Maple Street Cafe
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
In a renovated cottage in the middle of one of the busiest blocks of Maple Street, this pleasant cafe captures a clientele from the neighborhood, the university crowd, and the local shopkeepers. The half-Italian, half-Creole menu is appealing and well turned out. And the prices are attractive.
A lightness in cooking style runs through almost everything here. The raw materials are good and fresh, the cooking straightforward and uncomplicated, and presented beautifully. The appetizer collection is varied enough to make it possible to have a good meal of only those, especially if a pasta, soup, or salad are included. (They're exceptionally good in all those categories.) Osso buco, which runs somewhat unpredictably as a special, is a contender for best version of that dish in town. (It also differs from the rest of the menu in being a massive meal.)
The Maple Street Cafe opened in 1995, a spinoff of Petra, a now-extinct Metairie restaurant. Jordan-born brothers Jameel and T.J. Qutob spent some years at Vincent's and Andrea's respectively before beginning their own restaurant ventures. The talented old-line chef Jonathan Peters--now semi-retired--has long been the guiding hand in the kitchen, but the brothers spend a lot of time cooking, too. In 2011, they took over the old Bull's Corner in Laplace and reopened it with much the same menu as at the Maple Street Cafe.
The main room is split-level, being a combination of the old cottage's parlor and its former front yard, now enclosed by walls with many windows. It's pleasantly bright. The kitchen is at the rear (its teeny size explains the simplicity of most of the food) and open to view. Just past it is a less-appealing private dining room that could use some renovation. They also have a few tables on a small deck for alfresco dining.
»Stuffed shrimp with crabmeat in phyllo pastry, lemon butter
»Oysters amandine, fried with roasted almonds
»Steamed mussels, white wine tomato sauce
Mezes (hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghannouj)
Eggplant cake, crabmeat cream sauce
Grilled, smoked portobello mushroom, lime vinaigrette
»Spring mix salad, tomatoes, dried cranberries, artichoke hearts
House-made mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinaigrette
Grilled chicken salad, seven lettuces, hearts of palm, peppers
»Greek salad in a bread bowl
»Eggplant and shrimp soup
Soup du jour
»Penne pasta "sui sui" (roasted garlic, tomato, basil, butter)
Angel hair Ziad (sauteed shrimp, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic)
»Penne pasta Caruso (tomato-basil sauce, eggplant)
»Angel hair with three exotic wild mushrooms
Sautéed crawfish, roasted peppers, dill, butter, cheese, linguine
»Chicken limone (herb and lemon zest breading, fettuccine alfredo)
Grilled chicken, mushrooms, rosemary, tomatoes, smoked corn, penne
»Duck Jameel (pepper-crusted, seared breast, fig sauce)
»Grilled fresh fish Florentine, spinach, herb sauce
»Pan seared pork chop, honey ginger demi-glace
Chicken Sereen (grilled, mushrooms, sun-dried tomato butter sauce)
Veal Nora (sautéed, mushroom brandy demi-glace)
»Chicken Robah (stuffed with prosciutto, artichokes, mushrooms, Fontina cheese, marsala reduction)
Filet mignon with portobello mushroom, balsamic demi-glace
FOR BEST RESULTS
Avoid tables near the front door in cold weather. Have pasta as an appetizer. Even though the restaurant is rarely full, make a reservation; it has a way of packing unpredictably.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The rear dining room is significantly less pleasant than the front. The osso buco ought to be on the menu all the time. The wine list is on the short side.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar -1
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
It's an old story: hotshot young man or woman comes to town to take a job, and works so relentlessly that, when the holidays roll around, he/she find him/herself unincluded in any group close enough to invite him/her to dinner. It happened to me one year, and I grew up in New Orleans.
So you wind up going to a restaurant for dinner on Christmas Eve or Day. Especially if the holiday doesn't include you to begin with, you want a nice place, but no big deal. The Maple Street Cafe seems to have been created for such folks. It opens for all the holidays, does a nice job with them, and does so without inflating its prices.