I had heard good things about Max's on Broad from some friends who had recently visited, so we decided to check it out after we attended the Home & Garden Show at the Richmond Convention Center (this show, by the way, sucked). The restaurant, which is affiliated with nearby Tarrant's Cafe, is located at the corner of Brook Road and Broad Street right downtown and adjacent to Jackson Ward. Luckily Max's has valet service, so if you feel uncomfortable parking your car far away and walking, especially at night, you have this safe and convenient option.
It has been a while since I have entered a restaurant and said "wow". The inside is a fine balance between funky (paneled walls, a vine twisting up the wall, exposed ceiling lumber, and exposed brick) and elegant (silver bar, framed art work).
The downstairs has several tables in a wood paneled area, but the main attraction on the first floor is the bar. It was lively for a Saturday afternoon and the bar itself was beautiful with a metal counter. There were hooks for purses (yeah) and the seats were comfortable. French music played over the air and black clad waitstaff/bartenders scurried about completing orders and stocking the restaurant with provisions taken up from the basement stairs at the bar. Our bartender was gracious and other waitstaff were accommodating as we asked random questions about what type of drink they were carrying or whether they like their FitBit (my husband is very inquisitive).
Our bartender was appropriately attentive but did not have a full understanding of the beer options. However, I had to give him some slack since the beer list is very extensive and the place is fairly new. There are several taps and even more options available in standard and large bottles. The beer list is unfortunately dominated by Belgian Beers--I personally prefer German and English beers as Belgians tend to present as too sour. However, I settled on the Belgian Brown Ale "Woodbooger" by Richmond's very own Strangeway's Brewery. I was very pleasantly surprised--it had only the faintest hint of the Belgian sourness that normally turns me off, but more importantly it had strong malt and caramel notes with a clean finish. I look forward to visiting the brewery in the future and blogging about it.
Since we were going to attend a party in a few hours, we decided to share an appetizer. The one we chose was absolutely wonderful: grilled calamari over arugula and white beans. There were lots of calamari and they were grilled, seasoned, and cooked to perfection. They were not rubbery or overly chewy, and it was a nice departure from the standard breaded and deep-friend option. The beans, salad, and dressing tied it all together into a splendid dish. I would definitely order again either to share or as a main meal. A couple next to us ordered a salad, and it appeared quite large. The menu itself was fairly extensive with appetizers, salads, seafood section, entree, sandwich, and dessert options. The prices of the entrees were a little steep, but if the calamari dish is any indication of their cooking we will return for dinner and splurge.
After our snack we briefly explored the upstairs. The stairs up to second floor were beautiful with interesting art and a real vine growing (well, tied) up the wall. The upstairs eating area looked very romantic and the large expansive walls made good viewing of Broad Street.
We will definitely return to Max's on Broad for dinner and/or brunch. The food and service were fantastic, the ambiance was great, and the drink list was extensive, It reminded me of a younger, hipper version of Can Can in Carytown.