Disclosure: I received complimentary food and wine samples as part of a media night at Max’s Wine Dive. I received no other compensation. All opinions are mine.

Photo credit: all photos in this post are by Zach Urcheshen

Chef Justin Johnson debuts his fall menu at Max's Wine Dive San Antonio

Date night doesn’t come around often enough, does it, parents? Then, when it does, there’s usually the added expense of a sitter with which to contend. And, even if that’s not a concern, you’re only allotted a few precious hours to reconnect with your significant other. The pressure’s on to make date night awesome. Do you choose dinner out? A movie? See a play? Go to a concert?

There are a few places my husband and I count on for a definite good time. Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie is always on our list. But when we want a laid back, yet sophisticated night out to relax and chat over great wine and a wonderful meal, Max’s Wine Dive is one of our favorite places. The staff is friendly, the wine selection is broad and varied, and the food is always great.

Located at The Quarry Village, Max’s just debuted their fall menu and, with it, they revealed their latest culinary coup: the move of chef Justin Johnson from their Austin location to the Alamo city. I enjoyed meeting him and sampling his savory menu at a media night recently where I was a guest among local bloggers (I’m pictured here with the lovely Abby from Kennan Family Huddle and her sweet friend, Chelsea) and members of the media.

Abby with Kennan Family Huddle and Colleen Pence of San Antonio Mom Blogs

Chef Justin is new to San Antonio but not to Max’s. He’s been with the company for 2 1/2 years, and in the restaurant business for 15. Yep. I know what you’re thinking: he looks awfully young for that to be true. He is. At just 30, Justin’s been in the restaurant biz for half his life!

Colleen Pence with  San Antonio Mom Blogs meets Chef Justin Johnson with Max's Wine Dive

Now, as executive chef at San Antonio’s only Max’s Wine Dive location, he creates original dishes for half of Max’s menu, all of which are exclusive to the San Antonio location. The other half of the menu features Max’s Classics like the popular Max ‘n’ Cheese, shrimp and grits, and other items which are available at all Max’s locations.

Of the fall dishes I tasted, my favorite was the chicken wrapped quail legs. Each one was wrapped in chicken skin, deep fried, and topped with cayenne hot sauce and served with sides of bleu cheese vinaigrette, and blueberry coulis. They’re up scaled wings! Each bite produced a crispy, mouth-watering firecracker for my taste buds. Spicy food lovers will devour these.

Other standout dishes were:

The porkettes: braised pork, smoked apple charred corn relish, and brandy molasses on toasted baguette

A savory fall dish with braised pork, smoked apple charred corn relish and brandy molasses

and an acorn squash hummus served with pecan rosemary pesto, diced persimmons, and warm pita

Acorn squash hummus with warm pita bread at Max's Wine Dive

Approachable, friendly, and down-to-earth, Chef Justin spoke with me about how integral his staff is to his inspired menus. He values their input and he’s developed a deep appreciation for the spirit of teamwork he’s experienced while working in Max’s kitchens. After so many years in the business, having received instruction, guidance, and support from his chef mentors, he hopes to help his staff reach their career dreams too.

When I asked him where and when he gets his best ideas for new menu items he replied, “In bed, right before I fall asleep.” That isn’t surprising as I learned, firsthand, that his delicious fall menu certainly is the stuff of dreams.

To view Chef Justin’s fall menu, visit the Max’s Wine Dive San Antonio menu page.