Mother-daughter team behind Maxwell's steakhouse

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A mother-daughter team is bringing a brand-new steakhouse to NoMad in Manhattan and shaking up the notion that the meat business is all about men. It's called Maxwell's, and the most masculine thing here just might be the name. The owners and the head chef are all women.

When they first talked about going into business, Melissa Malaga and her mother Babette Haddad wondered if they were crazy. Should they really be starting their own steakhouse? Were they nuts? Melissa decided they weren't. In 1993, they opened their first Maxwell's in Boca Raton, Florida.

Back then, Babette said people would constantly come in and ask when her husband would be in to talk business. She'd tell them she didn't know, but it wouldn't help them very much either way, because he didn't own the restaurant.

Just six months ago they opened a new Maxwell's Chophouse on Broadway at 28th Street.

Babette's husband and his family had owned the building for over 40 years and they had always thought about putting a restaurant on the ground floor, but she never thought it would be hers.

While running a restaurant in New York City is different than in Florida, some things about the male-dominated meat business never change. Babette and Melissa say they are always working with men: the distributors, the vendors and certainly the wine and liquor salesmen.

At their new Maxwell's in Manhattan, Melissa and Babette are giving the steakhouse a decidedly feminine touch, from the elegant decor to their head chef, Christina Scifo, who has been with them since their Florida days.

For our visit, the ladies at Maxwell's whipped up some of their most delicious lunch dishes: the lobster club, which was a huge hit in Boca, the kale and quinoa salad with salmon, the chophouse cheeseburger with a pile of French fries, and the strip steak with fries, which is dry aged on the premises.

Maxwell's also serves up pots of bacon, outrageous desserts, specialty cocktails, and wine. Melissa says they have great estate wines, many of which are showcased in the wine room, available for private parties.

All of this begging the question: who decided that steakhouses are a male thing?

Maxwell's is named for Babette's youngest son, so the guys in the family do have some influence here, but the women are most certainly in charge.