Along with everything else that comes with moving to a new city, one of the most important tasks is finding new places to dine.
When I moved to the Philadelphia area, I was on a mission to find a casual go-to restaurant, and a quick Google search led me to Max Brenner. My sister had come down for a Saturday girls night out, so it seemed appropriate to pay Max a visit and see what he had to offer us.
Willy Wonka Takes on Philly With Help from the Bald Man
The verdict is in: Willy Wonka has been reincarnated as Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man. Situated in a prime center city location on 15th and Walnut, Max Brenner can attract a casual passerby easily as much as the devoted chocoholic. Even before a hungry patron enters this modern day chocolate factory, one can smell the sweet, inviting aromas of the food within from the sidewalk outside.
Upon arriving to the venue, we quickly learned that Max Brenner is half restaurant, half chocolate shop, and wholly wonderful. My sister and I were encouraged to browse the shop, but neglected to do so thanks to the quick table seating service we received. The hostess sat us at a small, quaint table for two along the window lined wall of the restaurant. A burning tea light candle created a comforting ambiance and a 10% off coupon for the gift shop was given to us — a post dining incentive.
As the hostess turned away, Rebecca and I instantly began teasing our appetites by devouring the menu. We noticed the average meal price was around $14.00, but we were adamant about letting the descriptions of the meals guide our choices, not their prices. Our waitress arrived at our table, greeted us, and served us fresh ice water. We quickly ordered their Classic Chocolate Martini after noticing that most of the diners in the restaurant were sipping from the chocolately beverage.
A few minutes later, our waitress returned with our martinis in hand. It seemed as though we fast-forwarded through our meal and went straight to dessert. The chocolate martini was practically a meal on its own. The glass was covered in a sweet chocolate swirl and filled to the brim with the vodka and creme de cacao mixture. The martini was topped with a chocolate covered strawberry. At this point, I thought if the drinks were this good, we were in for a treat.
The menu has a small selection of options from “The Brenner Burgers” to paninis, pizzas, and a variety of pasta dishes, including the “Really-Cheesy Really Crunchy Mac & Cheese.” We were pleasantly overwhelmed by the options we had to choose from for dinner. My sister and I both ordered from the “With a Knife and Fork” portion of the menu. She went with the Pan-Toasted penne Alfredo with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic, and I settled on the Sunday Mood Pasta, a pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, spinach, ricotta cheese, and tomato pesto. Both dishes were priced around $16.
As we waited for our food, Rebecca and I took the time to soak in the setting around us. The restaurant was certainly bustling for a Saturday night and was filled with a variety of diners from families, couples, to fellow girls-night-outters. Anywhere we looked, we noticed that the theme of chocolate was eminent but it was done without being tacky.
Moments later, our food arrived with steam still coming off the dishes. We were immediately pleased to see that the plates were filled with pasta, the first justification of the price. We gushed over the dishes and Rebecca instantly began to “snap” our dishes but I had already began eating, ultimately ruining the photo op. She quickly joined me and we got to work on devouring our meals together. The pesto dish in front of me was immensely flavorful and unlike any pasta dish I’ve ever had from a restaurant before. We both sampled each others meals and learned that both plates were appropriately portioned, accompanied by garlic bread, and robust in flavor. Max Brenner is certainly a winner.
It may be known as Chocolate by the Bald Man, but don’t be fooled. Max Brenner has so much more to offer than dessert. Max Brenner left such a great taste in our mouths that it has become a tradition to be our go-to choice of restaurant each time my sister visits the city of Philadelphia.