525 Race St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Maplewood has been a popular breakfast shop in Cincinnati virtually since the day it opened its doors. A “west coast cafe,” it’s kind of confusing to the Midwestern mindset in its set-up, but once you do get a seat, the bright decor and the light, balanced menu grows on you quickly.
Step in the door of the place and wait in line to order your food. Then you pay for it and are shown to a seat by a maître d. Once you’re seated though, your food comes very quickly. All of this is a well-run machine that allows a high-volume restaurant to turn over a ton of people, and all the while not actually making you wait too much longer than otherwise; you just don’t realize it.
In keeping with the West Coast theme, the food here is largely creative and upscale takes on what at first looks like common food. Much of it relies on healthier, local and seasonal ingredients to add a new twist. Some of the dishes I liked:
- Granola Pancakes: Adding the granola removes some of that heavier flour and keeps the substance in the pancakes, plus it gives them that wonderful, slightly grainier and wheatier flavor. What’s best is the compote, which adds a lot more in flavor than syrup does. Blueberry is definitely the option to pick when they have it.
- Spicy Chicken Salad: Not the first dish you’d think would go well as a spicy pick, but not bad! Raisins, roasted tomatoes and pepitas add flavor without too much heft, and the ciabatta is refreshingly light.
- Breakfast Sandwich: Avoiding too much of the heft works here too. This sandwich is loaded with an egg, goetta, Vermont cheddar, roasted garlic aioli and a smoky tomato jalapeno jam.
- Latte: The drinks here are superb. Wonderful foam and a very calming warm drink.
- Espresso: Same praises here. Espressos are often overly sweet or sugary. This one is a simple charm.
The restaurant’s very popular because of its charm; it’s routine to see a ton of people here and the wait to be a half an hour or more, and while that bugs some, I think the overall experience is pretty pleasant, it’s just that people aren’t used to the format. Price points are a bit above normal, though given the emphasis on high-caliber ingredients, that’s expected.
The restaurant has a ton of positives to it, and I think the food offers a new level of complexity downtown Cincinnati hasn’t seen in its other brunch spots. Maplewood does bring a very fresh perspective to downtown.
- Best to come here on the weekends when time’s not a crunch. There’s really no easy way to tell how long you’ll wait, and there’s no reservation system.
- The juices and lemonades are packaged to go; that’s a whole different part of the business.
- Big groups can dine here too! There are instructions by size, all the way up to “buying out” the whole restaurant.