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Unicoi’s Maple Grove Restaurant: Family-style dining is alive and well

Mystery Diner • Apr 12, 2019 at 12:00 AM

I can recall an era when houses came with “dining rooms,” and having supper was a family gathering time around something called the “dinner table.” There you ate a meal that was Mom-certified “home-cooked,” and regaled parents and siblings with the day’s activities and accomplishments. These days, house blueprints have the dining room reduced to an alcove or less, the meal is take-out rather than home-cooked, and the regaling is often texting, even when the participants are face-to-face. Don’t despair, though. One of the best places to experience old-timey family dining is just down the road a-piece, at Unicoi’s Maple Grove Restaurant.

Maple Grove Restaurant can be found just off Interstate 26 at the Main Street-Erwin exit in Unicoi. The building has had an obvious renovation inside recently, resulting in brightening the dining area. There is seating for about 80 patrons in booths and tables. Your fellow diners will be family groups for the most part, with additional dine-in and takeout patrons arriving from the nearby highway. A cashier and takeout counter is just inside the front. Access to the restrooms is to the right, just behind the arcade.

Pan-Fried Chicken platter with baked beans, sweet potato fries: Arriving at the start of the evening dinner rush, and taking advantage of the “Seat Yourself” sign up front, the dine-around bunch and I were able to find a table with no problem. First to order was the Carnivore, who chose the pan-fried chicken platter ($7.49) with his two side orders being Maple Grove’s baked beans, an order of their sweet potato fries and a dinner roll. The chicken proved to be a good-sized thigh dredged in an egg and flour batter and then pan-fried until crispy on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside. The sweet potato fries were good if not especially noteworthy, while the baked beans were very good, slow-simmered and delicious.

Chipotle chicken wrap: The dieter wanted chicken, but in a lighter form than what the Carnivore had ordered. At length, our diet-conscious friend picked the chipotle chicken wrap platter ($7.49) along with a side order of the sweet potato fries. Here, a flour tortilla is filled with marinated and grilled white meat chicken. Next, the chicken was combined with lettuce, onion and avocado, then the house chipotle sauce before wrapping and plating with the sweet potato fries and a dill pickle spear. As always, our dieting friend was kind enough to share with her table mates. Delectable.

Grilled chicken platter w/pinto beans & coleslaw: The Retiree also wanted a chicken platter, getting hers grilled ($8.99) with a side order of pinto beans, some homemade coleslaw and a fresh-baked corn meal muffin. The chicken proved to be a chicken breast cutlet, grilled and then topped with some of Maple Grove’s so-so chicken gravy. Taking a lesson from the Dieter, a spoonful or three of the Retiree’s excellent coleslaw found their way into her pinto beans along with corn muffin crumbles. The resulting concoction, (our dieting friend calls it “sloosh,”) made for a tasty accompaniment indeed for the Retiree’s grilled chicken.

Hamburger, add cheese, bacon and fries: Once you move away from the platter portion of Maple Grove Restaurant’s menu, you enter the realm of “A la Carte.” Here, your burger or sandwich can be as big as you desire, but you’re paying for each layer of goodness you add on to the basic model. Confronted with this situation, my dining partner decided to simplify by ordering Maple Grove’s hamburger ($4.49) with American cheese ($0.59 a slice) and bacon ($1.50). Lettuce, sliced tomato, onion and dill pickle chips were complimentary add-ons at no charge. That’s all, except for her side order of French fries. The result was a classic cheeseburger in every sense, stacked high with properly melted American cheese and lean, grilled center-cut bacon with all the trimmings. All my dining partner needed was a squirt of ketchup for her burger and her French fries for perfection on her plate.

Whitefish sandwich, add cheese, bacon, coleslaw and fries: I also desired something from the “A la Carte” side of the menu, and ordered a Maple Grove Alaskan whitefish sandwich ($6.99) with a slice of Swiss cheese ($0.79) bacon ($1.50) coleslaw ($0.59) and a side order of French fries. Here, a split-top burger bun received two thick pieces of Alaskan whitefish resting on a bed of the house’s creamy coleslaw. There were some fresh spinach leaves added along with three strips of lean bacon and a slice of Swiss cheese. Nothing more was needed, except maybe some ketchup for my crinkle cut French fries.

The bottom line: Maple Grove Restaurant is a great place to recall the pleasure of dining together with your family. The dining atmosphere is both pleasant and convivial. The menu has something for every taste and tummy, while the service is attentive and professional. Be sure you and yours get there early for prompt seating. After all, true family dining is an event not to be missed these days.

Maple Grove Restaurant

1207 Gouge Road

Unicoi, Tennessee

735-3003

Tue-Sat 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Sun 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Closed Monday

Available on Facebook

Credit cards accepted

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