Friday Brunch at Max's Wine Dive

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When visitors come into town, the first thing that pops into my head is, "Where am I taking these people to eat?" (This is mostly because I'm trying to avoid ever going to the Space Center again, and I need to distract them with something really, really good.) With such an amazing food scene, it's hard to decide where to go. But my friends Ashley and Seth made it easier when they woke up asking for one thing: brunch.

The only problem? It was a Friday (damn New Yorkers demanding brunch at any given moment!). But then I thought of the perfect place: Max's Wine Dive. The restaurant started serving up their awesome weekend brunch on Fridays last August.

Walking in, the art-loving Ashley was struck by the amazing local art adorning the walls. "Think they'd mind if I took pictures?" she asked. I knew I'd made the right choice. We sat down in a huge booth and ordered a round of mimosas ($3.75 each) right off the bat (because it was Friday, Friday, and we had to get down on Friday). Max's offers a mimosa with grapefruit juice instead of the usual OJ. Naturally, being a huge grapefruit fan, I jumped on that bandwagon. And it was perfect: sweet and tart and delicious. But the fresh-squeezed orange juice version that my friends had ordered was on par as well.

We sipped on our Friday-morning cocktails and bounced to the hip playlist as we pondered our choices. Abundant with truffle oil, Texas toast, and deep-fried delights, Max's brunch menu is killer. We wanted just about everything, but Ashley and I settled on a splitsky between the "RVP" ($10.50) and the Jakes Cakes and Wings ($13.00), while Seth heeded the advice of our waitress and went with Max's famous Fried Egg Sandwich ($14.50, also available at lunch and dinner).

We were on cloud nine as the monstrous plates were set before us. First up: the "RVP," three gargantuan Red Velvet Pancakes topped with a lemon cream cheese frosting. The color was beautiful, and while the pancakes do in fact taste like red velvet cake, I was missing the moistness that a really good pancake brings to the table. With some maple syrup and a dollop of the "light"-tasting lemon cream cheese frosting, I was able to fix that.

The "RVP" was worth a taste, but it was the Jake Cakes and Wings that really stole my heart. Four deep-fried chicken wings come perched atop three heaven-sent cornbread griddle cakes. Max's southern-fried chicken gets me every time. Soaked in buttermilk and jalapeño and deep-fried low and slow, the chicken has that godly combination of juiciness and crunchiness that only the pros can acquire. Topped with a bit of powdered sugar and paired with maple syrup, these guys would make me happy on their own.

But then there's the cornbread cakes underneath, sitting innocently, waiting to be devoured. With bits of sweet corn and chunks of jalapeño and red pepper, these cakes have the moistness that I was missing in the "RVP." They're also surprisingly delicate, offering a nice balance to the crisp wings above. Together, the fried chicken and corn cakes make one of my favorite breakfasts in Houston (that I can certainly not eat all the time unless I want to be hospitalized).

Full and happy, Ashley and I managed to sneak in a few bites of Seth's Fried Egg Sandwich too. The bad-ass sandwich comes at you large and in charge with three truffle oil-drizzled and sea salt -topped fried eggs, apple-wood smoked bacon, gooey Gruyère, lettuce, tomato, and a black truffle aioli stuffed between perfectly crusty ciabatta bread. Not enough truffle for you? No worries! It also comes with a plate of hand-cut truffle fried potato chips. If you aren't a fan of truffle, stay away. But if you are, honey, this is it.

In the end, we all enjoyed our meals immensely. It was a lovely Friday brunch...that left us immobile for the remainder of the day. (Anyone up for NASA now? Didn't think so).

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