Founded in 1972, Columbus, Ohio based Max and Erma’s currently operates about 60 casual dining restaurants ripe with burgers, barbecue, and plenty of other favorite Midwestern dishes. Competition is tough in the casual dining sector in Ohio; chains like this one are everywhere. Max & Erma’s has a great opportunity to stand out and bring an interesting new flavor to the area, but I am not convinced that they really pull of anything more than a middle-of-the-pack bid to become just another one of those places you may or may not have visited.
The food here is the typical Americana mix; burgers are at the forefront of the menu, and specialty dishes include an effort or two of Italian food, Hispanic food, seafood and barbecue. It’s a pretty universal experience when dining here; Max and Erma’s is trying to be whatever you’re in the mood for. A lot of the food is good as far as generic goes; passable versions of what you like, but without any distinct characteristics or flavors to make them taste special. Don’t get me wrong; I like the food. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it; but the only reason I find myself coming here is because I’m eating out and have no idea what I want. It’s a safe choice where I’ll probably find something I like, but I certainly won’t be wowed by anything.
That said, the burgers are cooked with great skill, and the dishes are well-arranged so a lot of good flavors come out. The fries are good and the nachos are packed with a lot of different ingredients which make for some cool flavors. There is definitely some thought in what you’re eating and it’s not all thrown together. I’ll give a suggestion to try the burgers, and maybe an appetizer if you feel so inclined.
The restaurant itself is a pleasant atmosphere at least; a lot of memorabilia and a very interesting bathtub setup dominate the interior. Occasionally Max and Erma (in costume, of course) will show up to say hello, and all of that is pleasant enough. The service is good; the people are friendly and sociable; the consistency of the experience leads me to believe the restaurants are well-managed. Unfortunately, I find the place falls a little short; it’s too clean, too uniform, like everything is scripted and the experience is just like every other Americana chain out there. That may be what some people prefer, but for me, it just feels a little too boring.
- Try the burgers, they’re well cooked and each one has a very distinct flavor.
- Consider this a safe place to bring families; there are drinks but the atmosphere is definitely not a bar.
- Ultimately my greatest complaint about this place is it fails to strike me any distinct flavor. There aren’t any real cuisine specialties, and it seems like it’s all designed to bring in indecisive people and groups who have opposite tastes.