First Look: Max’s Wine Dive, Midtown

Max’s Wine Dive — the Texas-based boutique chain with the mantra “Fried Chicken and Champagne? Why the Hell Not?!” — opened on July 1 on 12th Street in Midtown, serving dinner and brunch. Helming the kitchen, executive chef Jason Hall (formerly of Saltyard and Livingston) adds seasonal dishes to the standard menu of Wine Dive “classics.”

The look: Situated in a brick storefront, the surprisingly cozy space feels something like a hip diner, with a semi-open kitchen and bar on one side and a collection of tables on the other side. On the walls, celebrity mug shots join colorful paintings of cool characters and scenes from “Pulp Fiction” by local artist Manny Cortez.

The scene: One night during its first week in business, Max’s was already creating a buzzing vibe, with most seats filled and a preview party wedged into the front corner amid towering wine shelves. Hall was working the pass, while occasionally venturing out to meet and greet customers and talk about some of his new dishes.

The food: On the “classics” side of the menu, find signature Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and collard greens ($17), and Nacho Mama’s Oysters with fried Gulf oysters and garlic aioli on wonton chips with habanero salsa and cilantro ($10/$19). Hall’s current summer menu includes caramel corn with cayenne, Georgia peanuts and bacon ($7), and pan-seared scallops with celery root and strawberry gastrique ($28).

The drinks: True to its name, Max’s has some 130 wines from around the world, available by the glass and to take home in the bottle at close to retail prices. Local beers on offer include selections from Cherry Street Jekyll, Red Hare, Sweetwater and Terrapin.

The extras: Look for brunch until 3 p.m. Fridays-Sundays, with the likes of crème brûlée-battered French toast ($11.75), chicken biscuits ($13), and Hangover Fries with redeye gravy, cheddar, scallions and two sunny-side-up eggs ($13.50).

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