A taste of Louisiana in Lauraville

Chef Mac’s shines with some dishes but struggles with others

  • The classic jambalaya at Chef Mac's in Lauraville is loaded with shrimp and chicken.
The classic jambalaya at Chef Mac's in Lauraville is loaded… (Sun photo by Algerina Perna )
April 22, 2010|By Rob Kasper, The Baltimore Sun

Restaurants pop up in Lauraville like spring onions. The stretch of Harford Road between Herring Run Park and the Safeway grocery store seems especially fertile.

That is where Chef Mac's Louisiana Cuisine opened its doors last October, taking over a space once used by Alabama BBQ. It is a storefront with three tables and a handful of chairs that offer a view of Harford Road through the glass front.

Chef Mac's full name is Maclonza Lee. He is a native of Alexandria. La., who worked in restaurants in St. Louis. Later he became a food specialist in the Army and then opened Odell's Barbeque in Hannibal, Mo. He came to Baltimore in 1999 and was executive chef at Goucher College for several years. Last summer, he sold sandwiches and other fare at a Tuesday night street fair in Lauraville and at the Jazzy Summer Nights weekend gatherings in downtown Baltimore.

"I love this neighborhood," Lee said in a telephone interview after I visited the restaurant. "We live right around the corner and have seen the transformation that this neighborhood has gone through."

His restaurant emphasizes Louisiana fare made from scratch. "Growing up in Louisiana, I learned that there were different foods from different regions of the state. The Cajun people had their spices; they were a little harder, like the ones in a gumbo. The Creole were more soothing foods, like the jambalaya," he said.

Lee's father was also a chef, and from him he learned the Texas style of how to cook a beef brisket. "It is open flame, with a char on the meat," Lee said.

The beef brisket sandwich I got for $7.50 had several thick slices of beef on a crisp bun. The beef had a healthy dose of Cajun seasoning, which I liked. It was also chewy, which I did not care for.

The pork sandwich ($7.50) was more to my liking. Thin bits of pork doused in Cajun seasoning were fried and filled a large, long bun. Later I asked Lee what he puts in his seasoning. I suggested paprika, cayenne, black pepper and garlic powder. Few Cajun chefs reveal their spice mix, and Lee simply laughed at my question. He did say there was some garlic powder in his mix. The rest was a chef's secret.

The classic jambalaya ($13.95) was loaded with shrimp and chicken that swam in a hot tomato sauce. I liked the shrimp and chicken, but the tomato sauce had a canned taste.

The sweet potato pie ($2.95), made by Chef Mac's wife, was sweet and heavily seasoned.

Service is friendly, but it does take a while to prepare dishes from scratch.

While I was waiting for my order, a fellow came in. He had called ahead and ordered the Cajun chicken for carryout; that seems like the smart way to go.

This is a welcoming, unpretentious place that has its ups, like the pork sandwich, and its downs, like the jambalaya sauce. It sits in a food-savvy neighborhood, and that will help it keep it sharp.

Chef Mac's
Where: 4311 Harford Road, Baltimore
Call: 410-319-6227
Open: 11 a.m.-9 p.m, Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Credit cards: VISA, MC
Entrees: $6.95- $13.95
Service: ✭✭
Atmosphere: ✭✭
[Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Fair or uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]

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