Chef Michael Fojtasek’s Maie Day is a Festival of Food and Community
The new chophouse in South Congress Hotel cooks up comfort food favorites, well-crafted cocktails and an epic chocolate cake
By Karen O. Spezia
Photos by Holly Cowart
If you’re looking for a night out with your posse, look no further than Maie Day. This rollicking restaurant is built for hungry, fun-loving groups. Billing itself as a community chophouse that’s “always a party,” Maie Day offers everything your gang desires. Stylish ambiance? Check. Great tunes? Yep. Strong drinks? For sure. Heaping platters of tasty food? Absolutely. Plus plenty of room to spread out at tables that accommodate groups of all sizes.
Opened this year on May 1 (of course), Maie Day was given its unusual moniker by Executive Chef Michael Fojtasek. The playful name not only honors the festive spirit of the ancient holiday, but also pays tribute to Fojtasek’s other restaurant, Olamaie, named after generations of matriarchs in his family.
A three-time James Beard finalist, Fojtasek put Olamaie on the map back in 2014 with his sophisticated take on Southern cuisine. And while those influences are certainly felt at Maie Day, his menu at this new venture is more aligned with a classic steakhouse, offering staples like grilled meats and hearty sides, but with a laid-back Austin vibe. It’s elevated comfort food meets casual chophouse.
Meals at Maie Day are meant for sharing and are mostly served in large format, family-style portions. Start by passing around a groaning platter of loaded Kennebec french fries, piled high with cheddar cheese, bacon, pickled jalapeños and chives. Dunk them in ketchup or, better yet, homemade Maie Day sauce, a lip-smacking concoction of mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce and secret spices.
With your crew initially satiated, move on to some less voluminous and more nuanced nibbles. There’s a seafood bar offering shrimp cocktail, crab salad and claws, sashimi and oysters, both raw and grilled. Or try the smoked fish dip or cold shaved prime rib, our favorite dish of the night. Thinly sliced beef rests on a pool of creamy horseradish sauce, accompanied by pillowy Yorkshire pudding. The dish was inspired by Fojtasek’s childhood visits to Lawry’s The Prime Rib, and his Yorkshire pudding is a revelation: tender and chewy with perfectly crisp edges. We used it as a vehicle to scoop up the delicious meat and sauce.
Salads are huge and enough for the table. There’s a classic Caesar, Cobb, Chopped and also a Spinning Salad, another nod to Lawry’s The Prime Rib, tossing greens, beets and tomatoes in a “vintage” dressing. Most entrees come from the sizzling grill or rotisserie, and with Fojtasek’s fondness for Lawry’s, naturally there’s prime rib on the menu. But there are also Texas-raised Dean & Peeler ribeye or strip steaks, a 44 Farms tenderloin, plus Chicken Fried Steak with cream gravy. Not craving beef? Try the lemon-honey brined grilled half-chicken, the hefty whiskey-brined pork chop or the seasonal whole grilled fish.
Generous side dishes come a la carte and attract almost as much attention as the jaw-dropping entrees. Order several and circulate them among your guests. Our favorite was the braised greens — a kale and chard combo — baked in rich Parmesan cream and served in a miniature cast iron skillet. The grilled green beans tossed with benne seeds and lemon were also a hit, although we would’ve preferred them a bit less al dente. There’s also creamed corn, grilled mushrooms, glazed carrots and mac ’n’ cheese topped with toasted biscuit breadcrumbs. There’s even a fried Bodacious Bloomin’ Onion, a cheeky homage to Outback Steakhouse.
If you have room for dessert, Executive Pastry Chef Jules Stoddart will hook you up. There’s a democratic cookie tower stacked high with a dozen assorted varieties that offer something for everyone. Or go all-out and dive into the Texas chocolate cake, a gargantuan slice of moist dark chocolate goodness that will have your table fighting over the last bite. Of course, any restaurant named after a holiday requires copious drinks, and Maie Day offers plenty of well-crafted cocktails and a wonderful wine list.
Located off the lobby of the South Congress Hotel in the space formerly occupied by Central Standard, Maie Day is as high-energy as its trendy SoCo surroundings. The vaulted dining room is airy and bright and boisterous, constantly buzzing with clusters of enthusiastic diners. Throngs of cooks and servers bustle in the open kitchen, anchored by the massive open grill and rotisserie. The whole dynamic scene feels like a jubilant backyard gathering. So if you’re looking for a quiet date night, this ain’t it. But if you’re hitting the town with a clutch of friends or family, this lively restaurant invites you to pull up a chair, gather ’round the table and watch the evening unfold.