Hearty garden at Great Maple

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When I hit up Great Maple, on the easier-to-park side of Hillcrest, it’s usually mid-morning and I have two items on the brain: salad and doughnuts. I don’t even look at the menu anymore. Rather than risking anything potentially mehon a typically busy weekday, I prefer to go with the known. If I’m in a curious mood, I’ll take a bite of whatever my lunch date is having (which usually ends with me feeling reassured for having chosen wisely).

Earlier this year, I was all about the Market Spinach Salad ($13), which was light and lovely, with its strawberries, rainbow radish, candied pecans, red onion, and goat cheese. But at some point, I found the apple cider vinaigrette a little too tart, and vowed to branch out on my next visit.

The Wonderful Green Salad with grilled chicken and a scrumptious goat-cheese stuffed squash blossom

So it was that my wandering eyes alighted upon the seasonal green, shaved asparagus and fennel, pine nut covered concoction appropriately titled the Wonderful Green Salad ($14, or $19 after I add the grilled chicken). But it’s not just the mix of veggies, nuts, and herby Green Goddess Dressing that made my mouth water when the dish was first set before me — it was that goat-cheese stuffed, and perfectly fried, squash blossom. When my fork breaks through the light and crispy coating, all that warm, soft, tangy goat cheese becomes a smooth and savory spreadable for me to mix in with each bite.

Quiche of the Day with fruit and salad

My only disappointment comes when my greens are more wilted than fresh, as though they spent a day too long in the fridge. This happened on my last visit, and I ended up picking out a few of the sad shriveled bits. And though the description on the menu promises fresh arugula first, on my last visit it was more mixed green, and only a small spattering of the peppery plant. Regardless, the dish overall is usually more satisfying than sorry.

David, the kind of adventurous eater who believes in ordering something different every time, found himself ordering the Quiche of the Day ($11.95) more than once.

Delicious smashed avocado toast in a curious container

On our most recent mid-morning weekday brunch visit, I noticed an egg white and fruit dish was served with smashed avocado toast, and asked our server if we could order a side of just the avocado toast. It was a glorious rendition of one of my favorite snacks, with freshly cut strips of basil and pinches of sea salt over giant hunks of creamy avocado, all on grilled ciabatta. But David and I couldn’t keep from giggling over how this spontaneous side was delivered — in a too-small oval bowl. I would have expected it on a plate, so we could slice it or something. Doesn’t matter, 10/10 would eat again, even if they brought it to me in a glass.

It’s nearly impossible for me to leave the building without a bite of the very naughty and sinfully delicious Maple Bacon Doughnuts ($8.95). Hot, fresh, dripping with that mouth-watering sweet maple and salty bacon glaze, it’s the kind of thing that elicits Homer Simpson moans from most anyone to catch a whiff. If it’s just the two of us, David and I will each have one (the order comes with three) and save the third to share at home.


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