The pastry counter at Maples in New Gloucester. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

Launched in 1889, the Michelin Guide was intended to aid drivers, and at the same time promote France’s nascent car industry. The little red book was filled with driving tips, maps and suggested stops for a break. The idea was that Frenchmen and women would enjoy day tripping in their newfangled automobiles, and in turn, spur others to buy cars. In the 1920s, the guide began to award stars to restaurants, and today, two (much coveted) Michelin stars means a restaurant is “worth the drive.”

Yeah, no. It takes more than a helpful guide to get me behind the wheel. I find driving scary, polluting and time-sucking. So it’s saying something that I’d give serious consideration to turning key in ignition and driving 25 miles (each way!) to Maples – which inconveniently relocated from Yarmouth to New Gloucester (farther from me!) last spring.

I’d go back for the bagels ($2.50 each), already sold out by the time I arrived at noon on a Thursday in early October. Say it ain’t so! I’d been dreaming about the sweet and salty rosemary bagels. I’d go back for the ricotta cookie ($2.75), which fought for my attention with the cinnamon-dusted soft pretzel ($4.50). I went with the pretzel. A tiny mouse place holder by the pretzels held up a small placard that read, “A little crispier than normal!!! but still!!! yum. yum. yum!!!” I can attest to that. So I’m not complaining. It’s just that I wanted that ricotta cookie, too.

Coffee – what about coffee? It was too late in the day for me to enjoy a cup and still be able to sleep that night, but the coffee looked a treat, and if you drink it at the cafe, it’s served in real mugs. Those same mugs, made by potter Lynda Rosengren, are offered for sale at Maples. And, oh, those Fancy Toasts ($8.50). The toppings change seasonally, ranging from butternut squash to white bean, local strawberries to tomatoes. Next time.

The Spicy Turkey sandwich. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

Two sandwiches caught my eye: The Country Ham ($9.50), which I’d tasted before at the old Maples, and is superb, and the Spicy Turkey ($9.50). I wavered – an old favorite or something new? In the end, I picked the turkey, which was ably supported by cheddar cheese, spicy mayonnaise, pepperoncinis and greens. It was a big, salty, lip-tingling, generous sandwich on Maple’s excellent sourdough bread – very filling and very delicious.

Maples also offers house-made English muffins, breakfast sandwiches and many other baked goods, blueberry muffins ($4), black-raspberry crumb bars ($5) and slices of pumpkin loaf ($3.75) among them on the afternoon I visited.

Cafe seating at Maples. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

A steady stream of customers came in for takeaway, but I was one of just a handful of diners eating my sandwich in the cafe. It’s a pleasant, light-filled spot with muted green-yellow walls, a pale wood vaulted ceiling, tables and counter seating, and two disco balls, one dangling over a baking shelf, another set on the floor by a houseplant. Why disco balls? I’ve no idea, but they made me smile. Behind the counter, the wallpaper resembled coffee beans, another nice touch.

Worth the drive!

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