Self-proclaimed as the ultimate experience for chocolate lovers around the globe, Max Brenner boasts a dessert menu bursting with sweet concoctions, like crepes, sundaes and fondue. For those less-inclined towards their sweet-tooth—don’t fret—Max Brenner has a brunch and savoury menu.
Headquartered in New York City, Max Brenner boasts 50 global locations, including Australia, Singapore and the Philippines, with eyes on Russia. Most locations outside of America host Max Brenner Chocolate Bars as opposed to restaurants. The bars are more Starbucks-esque, having only sweet options. Here, you order over the counter and seat yourself.
Rumour is Max Brenner is opening in Toronto. Until then, I snatched the opportunity to indulge in some chocolate goodness while in New York City for New Year’s Eve.
First hearing about it from friends, who exclaimed I had to dine there, to Max Brenner’s enticing Instagram feed, my sisters and I detoured to Max Brenner instead of claiming early spots at Times Square for the New Year’s Eve event. The air was frigid. The thought of entering Times Square at two pm and staying there until midnight seemed like a preposterous idea. The morning Statue of Liberty cruise already had me enveloped in cold-like symptoms.
We rushed inside a Starbucks down Manhattan's 8th Avenue, our faces covered with thick wool scarves. I used the WiFi to make 3:30 pm reservations on Max Brenner’s website and book an Uber there, while my sister ordered a chai latte. Our Uber took us to Max Brenner just in time for our 3:30 reservation. And thank goodness for that reservation. The lineup to receive seating was huge. It wasn’t even a lineup—just a mass of people standing around the inside entrance. Fortunately, the hostess had us walk right past everyone, to our table.
The hosts and servers mostly consist of students, dressed somewhat professional (think dress pants with a casual top). They were friendly, relaxed and not overly professional.
Dessert was our motivator.
I ordered the chocolate chunks waffle consisting of chocolate hazelnut spread, milk and white chocolate chunks, chocolate drizzle, mixed berries and vanilla ice cream. My sister ordered the strawberry hazelnut crepe, consisting of chocolate hazelnut spread, sliced strawberries and powdered sugar, with chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream. My other sister settled with an Oreo latte.
For drinks, I ordered white chocolate chai and my sister had the Kangaroo Cup, a coffee cup with a melting chocolate pouch, which allows chocolate to melt and swirl into your coffee.
The strawberry hazelnut crepe was delicious. I was surprised to see the waffle plate arrive with two waffles—I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it. The waffles looked dissimilar to the waffle image on the menu. They were overdone, in my opinion, to a crisp, dark brown. I like my waffles soft and fluffy. I gave the white chocolate chunks waffle to my sister, which she ate alongside her Oreo latte.
The Oreo latte was amazing. It’s topped with whipped cream and Oreo crumbles and has a slightly sweet, warm taste.
The Kangaroo Cup was bitter, and undrinkable (for my sister at least), which was surprising as she has a penchant for bitter foods like black coffee and dark chocolate.
The white chocolate chai was heavenly. It comes in a canister, enough for two to three people and the infusion of white chocolate ganache is a delicious touch.
The prices are slightly more expensive than the chocolate restaurants I frequent. For instance, my waffle was USD $14.25. Now convert that to CAD, and it really hits your pocket. Since it was my first and probably last time visiting Max Brenner (because there isn’t one in Toronto yet), I didn’t mind the prices.
Our server quickly arrived at our table and took our orders, likely due to the huge line up of people waiting to be seated. She was friendly and knowledgeable. Our orders came unexpectedly quick, much to our delight, and a little suspicion on the freshness of the food placed in front of us. I forget if our server returned to ask how the food was, we were so immersed in conversation, we didn’t notice.
At the end, we waited ten minutes to receive our bill. Although, when we asked for separate bills, our server appeared slightly annoyed (perhaps she should’ve asked before bringing our bill?). What I found odd was the bottom of the bill where the most expensive tip option was circled. I’m unsure if this is an American thing, but it’s unlike something I’ve seen in Canada. I do usually tip, however, the amount is based on my experience with my server, the food and the overall vibe of the restaurant. However, I have heard about the low wages of American servers.
The restaurant is geared towards anyone—families and couples alike. The dining area looked crowded under the semi-bright yellow lights. Probably because it was filled to the brim with people. It’s an intimate setting with everyone else dining at Max Brenner. The tables are placed close to each other. Once seated, there was no space to back out of my chair without bumping the person sitting at the table behind me. It’s typically noisy, which does drown out the conversations of people around you. And it does look relatively clean.
The Chocolate Shop
The New York City location has a Chocolate Shop attached to it. Here you can browse the shelves filled with Max Brenner’s chocolate-y creations. Most of the chocolate available in the Chocolate Shops are Kosher Dairy. There is a wide range of chocolate bricks, colourful bonbons, caramelized nuts and crispy wafers.
As with most restaurants that claim a certain unique-ness, Max Brenner restaurant wasn’t one of them. It has good dessert options, but it’s a doppelganger of Toronto’s Cacao 70, Dunk’n Dip or any other dessert restaurant that serves ice cream, waffles, crepes and fondue, alongside a savoury menu. Despite most menu items hitting home for me, it’s one of those places to visit once, feel satisfied you’ve tried it and then move on to explore the next dessert restaurant. Although, if you find yourself in New York City, craving something sweet, I would recommend Max Brenner. Just make reservations beforehand.
Have you been to Max Brenner? If not, what's your favourite dessert restaurant?