We ventured far south (13307 S. Olde Western Avenue in Blue Island) last night for some much longed-for cajun food. I returned to a place I hadn't visited in years.
My memories of the restaurant include the wonderful barbecue shrimp which aren't really barbecued, but like Pascale Manele's in New Orleans are humongous beasts swimming in a hickory, peppery butter sauce. These babies are a hands-on experience and the sauce was so good you wouldn't want to wash your hands until the hickory aroma dissipated some days later. But I digress. And since I didn't order them last night, I should get on with this.
The Maple Tree is half bar and half restaurant - about 15 tables or so. The beer menu is great with several of the Three Floyds microbrews offered amongst 20 other fine beers. I drank their pilsener and Paul had three different stouts. A mini-loaf of french bread comes with butter or a chive, cream cheese concoction which wasn't bad at all.
I started with a half dozen baked oysters, with 3 different toppings. The bienville and the other diablo (I think) were great. They covered the final pair with some cheese topping, which I don't think is a good idea. My friend Paul had calamari, which unfortunately suffered the fate of the last pair of oysters - covered with a melted white mass of cheese. Is this a Wisconsin thing?
Enough carping. The entrees were really good. Paul ordered a cajun seafood paella which had the usual suspects from the waters as well as a large chicken leg. The rice was onion laden and minus the usual saffron which is not a problem for Paul at all. He wolfed down every meat and seafood morsel and nearly finished off the rice. Very tasty, according to him, and very amply portioned.
I couln't face a half pound of melted hickory butter sauce at 10 at night so I ordered the cajun shrimp jambalaya instead of the barbecued shrimp. No tomatoes are used in this preperation and they weren't missed. Lots of great plump shrimp - about 15 or so - in another ample serving of jambalaya rice. Not as much rice as the paella, but still a daunting task to finish. In all, a very satisfying meal.
The Maple Tree is very comfortable. Food is good. Good beers. It's worth the outing.