Thursday, May 14, 2009

Max's Wine Dive

Max's Wine Dive was actually one of our favorite places to eat when we were living in Houston. I used to live about 5 minutes north of the Washington corridor where the original Max's still sits today. Needless to say I was delighted to find out that they were opening an Austin location. The tongue-in-cheek kitch of having an upscale "dive" bar will suit the Austin crowd just perfectly.

Named after the owner's six-year-old nephew, Max's Wine Dive prides itself on its unique pairing of fine wines and New American comfort food. (One of its many mottos is "Fried Chicken and Champagne?... why the hell not?") Most of the dishes are new takes of classic favorites such as pot roast (made with Kobe beef and braised in a red wine jus), a fried egg sandwich (tossed with truffle oil and served with organic gruyere), and ribs (with a glaze made from hoisin sauce).

I've had a good portion of the menu in my time. The hands-down favorite is the Kobe beef burger (you can add a side of kimchee or foie gras if you'd like) and the "haute" dog. I also really like their take on grilled cheese and tomato soup (served in a shot glass).

Of course the prices for this "dive" food are maybe the other half of the joke, but more on that later.

I was definitely pleased that the space in the Austin location is much more opened up. Whether you have single stamina and like working the room or you have couple's coma and are just looking to settle in with your ribs and shiraz, everyone here feels included. Max's Wine Dive also likes to push the party atmosphere -- at the Houston location there were often House DJ's spinning, even during dinner hours -- so don't go expecting a quiet dinner experience. The jukebox, I've heard, is pretty darn amazing.

And of course the other side of the coin is the bar's extensive wine selection. If you're like us and enjoy a good glass but have no idea how to pick one out, the bartenders are all very knowledgable and courteous.

Now if there's one thing to be aware of at Max's, it's that prices do add up. At most other bars, you'll order a few appetizers and a couple of drinks for you and your date and be just fine. At Max's if you aren't paying attention you could be walking out with a three digit bill easily. (And to be clear, their wine prices are actually quite reasonable, they just serve REALLY nice wine there.)

The good news is Max's features not only a happy hour from 4 to 7pm, but also the DOUBLY COOL "Reverse" happy hour from 12am to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, with discounts on both food and wine.

All in all, I think the happy hours are going to be the time to go. Not just for the prices but for the atmosphere that really takes advantage of what Max's does best. Call it just a hunch, but I think Austin is going to have many a good time to come at Max's Wine Dive.

Max's Wine Dive
207 San Jacinto Blvd

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