The saying goes it’s about the journey not the destination, right? On that criteria alone, the best diner in the world is located in rural western New York.
You really need to be in the know and have true breakfast passion to make your way to Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn. It’s only open from the beginning of February through the beginning of April. The closet cities are Buffalo and Rochester… and each manages to be about an hour and a half away. If it wasn’t for a PBS breakfast special, this wouldn’t have even been on my radar.
Angelica, N.Y. isn’t the easiest place to locate and the limited months open only make Cartwright’s more dificult to reach. Rest assured that after you get off I-90, you’ll get your share of rural New York roads. At least the hours of operation (9-8p Tu-Fr / 8-8p Sat /8-6p Sun) give plenty of leeway for travel time.
Once at the Maple Tree Inn, you’ll luckily avoid a wait. This place is huge. There’s every type of seating imagineable, a gift shop and a sizeable waiting area inside. The Maple Tree Inn also grows and makes all its own maple syrup so there’s no telling if parts of that process are housed somewhere on the grounds. The decor matches the trip and the homegrown approach perfectly with woodworking and kitchen knick-knacks all over.
By this point in the reiew, you’re probably wondering if all the trials and tribulations to find the Maple Tree Inn are worth it. Well, the menu is limited. There are some non-breakfast items (burgers, sandwiches) but the center piece is pancake. All breakfast combos are some type of meat with unlimited pancakes (yep, unlimited pancakes) for under $10. I opted for two meats with the pancakes for just $7.50. The meats are pretty standard – hearty, slightly greasy and nothing special. The pancakes are unique though. The Maple Tree Inn uses buckwheat which results in a lighter pancake with slight grain flavor. When you combine it with the pure maple (far more viscous than store-bought syrup, less sugary) it’s an entirely different flavor profile than your average pancake. I felt I had to eat enough to make the trip worth it, but if this place was local buckwheat pancakes would become a craving every now and then. The pure maple milkshakes on the other hand would become a regular routine (unbelievable, perfect thickness and not overly sweet).
The experience of finding and reaching Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn was an adventure any New York State breakfast enthusiasts should certainly try. With all the lure around it and the effort it takes, I’m not sure the food at Cartwright’s could ever win visitors over 100 percent. However, if you had buckwheat pancakes, pure maple and those milkshakes at your disposal down the street, you’d certainly have a regular rotation breakfast place. It’s all in the journey, and that’s the only piece that holds Cartwright’s back from being a diner to visit regularly.
The Final Tab
Pros: High adventure potential, great space, solid and unique food, unlimited portions
Cons: Higher prices than expected, hard travel, very limited seasonal opening
Three Out Of Five (Basic combo | It’s OK – try it.)