by Andrew Chalk
The self-styled ‘Fried Chicken and Champagne?…Why The Hell Not?!’ upscale comfort food restaurant chain Max’s Wine Dive has just done a menu makeover for the winter. Slight variations apply to each site, but at a recent media event at the Dallas Uptown location chef Patrick Russell took me through his new additions. Both of the dishes below are on the ‘classic’ menu, meaning they are available at all Max’s Wine Dives Shrimp and grits ($21) was a whole cast-iron skillet filled with bacon, scallions, parsley and jalapeno cheese grits, in a spicy butter broth, topped with a poached egg. Be prepared for the earthy grits, accented by the bacon to prove addictive. One helping can comfortably be split between two as an entrée or four as an appetizer. Grilled cheese and tomato soup ($14.50) with toasted artisan bread with gruyère cheese, provolone and roasted red bell pepper “pimento and cheese” sounded like a light starter but that was before one factored in the considerable heft in the cheese sandwich accompanying the soup. After a mouthful to confirm the creamy flavors of the filling and tartness of the sourdough bread I took a doggy bag. Were I to follow through literally, my dog could feed for a couple of days on proceeds. As it was, the sandwich make a stonking good work lunch for me the next day. The soup didn’t last nearly as long. The made-fresh tomato soup was intense with the tomato flavor and minimal, if any, cream. Two of us finished it on the spot. To be fair, this dish is listed among the ‘large plates’ section of the menu. Both of these addition bring have an apropos heartiness about them. You might want to take a trip over to the ‘Chef Patrick’s’ side of the menu as well. This is where dishes specific to the Dallas location live. Pork Osso Buco ($26) comes recommended. The cider-braised pork shank, cheddar polenta and greens (gluten friendly) features long-cooked meat that just drops off the bone to fork pressure. The vibrant red port sauce with demi-glace envelops the sweet creamy polenta in the mouth to make a satisfying course. The ‘Famous Southern Fried Chicken’ ($17) is the most popular dish on the menu and firm nod of approval.
Our waiter, turned out to be a qualified level 1 sommelier (with the Court of Master Sommeliers) so he was a great help navigating the wine list. As you would guess from the name, Max’s has a large selection of wines, and sources globally from both familiar labels and house specials. What is not as well known is that the markup on bottles is about 33%-50% lower than at other restaurants around town with respectable wine lists. The best bargains are at the high end as the margins taper with price. One area where Max’s needs to do better, especially being a Texas (Houston) based chain, is Texas wine. Given their roots, it would be really welcome and fitting to see them add a Texas section to the list. Max’s new menu items are available now and we recommend that you check them out!