Maddie’s Place, Chef Brian Deloney’s New Orleans-style restaurant in Riverdale, is back open after a four-month pandemic hiatus. The Maddie’s staff had just completed its first lunch since mid-March when I caught up with Deloney by phone Tuesday.
“I felt really good about it,” Deloney said. “Surprisingly busy just from a quick Facebook post. I feel good about all the safety measures we took, and everybody came in wearing masks. It was fairly simple; I was happily surprised.”
With many local restaurants offering curbside take-out, patio dining or limited dining room service, Maddie’s Place was getting an abundance of inquiries from fans wondering when the southern fare would be available again. Deloney said he didn’t think he could count the number of times people have asked him when he was going to reopen.
“Facebook constantly, they hit the Mighty Rib up and all the bloggers, they hit me up — my parents, too. It’s just nonstop. I kept saying it’s gonna be two weeks, but it just wasn’t the right time.
“We have a great landlord who worked with us. We weren’t spending any money, we weren’t losing any money and everyone on my staff was OK and doing fine. Now that the unemployment bonus ran out, I just felt like it’s time to get everybody back while we can and just make a run for it. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong time these days to open or close. You have to do what’s right for your business, and we felt like this was the right time.”
Deloney has put a lot of time, effort and money into safety measures to make sure his staff and clientele are as safe as they can be when they’re in the building.
“I feel like when you walk in our restaurant, you’re going to automatically know that we’ve taken measures to ensure people’s safety as much as we can. These [rolling plexiglass] dividers, if you really want to be in a box, I can put you in a box of plexiglass,” he said.
Deloney also purchased a new air purifying system called iWave Air which, according to the company’s website, “breaks down passing pollutants and gases into harmless compounds like oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor.”
Deloney said the air purification systems are not cheap, but they’re effective. “You can tell [there’s a] freshness in the air as soon as they put those in,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that people probably won’t notice or see, but it makes us as owners feel really good about it.”
Deloney said that the most exciting thing about reopening is just getting back into the kitchen with his crew.
“I’ve had a good time,” he said. “My kids are home, they’re 12 years old, just staying up with them every morning. It’s always been fun, but it’s time to get back to big boy work — get back to what we love to do, just cook and make people happy. Now, after the first day, I feel a big relief. It’s very nerve-racking trying to make the staff comfortable, which I feel like they are. Just getting used to new techniques in the kitchen and in the front. You know it’s going to take some adjustments — all the time — especially with this thing changing nonstop. We’re just keeping an eye out and trying to do what we can do best. And I think we set ourselves up for a positive run here and I’m excited about it.”
Maddie’s Place is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Sat. Deloney said depending on what happens between shifts, the restaurant might close for a couple of hours between lunch and dinner. It’s not taking reservations at this time, but if you want to call on your way down, it might be able to hold a table for you.
“We’re trying to work with everybody. We want everyone to come in and feel comfortable. You know, poke your head in and see, and if you’re not comfortable, we understand. Get something to go, or try us another time. Like I said, we’re going to be willing to adjust and adapt to anything that comes our way and try to make the experience as good as we can for [everyone].”
The menu is a “slightly scaled-down version,” Deloney said. “But not by much. We’re going to start implementing several new specials and playing around and really having some fun with some stuff to see what’s going to make it onto the next menu. That’s it. We’re just excited to be in there cooking again.”