Bruce Ucan and Anne Shadle Talk Ten Years at Mayan; Chef Eric Abraham Steps Up at Varanese

We’re continuing to dive deep into the news as the only local podcast devoted exclusively to Louisville’s restaurant and bar scene. We start with some bad luck as SuperChefs on Bardstown Road closed over the weekend due to frozen pipes. This misfortune comes a year after a fire burned the former location in St. Matthews. Let’s hope they get up and running again soon. One of our favorites, Butchertown Grocery, didn’t just make USA Today’s list of best new restaurants nationally — it came in No. 2. And we learned that a new wine bar will open soon in Springhurst under the direction of Master Sommelier Scott Harper of the Bristol in Jeffersonville. And we learned that Winston’s, on the Sullivan University campus, will reopen as a gluten-free restaurant.

We’re also glad to welcome Norton Commons as a show sponsor. The East End residential development will hold a Restaurant Week promotion starting Jan. 23, featuring specials from six participating restaurants, plus tasting specials at Commonwealth Tap. Norton Commons joins Harvest Restaurant and the Eye Care Institute as show sponsors.

Steve’s guests are Bruce Ucan and Anne Shadle, who are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Mayan Cafe’s opening with some amazing specials recalling the restaurant’s history. Rick dropped in to Varanese for a chat with executive chef Erik Abraham, whose responsibilities at the long-time Frankfort Ave. staple increased when owner John Varanese opened River House last year.

In our popular favorites segment, Steve chose the tasty House Cocktail at the Fat Lamb, a twist on the Old Fashioned and Manhattan, served up in a rocks glass. A nibble he enjoyed were lamb meatballs with tzatziki, gremolata and feta. To get warmed up for Norton Commons’ Restaurant Week, Rick stopped in at Citizen 7 for a fantastic Highlands margarita, along with a special Chimi topped with guac, plus a sampling of plantains.

Listen in and download our 35th episode of EatDrinkTalk on the Louisville.am podcast network.

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Chef Erik Abraham. Photo by Bill Brymer

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Anne Shadle and Bruce Ucan

Mayan Café owners celebrate 10th year in NuLu, considering fast casual lunch

Editor’s note: A podcast interview with Mayan Café owners Bruce Ucan and Anne Shadle will air Jan. 10 on eatdrinktalk.net.

Bruce Ucan isn’t surprised Mayan Café is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Jan. 18, but that’s not because he’s crowing over its success.

“I just didn’t think about it, actually,” said Ucan, the restaurant’s always friendly executive chef. “I just worked!”

So did his business partner and sister-in-law, Anne Shadle, who’s managed the front of the house at the 40-seat restaurant since its 2006 beginning. Mayan Café’s mission hasn’t changed, she said, and it won’t going forward. Goal No. 1, quality, and goal No. 2, sustainability, will always remain.

“But lately we’ve talked about how we do lunch how to make it more of a fast-casual style,” she said. We need to “differentiate between lunch and dinner more.”

The fast-casual service style is working well for nearby Feast BBQ and Royals Hot Chicken, and both acknowledged it’s likely time to do the same at Mayan Café.

“That’s the trend, and we think we should probably keep up with that,” Shadle said.

“And if we do it, you’ll probably see lunchtime be a taqueria and salbuteria,” Ucan added. “Fast turnover, the same quality of food and really good prices. … I can’t believe what some people charge for tacos in this town!”

Doubtless, Mayan Café’s fair prices and excellent food and service have combined to make it a downtown mainstay, long before the East Market neighborhood was cool or even NuLu—back when “rent was cheap,” Ucan added.

Formerly, Ucan owned the Mayan Gypsy at 813 E. Market St., where Mayan Café is now. It later moved to the spot where Royals is located, but the expansion to a larger space didn’t go well, and the restaurant closed sometime later.

Not long after starting over at the original 813 Market St. location, the business expanded modestly. Ucan said he’d like to add seats and capacity again, but that he’s not interested in moving.

“Just more space so people won’t feel crowded,” he said.

But back to Mayan Café’s 10-year celebration. A special menu for the month of January has been created from the top dishes from each of the past 10 years. If you visit the restaurant on Monday, you get a free order tok-sel lima beans, one of the restaurant’s legendary dishes. And if you eat or share all 10 of this menu’s special entrees, you get free tok-sel beans for a year. (Talk about getting your fiber in!)

Below is the menu. Now go online and make your reservation or call 502-566-0651.

  • 2007: Mayapan Chilaquile: tortillas | portabella mushrooms | eggplant | squash | black beans | manchego cheese | tomato casera sauce | grilled asparagus $16
  • 2008: Izamal Scallops: grilled scallops | salsa negra (charred chile sauce) | yuca cake | fried plantains $27
  • 2009: Mayan Burger: Foxhollow Farm grass-fed beef | bolillo bread | baby spinach | pickled onions | tomatoes | French feta cheese | Yuca fries $14
  • 2010: Rabbit: oven-roasted rabbit | Yucatec mole sauce | collard greens with bacon | pim tortilla stuffed with black beans & cheese $22
  • 2011: Cochinita Pibil: slow-roasted pork | achiote sauce | pickled onions | tok-sel lima beans | pim tortilla with black beans & cheese $21
  • 2012: Duck: pan-seared duck breast | white mole sauce | fried plantains | chayote salpicon $23
  • 2013: Salmon: cuitlacoche cream sauce | tok-sel lima beans | yuca cake $23
  • 2014: Beef Tampiqueña: flat iron steak | grilled peppers & onions | black beans | rice | guacamole $25
  • 2015: Spaghetti Squash Toss: roasted cauliflower | beets | carrots | goat cheese | mulato-coconut-ginger sauce $18
  • 2016: Seafood Crepes: salmon | crawfish | Asian carp | white wine garlic cream sauce | collard greens with bacon $21