At Ma’s House in New Haven, it’s all about good food and family

NEW HAVEN — For so many families, regardless of ethnicity, nothing conjures up sweeter, tastier memories than the meals that grow with the family at Ma’s House.

So for anyone who walks through the door of Cherisa “Cricket” Streater-Lloyd’s new soul food restaurant in Lena’s former space at 873 Whalley Avenue in Westville Village, it should come as no surprise that Ma’s House is so much more just a place to sit and fill your stomach.

That said, the all-you-can-eat southern breakfast buffet that Ma’s House, which had a soft opening on July 30, will begin serving as early as this week, will clearly have the opportunity to do so.

Beyond that, however, it’s all about family – with a wall full of nostalgic family photos and more than half a dozen Streater-Lloyd relatives out of the 12 staff – and memories, and, yes, great food, much of it using Chesterfield, SC recipes from his late mother Margie Streater-Stroud.

More than anything, however, Ma’s House is a loving memorial to Margie Streater-Stroud, who loved to cook – and loved feeding her children and the rest of her large family.

There is an entire wall of Streater family photos, including Streater-Lloyd and her mother when they were children and dozens of photos of relatives, living and deceased.

The motto on the back of the purple shirts worn by the staff reads: “Come all eat! »

What would Mom think of all this?

“I think she would be extremely proud,” Streater-Lloyd said.

The menu is full of comfort foods – ribs, fried pork chops, fried chicken breast, fried fish, “Bigg Jugg” peppercorn steak and barbecue chops. Fixins include every imaginable side of soul food, from macaroni and cheese and collard greens to green beans, cornbread, candied yams, cabbage, potato salad, lima beans and black-eyed peas.

The popular ‘Juju Special’ includes a traditional meat and three sides – also available with a half rack or full rack of ribs for a small extra charge.

Chef Michael Hicks – a veteran of restaurants such as Shell & Bones, Camacho Garage and Cast Iron Chef – also cooks up daily specials, one of which, Rasta Pasta, was so popular that Streater-Lloyd just added it to the regular menu” because it flew out of here.

It may surprise some that the man at the center of the Ma’s Place kitchen is an Irish-Italian who grew up on the Hill. Streater-Lloyd said he’s been “incredible” so far.

“He walked in, I said, ‘Well, how do you do with soul food? she says. “He said, ‘I grew up on soul food.'”

Then “he came the next day with all his knives” and he hasn’t stopped cooking – or innovating – since then, she said.

Hicks said he likes Ma’s House because he has the freedom to innovate and can add whatever specials he likes to the menu. On Friday, he was working on meatballs, as well as Philadelphia cheesesteak spring rolls, among other treats.

Streater-Stroud – Ma – moved from South Carolina to New Haven in 1973. She met Streater-Lloyd’s father and raised five children in the Newhallville section of town, of which Streater-Lloyd is the youngest, as well as the seven children of one of Streater-Lloyd’s sisters.

Growing up, “she cooked for her kids every day,” Streater-Lloyd said. “Everyone was telling her, ‘You should open a restaurant,'” but she was too busy taking care of her family to do that, she said.

However, growing up, Streater-Lloyd remained close to her mother. “In the 80s, everyone was outside. I would be inside watching my mother cook.

Streater-Lloyd, now 46, got a job in healthcare funding but eventually quit to help and support her own son, who had autism. She then returned to school at Albertus Magnus College in 2014, earning an Associate of Commerce degree with a concentration in business management and later a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a concentration in social work.

Right now, she has a year to get an MBA from Albertus. But after getting a job as a counselor in 2020, she had an epiphany: “I had to try to do something. I couldn’t keep working for nothing. I needed to create generational wealth.

She decided to open a restaurant, initially looking for a location on State Street until she realized that installing a range hood would eat up all her savings.

The old Lena’s, where Streater-Lloyd once worked, was available.

“Everyone has been so amazing so far,” Streater-Lloyd said. “I think it will work.

“I’m just trying to start a restaurant – but not just a restaurant,” she said. “It’s like a family.”

In the first week her mother’s house was open, the folks across the street at Bella’s Cafe, another revered Westville breakfast spot, sent a big bouquet of flowers.

Ma’s House, which is closed on Tuesdays, opens for dinner every other day at 4 p.m. She will add breakfast and brunch hours within days, she said.

Don’t be surprised if the person you meet is related in some way.

“I think it’s beyond amazing,” said Swanza Streater, 41, who is Streater-Lloyd’s first cousin and the daughter of one of Ma’s two sisters, who is one of the members. of the family that works there. “I’m beyond proud of her. She puts her all into it.”

In fact, Swanza Streater said she thinks all of their mothers would like it. “They were all so close,” she said.

Ma’s House “is very family oriented,” she says. “We try to make everyone feel like part of our family.”

It’s not hard for April Streater, another first cousin and Ma’s other sister’s daughter.

“Finding out that was what (Streater-Lloyd) wanted to do, we all said, ‘Whatever it takes, let’s make this happen! she says. “You could tell from the start that it was one of his passions.”

At the rear entrance to the restaurant, there is even a tribute to their three mothers: what appears to be Ma’s old living room, with a large, old Sylvania TV console – complete with a rabbit ears antenna and an old wired decoder Jerrold upstairs, a working record player with vinyl records by Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, Teddy Pendergrass and others nearby. Photos of the three sisters – Streater-Stroud, Jeanie Streater and Sara Streater also adorn the room, along with a Bible on a table and a photo and quote from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on one wall.

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Raymond I. Langston