We’ve never had a bad meal at Max’s Wine Dive, in the Governor’s Park neighborhood. But we keep forgetting about the place, to be honest. Tucked away as a neighborhood favorite, it’s not on the beaten path. But the food is always memorable – the papperadelle we had when it first opened a few years ago is still our standard for meaty pasta dishes even though it’s no longer on the menu. A recent visit to try out some of the new dishes on the fall menu, reminded us that we must keep Max’s on our rotation of tried-and-true favorites.
We started with an order of Sweet Potato Donuts ($7.75), roasted sweet potato batter donuts with cinnamon sugar and bourbon caramel. This is the first time an appetizer has been on the brunch menu at Max’s, something they found was needed when groups would come for brunch and would be waiting, waiting for the rest of their party to roll out of bed and join them. 10am means 10am, people! This way, the prompt ones get rewarded with something sweet yet slightly savory (and a little boozy) to fend off the hangries. Brilliant!
As all-growed-up adults, we didn’t want to like the Birthday Party Pancakes ($14.75). I mean, really, what self-respecting, functioning-in-the-world adult wants to be seen eating pancakes with funfetti sprinkles on top. Damn-it-all, they were delicious! When the staff was bantering around ideas for a new pancake, someone suggested birthday party pancakes because everyone loves birthday cake. What started as a “why not, let’s try” became a resounding “these are too good NOT to put on the menu.” Made with yellow cake batter and topped with buttercream glaze, fresh whipped cream and lots of sprinkles, the flavor was great and those crispy edges were perfection.
The Fried Egg Sandwich ($16.75) went far beyond what I might slap together on a Sunday morning. A glorious monster of a thing, three pan-fried eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, gruyère, bibb lettuce, tomatoes & black truffle aioli on grilled artisan sourdough take up half the large plate with Wine Dive truffle chips taking up the other. The yolks are meant to be runny, escaping with every crunch of bread, so eat over your plate. We cut our sandwich into sections and still made a mess of ourselves. But it was so worth it.
Somehow, we’d never had what Max’s is so famous for – fried chicken. Crazy, I know, but there were always so many other good things to try. We made up for it during brunch, ordering Wings & Waffle ($18.75). The chicken was unreal, having been marinated for two days in a buttermilk-jalapeno mix, then fried low and slow for increased flavor and juiciness while still achieving that sought-after mahogany color. The waffle was no slouch either, light and crispy, with elements of orange that made syrup unnecessary (but we poured anyway because, you know, syrup.)
Other new, fall menu items we wanted to try were the King Cake French Toast, créme brulee french toast, king cake cream cheese filling, sour cream icing and bourbon caramel syrup topped with Mardi Gras sugar; the vegetarian Santorini Omelet with three egg omelet, piquillo piperade, arugula, Kalamata olives, herbs, and feta cheese topped with tzatziki sauce served with tomato olive caper salad (we saw this at the next table and it was lovely); and Chicken Fried Steak Poutine, Chicken fried steak, red eye sausage gravy, green onion, chicken fried Gruyere nuggets, and hand cut fries topped with sunny side up egg. So much food, so little time. We’ll just have to come back soon.
A person gets mighty thirsty with all that food, so drinks were in order. We loved the grapefruit and orange juice mimosas that were heavy on the rose champaign and light on juice. As our server told us, “if you want juice, get juice.” Good point.
At the encouragement of the bar manager, Alex, we had Bloody Mary’s ($6), which may just be the best I’ve ever had. Although Max’s doesn’t do a lot of infused vodka’s, they do make a vegetable/garlic one that Alex let us try on its own. It was great! Not many people know that they have it but I can sure imagine one hell of a martini, loaded with olives, made from this vodka. Alex said he likes to make a Dirty Martini with caper juice instead of olives. Intriguing. The Bloody Mary itself was darker than usual, a gorgeous, autumnal hue, thanks to more Worcestershire than typical. Somehow, that drink went great with everything we ate, INCLUDING the Birthday Party Pancakes. Boom!
Shyly tucked away, Max’s is a powerhouse of a restaurant that is consistently good with a friendly vibe, swift service (allow 20-25 minutes for the fried chicken though) and alcohol selection that won’t quite. Max’s Wine Dive is located at 696 Sherman Street, Denver.