by Alice Levitt
Maple season is fast approaching, but in St. Albans it will arrive at 7 a.m. on Thursday, February 21.
That's when Maple City Diner opens at 17 Swanton Road, the home of Athena's Diner since 2011.
The owners of the new eatery are familiar faces in the Maple City itself — Marcus and Erika Hamblett, the owners of One Federal.
Erika Hamblett says that she and her husband will take over the space tomorrow and close for minor cosmetic changes, then reopen for seven-days-a-week service on Tuesday.
Those changes include vintage photos of local sugar houses. Soon, wood booths will replace the conventional diner booths for more of a sugar-shack feel, says Marcus Hamblett.
The menu, prepared by chef de cuisine and One Federal alum Stephen Young, also takes a cue from sugaring time. Breakfast includes a bacon waffle topped with maple butter; brown-sugar-pecan French toast; and skillets such as "the Vermonter," with apple, caramelized onion, bacon and cheddar over home fries and eggs.
Lunch features classic diner fare such as hot open hamburg and turkey sandwiches and a variety of burgers and clubs. Dinner brings seared pork loin and chicken topped with cheddar, apples and bacon. One Federal's popular house maple vinaigrette will top salads.
As at the Hamblett's 4-year-old restaurant, nearly everything will be made from scratch and locally sourced.
Though Maple City Diner will serve a full menu from the beginning, the owners have plans for growth in months to come. New England Culinary Institute grad Marcus Hamblett envisions a grab-and-go counter similar to the one at the defunct Burlington NECI Commons. There, freshly made breads, sandwiches and prepared salads will be available to-go, along with homemade pies, cakes and other pastries, including "big maple cinnamon buns."
Doughnuts will also be a big part of the fun. A doughnut machine will soon be popping out fresh desserts, including a bacon version.
Maple lovers of the world, unite and take over.