List the most indulgent, over-the-top, toothache-inducing chocolate desserts you can think of. Then multiply that by two, and you’ll have something approximating the menu at the new Max Brenner chocolate bar in Bethesda, which opens today after more than a month of delays.
That menu features items like “urban smores” and popsicle fondue, both of which involve pots of molten chocolate heated over tea lights. The drinks are just as kitschy and indulgent: hot chocolate is served in a ceramic “hug mug” (designed specially for Max Brenner restaurants) that must be hugged with both hands, while the “kangaroo” coffee cups come with an internal pouch in which slices of chocolate are perched so that they melt into your coffee as you sip.
According to executive chef Katzie Guy-Hamilton, the gimmicks are meant to make customers feel like a kid in a candy store. Literally.
“That’s what Max Brenner is about,” she says. “There’s always something to dip, something to lick, something to drizzle.”
The restaurant, which seats about three dozen, is decorated in shades of caramel and brown, giving the sensation of sitting inside a giant chocolate bar. The entire space even smells of chocolate, thanks to two vats of whirling melted chocolate positioned near the doors.
Unlike the Israel-based chocolate chain’s other U.S. locations, which temper their cocoa extravagance with a few savory dishes, the Bethesda bar will be totally focused on desserts and drinks. Customers can order their food at the bar either to eat there or take away, and the restaurant also sells pre-packaged products: tins of pralines, chocolate “first aid boxes,” and a “syringe” of pure chocolate (minus the needle).
That insulin spike doesn’t come cheap—desserts range between $8 and $15, while drinks are about $6. But if you like your sugar overdose with a heavy side of kitsch, Max Brenner is unquestionably the place to go.
Max Brenner, 7263 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; (301) 215-8305; maxbrenner.com
Photo by Sarah Kaplan