Maya Cafe (2726 Sutton Boulevard) is an established pan-Latin restaurant and bar in the heart of Maplewood. The Sutton Boulevard location has been open for about ten years, and this month, they cleared out a room adjoining the restaurant and are in the process of turning it into a new music venue, Maya Music Room.
"Our music program is intended to bring the best local musicians to our stage," said Gene Coon, who co-owns the Maya with Jay Schober.
"You can come here in a tux and a top hat or shorts and a T-shirt; we don't care, we're happy to have you," adds the jovial Schober. "We want to offer a place where the food is fresh and homemade, a place that's relaxing and atypical. It's like going to someone's house in Mexico, that's what our customers tell us."
Maya Music Room joins several other live-music venues on Sutton. The owners of Sky Music Lounge took ownership of the old Deluxe location across the street, and will be reopening it this weekend as a venue/restaurant called the Wood. And the building which houses the Maya Music Room is also home to the eclectic concert venue, the Focal Point. Still, Schober isn't competing with himself; the two venues have very different offerings.
"They have a storied history of performers," he says, "people like Tim O'Brien, Brewer and Shipley. All their touring acts are very high level performers for what they do."
On Fridays and Saturdays, Maya Music Room will feature acts familiar to St. Louis music fans, such as the Rum Drum Ramblers (who plays Saturday after the Taste of Maplewood), Tom Hall and Miss Jubliee and the Humdingers. They have a late-night menu on the weekends, make their margaritas from scratch and you'll want to bathe in their salsa, made fresh daily.
On Sundays, members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra take to the stage at 8 p.m., playing anything from jazz and blues to the theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
"According to them, there is no place in the U.S.A. where there is a program to perform to the public like they do at the Maya," Coon says. "It is a fabulous opportunity to see them perform music other than classical -- and talk to them, because when they are not playing, they're just part of the crowd. We never know what they will play, but we know the quality will be outstanding."
Coon doesn't know if the symphony players will be returning to Maya during the fall season at Powell Symphony Hall, but they're scheduled every Sunday through June, so you still have time to catch them in this intimate setting.
The venue side of the Maya isn't entirely finished yet, but it's going to be a great space for intimate shows. Plus, the back wall features a nearly completed mural of South American mountains by local musician Fred Altiere, a member of Folkn BluesGrass.
The restaurant is homey and cheery, with sunny yellow and warm red walls, and artful accents by none other than City Museum artist Bill Christman. The color scheme came from a conversation Schober had about snakes with Christman. The mnemonic device "red and yellow kills a fellow, red and black is safe for Jack" gave them the idea that Maya Cafe should be red, black and yellow. All the art in Maya is "on loan from Bill and has been for several years," Schober said with a laugh.
There's a large deck out back that's complete with the whimsical addition of a real live antique fishing boat. Schober tells me the story of the several-ton boat he brought down from Detroit for Maya's patio. He says it sat in the parking lot of an adjacent business for two years while he worked through the bureaucratic red tape with the city council before they were finally able to move it to Maya's back yard and fill it full of concrete. They've since added a vintage train caboose that they're refurbishing for private parties and special dinners.
"You don't feel funny doing anything here," he concludes. "You get up, you do what you want, you go next door and listen to music, you hang with the waitstaff, hang out on the boat with a margarita...We're a restaurant without borders, you can sort of do what you want within reason. But you can't have a soccer game, we have too much art."