Restaurant review

Restaurant Review: Maie Day: Michael Fojtasek’s New South Congress Chophouse Turns Up the Pleasure…and the Volume – Food

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The Maie Day bar (Photos by John Anderson)

We weren’t steakhouse people when I was growing up. The closest thing we had was lunch after church at the Golden Corral, where the main attraction for me was the all-you-can-eat salad bar (those little corns!). But if any of my grandparents or uncles were in the mood, they’d order a sirloin steak to go with the hot mac and cheese and baked potatoes at the bar, to be enjoyed against the backdrop of dark paneled walls and scarred carpet. . with years of abuse from chairs and foot traffic.

And – stick with me here – I felt a slight sense of Golden Corral-era nostalgia when I visited chef Michael Fojtasek’s new concept, Maie Day. Not because the food is something in the same universe in terms of execution and quality, but because Maie Day is so steeped in Southern church-lady-style hospitality that I can’t help but form an association, however imperfect, with those Sunday afternoon meals in East Texas.

Roasted green beans

Located in the former Central Standard space of the boutique South Congress Hotel, Maie Day is the latest concept in the rapidly expanding MaieB Hospitality empire, in collaboration with New Waterloo. Considered a “common house” where there is “always a party“, Maie Day is the younger sister of upscale Southern concept Olamaie and the, uh, cool uncle of Little Ola’s cookies. It’s splashy and loud (more on that later), with bright murals evoking Matisse, courtesy of Fojtasek’s friend Xavier Schipani, adding verve and sparkle where more traditional steakhouses are stuffy and dark.It’s a space that imparts party vibes rather than dinner parties. stuffy business; indeed every time I have been to Maie Day there have been groups there to celebrate various special occasions.

I took a vegetarian friend with me for my first exam visit to Maie Day as a sort of stress test. While it may seem silly to take a vegetarian to a chophouse, in this age of inclusivity, it’s good to know which restaurants can accommodate as many people in your party as possible. I appreciated the opportunity to explore Maie Day’s extensive menu through a narrower lens, trying salads and sides that would otherwise have been overlooked in service of more carnivorous desires. After selecting our cocktails – the lively and grassy Do Some Thyme for me and the strong and powerful Maie-Jiu Look for her – we ordered just about every vegetarian dish on the menu (which was too much for two people): salad Caesar, macaroni and cheese, funeral potatoes, charred okra, and grilled green beans. I can say unequivocally that the tangy and garlicky Caesar salad is one of the best I’ve had. A literal mountain of freshly chopped romaine lettuce is tossed in an anchovy-free vinaigrette and topped with thick shreds of Parmesan cheese and sourdough crumbs. I could eat this salad every day and never get tired of it.

I can say unequivocally that the tangy and garlicky Caesar salad is one of the best I’ve had.

The carby sides we chose showed Maie Day’s southern good faith. The mac consisted of fusilli noodles dipped in Tillamook cheddar cheese and bechamel sauce, and topped with the same breadcrumbs from the Caesar salad. Funeral potatoes, diced small, were swimming in a savory cream of mushroom type sauce sprinkled with sautéed onions and topped with crisps. These were excellent, but we should have chosen just one (the macaroni and cheese). Of the greens we chose, we absolutely loved the charred okra, expertly seasoned with apple cider vinegar, sorghum and paprika, topped with sunflower seeds and served with a slice of lemon for a kick. of essential acid to dance with the dairy in the other sides. We capped off our decadent meatless meal with the seasonal cheesecake, an architectural beauty resting on an invigorating lime granita and topped with graham crumble and blueberry compote. It was absolutely beautiful.

Cheese macaroni

My next review visit was a double date with my wife and another couple. This time I tried the Face Your Fears, a mezcal-based cocktail spiked with Aperol, for my aperitif, while my wife chose Nomadic’s Peak Season IPA and our friends went with the überfeminine Garden Variety gin cocktail. and the robust We Don’t Give a Concoction made with fig whiskey. Learning from my previous visit, we ordered a bit more cautiously even though we were all quite hungry. We selected crab claws for our entree, Creamed Corn and the Bodacious Bloomin’ Onion for our sides (no greens for us on this visit) and a steak. The onion arrived with the crab claws (a puzzle: why is something that is clearly an appetizer classified as a side dish but served as an appetizer?), and both were delicious. The onion was crispy and surprisingly not greasy, served with a classic back-style dipping sauce. We received a generous portion of small crab claws, swimming in a garlic butter sauce which we drank with the accompanying grilled sourdough slices. The strip, a 16 oz cut from Dean & Peeler, was gorgeous, served a succulent medium-rare and helpfully sliced. The creamed corn was good – fun, even, with various textures of sorghum and corn kernels playing together – but I found myself wishing for a rerun of the okra.

The ambience is elegant and friendly, upscale without being stuffy.

Even though we were almost full, we went ahead and ordered dessert. Two desserts, actually, because it was my birthday and I wanted two desserts. (*Narrator’s voice*: That was too much dessert.) I chose the Texas Chocolate Cake and the Cookie Tower Extravaganza. The chocolate cake, a three-tier monster, arrived topped with freeze-dried raspberries and caramel sauce and was flanked by a thin, almost savory praline. It was the birthday cake to end all birthday cakes, rich and chocolaty, a testament to the sweet legacy of former MaieB Patisserie Manager Jules Stoddart. The cookie tower came with four types of cookies, which I took home and packed into my kids’ school lunches. I liked that they looked homemade (not a dig) and varied in flavor and style, from deep dark chocolate to a church sugar cookie bar.

(One menu item I’m sorry I missed, because of my vegetarian, ham-hating meal companions, is the Ham Plate appetizer, with three types of shaved country ham and cornbread muffins. I might have to do a separate solo visit to try this delicious sounding dish.)

Maie Day’s excellent Caesar salad

Overall, I really like Maie Day and will definitely add it to the list of places to take out-of-town visitors. The ambience is elegant and friendly, upscale without being stuffy. Sprays of dried, dried flowers add a shabby chic touch that recalls the “y’all come” spirit you’d expect from a community chophouse in Austin, TX. The servers are knowledgeable and friendly without being overly familiar and willing to answer any questions diners may have about items on the menu.

My main concern is the downright dangerous sound levels in space. During my two review visits, the Noise app on my Apple watch warned me that the noise level had exceeded 90 decibels (for comparison, during Pavement’s recent concert at ACL Live, my app Noise warned me that the sound had reached 95 decibels). Although this made for an at times unpleasant dining experience in that we had to shout over the din of the kitchen, other diners and the upbeat pop-rock mix (which could easily have been turned down a few notches), it did m made me very worried about the employees of Maie Day, especially the waiters.

In fact, I asked a few workers about this issue during one of my visits; one said his ears were ringing at the end of each shift. The other grimaced and said that they had to constantly shout at work. I hope Fojtasek and company will reduce noise exposure in the restaurant by adding acoustic panels and other mufflers and turning down the music (the place will still be cool, I promise).

When I think of steakhouses, I think of dark rooms and waiters in tailored uniforms, with hushed conversations happening on highly polished tables. There may be cigars involved. (I may have watched too many avocado shows.) Maie Day subverts that stereotype with laid-back party vibes that fit both happy hour and birthday party energies. I might not be bringing my hearing impaired stepdad here, but I can definitely see myself heading straight here for a fun dinner or Sunday afternoon drinks and snacks with friends (it doesn’t have to be to go to church beforehand).


May Day

1603 S. Congress
Tue-Sat, 3pm-10pm; Sun, 3pm-9pm; Mon, closed
maieday.com

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