Max’s Bar & Grill, Long Branch, NJ
Sunday, February 17, 12:03 p.m.
Where I Sat
I’m starting to think maybe I should cut the “where I sat” bit of this article. It’s always the same, right? Especially when I have my choice, which I did on this just-opened Sunday.
Indeed, I took up the corner, facing the front of the restaurant, at the takeout counter. Among my favorite details are the outlets and bag hooks—it’s small attention to detail like this that plays a part in why Max’s is soon to be one of my new favorite hangs.
This review is also made unique by the company I brought along. Almost my entire nuclear family, who sat adjacent to my bar spot at a circular table along the newly installed, glass-fronted garage doors that roll up when the weather warms up, joined me.
Who Served Me
Crystal, hustling behind the bar. Shortly after we settled in, a toddler’s birthday party—with thirsty parents—arrived. Crystal served beers, Bloody Marys, splits of sparkling wine, mixed cocktails, and whatever else could be thrown her way as she madly mixed and poured.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
Crystal is new—she’s only been with Max’s since their reopening in the fall. That said, she has a nice command of the menu, so when I asked her my requisite question she was ready. “The mac and cheese is really good! And the pretzel is awesome, with the cheese sauce and mustard. And I absolutely love the Spicy Jockey—I really like spicy so it’s my favorite.” Bring the heat. (The Spicy Jockey comes with melted pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, $7.50).
The Vibe and My Vantage Point
If you are a fan of the old Max’s (aka Max’s Famous Hot Dogs), not to worry! The essence of what was there before remains—if not hidden beneath the swanky, super-cool-but-chill new look and feel. The old photos are still framed and on display and the cool mural integrated on the counter side of the joint felt like home. The bar-focused side came complete with the multiple, large television screens with cement floors and a monochromatic gray color scheme that blended beautifully with the hewn tables. I have no worries the new Max’s will hold its own against the bevy of brew houses and distilleries opening up across the county.
I was loving it, with my family’s presence making my visit made that much more sweet. This included my amazing 85-year-old father, who fondly recalls eating his very first Max’s hot dog in 1940! My mom searched to find that picture of him when he was a platinum-blonde boy of six, holding a hot dog that was bigger than he was. Alas the photo could not be found—I think my Aunt Joyce just may have swiped it!
What Quenched My Thirst
Spicy Margarita, $11
Tanteo jalapeño tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, cilantro, and lime
Tantalizing and fiery, yet sweet, this was an excellent Sunday brunch choice. And as I was only having one, it had all I needed. A strong sense of tequila commanding the stage while the backup band of ingredients did its job beautifully. A special shout-out to cilantro for making me smile with every sip.
What Fed My Soul
Jumbo Pretzel, $11
A Brauhaus-style salted pretzel served warm with homemade German beer cheese sauce and lemon wedge
A solid pretzel with a lighter-than-expected and delicious cheese sauce I quite enjoyed. A little bit of spice to the hoppy flavor was a nice touch. The mustard was delicious—subtle, yet spicy and flavorful. I much prefer the pretzel-mustard combo, but for the cheese lovers out there, you won’t be disappointed.
Buffalo Wings, $11 (buffalo, BBQ, or sweet chili)
10 seasoned, oven-baked wings tossed in your choice of sauce, served with a side of bleu cheese and celery
Forgive me if I am repeating myself, but I’ve had likely no less than 10,000 chicken wings in my lifetime. I became somewhat of a wings connoisseur living in Ithaca, NY, where we were quite close to the origin of this fried, spicy, finger-licking deliciousness. Needless to say those wings added to my freshman 15(+), much to my poor mother’s chagrin. But I digress.
I was immediately enamored with the newsprint-style wax paper beneath the perfectly sized wings and the little bit of buffalo sauce at the bottom of the pile. Before my first bite, I would have guessed that they were under coated.
