Live Blues, Louisiana Cookery, and Diversity on Harford Road
To the best of my knowledge, Baltimore has never before seen the likes of the new Chef Mac's and All That Blues at 4709 Harford Road in Baltimore's Lauraville neighborhood.
To Maclonza Lee (aka Chef Mac), it's all about the food. He insists that his Louisiana style seafood, meat, and vegetables be fresh as well as freshly prepared. The menu for Tuesday through Thursday, noon til 8 p.m. , offers much the same fare as the menu from the former Chef Mac's Louisiana style carry-out several blocks south at 4311 Harford Road. On weekend nights, this menu gives way to buffet style (Cajun seafood on Fridays, prime rib on Saturdays)as top regional blues bands keep comfortably packed the spacious room previously the Parkside. To attract more business during the week, expect local jazz bands to soon be playing on Wednesday nights.
Recent blues acts have included Clarence "Bluesman" Turner (pictured at left), Charles "Big Daddy" Stallings, and Ursula Ricks. Twenty dollars best paid at the door upon entering to Chef Mac's leading lady and soul mate Leslie. covers the music and all you can eat from 7 p.m. until 11. For beer, wine, or liquor, it's BYOB. Unlimited set-ups are available for all who want or need them.
A bar lines the north wall at the front end with convenient perches for solo patrons. To the right of the bar are tables. Additional tables and, on Friday and Saturday nights, the buffet table graces the far end of the room. The stage where the band plays, with space in front to dance, comprises the center portion.
Particularly intriguing is the sociology of this uptown blues club scene. At just about all of Baltimore's other live music nightspots, the crowd is much younger. At Chef Mac's they're mostly 40 and older. Twenty years ago in Baltimore, the blues drew a younger crowd, mostly white folks. Now they're older, and their African-American peers, who once eschewed blues as music of oppression, have come to realize what they were missing. Bottom line: you wont find a more diverse crowd anywhere else in Baltimore. That's the way the patrons like it, and Lauraville is a perfect neighborhood for this to be happening.
The absence of a liquor license is not yet an issue with either Chef Mac or his rapidly growing clientele. Twenty dollars and BYOB with a full buffet along with this kind of music is a value that speaks for itself. Chef Mac admits that "the thought(of a liquor license) is there," but states: "My main focus is not that." For the time being, he says he'd rather hold onto his wallet and keep things as they are.
Chef Mac has not advertised. In fact, he's done little if anything to generate publicity. "I want people to find out about this place by word of mouth" he explains. "You see these places do all this advertising when they open up. Then they get a slew of customers and the service is bad. They don't know what they're doing yet."
Chef Mac's and All That Blues is a treasure not only for the Lauraville-Hamilton neighborhood, but for Baltimore. It very much needs more patrons during the week. On weekends, however, their number has grown by leaps and bounds. Last weekend, every table was filled. What evolves from all this will surely be interesting. There's nothing else like Chef Mac's and All That Blues in town.