A good diner can be hard to find. Of course, you see the usual suspects that draw in the after-church folks and the late night, post-drinking pack-an-artery crowd, but what are you really getting when you head to one of these places? In reality, most of them are there to get you in, get you fed, and get you out the door. Sure, the food is usually fine, but is it unique or interesting? Probably not. If you’re like me, then you are probably always searching for a great quality diner that not only offers the rib-sticking comfort fare you are accustomed to, but also has great service, fresh ingredients and a unique menu. Well, I have great news, because I just found your new obsession. Maple Leaf Diner in Dallas checks all those boxes, plus a few more.
In 2015, Michael Delaurier, a native Canadian and former bar owner, hatched the idea of opening a diner. Being from Ontario, he wanted to be sure to include some Canadian staples to the menu, which would also feature some classic American diner fare.
The menu at Maple Leaf is unlike anything I have seen in DFW. Not only do they do the classics extremely well, but they also offer some curveballs in there that will leave you jonesing for a return visit.
Let’s start with breakfast, shall we? After all, it is the most important meal of the day. For those of you who prefer traditional breakfast options, Maple Leaf has plenty to offer, and they are all done extremely well. The Diner Special is a standard order, which comes with two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage links and your choice of blueberry, chocolate chip or pumpkin (more on these in a minute) pancakes and a cream puff. This is a massive breakfast that is packed with flavor. I highly recommend the pumpkin pancakes, and I say this as a person who doesn’t particularly care for pumpkin-flavored things. I think as a society, especially during the fall months, we are being over-pumpkin’d. But these flapjacks feature a more subtle pumpkin flavor that isn’t overpowering or too sweet. They’re phenomenal and would make a wonderful breakfast by themselves.
Another breakfast option that will leave you weak in the knees are the Chicken, Bacon and Waffles. The fried chicken is crunchy and juicy without being greasy, the bacon adds a great salty note to the dish which helps balance out the sweet combination of the waffle batter and syrup. If you dig chicken and waffles, this is toward the top of my personal list of the best I have ever tried. If you are looking for my official recommendation, get the Chicken and Waffles and pair it with a Bloody Caesar, which is a Bloody Mary, but instead of standard bloody mix, uses Clamato, which adds a nice briny note to the traditional version.
If those two breakfast options weren’t enough to pique your interest, then perhaps a Denver Omelet, Chicken Fried Steak or a rib-sticking Corned Beef Skillet will scratch your breakfast itch. Any of them will leave you ready for a mid-morning nap before your favorite NFL team kicks off at noon.
Lunch at Maple Leaf is just as unique and delicious as their breakfast options. For starters, they offer some great sharables for the table, including onion rings, fried mushrooms and even pierogies. But, if you like a great mozzarella stick, then Maple Leaf will dazzle you with theirs. They are fresh, hand-breaded and served piping hot with some marinara or ranch for dipping. The stretchy cheese oozes from the crispy panko breading, making them perfect for an appetizer for the table. They are as close to the world-famous Bobby V’s Sports Gallery mozz sticks as I have encountered, and that’s a bar that is almost unreachable.
If you aren’t familiar with Canadian poutine, then allow me to give you a quick rundown. Poutine is a combination of hand-cut French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. It is by no means a diet-friendly option, but my word is it delicious. I am not typically a brown gravy guy, but the combination of the fries, with the salty, melted curds and gravy make it a must-try if you have never had it. Maple Leaf has several versions, including the classic, which is what I just described, the pot roast version, a southern poutine, which adds some fried chicken and a cream gravy … or the Chicken Fried Steak version, which is a firm handshake between Texas and Canada, with chicken fried steak on top. The different options offer versatility and allow you to choose your own poutine adventure.
There were a couple other things on the Maple Leaf menu that I had to try when I visited last month. One was the Fish & Chips. I am a fish & chips connoisseur, but a good version can be so hard to find in DFW. This potato chip-crusted Alaskan cod was perfectly fried without being greasy, and the hand-cut fries were a perfect sidecar. I love fried fish, and this is some of the best I have ever tried.
The other thing I am a sucker for is a great Reuben, but aside from a few Jewish delis in the area, a good Reuben can be few and far between. The Maple Leaf version was simply fantastic, as they take extra time to trim some of the fat from the corned beef, making it flavorful but not fatty. The extra attention to trimming the fat also helps keep the Marble rye from getting soggy, and the acidic sour notes of the sauerkraut help balance the rich corned beef and cut some of the sweetness of the “Canuck dressing” it comes served with. I have been thinking about this sandwich since my last visit, and I can’t wait to get back and have it again. My only complaint about the Reuben is that there wasn’t enough of it, as I could’ve easily polished off two or three of them in one sitting.
If you are a chicken sandwich lover, then I recommend the Flag Ship Chicken Sandwich, which is offered fried or grilled, and come topped with bacon, cheddar, lettuce, red onion, and dill sauce. The real kickers of this chicken sando, however, are marinated tomatoes and banana peppers. Both add additional flavor profiles, making this different from any chicken sandwich you have ever tasted.
Other lunch options include a selection of burgers, salads, Salisbury steak, or even homemade cabbage rolls.
With everything Maple Leaf Diner has to offer, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss their mouth-watering dessert options. To begin with, many of their breakfast options come with a Cream Puff, which are light, fluffy and piped full of a great vanilla cream. They melt in your mouth and make you weak in the knees simultaneously. They are not only a fantastic way to end any meal at Maple Leaf but would be perfect to take home by the dozens and serve at parties or as a substitute for the tired old weekend donuts. Try one or 10. I promise you’ll thank me later.
Pies are also available, including a chocolate cream, coconut cream, apple crumble and my personal favorite, the Almond Joy. Don’t sleep on any of them, but the Almond Joy was spectacular, if you are into coconut.
One other offering I couldn’t get enough of were the stuffed cookies. Yes, you heard that right … stuffed cookies. There is a chocolate chunk, a dulce de leche, an apricot pecan, and the two I sampled, the peanut butter and jelly and the cream cheese raspberry. The peanut putter jelly stuffed cookie is like a smaller, well-executed flaky, buttery Uncrustable, which is one of my favorite snacks. I could easily knock out a dozen of the stuffed cookies if you gave me a nice glass of cold milk. They’re spectacular.
After trying Maple Leaf Diner, it immediately vaulted into my top three diners in DFW, and I could make the argument it belongs in the top spot based on their unique menu, overall quality and dynamite customer service. The food here is so good and given that I live about 45 minutes from their location, if I were a wealthy man, I would consider renting a house in the area to stay in on Saturday nights. That way I could be the first one in line Sunday morning mornings to get my fix. It’s just that good. If you do live within the area around Maple Leaf, consider yourself one of the lucky ones fortunate enough to experience this food on a regular basis. I envy you.
There wasn’t a single thing I tried at Maple Leaf I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. If you find yourself in the area around breakfast or lunch time, you absolutely must stop in. But know that during peak hours on the weekends, the wait can range up to 90 minutes, so be prepared to get there early. But, in all honesty, everything is absolutely worth the wait.
You won’t be disappointed, eh!