Before all the awards, the acclaim, the write-ups, and the fried chicken restaurant, Southern chef Maya Lovelace was cooking meals behind Old Salt Marketplace in Cully: Dragon Langerie beans stewed in tomatoes and fortified with bacon, risotto made with Carolina Gold rice, skillet-cooked fried chicken. She told the stories of the dishes or the ingredients, the personal significance or the historical, with the air of a natural storyteller, a dinner party hostess, and a homesick North Carolinian. Still, Mae — named for Lovelace’s grandmother — was meant to be a side-project; it became her whole brand.
When she finally opened her casual restaurant Yonder, the front-facing casual companion to Mae, it was a larger undertaking than anyone expected: Building and permitting delays pushed the opening a year behind schedule, and once the restaurant opened, polishing up service and tweaking recipes took most of Lovelace’s attention. As she finished up the Yonder opening process and got things running, Mae went on hiatus; now, the pop-up is finally returning to Cully August 7, opening in its very-own room at the back of Yonder.
Behind a green door on the left side of Yonder’s bar, 24 seats wrap around two long tables, leaving an aisle at the center. This is Lovelace’s domain; between pink velvet seats, the chef will stroll, getting back to her roots talking about Southern foodways and her grandmother’s cooking habits. Behind her, a massive mural by local artist Ezra Butt will depict a forested scene verdant with plants endemic to Edgemont, North Carolina — whenever she’s presenting, the backdrop will be exactly where Lovelace came from.
To the right of the mural, a kitchen window serves as a pass for dishes like chilled zucchini and buttermilk soup, sorghum-brined pork chops, lavender grits with charred peppers, and Kentucky jam cake with Cloudforest chocolate sponge. Mae dinners will include eight to 10 courses, which will rotate every two weeks.
To the left, a small sink, wine cooler, and counter serve as a makeshift bar. Mae’s optional drink pairings will include beer, cider, cocktails, wine and, of course, whiskey; Jane Smith from Killingsworth wine bar Dame will handle the wine, and Brandi Williams, the bar manager at Yonder, will covering the rest. As beans and biscuits and bourbon make their way through the room, a portrait of Mae Lovelace will face her granddaughter from the wall next to the door. She’s landed in a place that feels like home.
Mae will be open three days a week: 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 7 p.m. on Friday. Reservations will be available tonight on the restaurant’s website.
• Mae [Official]
• Previous Mae coverage [EPDX]
• Previous Yonder coverage [EPDX]
• Eater Young Guns [Eater]
• Maya Lovelace: Bringing Southern Storytelling and Flavors to PDX [Eater]