Brunch in Austin is a huge thing. Major. It’s such a popular meal that most of the great places to brunch require reservations. But never fear, my friends, I know where you can brunch it like the A-listers, even if you don’t have a rezzo. Max’s Wine Dive. If you want to sit at one of the tables in the restaurant’s main area, it is a wise choice to make a reservation in advance, but there are options for those of you who prefer spontaneity over planning.
Max’s has a lovely buffet brunch in their underground party space. Max’s Underground is used for wedding receptions, charity dinners, parties and corporate dinners, but on Sundays the red carpet is rolled out for their buffet. I highly suggest you try it, knowing you’ll not only like it, you’ll love it. The buffet includes shrimp & grits, baked french toast, pastries, honey ham and other delightful tidbits, for only $19 per person. Mimosas and sangria aren’t included, but please, order a carafe for the table. What’s a celebration without bubbly? And brunch in Austin is always a celebration! The buffet is served from 11am until 2pm, and is perfect for a large group whose members may not arrive all at the same time.
My choice for brunching at Max’s is to sit at the bar. The best seat in the house is where you can watch the kitchen action. Order a carafe of mimosas and drool over the dishes being prepped. It’s voyeuristic food porn. And, oh, the food! If it’s your first trip to Max’s, be sure to bring a friend, or four. No joke, these are large portions. While my dining partner can usually clean his plate, most of the time my girlfriends and I can easily share orders. If you have a decent sized group, you can sample two or three entrees and everyone leaves fully satisfied. Or you can order one of the three dishes below and hover over the plate, growling when anyone moves too closely to you. I’ve been known to do that a time or two.
Max’s makes my favorite fried chicken in Austin. Now before the angry comments start, no, I have not eaten at every restaurant featuring fried chicken. Several notables are on my “to try” list, but since I’ve been trying to eat healthier and drop a few pounds, fried chicken is not on my menu often. For now, I go with what I know, and what I know is that Max’s fried chicken is tender, juicy, full-flavored and with a delicate, crisp crust. It’s served on top of a waffle with honey chipotle syrup on the side.
Yes, that is three pieces of chicken on a very large waffle. You get a thigh, leg and breast, all of which has been lovingly marinated in jalapeno buttermilk before a dredging in seasoned flour and being fried low and slow. Tastes so incredibly good that I’m salivating at the memory as I type. If you leave Max’s hungry, it’s your own fault. However, if you come in for brunch but you aren’t starving, never fear. You can order a piece of chicken a la carte.
Another dish that I will implore you to please, please, please order is the fried egg sandwich. Or as my friends call it, The Egg Sandwich. When we speak of it, our tone indicates the capital letters. It’s just that good.
In order to get a better idea of how huge this sandwich is, you need to know that the round platter being used as a plate is roughly the size of a small hubcap. The sandwich holds not one, not two, but three fried eggs drizzled with truffle oil, applewood smoked bacon, Gruyère, lettuce, and tomato on oversized slices of artisan sourdough bread slathered with garlic black truffle aioli. Ay-yi-yi! A delectable, decadent fried egg sandwich, nowhere close to the ones you make at home. Or at least not the ones I make at home. Heck, I thought I was doin’ it up fancy when I added avocado to my BLT’s. This is the luxury vehicle of the breakfast sandwich, the Maybach Exelero of egg sandwiches.
My apologies for the dark photos. I need a better camera than my iPhone. The above creation may not look appealing in the pic, but this Frito Pie Omelet will knock your socks off! Spicy chili, Fritos, queso fresco and white cheddar cheese, sweet onions and egg on a bed of home fries. If this won’t cure your hangover, ain’t nothin’ gonna cure it. The chili is made with Texas bison, beef, venison, bacon and roasted peppers. Shut.The.Front.Door. It’s serious, it’s delicious, it’s seriously delicious. Chef Erica Beneke changes the menu with the seasons, but I sincerely hope the Frito Pie Omelet stays on year ’round.
Conference season is upon us, so before SXSW crowds hit, go to brunch at Max’s. Parking is horrendous, until all the nearby construction is complete, but the garage at 2nd & San Jacinto almost always has space if you’re willing to pay a small fee. For even more fun, Max’s hosts Sunday Funday wine tastings, with small bites. Reservations are required for this $20/per person event, but the ticket price will be applied toward your purchase of a case of wine to-go, should you be so inclined. For those of you practicing at home for the next Top Chef tryouts, here is a link to Max’s fried chicken recipe. As for me, I’ll take my craving to Max’s Wine Dive.