The Maple Leaf Restaurant was established just outside of this town of 1,040 persons in 2001 by the Glen Noonan family who own it.
Chef-manager is John Hardy, age 39, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. and roomed with famed Rocco DiSpirito during his first year there. Hardys first job was as banquet chef of Nashville, Tennessees Opryland Hotel. After working for Marriott Corporation, he joined the Maple staff. Hardy describes his menu as regional American fused with Mediterranean and Southwestern flavors.
The Maple Leafs salad bar is very good and free with entrees or $7.50 by itself. One offering is a Waldorf salad, which is yogurt-based with dried cherries, pecans, vanilla, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. Another is curried chicken salad with apples and kidney beans; and a kidney bean salad with fresh basil, chili powder. Five dinner salads include a chilled marinated steak and barley on spring greens at $8.25. We liked the Caesar romaine with greens, croutons, parmesan cheese, dried cherries, toasted pine nuts, grape tomatoes with Caesar dressing, $5.95. And theres regular leaf lettuce, tomatoes, fruits and other beginnings if youre in the mood for a small salad.
A favorite of the house for dinner is smoked duck breast and sun-dried tomato pasta tossed with cream, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and olives over penne pasta ($13.95). Of eight Unexpected Beginnings, we found the hand-dipped onion rings, $4.95, very good, as were the chicken wings with bleu cheese at $5.95. We could have had the bbqd bacon-wrapped shrimp topped with onion marmalade on cornbread squares, $8.95, among others. Of several soups, we found the chili very good.
There are three pasta-vegetarian dishes besides the smoked duck. The vegetable empanada at $14.95 is fresh veggies baked in a light pastry with goat cheese and salsa. Five From The Grill items run Maple City pot roast and mashed potatoes, $12.95, to Cowboy RibEye Steak, a one pounder with onion rings and smoked Cheddar cheese mashed potatoes at $23.95. Three times a month Hardy also offers bbq ribs at $15.95.
Three fish entrees run Great Lakes Yellow Perch, $16.95, bbqd salmon, $14.95 to Michigan walleye at $13.95. Five pork, poultry and game dishes included roasted game hen at $13.95, a 14 oz. maple glazed pork chop at $15.95 and Venison Osso Buco at $23.95.
Hardy himself likes a backyard barbecued boneless pork loin or chop on the grill with roasted corn black bean salsa and has it at least twice a week. He loves sweet corn smoky from the grill after soaking the ears in their husks in water for half an hour. He prepares a medium grill and roasts the corn ears about 20 minutes, turning them with long-handled tongs as they char, then rubs them with lime wedges, salt. Better yet, he gets local corn picked in the morning and refrigerates it with husks on until cooking.
Hardys Maple Leaf southwest combread is served with grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon. He preheats an oven to 375 degrees and blends a cup of softened unsalted butter, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, four large eggs, half cup fresh sweet corn kernels, half cup grated smoked cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese, 2 cups flour, 2 cups corn meal, cup and a half dried cherries, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 2 teaspoons vegetable shortening, baking the blend for 30 minutes.
Our waitperson, Ellen, was very good as were the six others in the dining room. The tables are natural maple with green cloths beneath blue chandeliers. Pictures of the old schoolhouse and its students adorn the walls.
Located at 172 W. Burdickville Road in Maple City, the Maple Leaf Restaurant is closed Mon.-Tues. It is open Wed.-Thurs., 11:30a.m. -9 p.m., Fri., ll:30a.m. - 10 p.m., Sat. 8 -10 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Weekly Sunday brunches from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. have 12 hot items with adults charged $13.95, children under 5 free. Major credit cards accepted, alcohol & wine available.