Business Feature Mae’s Food Hall hopeful for October opening | The Cullman Tribune

Business Feature

Mae’s Food Hall hopeful for October opening

The facade of Mae’s is almost finished, featuring a logo based on Linnie “Mae” Quick’s own handwriting (Mae's is named after Shane Quick's beloved grandmother).  Photo courtesy Shane Quick

CULLMAN - Among the most anticipated happenings in the Warehouse District is the upcoming opening of Mae’s Food Hall, under development by local entrepreneur Shane Quick.  The establishment, which will be home to multiple food vendors and an arcade featuring classic games, is slated to open this fall.

Food vendors already signed on include (descriptions from vendors’ or Mae’s Facebook pages):

  • Strada di Napoli - “real pizza straight from the streets of Naples”
  • Cantina Taqueria - home of “world class tacos”
  • Lichita’s - makers of “gourmet ice cream and popsicles,” including “authentic Mexican ice cream”
  • I Love Bacon - The proprietors of the “I Love Bacon Truck” will be “serving up bacon like you've never had it before!”

Quick met The Tribune at Mae’s to talk about how things are coming along.

“We’re on about the 16th hole,” he stated, “and we can see the light now.”

Of a projected opening date, Quick shared, “We’re basically just telling people some time next month.  We’re hoping to get the earliest we can in October.”

As for food vendors, “We’ve already announced the Mexican restaurant, Cantina Taqueria.  Then we have I Love Bacon, which is basically a sandwich shop that’ll have amazing sides and gourmet level sandwiches.  We’re honored to have them here.  They’ve been winning food truck rallies all over the Southeast, and they take a lot of pride in their food.

“Really, everybody that’s coming here, they’re passionate about the food: all the way from Amede (head chef, Strada di Napoli), who’s a world-class Neapolitan baker, to our Mexican restaurant that’s a crowd favorite in Birmingham.  Lichita’s ice cream and popsicles is coming.

“We’re excited.  We feel like everyone that’s coming is something that brings a different flavor to Cullman, and that’s our main thing.  We don’t want to do something that someone’s already doing well.  There’s a lot of great restaurants in Cullman, a lot of hard-working restaurateurs in this city, and they’re all doing a great job.  One of our main goals is simply to bring something we don’t have, something that’s missing.  Hopefully, we’ve built the menu to where we can focus on bringing something different, a different flavor.”

The vendors are taking a different approach to doing even foods that are pretty common around Cullman.  Strada di Napoli, for instance, brought a wood-burning pizza oven and other equipment over from Italy, and is even sourcing its pizza ingredients from Italian suppliers, to produce as authentic a Neapolitan pizza as possible.

Quick shared that all six initial vendor slots have been filled.  In addition to the four named restaurants, two more will be announced soon.  Though he decided to start with six, Mae’s could eventually accommodate up to eight eateries.

“The venue can grow up to eight,” said Quick, “but we feel like that’s Mae’s 2.0.  We’ll come out with two more restaurants, but we’re not quite ready to go there, yet.”

Mae’s will include seating for 150 customers.  According to Quick, the actual seating capacity is higher, but fewer seats will make the dining area more comfortable.

And as for the arcade, “We’re going to have the (video game) classics in here, plus the Skee-ball, shuffleboard and dartboard lanes.  So, really, it’s games for all ages: games for kids, and games for adults.  No matter if you’re on a date night with your wife or your girlfriend, or you’ve got the kids out, or a moms’ night out or whatever; there’ll be something here.  

“We’ll be doing things throughout the week, whether it be different games, contests, bingo, ladies’ night or whatever.  There’ll always be something going on at Mae’s, every night of the week.  We’ll be a seven-day-a-week operation here.  You’ll never have to wonder, ‘Is Mae’s open,’ because it’s open.”

Some folks have seen the front of the building and are concerned about handicapped access.  The Tribune asked Quick how that’s being addressed.

“The building’s front and facade was a loading dock, so you can imagine how impossible it is to put a (handicapped-accessible) entrance on something that’s so many feet high.

“The good news is, we’re working hand-in-hand with the City and our two (handicapped-accessible) entrances will be in the back of the room, where a lot of parking is back there, too.  We feel like it’s just as convenient, and allows us to have a storefront on the front, but also have a massive roll-up door in the back, along with two other doors that are (handicapped)-accessible.”

The building has a large roll-up door in the rear, and two smaller roll-up doors in front, on either side of the main entrance.  About the use of those doors, Quick shared, “When we have great weather like we have today, we want to roll them up and let people enjoy themselves.  And when we have festivals, people can come and walk through this as a thoroughfare from this road to the alley in the back.  We want it to be a community center where people will stop in here every day, if they want to, and try something different, but have a really great social spot for families, for young adults and adults, and everybody--all ages.

“Everyone was welcome at Mae’s house, so everyone’s going to be welcome at Mae’s Food Hall.”

In closing, Quick shared, “People have asked me, ‘Is this place going to be better than the other local restaurants in the city?’  I always say, ‘No way; it’s just going to be different.’  We have no ambition to be better than other people.  We just have an ambition to be different and give people another option.  I like to bring things we don’t already have.

“Johnny’s Bar-B-Q makes a famous barbecue sandwich.  If I were to try to do what he does, I’d fall right on my face, and it’d be a waste of my time.  But I want to bring things we don’t already have, and in the food world, there’s billions of options.  The creativity that happens in food reminds me of the creativity that happens in music, and that inspires me, and we hope to showcase that at Mae’s.”

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  • Under the watchful eyes of Strada di Napoli staff, fire seasons the pizza oven at Mae’s.
  • The old yellow warehouse now fits into the Warehouse District streetscape.
  • Shane Quick