2018-10-11 / Community

Former restaurant owner tries again

By Ben Muir

Maria Curtis stands outside her recently opened restaurant, Mama’s Kitchen. 
Photo by Ben Muir Maria Curtis stands outside her recently opened restaurant, Mama’s Kitchen. Photo by Ben Muir BAD AXE – The downhome food served at Mama’s Kitchen in Bad Axe is hardly known to the public, despite its opening more than a month ago.

“We didn’t advertise at all,” restaurant owner Maria Curtis told the VIEW this week. “We only flipped on the lights. We were getting a feel for how things were working.”

This is round two for Curtis, who owned a restaurant in Bad Axe about six years ago, she said. Back then, Curtis noted, she kept her full-time job as a certified nurse assistant (CNA), which she has done for 20 years.

“It only lasted about six months and then I pulled out (of the restaurant),” Curtis said. “At the time, I still kept my full-time job, so it was quite hard to do both.”

This time, Curtis has left her job at Courtney Manor Skilled Nursing & Rehab Community, devoting her full attention to Mama’s Kitchen. She said that she had worked the graveyard shift at Courtney Manor and can recall her co-workers saying they wished there was a sit-down place that was open late. She used to joke with them, saying she would keep her restaurant open past midnight if she ever owned one again. That never happened – Mama’s Kitchen is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. – but that’s how the idea manifested, she noted.

“People wanted something different,” Curtis said. “We’re kind of limited in Bad Axe. I wanted my menu to get away from what everybody else had.”

Curtis is serving burgers that might be found in Detroit, where she grew up. She mentioned a breakfast burger topped with a hash brown, bacon and egg. She then envisioned something called a heart attack burger, which would have grilled cheese buns, two beef patties, onion rings and bacon.

But, she is cognizant of a healthier alternative as well – veggie subs and a fruity chicken salad are on the menu, she noted.

“I think,” she said, “I want to introduce a bigger menu for that because a lot of my friends are either vegans or vegetarians.”

Curtis, of Polish and Mexican descent, said her father was killed when she was around 6 years old. She added that she took over most of the cooking with her mom and always cooked with her grandma at Sunday dinners. Her expertise is Mexican food, but, overall, she likes to experiment with flavors from all ethnicities.

“This place kind of took me,” she said of the new venture in downtown Bad Axe, “because I want people to have the comfort of going home – having something ‘Mama’ would cook at home.”

Curtis has changed her menu twice, once after an inspection reported she didn’t have the proper equipment to deepfry. So, for now, she runs a hamburger and sub-sandwich shop, with soups and salads – along with a daily special that ranges from stuffed cabbage to lasagna. Her go-to-plate in the morning is a breakfast sandwich.

“I just really love cooking. I just love people,” Curtis said. “If I’m not hugging you, I’m filling your belly.”

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