In Chicago, your brunch options are just about endless, but if you’re on the lookout for the next great thing, check out Wicker Park newcomer Max’s Wine Dive. This outpost of the Texas original–famous for its heaping portions of vanilla bean French toast and crispy fried chicken–is the perfect starting point for your next outing with friends, with a welcoming atmosphere and a menu filled with crowd-pleasing classics. What sets each location apart is that in addition to the signature dishes, you’ll find a host of unique, original options. The more friends you invite, the more chances you’ll get to sample dishes like braised pork belly benedict, biscuits, and gravy served over crunchy steak, and whole wheat blueberry pancakes, so call a few pals you haven’t seen in a while and get ready for a food-filled reunion.
Whatever you decide to order individually, get a couple plates of Max’s fried chicken for the table to share. Marinated in jalapeno buttermilk, it’s super crispy and flavorful, and comes with a mountain of sides including collard greens, home fries, Texas toast, and a chipotle honey dipping sauce. The food is the perfect accompaniment to a background soundtrack of soulful sets provided by the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and the Jackson 5. The music’s at just the right volume: low enough for your conversations and high enough for you to get up and dance if you feel like it in the cheery dining room.
As its name implies, Max’s Wine Dive knows a little something about the vino. The name also indicates that even though staffers know their stuff, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re laid back and unpretentious, so no question you may have concerning wine is ridiculous. You’ll find a number of craft wines on the menu, and they’re willing to open any bottle as long as you commit to buying two glasses–which shouldn’t be too hard knowing your crew. You can even purchase most wines you see on the menu in the restaurant’s retail store, a great place to find limited releases from small, local producers.
During brunch, however, the most popular pairing is fried chicken with mimosas. Depending on your group’s budget, you can order mimosas made with the house bubbly for $5, or go all out for mimosas made with freshly squeezed OJ and premium champagne. That’ll cost you a pretty penny, but a reunion of old friends is always cause for celebration.
Photo by John M. P. Knox