Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Max's Wine Dive

Met a friend at the new Max's Wine Dive last night for happy hour. They are a Houston-based spot, that's recently opened at 2nd and San Jacinto, at the SE corner. The windows face north, getting nice light inside. They've got a long bar, some high tables, and regular tables with bench seating. The tables have foam glued under them to help with the noise levels. Music ranged from 80s, 90s, and some more current selections.

On the plus, they have a fairly huge wine menu. Happy hour runs from 4 - 7pm, and some wines are available by the glass at half price. Appetizers also half off, as are the large plates that are on the menu. I had a glass of cava (Spanish bubbly), and now can't remember the name of it. The wine menu they have online is a "sample" of their selections, and I don't see it listed. I remember it was described as "notes of honeysuckle" which I am not sure I ever got. It was creamy, dry... almost too dry for me (who generally likes sweeter whites), but I managed to suck down two glasses.

From their app list, I ordered their "famous" Pan Borracho (drunk bread), which I guess if I read the description really carefully, I might have figured out on my own that it was a savory bread pudding-style dish. I was expecting more of a toast/bruschetta thing, so I was a bit surprised when it arrived. The real problem was prosciutto was listed as the second ingredient. I couldn't find a bit of it in the dish. I mentioned this to my friendly and efficient waitress, and she went to go ask the kitchen. She came back and said "it's just bits chopped up in there". She offered to have it replaced, and I declined. I told her I could readily taste the thyme, white wine, and Gruyere, but not the prosciutto. She came back a bit later, and said they were going to take it off our bill, and would we like something else. Sure! So we got the bison sliders, which were yummy! A little too much butter on the outside of the bun (brioche rolls?), but tasty meat that went really well with the caramelized onions. Those were a winner!

So I will certainly give them points for taking the dish off the bill, but if you're listing prosciutto as the second item, have some damn prosciutto in the dish! There were lots of employees, and as I got there before 5 pm, most of them were just kinda hanging until later in the evening. The front of the house staff wears t-shirts with different slogans on them, like "Champagne and fried chicken.... sure, why not?!" Catchy. But when I asked our waitress if she said she had ever had the combo she said no, and implied the opportunity hadn't presented itself. But she had had the fried chicken (which she proclaimed delicious, and it better be at $15 for 3 pieces) and champagne separately... but then why are you advertising something you haven't tried?

I would go back. There were a couple other menu items I'd be curious to try.It's certainly not a "dive" in the traditional sense of bars (G & S, Trophys, etc), definitely more posh. The place was comfortable, and didn't seem pretentious, something which hopefully will last as they gain a following.

Walton's Fancy & Staple

Stopped by Walton's, the new business from Sandra Bullock on W. 6th, next to the Hoffbrau. It's a really nice physical space, big doors, high ceilings, lots of light. The front half is a deli/pastry case/coffee bar, and the back section a flower shop. Sort of an odd split to me. According to the interviews with staff a couple weeks ago when it opened, they say "a bride can get everything she needs for her wedding except the dress." Hmmmm. Interesting concept, but are you spreading yourself too thin?

At 4:30 on a Monday afternoon, there seemed to be several employees, but no customers. The gal at the counter was friendly; I asked if business had been good so far, and she said particularly at lunch. I bought a blueberry muffin to go, which I heated up and ate for breakfast this morning. It's not your traditional "muffin top" muffin.... these are a flat top with a streusel topping. While the flavor was good, they were very dense, and underbaked, giving it a bit of a gummy consistency in some spots. But for $1.25, not bad. I was intrigued by the almond croissant, but had a hard time justifying $3.00 for one, so the muffin won out. But now I wonder if the croissant would have been the better choice.

Why haven't they updated their website??? It looks fairly pathetic.