#FoodieFriday: Gourmet Happy Hour Bites at Max’s Wine Dive, Houston

by Shawn Lively on October 1, 2021 in Food, Drink, Houston,
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With a mantra of “Fried chicken and Champagne? Why the hell not?” Then, why not?

Founded in 2006, Max’s Wine Dive was one of the first restaurants in Houston to serve award-winning comfort food with a carefully curated wine list. And, 15 years later,  they are doing a damn good job.  

Max’s is nestled in the Montrose area of Houston. The atmosphere is casual, welcoming and has that quaint neighborhood vibe. You’ll find a cozy outdoor patio area which, had it not been raining, would have been our choice. There’s also a valet there to greet you when you arrive. I love that, especially in Houston.

At Max’s Wine Dive in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, the pork belly is slow braised, crisped to perfection and then served with a delicious, and I mean delicious, mustard BBQ sauce. Photo courtesy Chef Beto Gutierrez

The kitchen is run by Texas native Corporate Executive Chef Beto Gutierrez and we were excited to try his new “Chef Bites” section of the menu, which is served during happy hour. Luckily for us, Chef Gutierrez was there in person to serve up the best tasting “bites” we’ve experienced in quite some time. 

I enlisted my 23-year-old-son to join me because, let’s face it, our kids will give us their honest opinion. Wanted or not.

The first bite we tried was the Pork Belly. The meat is slow braised, crisped to perfection and served with a delicious, and I mean delicious, mustard BBQ sauce. Oh, wait—and the best apple slaw you will ever taste. I couldn’t get enough of that slaw and frankly could have eaten an entire bowl. 

Dirty Rice Arancini is made with risotto, andouille sausage and smoked cheddar, breaded and fried and then served with a Cajun remoulade.
Photo courtesy Chef Beto Gutierrez

Next, we tried the Dirty Rice Arancini.  This dish is made with risotto, andouille sausage and smoked cheddar, breaded and fried and then served with a Cajun remoulade. And its packed with layers of flavor. My son used the word “flavor bomb” and it’s exactly what this dish is.

Then came the Jack Jack Cakes. My mouth is still watering. I may  have even had a dream or two about them. This was unanimously our favorite bite of the night and is something you have to try when you get to Max’s. (You can thank me later.)  The dish consists of three mini corn cakes with jalapeno corn relish, bacon and honey. The only thing that would have made this bite better would have been a second serving. If I were alone, I would’ve licked that plate clean! 

The Jack Jack Cakes Happy Hour Bite consists of three tasty mini corn cakes with jalapeno corn relish, bacon and honey. Photo courtesy Chef Beto Gutierrez

We also had the opportunity to try the newest item, Pork Dumplings—traditional gyoza filled with minced pork then pan-fried. They’re topped with a soy-ginger glaze and chopped green onions, which finished off the dish perfectly. 

This was our first time at Max’s and we were unaware that Max’s Wine Dive is famous for it’s Southern Fried Chicken.  We gave it a try to see what all the hype is about. At this point, we were 3 appetizers in. But, hey, it’s famous and it’s fried chicken, right?  We quickly figured out why people come to Max’s just for their fried chicken.

The Pork Dumplings at Max’s Wine Dive in Houston are Japanese-style gyoza filled with minced pork then pan-fried topped with a soy-ginger glaze and finished with chopped green onions. Photo Becca Wright

The Famous Southern Fried Chicken is marinated in jalapeno-buttermilk and served with breakfast potatoes, collard greens and Texas toast. There’s also a hot version called H-Town Hot Fried Chicken which is fried and dipped in hot cayenne butter. This is probably the crispiest and juiciest fried chicken I’ve ever had.  Oh, and the glass of champagne is a perfect pairing. Who knew? Max’s sells a tee shirt that reads, “Stay calm and eat fried chicken.”  I might rethink meditating and try the fried chicken route to “stay calm”. I will update you on how it goes.

The Famous Southern Fried Chicken from Max’s is marinated in jalapeno-buttermilk and served with breakfast potatoes, collard greens and Texas toast.
Photo Hunter Lively

One thing that resonated throughout all the dishes we tried was the wonderful sauces.  Every sauce was perfectly paired with each dish. (And sauces ain’t easy, my friends.)

Max’s is also well known for its wine selection. You can find amazing wines from around the world and they price them on a retail model.  Enjoy a bottle with your meal and then take some home with you.  Win-win!

Yes, Max’s is a go-to place for gourmet appetizers, but don’t leave without trying the fried chicken and a glass of bubbly! It  works, trust me. We found Max’s to be excellent, unassuming and a wonderful find for classy comfort food.  We will be back!

Max’s is also well known for its wine selection. You can find amazing wines from around the world, priced on a retail model. Photo Hunter Lively

Happy Hour – Mon-Thur, 3pm-7pm

Max’s Wine Dive: 214 Fairview St. Ste. 2, Houston, TX 77006

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And don’t forget the weekend Brunch at Max’s in Montrose. Courtesy photo

Cover photo courtesy Max’s Wine Dive

Shawn Lively is the co-founder and past co-publisher of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She loves everything Texas and enjoys continuing to contribute to the magazine so she can introduce readers to the Texas lifestyle that she loves so much.