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'What a dining experience should be': Despite obstacles, La Maya slated to open in late May

La Maya "Coming Soon" sign
Grace Oddo

HELLERTOWN, Pa.— What is now a mostly-empty space, tucked in a little storefront off Main Street in Hellertown, will soon be humming with the patronage of hungry Lehigh Valley restaurant-goers, eager to grab a seat as hints of early summer roll in.

It's the makings of La Maya, an “ultramodern” Mexican eatery coming to 650 Main Street in late May.

“We're so excited,” said C.J. Moyer, co-owner. “It's coming along really well.”

The idea for La Maya is the brainchild of Moyer and fellow friend and colleague Rogelio Romero, whom Moyer met while working in Bethlehem. Romero was interested in opening up a restaurant of his own in Hellertown and brought Moyer on board to provide marketing expertise.

“I saw the location and knew,” said Moyer.

'Assembling the Avengers'

What is coming to Main Street in Hellertown is not a typical chain, but a 21st-century fusion of Mexican aesthetics, with the food and drinks to match.

Tulum, a municipality on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, is the primary inspiration for La Maya, according to Moyer. “We have authentic Mexican tiles on the ground, barn beams on the ceiling, and a color palette that is inspired by Tulum,” said Moyer. “When people come here, we want them to feel transported out of the Lehigh Valley.”

According to Moyer, he and his design team, comprised of mother-daughter duo Gabrielle DeFrancesco and April Wilson, also pulled inspiration from high-end metropolitan restaurants in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.

“I had this design in my head, and [April and Gabrielle] turned it into a reality,” said Moyer. “They are doing such a great job.”

While DeFrancesco and Wilson are still busy figuring out what the final interior design of La Maya will look like, head chef Freddie Garcia is busy figuring out some things, too.

'Mexican comfort food with a twist'

Even though he claims that he “just makes the food,” Garcia is the artist who will make La Maya's various dishes come to life.

“We've got some really cool stuff,” he says. Moyer adds that when customers enter, they must be hungry- and be willing to try something new.

Owner CJ Moyer and Head Chef Freddy Garcia
Grace Oddo

Although the final renderings of the menu are still in progress, Moyer and Garcia did share some initial dishes that they are most excited about.

For those who enjoy seafood, there are Ostras Horneadas, oyster platters dusted with tortilla crumbs and stuffed with pork belly and Fresno pepper jam.

For those that prefer traditional Mexican fare, Moyer encourages them to sample the “Guac La Maya”- guac infused with mint, green apple, smoked almonds and garnished with pickled red onions.

There will also be an assortment of adult beverages, including tequila from County Seat Spirits in Allentown.

“We'll also be collaborating with Saylor's & Co. to get our meats,” said Moyer. “The goal is to keep all of our products local.”

In Moyer's words, he not only wants to treat patrons to nice meals, he wants to elevate the Lehigh Valley dining experience as a whole.

Why Hellertown?

Hellertown has a downtown that is blooming. With places like La Roma Pizza, Lost Tavern, and Hana & Nana Coffee popping up, it is becoming a place where more and more locals are desiring to spend a night out, according to Moyer.

“The Lehigh Valley has so many great restaurants,” said Moyer. “We want to be a part of that and contribute to what a Lehigh Valley dining experience should look like.”

You can read more about La Maya, or apply to join the staff, on their website.