As a loyal patron of Plan B and a lover of their gourmet burgers, I was very leery when I heard the Max Restaurant group’s plans to expand into the world of burgers. Although the new addition has been open for over 6 months, my husband and I hesitated. We just couldn’t pull ourselves away from Plan B (we felt like we would be cheating if we gave the competition a try). But we finally caved and went to Max Burger for lunch the other day.
The atmospheres of the two restaurants are drastically different. Plan B is very edgy – think urban loft, with leather booths, mirrors, industrial lighting, and tight quarters (you get to know your fellow diners well). You are always guaranteed a wait on a weekend night, but the bar is lively and the beer flows freely. Max is certainly more refined, and you know you are eating in the center of West Hartford, as opposed to Park Rd (where Plan B is located). Max’s is much more spacious, again lots of black leather, but here it is paired with birch-like wood, and metal accents – very upscale Montana hunting lodge.
So now on to the beer, which is almost as important as the burgers (my husband may argue it’s more so…). Plan B is all about micro breweries and craft beer. With about 15 draft beers that are changing constantly, many of which are small craft beers, along with over 50 bottled beers, Plan B has plenty of variety. Plan B does have a full bar, however don’t expect very experienced bar tenders – they don’t love to mix drinks and can get confused easily with names of drinks. For instance, I found its better to tell them grapefruit juice and vodka, rather than to ask for a greyhound. This stays with their M.O. – no frills – just really good burgers and really good beer. Max plays it safer on the beer front. With only a couple of drafts, showcasing a more generic variety and only 15 or so bottle options, beer is certainly not as strong a focus in the restaurant. They do, however, offer cocktails, mixed drinks, milkshakes and a wonderful selections of “adult milkshakes” (milkshakes made with a varieties of liquors). Again, this is not surprising and stays with Max’s theme. They are clearly catering to a different crowd and therefore catering to a different drinkers’ pallets.
Now to the real show – the burgers. I found the menus to be fairly comparable. I may have to give Plan B a slight advantage for creativity, while Max had more diversity if you were looking for something other than a burger. I almost did not order a burger because I was so determined not to like Max’s, however the special burger of the day enticed me beyond my will power. My burger came with baby spinach, lemon garlic aoli, roasted tomatoes, and goat cheese. The aoli was bright and fresh and complimented the crunch of the earthy spinch perfectly. The roasted tomatoes added the perfect amount of sweetness to the burger and the goat rounded everything out with a creaminess with just a hint of tang. It was honestly one of the best burgers I have ever had. The other advantage to the Max Burger is that you can order you burger rare, and it came perfectly red in the center. Scott had the “Miss Daisy” which was served on Brioche slices with applewood smoked bacon, bree, and beer Dijon mayo. Scott did like his burger, but said that the sliced brioche took away from the burger experience because he lacked the appearance of a bun. However, the burger on the whole was very well balanced and they did not skimp on the toppings – there was a slab of bree and several slices of think bacon to finish off his burger.
Although I had a wonderful burger at Max’s, Plan B still wins for the overall burger experience. I think the quality of beef at Plan B is above and beyond. I don’t know how to describe how their beef tastes other than, once you taste their beef you realize that every other time you have tasted beef before that, it hasn’t tasted right. Plan B burgers are so fresh and such high quality that they do tend to fall apart – which makes them a messier burger. They are also offered with “some pink” or “no pink” and to people who like their meat on the rare side, this can be cumbersome. But with flavors like 3 Shroom, Baja, and Pretzel, how could you go wrong? My three favorite Plan B burgers are as follows:
- Baja – avocado, jalapeno, jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, chipotle mayo.
- East Coast – Lobster, roasted onion, corn spread, smoked gouda.
- West Coast – Avocado, fried egg, black olive mayo. (yes, its a heart attack on a plate, but once and a while, man it’s good!)
I did say they got points for creativity, right? Also, Plan B’s fries are far superior to Max’s. A thin and crispier fry, Plan B offers a variety of choices, (Parmesan, truffle, sweat potato, disco, or green) and you can not go wrong ordering the truffle fries. They are reason enough to visit Plan B.
Overall, both restaurants offer a great burger. I hate to admit it, being the loyal Plan B-er that I am, but you won’t be disappointed at either place. It just depends on what you are in the mood for. The atmospheres are different and therefore the experiences will be different. Plan B is overall more casual and laid back, while Max’s is more refined. So no matter where you choose to get you next great burger, hopefully you now know a great burger is just around the corner.
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