Suffocating in Chocolate

Welcome to Max Brenner, a restaurant known for its chocolate. Whether you like it dark, white, Latin, milk, or bittersweet—they’ve got it all. In celebration of the end of the first year of college, Nicole, Qingxin, and I decided to make a trip down to Brenner for some chocolatey paradise. Of course, Brenner also serves entrees to make a complete meal. But let’s be real: who would actually go to a chocolate restaurant for something other than chocolate? Needless to say, we were excited. Who doesn’t want dessert for dinner?

As a chemistry nerd, I’ll add something in about the health benefits of chocolate. Chocolate is actually quite healthy, despite what people may say. Cocoa itself is a bitter bean, so chocolate is naturally slightly bitter. If the bars of chocolate were only emulsions of pure cocoa, they would be extremely rich in antioxidants and other preventative chemicals. However, to satisfy our taste buds, the industry decided to dump in buckets of sugar. Needless to say, this packed on excess calories and other fun stuff. Additionally, it may seem counter-intuitive, but milk proteins actually inhibit the activity of chocolate antioxidants. That is, milk chocolate lacks the antioxidant load that dark chocolate has. Dark chocolate also has less sugar, meaning that dark chocolate is actually mildly healthy. Of course, dark chocolate lacks the smoothness and richness that milk chocolate possesses. Just a heads up about chocolate. Now back to the trip!

And chocolate is exactly what we got. To start off, we each ordered some hot chocolate. Qingxin got white chocolate with whipped cream, Nicole got milk chocolate with whipped cream, and I got dark chocolate without whipped cream. Nicole and Qingxin were disappointed right at the beginning—their hot chocolates came in tall glasses, while mine came in a hug mug. In terms of sheer volume, the hug mug beats out the glass. Nonetheless, the hot chocolate was delicious. Besides the volume difference, all of us knew that this hot chocolate was the real deal.

We were no doubt looking forward to the meal. Qingxin and I shared a dark chocolate/milk chocolate/caramel fondue. The presentation was wonderful, and the bananas, strawberries, and marshmallows were completely complemented by the molten chocolate. We even got a small flame to roast the marshmallows! The brownies and cookies, however, were underwhelming. Perhaps we had eaten too many sweets prior to tasting the brownies, or perhaps they were just bad. I didn’t think there would be a day where my sweet tooth would complain about dessert. But here it is, ironically at a restaurant famous for chocolate. To add salt to the wound, even the brownies at our dining halls beat these poor brownies! They were soft and spongy and completely fell apart in the fondue. The cookies were dense and hard—so hard that we couldn’t pierce the cookie chunk with our skewers! If we could, then the cookie split in half.

At this point, we were disappointed. Next came Nicole’s waffles. Here’s what Nicole had to say about the meal:

“The Swiss Hot Chocolate ($4.95) (Milk variety, with a Venezuelan cocoa origin) was creamy, smooth, and… well, chocolatey! It had a nice flavor, rich with the right touch of vanilla. The glass it was served in looked really cool, but lacked the volume of hot chocolate that was served in the normal hot chocolate’s “Hug Mug”. Whipped cream should not act as a substitute for more hot chocolate!

For my main course, I had the Banana Split Waffles ($13.95). The dish was composed of two waffles topped with bananas and caramelized rice krispies, accompanied by a mini-Erlenmeyer flask of melted milk chocolate, a small dish of vanilla bourbon ice cream, and another small dish of milk chocolate-coated krispies. I had high hopes for the waffles, but I think I was just excited over the fancy toppings. The waffle batter was in fact very dense and doughy– not soft and fluffy at all. It took on an almost cloying flavor by the end. On the bright side, I did greatly enjoy the ice cream (how can you mess up ice cream?) and the caramelized rice krispies (just sweet enough with the right amount of crunch).

For the price you pay here, you’re paying more for the experience. The food is not up to par. ★★1/2″

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, the “crepe” came. I put it in quotes because a more proper name for the “crepe” is egg pancake. We had an egg pancake with hazelnut chocolate lava inside. Qingxin and I were appalled by the texture and taste of this dish. It was sickeningly sweet, slightly cold, and worst of all—thick. It was so goopy and Qingxin decided to stop eating if after a while. To share our pain, we forced Nicole to sample it, much to her dismay. I forced the egg pancake down with the sole reason of not wasting edible substances. At least the mandarin orange wedges were good! Here’s what Qingxin had to say:

“The hot white chocolate was one of the best hot chocolates I’ve had, partly due to its unique nature of being made of white chocolate. The fondue was pretty good with the strawberries and marshmallows, but the cookies, brownies, and bananas did not go well with it. The crepe was very bad, as it was way too doughy. Overall, I would not recommend mb to anyone else, and it is overpriced. ★★★”

All in all, I think we came to the consensus that Brenner was slightly overhyped. Or majorly. Perhaps it was just that we had such high expectations of the place that no restaurant could meet our insane expectations. On the other hand, it may have just failed to perform. Either way, the meal was very pricey. The meal was sweet. And by sweet, I mean sugary. Not the colloquial sweet. ★★1/2

Hey Max Brenner,

I think I’ll just stick to Twix bars and Reese’s cups.



Max Brenner ★★1/2
1500 Walnut St
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