THE BITE: Gluttons rejoice! There’s a fearsomely beautiful burger in Brighton Beach that’s guaranteed to stamp out the most ravenous appetite.
The Juicy Lucy ($14.75) at Cafe Max, formerly Kebeer Draft Bar & Grill, is a glorious double-patty hamburger made with Angus prime beef. The patties are topped with melted cheddar and swiss cheese, while a stack of onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles completes the ceiling-scratching tower.
When mine arrived, blood was already dribbling out the sides of the patties, signaling I was about to embark on a sloppy thrill ride of carnivorous delights.
I’ve been presented with other burgers that appeared to be more than a mouthful, but they usually collapse in your hands like accordion and are easily dispatched. Not so at Max Cafe. The weighty meat would not back down from the pressure of my fingers and I had to attack the burger vertically, chewing one patty and then the other, like a backhoe clawing at a building.
But the Juicy Lucy isn’t just a feast for the eyes. The savory sap trickled down my hands and chin while the flavor galloped along my tongue. Each bite sank into my belly like a warm ember. Meanwhile, the sticky cheese and fresh veggies added their own notes of flavor to the chorus. I didn’t even bother adding condiments.
Owner Max Arron told me he takes great pride in the protein at his restaurant The Uzbek immigrant said he comes in daily to prepare the meat, which is bought from local butchers, and used for the burger, steaks, and the many kebabs on the Central Asian-focused menu.
Arron recently rebranded his restaurant in December, changing the name from Kebeer to Cafe Max, after a movie crew shot a scene that required some changes to create a 1920s prohibition-era look. The bar certainly has a speakeasy charm: rows of liquor bottles line the mirrored shelves, while the colorful beer taps hover over the polished granite bar.
But Arron also renovated the interior to make it a little brighter and more family-friendly. The walls are painted spruce green, orb lanterns spray the room with light, while the wooded tables, topped with white paper covers give the place a comfortable, casual vibe.
“Before, there was a lot of dark wood and it was like a macho-type place,” he explained. “I wanted to diversify and make it more welcoming to families.”
However, the menu is still the same, as is the wide selection of craft beers. I was interested in trying out the kebabs, but since this is southern Brooklyn, and we’ve written extensively about the skewered meats at local restaurants, I decided to test his American fare.
It wasn’t just the hamburger that impressed. The fries were crispy and not overly salted. They came with a pinch of garlic that tasted like it had been shaved right onto the plate. There was also a tangy sauce, made with mayo and barbecue, that made for good dipping.
I did however venture into Arron’s ethnic cuisine and ordered the pelmeni soup ($6). The broth has a wonderful dill aroma and is made with eight delicate veal-stuffed dumplings. I gulped down the soup until the bowl was sparkling clean.
I washed down the whole meal with a Coney Island Pilsner ($7), and was amazed that I developed any kind of appetite the next day.
Where: 1003 Brighton Beach Avenue, at the corner of Coney Island Avenue
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11am -12am, Friday & Saturday, 11am – 1am
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ column exploring the foodstuffs of the Sheepshead Bay area. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.