When wine bars first started popping up around the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, they all tended to follow the same playbook: Dozens or even hundreds of interesting wines would be available by the bottle, glass or tasting flights. But when it came to food, the options were usually limited to fussy-sounding pates or sparsely populated cheese plates?

What, wine lovers don’t have big appetites?

Flash forward fifteen or so years, and wine bars are flourishing in Fort Worth – but now they also offer food menus that can satisfy even the most discriminating foodie. Winslow’s Wine Café, in west Fort Worth, offers a wine list with nearly sixty bottles, most in the $35 to $60 range, and most also available by the glass. The seasonally changing menu features a mix of appetizers, if you just want to nosh with a group of friends during happy hour, or larger plates, if you want to stay for dinner.

Times Ten

Over at Times Ten Cellars – which in its lounge serves wines from its own vineyard, located near Alpine in west Texas – the food menu is a little more traditionally limited to cheeses, dips and salads. But on most Thursday and Friday nights, Times Ten plays host to the Il Cane Rosso food truck – the thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizza from the usually jam-packed Deep Ellum pizza shop is considered some of the best in North Texas.

And now there is yet another new wine bar in Fort Worth, with arguably the most exciting menu of all. MAX’s Wine Dive is an expanding mini-chain that originated in Houston, and that opened its first Cowtown location a few weeks ago, in the So7 development just west of downtown Fort Worth.

The wine list at MAX's

The idea is to combine the relaxed appeal of a down-home diner with the high-polish sophistication of a wine bar. Based on a recent Friday brunch visit, MAX’s is off to a terrific start. From the brunch menu, we split the “MAX ‘n Cheese” – a deliciously gooey variation on macaroni and cheese, flavored with truffle cream and topped with toasted breadcrumb.

For our main courses, we tried the “The Roasted Relleno” --  a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with a mixture of scrambed eggs, vegetables and goat cheese; it’s a great choice for heat-seekers like ourselves. Nor could we resist the supremely juicy, faintly-spicy MAX’s Famous Southern Fried Chicken, with a jalapeno buttermilk batter, and “slow” deep-fried at 250 degrees. It comes accompanied with a chipotle honey dipping sauce.

The Roasted Relleno at MAX's

Since it was afternoon and we had work ahead of us, we passed on wine – but we can’t wait to get back here to sample a bottle off a wine list that offers more than a hundred options. There is also a special Happy Hour menu, which should make this an especially popular spot on Friday afternoons. 

And not to name-drop, but we always think it’s a good sign when we spot local culinary luminaries on site while dining out – so it’s perhaps worth noting that when we visited, Tim Love, chef/owner of Lonesome Dove and Woodshed, was also having brunch at another table. If it’s good enough for one of the finest chefs in town ….