One sign that the “Interesting Times” are returning to some semblance of normalcy is seeing families dining at restaurants once more. Mom, dad, kids and grandparents are showing up to dine at local restaurants. Recently, my dining partner and I, along with our friend and dine-around bunch member the Retiree experienced this return at a premium area family restaurant in Unicoi: Maple Grove Restaurant.
The quickest way to get to Maple Grove Restaurant is via Interstate 26. Take exit 32 onto the short Tenn. Highway 173 and turn right onto Gouge Road where you’ll find the Maple Grove building complex on your right.
Once on site, drive past the car wash and liquor store and you’ll find Maple Grove Restaurant at the back of the property with ample parking on both upper and lower parking lots.
Those slots in front of the restaurant’s entrance are reserved for handicapped customers, so please be kind and accommodating.
The renovation to the Maple Grove’s interior has brightened the 80-person capacity dining area pleasantly.
The arcade machine alcove to your right just inside the front door has been toned down considerably. Access to the restrooms is still located there.
A center wall divides the main dining area into two sections; additional rooms are available at the rear of the main area.
Maple Grove’s customer base is still family oriented, with older couples and extended families with children predominating.
Maple Grove also does a good number of carry-out orders as well.
As we entered the front door of Maple Grove Restaurant, we got a smile and a nod from owner Diane Powers, who was busy with a carry-out order customer. There were about 10 tables already in use. Four family groups, several couples and a few single diners were in evidence as our server Emily showed us to a quiet table in back.
With Emily assuming the role of our menu navigator, the three of us soon had our choices made.
The Retiree ordered the pulled barbecue pork platter, ($9.29) together with baked apples and baked beans for her side orders.
My dining partner chose one of Maple Grove’s mushroom and Swiss cheese hamburgers ($7.39) with some crinkle cut French fries on the side.
For myself, it was the chicken, bacon and ranch wrap together with a side order of fried onion rings ($8.99).
How it tastes
The Retiree was very pleased with her pulled pork barbecue, especially when alternating a forkful of pork and baked beans with a following forkful of pork and baked apples. I suggested her loading the pork barbecue with the beans and baked apples on her plate and then stirring them into one tasty mix. This suggestion got a sniff from her and a smirk from my dining partner; one does not impose foolishness on a true barbecue aficionado while she is dining.
My dining partner’s classic mushroom and Swiss burger was quite tasty, especially so with some ketchup-covered commissary-sourced crinkle cut potatoes to make her smile with every bite.
My own chicken, bacon and ranch wrap was very good, being diced white meat chicken, seasoned just so and sautéed with onions and crispy bacon pieces. The sauté was then loaded into a dinner-size flour tortilla, together with some shredded cheddar cheese and creamy ranch salad dressing. My side order of onion rings were also quite good, though cut a shade too thick for my taste. Maple Grove’s kitchen could use a thinner cut of onion, which would result in the panko’ed fry batter sticking to this thinner onion ring better, achieving a heat-hotter and better internal texture onion ring with a crispier, crunchier external fry texture. Cutting each of my plate’s six thick onion rings in half would result in 12 thinner onion rings, each one much better in all respects, and at the same time increase the “more meal value for your money” factor that all diners pursue with equal vigor.
The bottom line
My dining partner and our friend the Retiree enjoyed their suppers from Maple Grove Restaurant. Despite the onion ring issue, my meal was also very good.
Emily provided both knowledgeable and exemplary service to us in a dining area that was both well-maintained and filled with the convivial chatter of families and friends dining out.
If you and yours are ready for dining out among friends, Maple Grove Restaurant could be the best place for you all to rejoin the civilized world once again.
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