I’m not sure what the difference between a wine bar and a wine dive is, but I do know one thing: this minichain with the “Fried chicken and Champagne?! Why the hell not?” slogan whipped up a howling tornado of pre-opening publicity. When they opened the doors, the 50-foot bar and 175-seat dining room and 85-seat patio filled to capacity. The left side of the menu, Max’s Classics, is the same in all locations (Houston, Austin, and San Antonio). The right side is determined by the local chef. In Dallas’ case, it’s Patrick Russell, a former sous chef at Craft Dallas. The classics include deliciously crisp deep-fried chicken battered in jalapeño buttermilk. It pairs perfectly with a bottle of Henri Billiot Brut Rose Champagne. The fried chicken, served with salty mashed potatoes and collard greens, runs $15. The Champagne rings up at $97. I’d do it again. Next time, however, I will skip the pan borracho (drunk bread), a repulsive combination of torn sourdough bread, prosciutto, and thyme soaked in a white wine custard and baked with Gruyére, provolone, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The veal sweetbreads pot pie was a mystery game. We played “find the sweetbread” for three minutes before locating one. General manager Paul Pinnell, who previously owned Dali Wine Bar at One Arts, oversees the restaurant and retail wine program. Despite getting recognized by Pinnell, I received service that was rough-and-tumble. I guess that’s part of the shtick. Maybe I do know what the difference is between a wine bar and a wine dive.
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