Max's Wine Dive
I am seriously impressed by this place. All of the owners, family, managers, etc. from Houston were in town for a soft opening/preview last night and they knocked my socks off.
The concept is to try and promote the love and knowledge of wine in a casual & comfortable manner. You can buy wines by the glass, bottle or case. If you commit to buying 2 glasses they'll open ANY bottle of wine in stock. (not a very common practice)
The entire staff is extremely knowledgeable about wine and eager to share that knowledge in a friendly, non-pretentious manner. At first I was a little put off by the loud music, but the wine guy explained they were going for the bar feel to make people lose the stereotype of a stuffy wine bar and make people relax and socialize while learning to love wine. I had never thought about it that way and did come to appreciate it as the place got more crowded.
The staff wears black t-shirts with slogans like:
Fried Chicken & Champagnes? Why the hell not
Haute Dogs & Shiraz? I'll take two
Kobe burger & a phat glass of Cab? Oh yeah!
You can tell the staff loves what they do and are very happy to serve & educate.
The food was great!
My favorite was the Nacho Mama's Oysters: cripsy fried gulf oyster on aioli & fried wonton topped with habanero salsa & cilantro.
Rib basket: pork baby back rib with hoisin glaze & sambal-these were my least favorite partially due to the messiness factor, but still tasty
Buffalo Sliders: these were great and would make a nice meal as an appetizer-the house made pickles really add to the flavor and meat was uber tender.
Shrimp & Grits: Another big hit. This was a silver dollar sized grit cake with tasso, topped with a grilled shrimp with gumbo sauce and housemade pickled okra. This was great and reminded me of French Quarter delights!
Max's Famous Fried Chicken: This one really surprised me. It was chicken drumsticks marinated in a jalapeno buttermilk batter, deep fried so it was super crispy and topped with chipotle honey. The combination of crunch, heat & sweet really worked and pairs easily with their wines.
Artisan Cheese Platter- selection of 3 cheeses with fruits. I really liked the white cheddar infused with horseradish & walnuts-worked well with my pinot noir.
They are still working on the last minute touches, (installing mirrors in the bathroom, tinting windows) but I think this place will be a big hit.
They are located on the corner of 3rd & San Jacinto so a great downtown spot. They are open for dinner and soon will do Sunday brunch.
I plan to go back often and think the Grand Opening on Tuesday May 12th will be a great event. Go if you can!
They also have a private party room called the underground that can be rented out soon and has a speakeasy vibe. Would be a great place for a chowhound gathering!
They will have Valet parking and I bet you'll need it cause they'll be packed! Go now and go often.
I was still savoring the food, I forgot the wine!!
Unfortunately I don't remember the names but the wine list is substantial and has affordable wines by the glass, bottle and case. They sell at the retail price (think Spec's) but have a much better atmosphere to sit and linger. I Started with bubbles (prosecco) and then had a Chardonnay. Both were light and refreshing. I had a pinot noir that I really liked from Australia and a shiraz that was very stout and probably would have been better if I hadn't just had the pinot noir. They plan to do several wine tastings and auctions to pass along the discounts they are able to get by buying for the Houston locations: Max's and Tasting Room (3 locations).
Given the rave reviews way back when, I felt compelled to report on my first dining experience ever here yesterday for Sunday brunch to give a picture of what I see now.
This was easily one of the worst meals I have had in Austin.
I ordered the burger. Fresh lettuce and onions. Nice choice on the cheese. The burger itself was dripping with fat and the bun was greasy and overloaded with something that was supposed to resemble butter. Nice crack for the immediate senses for some perhaps, but rather gross in my view. On the first bite, a good teaspoon of grease hit the plate.
The fries were overcooked, slightly cold and had the appearance and taste of having been reheated from an earlier cooking. No chance they were fresh.
Being at the table with a large number of guests- some of out of town- I only dared return an acidic and tired $4 glass of grapefruit juice.
And so- one lousy, greasy burger with reheated fries- $18.40 plus a $4 tip which was well deserved since the service was outstanding.
Samplings from the plates of tablemates,
1. Fried chicken breast had crispy but averagely flavored crust and was terribly overcooked. I routinely cook half inch thick tenders at home with more crisp than these and don't overdo it. So I cannot excuse paying these prices to get overcooked chicken from a leviathan of a breast. Evidently the memo about white meat taking 30-40% less cooking time didn't arrive here.
2. Another friend's salad was rather dull looking, but had the most perfectly seasoned and prepared poached egg you can imagine. It was beautiful and a shining star amid an otherwise lousy meal. The talent is there, but not being used.
Very, very sad- especially given the location, atmosphere and marvelous staff.
Don't dismay. I go there all the time and haven't had a bad meal yet. It's restaurant week so perhaps they were slammed? I wouldn't have had any problem sending anything back at that price. Roaring fork served me burned steak, it happens. They have changed chefs once or twice since they opened.
Beautiful Sunday morning and only about 75% full with no wait- but then again when judging food I don't take mass appeal into account. Price is a big divider for me when considering a place like Max's Wine Dive which is a nouveau wine/food bar and, given my general experience with such operations, very suspect on food quality.
If this were half the price I might be okay with it in the grand scheme of things as a fun place to go even though I think the food sucks. Taking into account I can go to Hopdoddy and get an amazing burger plus cheese fries for 2 at 2/3 the price- it is a no-brainer to avoid Max's.