The most important meal of the day can also be the most delicious way to start it. This Month: Mae’s
Story & Photos: Becca Boyd
Mae’s feels meant to be. It was a long time coming and the culmination of meaningful experiences for a hardworking, talented couple.
The best news? We get to eat here.
Fresh out of culinary school, a young Josh Taggart learned his trade from the best in Philadelphia—classic French kitchens like Lacroix (you’ll see his training if you order the expertly rolled, French-style omelet), then later well-known local restaurants such as Dilworthtown Inn and Duling Kurtz. Throw in a stint at Mackenzies where he enjoyed a relaxed take on brewhouse cuisine, and you can see how his unique menu of reimagined classics takes shape.
Josh met Erin while working in Philadelphia. When the first of their four children arrived, the pair headed to West Chester, where Erin was raised. Used to working for other people, they dreamt of taking the helm, and a plan started forming.
When the time and location were right, they made the move. In January 2020 the lease was signed, and the opening date decided. Obviously, what happened next was a snag they couldn’t possibly have imagined. But they took it in stride, using the time to thoughtfully hammer out every detail. They updated the decor, changing everything but the floors, doing it themselves and inviting family to help paint. Oversized chicken wire pendants, rustic shiplap, and hand-stamped accent walls combine in a rustic farmhouse aesthetic.
Their first meals were sold in takeout boxes, which was not ideal, but it was enough to hook customers. Quarts of homemade soups wouldn’t stay in the case, “family meals” were picked up in droves, and as foot traffic picked up their impressive coffees and prepared sandwiches had regulars lining up at the door.
As life trends slowly back towards normal, Josh and Erin’s vision is coming to fruition. Owners and Chef, they grind, working harder than they ever have, but for themselves. They’ve created a spot where families can come with their kids, not sacrificing taste for an inability to find a sitter. Family first, it’s apparent, as is their commitment to their community. Their bread is from La Baguette, their coffee from Rival Brothers in Philly, and they use and sell Nick’s honey, Nutty Novelties, Pure Blend Teas, and Vera Pasta. If they have a niche, it’s people who love good food.
I’ve been on this breakfast beat for a while and can confidently say I’ve rarely had a better meal than the Mae’s breakfast sandwich. My notes say, “died and went to heaven.” A perfectly fried easy egg, sriracha aioli, melted cheddar, spinach, bacon jam, and pickled red onions on a griddled, tender brioche bun. I honestly lost my head, sidetracked only long enough to sample the home fries, which were amazing. Yukon potatoes, steamed to soften and then deep fried to golden perfection, tossed with fried onions and sliced scallions, It’s the sort of meal you want to eat in front of someone who won’t judge you when you cease speaking and your eyes glaze over.
Also sampled: the aforementioned omelet, professionally rolled and tender, and a chorizo, Swiss, and green onion pancake with fermented garlic honey. Josh nails that sweet, salty, savory balance every chef works towards. Elevated classics, farm to table, honest-to-goodness simple food is the goal and he’s knocking it out of the park.
Have a sweet tooth? Try the griddled brioche au chocolate with toasted almonds along with a house made chai latte—perfectly frothed milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon; it’s like a mug filled with holiday spirit.
The future is bright for this duo, and it’s devoid of pretention. Josh wants to make it a great meal for every single diner; if they’re not happy, he wants to know why and he wants to fix it. Accommodating is the name of the game. He knows every possible allergy and diet out there, and if you explain your need, he will compose a dish that’s satisfying and delicious.
A global pandemic is something no one could have seen coming, but Josh was forced to be flexible and pursue (and perfect) every viable option. Whether eaten inside, outside, or in a takeout box, good food speaks for itself, and I see no reason why Mae’s won’t be a West Chester fixture for years to come. “It’s a place you could bring your parents, your grandparents, your kids, or a first date, and they’d feel comfortable and find something they’d love to eat,” explains Josh.
Sometimes, lucky for us, it’s just that simple.