My pal was pouring his heart out to me as we sat at Max’s Wine Dive (2421 W 7th St, Ste 109), the new wine bar/comfort-food eatery in the So7 development, about to have brunch. He’s happily in love, and that’s all he could talk about. Is there anything more annoying than happy people? Every time I picked up the menu to hint at how hungry I was, he had to show me a picture from his and his partner’s vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to hear about it all — but couldn’t we have ordered first?
Forced to view yet another picture of yet another damned old (breathtakingly beautiful) house in the Connecticut countryside, my mind, weak from hunger, started to drift toward “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses, playing overhead. The song fit right into the place’s quirky upscale rock ’n’ roll wine bar atmo. For a second I wasn’t sure if I had actually sung out loud or was just thinking that part in the song where Axl Rose belts, “sha-na-na-na-na-na-knees.”
“Oh God, I’m so rude,” he said. “You must be starving.”
Of course, the moment the “MAX ’n’ Cheese” ($11) arrived, he asked how I was doing. So I had to watch him eating the deliciously gooey fancy macaroni and cheese, flavored with truffle cream and topped with toasted breadcrumbs, while I stammered through the recent events of my sad life. The mac ’n’ cheese is technically an entrée, but it worked well to split as an appetizer.
By the time our entrées arrived, he was back to pumping cartoon hearts into the air like a bubble machine. That worked out fine, because it gave me time to chow down on some of “Max’s Famous” southern fried chicken ($16), served with home fries, collard greens, and Texas toast. The juicy, tender bird is marinated in jalapeños and buttermilk and deep-fried at a lower-than-usual temperature, which, according to the menu, holds the juices in better. While the science behind slow-frying the chicken made little sense to me — I thought frying seared in the juices — the proof was on the plate. Ask for the chipotle honey sauce — it’s a wonderful complement to the dish.
As my friend gazed into the exposed pipes near the ceiling, pontificating on the significance of his and his partner’s matching towels, I grabbed a bite of his roasted chile relleno ($10), a poblano stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, goat cheese, and house-made salsa, with a lime cream sauce drizzled over the top. It was delicious, though he let it get cold.
Since it was a weekday (they call lunch “brunch” and serve the sort of fare usually reserved for Sunday decadence), I skipped the alcoholic libations. But the wine list was the size of the Dead Sea scrolls, and the prices were right. Most things were between $30 and $65, and mimosas were just $3.75. The place sells retail wine as well, so you can walk out double-fisting your favorite bottle.
I didn’t need any alcohol, anyway. I got a contact buzz from my love-drunk friend. After they tie the knot in Connecticut, we’ll go back to Max’s and raise a mimosa to their happiness. I’ll raise a piece of that chicken to my mouth for my own bliss.
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