I heard about Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, through Seth Godin.  I read about Max in Seth’s Meatball Sundae book, and this was reinforced by the blog post/interview with Seth on Hugh McLeod’s (@gapingvoid) website.  Ever since, I’ve been intrigued by the very thought of a chocolate restaurant, and the thought of the indulgence that waits within.  When we’ve been up to NYC recently, we haven’t been able to get there, so I was thrilled when I heard that they were expanding and opening a Philly location.

So for my birthday, I told my husband I wanted to try Brunch at Max Brenner’s, since it had now been built up to legendary status in my mind.  Like many things you anticipate to be fantastic before the actual experience, I actually began to worry that no restaurant or experience could live up to the hype I had built up in my mind- there was bound to be some disappointment after all this deferred gratification.

I was so wrong.  It lived up to any expectations and beyond.  (Now here I go, contributing to the hype.)  But seriously, I have rarely gone to a talked-about restaurant with my family, including my 14 and 11 year old sons, where they have had a good or better time than I have had.

Max Brenner’s is a bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, at least the Chocolate only parts.  The menu (which you can preview here) drew laughter and joy from all of us, just reading about the chocolate on chocolate specialties, each one sounding vaguely more decadent than the one before.  For example, the chocolate-based drinks are served in special cups/mugs/glasses that make each one feel like an exotic treat, and the butterscotch/caramel sauce that accompanies some dishes comes in a little vial that reminds me of a chemistry experiment.

What was great is that the meals were as good or better than the description.  I got the spicy tuna sandwich, and frankly, it’s the best tuna sandwich I’ve ever had.   (And I only chose that over chocolate crepes as a brief nod towards trying to eat healthy, even on this indulgent day.)  This experience wasn’t just about great food, though- it was also about whimsy, about fun, about silly, and about pleasure, and making dreams come true.  Max tells his story of making his dreams come true in the menu.  He brought us into his dream and we left with a great memory and a story we won’t fail to share with friends and family.

Seth Godin is right.  Being remarkable means doing something worth talking about, worth sharing with others.  Max Brenner does this.  The quality of the food, of the chocolate and even details down to the glassware and shopfront made us giggle in delight.

Social media makes sharing this experience and spreading the word easy.  I learned of Max through social media, and I am further spreading the word out the same way.  But the social proof is that my experience matches or exceeds the experience of those who recommended it to me in the first place.  As a result, I was willing to make a 45 min drive and spend money based on a friend’s opinion, and I hope you’ll consider giving Max’s restaurant a try if you’re in NYC or Philly, because it was simply fun.

I get no direct benefit from this other than your good will and thoughts after you taste the chocolate, and say “Now THAT was worth the trip, for sure.”  Well, that and the fact that my children now think this is the best restaurant we’ve ever dragged them to so far, meaning we’ll be back, for sure.