisite confit duck leg quarter pairs nicely with a glass of red wine.
The exquisite confit duck leg quarter pairs nicely with a glass of red wine.
Burrata pasta features handmade fettuccine and artisanal Italian cheese.
Burrata pasta features handmade fettuccine and artisanal Italian cheese.
Vintage heirloom china hangs on the wall.
Vintage heirloom china hangs on the wall.
Don't ignore the splurge-worthy dessert options.
Don't ignore the splurge-worthy dessert options.

On any given afternoon at Maximillians Grill & Wine Bar in Cary, proprietors Will and Margie Hennessee can be found prepping for the evening dinner service. It’s something they’ve done for many years, but especially since 2016 when they bought the restaurant from original owners Michael and Gayle Schiffer.

“I handle the front of the house, and Margie runs the kitchen,” explained Will, an unpretentious man who stands at ease behind the bar. He appears entirely comfortable with the total stranger he met a mere three minutes earlier.

Just then, Margie, a self-taught chef, emerges from the kitchen with several plates of food she whipped up seemingly in less time than it takes to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that this husband-and-wife team has a good thing going.

Owners Will and Margie Hennessee.

In an age when numerous longtime restaurants have shuttered, somehow Maximillians continues to serve local diners just as exceptionally as the day it began. No doubt the Hennessees have been instrumental in contributing toward its longevity, and in recent years they’ve successfully put their own stamp on the business.

“We have a longstanding reputation of offering really good food and great service,” said Will, a Kentucky native who has worked on and off at Maximillians since its genesis.

The same goes for Margie, who previously served a stint as the restaurant’s bar manager.

“We’ve worked really hard to maintain consistency,” she said.

Among the eatery’s most steadfast patrons is Greg Cox, retired food critic for The News & Observer.

“I’ve been a fan of Maximillians since 1991, when the restaurant first opened its doors in a tiny former fast-food joint on Buck Jones Road,” wrote Cox when we reached out to him by email. “The Hennessees pledged to preserve Maximillians’ original spirit, and they’ve remained true to that promise. After three decades, a relocation, and a change in ownership, one thing remains the same: I’m still a big fan. And I can count on one hand the number of restaurants I can say that about.”

Maximillians is well regarded for its spice-forward global flavors, seasonal ingredients, and superb wine selection.

“Michael (Schiffer) was always ahead of his time when it came to sourcing,” said Margie, who hails from Pennsylvania. “He was doing farm-to-table before farm-to-table was even a thing.”

True to the restaurant’s roots, the Hennessees acquire provisions from Tar Heel-based purveyors like Locals Seafood, Haw River Mushrooms, and nearby farmers markets.

When perusing the menu, you’ll find Asian, Mediterranean and New American inspired fare.

“We cook what we like to eat,” Margie said with a smile. “We just like to do it differently than you’ll find elsewhere.”

For starters, you can’t go wrong with the crispy sesame calamari with General Tso’s spicy-sweet glaze and the chipotle pesto-laden black bean and corn ravioli.

Superb entrée Voodoo tuna involves a peppercorn-crusted filet served atop fire noodles suffused with shrimp, snap peas, ginger, cumin, basil, Thai chiles, and cilantro in a coconut-shellfish sauce.

The restaurant is conveniently situated near Downtown Cary.

“What makes that dish so special are the layers of flavor,” said Margie. “If you like heat, this will take you where you need to go.”

Prefer something simpler? Consider the grilled Caesar salad, which features shaved parmesan cheese, roasted garlic Caesar dressing, and colossal croutons fashioned from day-old house-made focaccia.

“The grilled Caesar and the Voodoo tuna are signature items that have been on the menu since the restaurant opened,” Margie said.

Another solid main dish, the confit duck leg quarter, arrives tableside with oven-roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, carrot dill puree, and goat cheese.

Maximillians also runs off-menu chef specials each night.

“Right now, we’re featuring a lamb porterhouse chop marinated in Lusty Monk mustard,” Margie said. “We also serve a New York strip with mashed potatoes, green beans, and herb compound butter.”

Margie also mentioned the versatility of the menu, adding that the kitchen is more than willing to accommodate guest preferences or dietary restrictions.

During COVID, the restaurant produced hand-printed menus each day.

“We’re known for our vegetarian dishes,” she said. “In addition, we can prepare most dishes any way you like. Do you want Mediterranean style? Thai? Gluten free? There really is something for everyone.”

Among the tempting dessert options, we highly recommend the coconut cake, the perfectly tart key lime pie, and the flourless chocolate torte made with just three ingredients: Belgian chocolate, eggs, and butter.

If none of the previous possibilities entice you, try the decadent peanut butter pie topped with drizzled chocolate. Just be prepared to experience gustatory bliss.

Endeavoring to pair just the right beverages with the food, the Hennessees hand select each bottle on the wine list.

“We have a large by-the-glass selection and a huge list with well over 150 bottles,” Margie revealed. “We also have a Coravin (wine preservation) system, so we’re able to pour even the more expensive bottles by the glass.”

The bar also keeps four craft beers on tap, all from local breweries.

Décor at Maximillians is tranquil and understated. Will’s mother’s striking antique china dishes hang on one of the sage-hued walls. Four-top tables fill the cozy main dining room, while a mezzanine area provides seating for approximately 20 guests.

“The upstairs space is perfect for special occasions like family celebrations, business gatherings, and wine dinners,” Will said.

When asked how Maximillians has managed to remain relevant in the Cary dining scene, Margie said she and Will have developed close relationships with their longtime customers.

“Many of our original regulars are now retiring, and now we’re seeing their adult kids coming in for dinner,” she said. “I also love that downtown Cary has become a destination spot for dining, and that has helped us see more walk-in traffic.”

It’s also worth mentioning that Maximillians recently received its 11th consecutive 100% sanitation score from the Wake County Health Department.

“We want our guests to feel like they are coming to our house for dinner, and part of that involves keeping the house clean,” Margie said.

Make no mistake: The Hennessees are enduringly grateful for the opportunity to serve people in the town of Cary for so many years.

“We’re fortunate to get to come to work and do what we love every day,” Margie said. “The people of Cary have treated us so well since the beginning, and we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. This restaurant is purely a passion project.”

Maximillians Grill & Wine Bar
8314 Chapel Hill Road, Cary
(919) 465-2455


  • Diamond Owens says:

    This place is remarkable the food always warms me no matter the dish and very positive energy in the building.

  • Moirai Z says:

    I love Maximillian’s! Top tier service, great vibes, amazing food and cocktails. Try the homage to the pig paired with caymus’ walking fool! This is truly a one-of-a-kind restaurant.

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