Recently, perched on the trunk of my car in the parking lot of Maple and Motor waiting for my order to be brought out, I noticed a large gravel section near the restaurant that had the makings of a courtyard. I messaged the restaurant through Facebook, “Noticed you might be adding a new outdoor space? That would be so awesome…”
“Really? We aren’t,” wrote back owner Jack Perkins. It’s the employee parking lot, he explained.
I felt dumb for asking. I attributed it to sitting outside — instead of rushing in and out — and noticing things I hadn't before. "I'm happy you found a way to adapt," he offered back and said a lot of people eat in the parking lot now.
Alas, there’s no new outdoor dining, but there are plenty of other reasons to revisit this spot. The exact same reason that drew you in before.
Maple and Motor opened in 2008 serving nine mains on the menu and steady-as-she-goes has been the path forward since. With beaucoup rave reviews including a spot on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2012, many in Perkin's spot would have expanded, added outdoor tables in the employee parking lot or thrown in some trendy menu items. (Nashville hot chicken sandwich anyone?) But Perkins passed.
He sticks to what he knows works. Case in point: He has three employees who have a combined 36 years of service there.
This, honestly, is part of the reason I contacted Perkins, aside from the not-happening outside dining area: The flat-top brisket sandwich is exactly the same sandwich I've had there over 10 years. Sure, many places serve the same food, more specifically chains where a process has been whittled down to a five-step can’t-fail list with buzzers on fryers. But, Maple and Motor has a home-cooked touch, and even Mom’s best dishes vary a little.
“The people that prepared your food 12 years ago are the same ones doing it now,” he says.
Not that Perkins is opposed to change. In fact, he says if restaurants didn’t change or adapt in some way the past year, they did it wrong. He added delivery, adjusted his takeout process so that diners wait in their cars instead of inside and stacked half the tables that were in his dining room after capacity restrictions were lifted.
Perkins also says customers have adjusted.
“Before people came in looking for a fight more, like ‘Why do I have to wait for a table?’” referencing signs that instruct diners not to nab a table before they order. Instead, allow the people who just ordered to sit so they can eat, and it all works out nicely. The sign’s tone doesn’t offer this as a suggestion, which could ruffle feathers for people who don’t like being told what to do.
“But, now that aspect is easier. People are nicer than they were. Most people realize everything is fucked-up and they just needed to be good citizens,” Perkins says.
One item of note: the jukebox that was tucked in the back of the restaurant is, sadly, dead.
“It just crapped out about a year ago. Plus, no one ever played it anyway.” Except me. Y’all slept on some great songs. But, it's understandable if your mind was elsewhere.
Maple and Motor, 4810 Maple Ave., Monday - Saturday, 10:45 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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