Now to get the true Belgian experience you probably need to “muscle” your way into a restaurant in Brussels. In the Greater Philadelphia area many are under the misconception that the only way to get close to the taste of Brussels is to head into Philly and grab a table at a Belgian themed gastropub (Monks, Eulogy, etc), those people have not yet found Max’s Seafood Cafe in Gloucester City, NJ. It’s only been around since 1912 (refurbished in 2000) and it takes some people a little longer to find some restaurants.
Max’s has long been a favorite for our family. Their mussels are to die for and the beer list is awesome. While Max’s creates loads of seafood specialties our journey always starts, and sometimes ends, with a big bowl (or three) of their mussels.
During our most recent trip, Mrs. Wookie started with an order of the Thai mussels while I went for the Belgian mussels. I accompanied my bowl of bivalves with an Allagash White draft. A perfect pairing of a crisp slightly spicy wheat beer complementing the heaping order of Maine mussels bathed in herbs, lager beer, spicy sausage, and granny smith apples. The Mrs’ Thai mussels are presented in a coconut milk broth seasoned with lemon grass, ginger, and Thai chilies. Very tasty!
Since she could not decide on her favorite mussel dish, the wife went for a second round of mussels and did the Italian mussels for an entrée. In a pesto cream sauce with sun dried tomatoes and baby spinach these mussels are a whole different experience than the others but no less fantastic. There was no second flight of mussels for me since I was looking for something more filling and opted for the crab cakes and a La Chouffe draft. The crab cakes were not great but the La Chouffe made up for it. A crisp unfiltered blonde Belgian ale from the Achouffe Brewery from the heart of the Belgian Ardennes. This brew was more fruity than the Allagash White but not overpoweringly so.
Max’s is a great pub and if you want check them I suggest you try them for lunch. Their spectacular mussel creations are on both the lunch and dinner menus but I prefer Max’s daytime soups, salads, and sandwiches. It’s well prepared simple fare, cheaper, and the restaurant tends to be quieter during lunch. For dinner I find the entrées to be just average, but they are still good.
PARENTS NOTE – Max’s is casual, has a great kids menu, and my kids love it. The staff is always very attentive to kids and will accommodate special requests. The have booster seats but you’ll have to provide your own crayons and activities for your kiddos, Max’s does not … hey it’s great seafood and beer not a Friendly’s!