Crispy, zesty, spicy. Such. A. Good. Wing. This was a wing I’ll remember as it really hit the right balance. (While I am a bit of a condiment lover, there is such a thing as an overdressed wing—rarely are they underdressed.) The kitchen was spot on with its delicate balance of fry time, sauce, and for once, a generous pile of celery. Loved the cool, crisp stalks gobbed in bleu cheese between the wing experience. This is a wing worth having.
Gouda, grilled onions, and apple slices with applewood bacon on sourdough bread, served with chips
The sandwich arrived and I was eager to dive in. It was toasted with just the right amount of crispy cheese plastered to the crust of the yummy-looking rye. The apple slices were thicker than I expected, and piled in with the well-sautéed onions and plentiful Gouda. The bacon added a sultry and seductive smokiness to the sweet notes of apple and onion. I was really into it and called over my 14 year old, who is always open to trying new things. He was busy enjoying his burger, (more below) but eagerly came to the bar for a bite. “Wow, that’s reallllly good, Mom. The bacon is amazing!” Clearly a generation-gap closer! This was a grilled cheese for anyone who knows a good thing—whether they’re 14 or 50!
The Smokehouse, $13
8 oz burger with cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and BBQ sauce topped with Max’s famous onion rings, and served with fries
A great burger with an equally ideal char-grilled bun. The full-on smoke of this burger experience was a great blend with the sweet BBQ sauce and onion ring. The heft of it was gut busting so prepare if you plan to eat the whole thing. The fries were fantastic—again, I’ve rarely met a fry I didn’t like. These were well cooked, not at all greasy, and scrumptious indeed.
Max’s Famous Hot Dog, $6+ (see top right side of menu for dog details)
The Classic, served with sauerkraut, hot-and-sweet relish, mustards, ketchup, and most other condiments you can dream of
Amazingly presented flopping off the only-too-short bun, this gorgeous dog was grilled to perfection. Bursting, but not quite out of its skin, the dog was ready to be topped. Since I was sharing this with my dad, it was his way—they should call it “Bob Loves Everything!” A little bit of spicy mustard, sweet and hot relish and sauerkraut, all very well proportioned across every inch of the dog. It was incredible—talk about a taste explosion! Everything was popping, and my mouth still watered as I tried to consume every ounce of goodness my taste buds were experiencing. At one point, I shut my eyes to block out other stimuli and feel the textures as well, loving every single second. I can’t wait to get back and get adventurous! As a hot-dog traditionalist (mustard and sauerkraut), I am ready to expand my horizons and check ’em out, one by one. I suggest you consider the same.
What’s on Tap
21st Amendment Fireside Chat 7.9%, $7
Asbury Park Blonde 4.9%,$6
Blue Moon 5.4%, $5
Brew Dog Elvis Juice 6.5%, $7
Brooklyn Lager 5.2%, $6
Cape May Always Ready 4.8%, $7
Carton 077XX 7.8%, $6
Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner 5.2%, $6
Guiness 4.2%, $6
Sam Adams ’76 4.7%, $5
Long Trail Vermont New IPA 5%, $6
Miller Lite 4.2%, $4
20+ beers in the can also offered! All drafts served in 16 oz. glasses. Check with the bar for details and changes.
Whites, Rosé, and Sparkling
Charles and Charles Rosé, $9
Ruffino Lumino Pinot Grigio, $8
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, $8
J. Lohr Unoaked Chardonnay, $9
Freixenet Split, $8
Avissi Prosecco, $9
La Terre Chardonnay (house wine), $6
J. Lohr Pinot Noir, $9
Jacobs Creek Cabernet, $8
Kaiken Malbec, $9
Sycamore Lane Merlot, $6
Sycamore Lane Cabernet, $6
What Else to Know
Daily happy hours, live music and soon-to-be Wednesday ping pong! Visit the site for up-to-date intel.
When to Show
Wednesday and Thursday: 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: Noon to 11:00 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 8:00 p.m.
Know Before You Go!
Hours, prices, and menus are subject to change. Please check the website for more information.
Max’s Bar & Grill
25 Matilda Terrace
Long Branch, NJ
A Lady Walks into a Bar™ is owned and trademarked by Gabrielle Garofalo.