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Exploring The Unique Flavors And Atmosphere Of Maple Leaf Diner

The diner offers authentic Canadian cuisine with top-quality ingredients and a cozy atmosphere
Photo: Maple Leaf Diner

In September 2015, the Maple Leaf Diner opened its doors in Dallas-Fort Worth, bringing authentic Canadian cuisine to Texas. Local Profile sat down with Mike Delaurier, the owner, to discuss the inspiration behind the diner, the differences between Canadian and American diner food and the lessons learned from the restaurant industry.

Local Profile: How is Canadian diner food different from American diner food?

Mike Delaurier: At Maple Leaf, we pride ourselves on using top-notch ingredients, ensuring a superior dining experience. Unlike typical American diners, we focus on quality over cost so our guests enjoy the finest flavors in every dish. Additionally, Canadian diners, like ours, have a welcoming, home-style atmosphere that adds comfort to the dining experience for our guests.

LP: When you moved to Texas, what Canadian dishes did you miss the most?

MD: When I moved to Texas, I really missed poutine (hand-cut french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy), Canadian peameal bacon, butter tarts and Nanaimo Bars. So, I took matters into my own hands, officially opening Maple Leaf Diner in September 2015, ensuring I could enjoy and share these dishes with the Dallas-Fort Worth community.

LP: Every weekend, the line to Maple Leaf Diner is very long! What do you think your guests love most about the restaurant? And why do you think they return?

MD: Guests return for our exceptional service, cozy atmosphere and high-quality, authentic Canadian dishes. People can eat anywhere, but Maple Leaf offers incredible food and service, resulting in a high-quality dining experience for guests. Our line ramps up mid-morning from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and after Sunday church. For shorter wait times, I suggest coming for an earlier breakfast or a late lunch, especially on weekends when we extend our hours until 4 p.m.

LP: Did you have to tweak any recipes to make them more approachable for Texas?

MD: I constantly tweak recipes to ensure they meet the expected quality. I am a perfectionist, so I want every dish at Maple Leaf to be up to my standards. I created the chicken, bacon and waffles dish for Texas, now our number-one seller. Chicken and waffles aren't big in Canada but popular here, so we adapted them for our menu, making them sweeter and more decadent. Ultimately, our recipes and flavors are always being tweaked to satisfy the needs and wants of our guests.

LP: Does food in Ontario, for example, differ from food in Alberta? How regional is the food? Are there any dishes at Maple Leaf that are specific to Ontario?

MD: Canada is a big country, and the cuisine varies based on your region. For example, poutine is one of the most authentic Canadian dishes. It originated in Quebec and eventually made its way down through Ontario and throughout the East Coast. But poutine took more time to travel westward and did not become a staple along the West Coast and Alberta for quite some time.

LP: Do you have plans to open a new location? Would you be interested in opening one in, for example, Collin County?

MD: I’ve been toying with the idea of opening another Maple Leaf Diner or a rendition of the Maple Leaf Diner. I say ‘rendition’ because our food is so dialed in that I'm nervous about opening another one because of the risk of jeopardizing the quality. Maintaining quality controls and ensuring guests have the best experience possible is hard. You can go to several small restaurant chains with multiple locations and have a different experience at each one, which scares me. Additionally, our internal motto and governance keep us from expanding because no matter what we want, the Maple Leaf Diner always takes the first precedence. 

The most important thing to us is to ensure the guy at table three is cared for and has the best experience possible. Our motto is “reputation over profit all the time.” All our decisions are based on that motto. I mentioned earlier that I am a perfectionist, so I am constantly improving to make things the best they can be for our guests. When we live by our motto, it makes my decision slower about opening another spot, simply because I am nervous about keeping the reputation we’ve built and worked so hard to maintain. Until I figure out how to do it perfectly, I will hold off. If I ever make the jump, it will be really good.

LP: What do you miss most about Canada?

MD: I miss the trees and the nature of Canada. I’m a big outdoors guy and miss the homey feel of going up North. I also miss my friends and family and the food, specifically the infamous butter tarts. Everyone has a certain degree of homesickness from where they grew up, but I am grateful for the opportunity to share what I love and miss most about Canada and bring it to Texas. This opportunity allowed me to bring a piece of my homeland to an entirely new community, enriching their lives and mine with the traditions and flavors that define my Canadian roots.

LP: What is your favorite brunch item at Maple Leaf?

MD: The Canadian eggs benedict with our peameal bacon.

LP: How did you get into the restaurant industry?

MD: My roots in the restaurant industry run deep. My grandparents started a restaurant in 1967. My dad worked in the restaurant business and met my mom in the business, too. I started working in the kitchen for our family at age 14. This upbringing instilled a profound appreciation for hospitality and a strong work ethic that carried me to where I am today and continues to shape my career. With this experience and my passion for the industry, I decided to open Maple Leaf Diner. The concept behind Maple Leaf Diner stemmed from the lack of diners around; not many restaurants had real homemade home cooking. Also, my quest was to find food reminiscent of home in my wife's hometown of Dallas.

LP: What is one lesson you've learned from the restaurant industry that you can apply to other aspects of your life?

MD: Never give up. Always keep going, even when things get tough. Also, be nice to everyone — even those who make it hard to be nice to. That’s the Canadian in me, and it has served me well.

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