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I liked Brian's American Eatery, it was one of my go-to breakfast spots back when I lived within walking distance. The menu and portions were absurdly gigantic, but the service was consistently friendly and there were plenty of a la carte options for those of us who didn't feel like starting the day with two of everything. So of course, I was sad to see it go -- especially when rumors floated that the reason behind its demise had to do with love lost.

But now, months later, I'm reminded that an equally comforting neighborhood joint has blossomed in its place. The first time I went to Great Maple (a duplicate of the original in Newport Beach), it was to have lunch with a friend and fellow foodie.

We began things off right, with a couple of cocktails. I ordered the Honey Mule, with honey vodka, muddled mint, and ginger beer, served in an adorable honey bear glass.

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My friend was interested in ordering a bunch of small plates to share, but I was all about one menu item that my eyes kept drifting back to: the Pretzel Bratwurst, with grilled onions and sauerkraut on a pretzel bun, served with honey mustard and the aptly named "Oh Yes Smashed Potatoes."

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It was every bit as delicious as I imagined it would be, and I was mildly irritated when my friend took me up on my offer to split it. In the end, I'm happy I shared, because had I not, I wouldn't have had room to taste from the sampling she ordered.

First there was the creamy polenta with pancetta and shaved pecorino -- I was only able to manage one bite of this. Though tasty, it's richer than a Saudi Arabian sheik.

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The mini meatballs were flavorful enough, but a bit confusing -- I didn't realize that was "fried pasta" on the plate beside the bowl of meatballs in roasted tomato sauce. The "pasta" was closer to Chinese food than it was to Italian -- it looked and tasted like crispy deep-fried dumplings.

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I loved the mini beef wellingtons, served with a barbecue glaze dip. They were cooked to medium, tender and flavorful, and the dough was perfect.

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The special dessert of the day was too tempting to pass up. It's a bummer it's not a regular item on the menu. I can't even remember the specifics, it was some kind of chocolate (but not too rich), melty-brownie pie with caramel ice cream. It was just stupid good, and I don't usually go in for desserts.

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/2013/aug/11/51104/

My first visit had left such a great impression, that it wasn't long before I dragged David back with me for dinner. Together, we enjoyed the spicy grilled prawns (served with those flavorful mashed potatoes) and the local farmer's beet salad (with pistachio crusted goat cheese, arugula, and champagne shallot vinaigrette).

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This time I paired my meal with a darker cocktail, the Raspberry Old Fashioned, with Buffalo Trace bourbon, "suger-fired oranges," muddles raspberries, and orange bitters. It was well-rounded, not too sweet or sour, and just the right amount of boozy bourbon flavor.

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Just when we were wrapping up, we were treated to a spectacle with which most Great Maple regulars are familiar -- the sudden giving away of treats. This time, the treats carried around by servers on long wooden boards were an excellent complement to an enjoyable meal: bacon-maple donuts. David and I split one of the savory-sweet treats, and went home happy.

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/2013/aug/11/51108/

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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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