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Drive-thru brunch at Great Maple

Morning til night, the stylish eatery now serves you in your car

A pizza box filled with chocolate bacon silver dollar pancakes
A pizza box filled with chocolate bacon silver dollar pancakes

Great Maple has just about done it all this pandemic. It socially distanced its dining room, it expanded its outdoor seating. It expanded its outdoor seating again, erecting tents in its parking lot and filling them with tables and patio heaters. The all-day eatery even put out little, ornamented Christmas trees to give its asphalt dining room a festive feel.

Place

Great Maple

1451 Washington Street, San Diego

All that became obsolete when the latest stay-at-home order put the kibosh on outdoor dining. However, the Hillcrest restaurant appears undaunted and has implemented yet another conversion to help carry it through the closed-up holiday season: its parking lot is now a drive-thru.

The drive-thru set up at Great Maple in Hillcrest

As in, last Sunday, I drove my car up to the entrance of the Great Maple parking lot, ordered brunch, and drove home with pancakes, bacon, sausage, and a breakfast cocktail.

I’m not going to pretend the experience lives up to what Great Maple offers during normal times, when brunchtime typically finds the mid-century-styled restaurant filled with fashionable revelers, lingering over large plates of smoked meats, griddle cakes, and fancy donuts, while sipping bloody marys dressed with absurdly large, edible garnishes ranging from whole pickles to octopus tentacles.

A bloody mary in a sealed take-out cup

However, while the see-and-be-seen vibe doesn’t travel in take-out containers, the food and cocktails can. Some of them, anyway. Though my favorite Great Maple snack — sugar dusted beignets — aren’t available from the drive-thru, its celebrated maple bacon donut is ($14). And though you can’t get the bloody mary with the tentacle, you can order the Pickle Mary ($14), as well as a bevy of other cocktails, from mimosas to mules ($10-15).

Chicken apple sausages

The brunch menu offers Great Maple favorites, including breakfast sandwiches ($17), breakfast pot pie ($19), or smoked brisket hash ($21, or a vegan option for $16). You may get a pizza box filled with Johnny’s silver dollar pancakes. The cluster of small pancakes may be picked out in regular buttermilk flavor, or fruity pebbles, peanut butter fried banana, or chocolate bacon, which comes with plastic ramakins of whipped butter, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, and powdered sugar.

Smoked bacon with a side of salted caramel sauce

I nabbed a la carte orders of the restaurant’s chicken apple sausages ($6) and salted caramel bacon ($8), which just turned out to be the smoked bacon ($6) with a ramakin of salted caramel dipping sauce. The sugar content (and prices) can obviously be over the top, as much of the menu here tends to be.

Beignets at Great Maple when spaced-out indoor dining was still allowed

The drive-thru experience itself was relatively breezy. I worried I would have needed to call ahead with my order, but that’s not the case. I simply drove up, ordered and paid with a masked staffer positioned at the entrance. Then pulled ahead and enjoyed a soundtrack of lounge and jazz covers of Christmas tunes for a few minutes until another staffer passed the packaged food through my passenger window.

Silver dollar pancakes with whipped butter, chocolate syrup, maple syrup, and powdered sugar

Lunch and dinner are offered via drive-thru while the stay-at-home order remains in effect, but what I particularly enjoyed about drive-thru brunch — and maybe this is just me — was the opportunity fill up on pancakes and meat and breakfast cocktails at home, then seamlessly switch to nap mode.

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A pizza box filled with chocolate bacon silver dollar pancakes
A pizza box filled with chocolate bacon silver dollar pancakes

Great Maple has just about done it all this pandemic. It socially distanced its dining room, it expanded its outdoor seating. It expanded its outdoor seating again, erecting tents in its parking lot and filling them with tables and patio heaters. The all-day eatery even put out little, ornamented Christmas trees to give its asphalt dining room a festive feel.

Place

Great Maple

1451 Washington Street, San Diego

All that became obsolete when the latest stay-at-home order put the kibosh on outdoor dining. However, the Hillcrest restaurant appears undaunted and has implemented yet another conversion to help carry it through the closed-up holiday season: its parking lot is now a drive-thru.

The drive-thru set up at Great Maple in Hillcrest

As in, last Sunday, I drove my car up to the entrance of the Great Maple parking lot, ordered brunch, and drove home with pancakes, bacon, sausage, and a breakfast cocktail.

I’m not going to pretend the experience lives up to what Great Maple offers during normal times, when brunchtime typically finds the mid-century-styled restaurant filled with fashionable revelers, lingering over large plates of smoked meats, griddle cakes, and fancy donuts, while sipping bloody marys dressed with absurdly large, edible garnishes ranging from whole pickles to octopus tentacles.

A bloody mary in a sealed take-out cup

However, while the see-and-be-seen vibe doesn’t travel in take-out containers, the food and cocktails can. Some of them, anyway. Though my favorite Great Maple snack — sugar dusted beignets — aren’t available from the drive-thru, its celebrated maple bacon donut is ($14). And though you can’t get the bloody mary with the tentacle, you can order the Pickle Mary ($14), as well as a bevy of other cocktails, from mimosas to mules ($10-15).

Chicken apple sausages

The brunch menu offers Great Maple favorites, including breakfast sandwiches ($17), breakfast pot pie ($19), or smoked brisket hash ($21, or a vegan option for $16). You may get a pizza box filled with Johnny’s silver dollar pancakes. The cluster of small pancakes may be picked out in regular buttermilk flavor, or fruity pebbles, peanut butter fried banana, or chocolate bacon, which comes with plastic ramakins of whipped butter, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, and powdered sugar.

Smoked bacon with a side of salted caramel sauce

I nabbed a la carte orders of the restaurant’s chicken apple sausages ($6) and salted caramel bacon ($8), which just turned out to be the smoked bacon ($6) with a ramakin of salted caramel dipping sauce. The sugar content (and prices) can obviously be over the top, as much of the menu here tends to be.

Beignets at Great Maple when spaced-out indoor dining was still allowed

The drive-thru experience itself was relatively breezy. I worried I would have needed to call ahead with my order, but that’s not the case. I simply drove up, ordered and paid with a masked staffer positioned at the entrance. Then pulled ahead and enjoyed a soundtrack of lounge and jazz covers of Christmas tunes for a few minutes until another staffer passed the packaged food through my passenger window.

Silver dollar pancakes with whipped butter, chocolate syrup, maple syrup, and powdered sugar

Lunch and dinner are offered via drive-thru while the stay-at-home order remains in effect, but what I particularly enjoyed about drive-thru brunch — and maybe this is just me — was the opportunity fill up on pancakes and meat and breakfast cocktails at home, then seamlessly switch to nap mode.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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