When you first walk into Maple Tree Deli in Riverhead, you find a wide variety of smoked meats to choose from. It can be a difficult task trying to pick out which food item you most want to eat. Owner Kevin Judge, offers a helping hand to his customers by asking, “Well, do you want to eat healthy and flavorful, or just plain flavorful?” Depending on your answer, Judge will give you suggestions.
He asked this question of me and my friend when we walked into the quaint, wood-embellished deli. In order for us to get the full experience, we had to go all out with the flavor. With that being our answer, Judge suggested two of his favorite sandwiches to share. While we were waiting for our mouthwatering sandwiches, Judge brought us his signature sweet tea and was it sweet!—but very refreshing. He also brought us some smoked chicken wings to try. They had a wonderful smoky flavor and were so tender the meat just fell right off the bone. As a dip for the wings, he gave us the deli’s most popular barbeque sauce. It was thick and sweet with a nice kick of spice at the end. Of the sauces we tried it was definitely one of our favorites.
The high-stacked sandwiches finally came out and they were full of meaty goodness. First we tasted The Ranch Hand, which is a Texas beef brisket sandwich with smoked beans and herbed potatoes. Who would ever think to put a whole meal of beef, beans and potatoes inside a bun? Judge did, and it’s delicious. The fatty, juicy beef with the smoky beans and creamy potatoes makes for a perfect barbeque bite. The other sandwich we sampled is called The Tar Heel, which is Carolina pork with coleslaw and cheddar cheese. I was surprised to see that the pork wasn’t drenched in a thick, red sauce. Judge explained that he likes to do “east coast” barbeque, meaning that the sauce is vinegar-based, not tomato-based. It was actually light without a thick sauce and the coleslaw gave a pleasant cooling effect—it didn’t make the sandwich heavy because it contained no mayonnaise. Along with our sandwiches came the hand-cut regular and sweet potato fries, which were tender and crisp.
Judge also let us sample more of his meats. My favorite was the pastrami. It had such big flavor and was so succulent; I wanted a Rueben after that. The deli offers light, healthier options, as well, to please everyone. They have a smoked chicken chili with three kinds of beans and freshly carved turkey with tart cranberry-orange compote. Light, yet still very tasty. They have recently started making desserts. My friend and I got to try the chocolate ganache cake that tasted a lot like a brownie.
Even though the deli is relatively small, Maple Tree produces a lot of great barbeque. And now that summer is approaching, the catering side of the business will really pick up. So, if you’re in Riverhead and want a good bite to eat or if you need a special event catered, Maple Tree Deli is the place to go.
Maple Tree Deli, 820 West Main Street, Riverhead, 631-727-2819, mapletreebbq.com