Max's Wine Dive opens tonight at 4 p..m. at 696 Sherman Street near Governors Park in a 100-year-old building that was once a laundromat. Specializing in Southern-style food, fried chicken and wine by the glass, Max's got its start in Houston in 2006. This is the ninth in the group, and the third outside of Texas, along with locations in Chicago and Atlanta. "It's a juxtaposition of a well-thought-out and executed wine program in a comfortable and casual atmosphere," says partner Jonathan Horowitz.
In addition to wine, Max's features a menu divided into dishes served at all locations and seasonal specials from chef Shane Way, a Colorado native. In fact, all of Max's staff are hired locally. Between the homegrown talent and Way's menu, Horowitz says "it allows us to create a unique experience for each neighborhood."
That unique experience includes several globetrotting dishes from Way: a fiery drunken noodle dish served takeout-style in a paper pagoda box with flash-fried rice-paper chips; a lamb curry with Way's vindaloo-style spice mix (he grinds his own spices for the blend) and house-made garlic naan; and gnocchi with spring peas in sage and mint brown butter. Southern dishes include Anson Mills grits kicked up with bacon, jalapeño and cheese and topped with shrimp and a sous-vide poached egg; and corn-meal crusted oysters served with garlic aioli and habanero salsa atop fried wonton chips. Much of the bread served with entrees and appetizers comes from the City Bakery Cafe just a few blocks away.
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The main attraction is Max's fried chicken, marinated for 24 hours in jalapeño buttermilk and deep-fried at low temperature to slow-cook the meat while leaving the skin crispy. The chicken is available with a gluten-friendly coating too (the kitchen has a separate fryer for its wheat-free items), and chicken-fried tofu is also an option.
If you can't make it tonight, Max's is running a tax-day special tomorrow with two glasses of Dom Pérignon and a small order of fried chicken for $78 (if you're refund came in on time, that is). Read on for a few more photos of menu items at Max's.