Food meets drink meets good times! Mackenzie Klyce and Max Donaldson own and operate Mobile’s new eatery, the Velvet Pig, located inside the Ice Box at 755 Monroe Street in Mobile.

Max, from Kansas City, Missouri, and Mackenzie, who attended St. Paul’s High School in Mobile, met as students at Ole Miss. They both earned their business and marketing degrees and started in the restaurant industry while in college. In Oxford, they found their calling to pursue their culinary passions. 

Max worked at Rice & Spice, a popular Thai restaurant in Oxford, and developed a passion for everything Thai. “Working at a restaurant with great bosses and authentic Thai food started my journey. The staff meals every day were amazing, so I decided to move to Thailand after college to teach English through Green Heart Travels.”

He lived in Hat Yai, Thailand, and taught 6 to 13-year-olds in an immersion English program at Don Bosco Prep. Mackenzie visited Max for two weeks during Christmas break and fell in love with Thai cuisine and culture. She joined Max a year after he arrived, and their attention became focused on the culinary world.

They lived together in Thailand for one year and in 2017, they moved back to the States to check out a culinary school in Colorado for Mackenzie. It wasn’t what she was looking for and they decided to start their lives together in New Orleans. Max spent a year and a half in logistics while Mackenzie worked at Margie’s Grill, focused on fresh local Gulf seafood and Southeast Asian flavors. 

Mackenzie loved her time at Margie’s and worked her way up to Chef de Cuisine. After three years, she moved to Coquette, a well-known restaurant on Magazine Street.  She learned a lot and helped Ana Castro open Lengua Madre, a modern fine-dining Mexican restaurant.

Meanwhile, Max began working at Piece of Meat butcher shop in Mid-city New Orleans, For three years, he was the butcher, the smoker, and General Manager. When he left, he went to The Joint to run the morning smoker shift.  Max & Mackenzie worked their shifts at restaurants and still had time on the side. They decided to open a food trailer called The Velvet Ditch BBQ.

They purchased a Texas-style smoker and stationed at a couple of bars and breweries. The Rendezvous and Miel Brewing, located in the Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans were their regular spots. Thoughts of taking the next step and opening a full-fledged restaurant emerged. 

“The pandemic certainly impacted our decision. The restaurant business is demanding, and we were spending any free time we had driving back and forth to Mobile to see family. If we were going to open a restaurant, I wanted to be closer to family, and Mobile presented a lot of opportunities. It has so much potential for growth still left to come,” says Mackenzie.

The couple left New Orleans in July 2022 and traveled overseas for three months, returning to Thailand and adding Greece, Italy, France, and Spain to their list of destinations. “We called it our Restaurant R&D World Tour,” says Max. They landed in Mobile in November 2022 and reached out to Taylor Atchison to discuss bringing their food truck to the Ice Box. 

On a whim, Mackenzie emailed the Ice Box about a completely different business venture. She quickly got a response from Taylor. “Four years ago, he developed the Ice Box, the old Crystal Ice manufacturing facility, into a massive bar space. He had plans of bringing food into the Ice Box and thought we would be the perfect fit, bringing something new and exciting to Mobile.”

“We weren’t ready to immediately operate a bar, and the Ice Box was already operating with the added new space and they really had a need for food in the space. Complications with utilizing the smoker led us to negotiate a new kitchen build-out within the building. We signed a lease in March 2023 and opened the Velvet Pig in November 2023. It’s been great so far!”

Drawing from their extensive restaurant experience, the Velvet Pig focuses on whole hog butchery, bringing an innovative take on Southern cuisine. The menu changes frequently as they focus on utilizing what is in season locally and love working with regionally local farms. Home Place Pastures, a farm located in Como, Mississippi, is where they source whole hogs.

“We curated our menu to fit the space, focusing on shareable small plates, dips, sandwiches, and our take on classic Southern sides.  We take a lot of pride in putting out the best possible product we can. Everything we serve is made from scratch, except for our Leidenheimer bread and Blue Plate Mayo, both made in New Orleans.” 

Mackenzie tells me they like to keep the menu fun and adventurous while still being approachable to everyone. The Pork Belly Skewers and the Boudin Egg Rolls are two of their most popular menu items. 

Even though their main focus is pork, they do have other proteins studded throughout the menu, like the Alabama HOT Fried Chicken Sandwich. “It’s a head-turner with our Alabama White BBQ sauce,” says Max. “Our fried oysters and Caesar salad are some other crowd favorites. We have people come weekly just for those!”

“The whole hog butchery forces us to be creative. A big mantra for us is trying to focus on sustainability, so we truly utilize every part of the animal. The bones and feet get roasted to make stock, which then gets used to make a lot of our sides like collard greens, pink-eye peas, or even gumbo.” 

“We brine the legs & hocks for 7 days and then roast them to make ham for our Cuban sandwich, which also gets the roasted skin-on belly. The pork shoulder gets braised to make their version of Birria tacos,” explains Max.

The response has been very positive. They are active on social media and keep the menu updated on their website. They just took a much-needed break after pushing through Mardi Gras and are ready to come back with new hours and menu updates. 

Plans are to open for lunch this week. Be on the lookout for some seafood dishes for everyone who celebrates Lent. “There is so much access to fresh seafood in Mobile and I’m ready to take advantage of that,” says Mackenzie.     

Best of luck to you both! We are so happy to have you as part of the Scenic 98 Coastal community. Be sure to keep up with the Velvet Pig on Instagram and Facebook. Bon Appetit!

Feb 21, 2024
Dive Bars & Music

Join Our Community

Sign up below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter

* indicates required

More from 

Dive Bars & Music


View All