Last September, I visited Austin, Texas, and, while there, discovered Max’s Wine Dive, a laid-back restaurant and wine bar serving great wine and southern comfort food. A short time later, I read that Max’s would be opening in the former Covo Gyros space in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, and I was elated. Max’s mantra is “Fried Chicken and Champagne? … Why the Hell Not?!” How can you not love a place that serves great food while not taking themselves too seriously?
Recently, we visited the Wicker Park location, and were just as pleased with the food and wine selection. While the Chicago iteration had a slightly different vibe – Chicago is pretty different than Austin, after all – it was still relaxed, casual, and fun. Our server had a trainee “shadowing” her, so she was extremely attentive – sometimes overly so.
After reading Max’s mantra, I had to start with a glass of bubbles – a rosè that was not too sweet and perfectly refreshing.
As a word of warning: nothing on Max’s menu is healthy. Delicious, yes. Healthy, no. With that caveat in mind, we were ready to order. We started with the Nacho Mama’s Oysters – fried Gulf Coast oysters on wonton “chips” with garlic aioli, habanero salsa and cilantro. These little fried guys packed a spicy punch and were delicious.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the MAX ‘n Cheese – cavatappi pasta in a truffle cream sauce with provolone, Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Topped with bread crumbs, this take on mac n’ cheese was wonderfully creamy and flavorful with the addition of the truffle goodness.
Another favorite was a special jalapeno cornbread stuffed with BBQ navy beans and topped with chipotle butter. This dish was a Southern party in a cast iron pan and I loved it!
The pulled pork stuffed peppers were also worthy of yum status. Pulled pork and cotija stuffed, topped with chipotle aioli and cilantro chimichurri, this may have been the healthiest dish that we ordered.
For a restaurant to include fried chicken in its tag line, the chicken better be good. Max’s famous southern fried chicken – jalapeno-buttermilk marinated chicken with mashed potatoes, collard greens, and Texas toast, served with chipotle honey, did not disappoint. My husband gobbled it down and proclaimed it to be the tastiest and juiciest fried chicken he has ever had.
The shrimp & grits – with scallions, parsley, and jalapeno cheese grits, served with a spicy butter broth and a poached egg, were outstanding as well. I was scooping the tasty grits with the toasted and buttered bread served with the dish and I was in gluttons glory.
After all of this amazingly delicious food, we were in no shape for dessert. So, we polished off our bottle of wine, went for a long walk, and stayed full for most of the next day.
1482 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622