Maria’s Rules in Prompt Service And Good Food
By The BaldOne
At 10 Jefferson Avenue, just past a storage building that once housed Thermal Circuits sits a small strip mall. Situated in that mall is a convenience store, a dry cleaners, and a driving school. There is also a small Salem institution known as Maria’s Place.
Like many places in town it has changed hands once or twice. Local lore credits the original founders\ of Red’s as also being the founder of Maria’s Place. They are very much an old-school business in that there is no website. Old school is not always bad.
On a recent Sunday morning I visited with another of our top operatives, the lovely Ms. Mysterious to test their breakfast offerings. We arrived about 10:30 A. M. to see a group of people standing on the sidewalk or sitting on benches waiting for tables. There were also some folks waiting in the small lobby and in the dining room. In Salem, waiting in line for a Sunday morning breakfast is just something to be expected.
Much to our surprise there were a few seats available at the counter right in front of the large flat-top grill. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. We made ourselves comfortable as the waitress gave us menus and poured two coffees, just like the old school rules require.
Each if us selected our meals from the Specials Board. I went for the Alpine Omelet which is three eggs, bacon, fresh mushrooms (not canned), onion and swiss cheese. The Spinach and Feta Scramble was the choice of Ms. Mysterious.
We had time to watch as eight meals were completed and picked up by waitstaff when suddenly our meals were in front of us. We had not been there five minutes, in a busy restaurant and we already had food in front of us, hot and fresh. That old school thing was again in play.
The scrambled eggs were cooked lightly, but were not runny and had plenty of spinach and feta cheese. My omelet was slightly larger than the plate and quite full of with strips of bacon, thick pieces of fresh mushroom, onion, and a good portion of cheese. The home fries were portioned generously and still warm as they had come right off of the hot grill. There was some flavor to them and we added to that with some Frank’s Hot Sauce. Each of us had the marble rye toast which was buttered lightly.
It was fascinating to watch and listen as five very competent cooks shared and swapped space at the grill while pancakes, eggs, sausage, and corned beef hash sizzled on the grill. The potatoes and bacon were piled high as cooking utensils clicked, plates clattered and waitresses let the cooks know when the white toast was on the wrong plate.
As plates for the dining room were placed on the counter, the waitresses were right there to pick them up. While there were always four or five plates ready to go to tables, they never spent more than a minute or so before being snatched up for delivery to hungry patrons.
Somehow, despite the counter filling up since we arrived, our coffee cups were never even close to being empty or the contents cold. Old school again.
Some of the waitresses have been there for a while and their experience and knowledge of the floor show in their every action. They run the room like they own it, because they actually do own it. Their communications with the cooks are short and clear and and their comfort with the customers clearly evident. We did not witness a single rushed moment.
In a city full of eateries of all types, Maria’s Place does indeed stand out as old school. It is not a “no frills”place at all however, it is a place dedicated to good, quality food and service. No pomp, no circumstance, and no attitude. What you see is what you get, and that is a clean kitchen, prompt service by great staff, and really good food. If those are not frills, then there are no frills.
Let’s hear it for the old school at Maria’s Place or better yet let’s hold them up as a model for the next generation of new school.