Max Brenner

There's a restaurant on Union Square called Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man.  If that's not intriguing enough, I don't know what is.

Max Brenner serves a lot of incredible food that relates to - what else - chocolate!  You don't really go to Max Brenner to eat savory go there for Belgian waffles, chocolate fondue, and the dessert pizza!  Their food is really a feast for all your senses, from the beautiful plating to the bold flavors to the heat radiating from the marshmallow-roasting mini-stove (seriously).  The sauces that accompany a dish (chocolate, caramel, syrup, etc.) come in Erlenmeyer flasks (seriously).  Many times, I've wanted to lick my plate clean, and the plate of my dining companion (seriously).

I am unlike most people, though: I go to Max Brenner for their savory food and then share a dessert.  Their savory dishes are American comfort food and diner food, but elevated to an elegant and modern level.  I particularly love their macaroni and cheese, served in a shallow cast iron skillet and with a marinara/salsa in an accompanying chemistry lab container. The mac has a crunchy crust and is topped with bacon, giving the otherwise soft dish a great texture; the tomatoes add an interesting tangy flavor.  I also have had their Caesar salad, which is nothing to go nuts about, but is decently portioned to leave room for a sweet dish...and comes with this enormous melted-Parmesan crisp that I could eat for days....

One dessert that we commonly get is the chocolate churros. It's easily sharable and just the right dose of sweetness to end a meal.  In Madrid, we heard a very common snack is the churro con chocolate and hunted for the best churreria. My friend found a decent one that served fresh, crispy churros (deep fried dough extruded into a tube shape and dusted with powdered sugar and/or cinnamon) with a thick, pudding-like chocolate sauce.  The churreria I visited was a little disappointing: the churros were stale and chewy and the chocolate sauce was like murky brown water.  Anyway...

The churros at Max Brenner are themselves not spectacular, but they are served with a trio of delicious dips: milk chocolate, caramel, and raspberry.  I could do without so much caramel and chocolate, but the raspberry...oh boy!  It's so tart and induces puckers.  I don't know why that feeling is so great, but it goes so well with the churros.  Especially if you have the chocolate and caramel sauce with the churros, you definitely need some of that tartness to cut the otherwise cloying sweetness.  Usually, my fellow dessert-sharers and I end up with too little churro and too much we challenge each other to drinking contests, taking shots of chocolate, caramel, and raspberry sauce.  I always call dibs on the raspberry!

Slightly on the expensive (a nice date place perhaps?)...but I think Max Brenner is something that everyone - not only, but definitely including chocolate lovers - needs to try at least once in their lives.  New York City food bucket list, anybody?