Ever since I first met the new majority owner of the Maple Mountain Bar and Grill in Spanish Fork and wrote about the major changes the bar went under to become a dining destination, I’ve been dying to go back and try it. I think it’s safe to say Maple Mountain Bar and Grill is really good at what it’s always done — but it still has a ways to go before becoming a gourmet restaurant.

I don’t drink alcohol, so in the interest of covering all the bases when visiting a bar, I brought along a coworker who does. Now, I’m the kind of person who studies restaurant menus days or even weeks in advance to determine what I’m going to get, and a month or so ago the Maple Mountain Bar and Grill had an extensive drink menu listed on its site, matching what the new owner told me about expanding the drinks served. However, the day we had planned to go, the online drink menu had mysteriously disappeared and we were told upon arrival there was no drink menu. I was pretty disappointed because the drink menu had seven mocktails and there was a spicy jalapeño watermelon mocktail I was dying to try.

However, our friendly waitress was quick to recommend Peach Moscow Mules, the bartender’s specialty. I got a non-alcoholic version of the drink and my coworker got the alcoholic version. I loved it — I’ve always thought a Moscow Mule, featuring ginger beer and lime juice, sounded delicious, and the virgin version did not disappoint! Plus it traditionally comes in very aesthetically pleasing copper mugs, so no complaints there, and is served with a paper straw, so points for environmental friendliness!

Because Maple Mountain Bar and Grill is first and foremost a bar, we opted to order a fairly traditional bar food that both my coworker and I love: jalapeño poppers. If you don’t know, jalapeño poppers are jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese, breaded and fried (although several variations exist). They’re glorious.

Our poppers arrived — all seven of them (this is not a dig as they are very rich and filling) — on a bed of fries. While the poppers were extremely hot (and hot cream cheese can be deadly, so watch out), the fries were mysteriously cold. But we weren’t too concerned since we cared more about the poppers.

They were fried to crispy perfection, although the ratio of cream cheese to jalapeño left a bit to be desired, too much cream cheese and not enough jalapeño — and honestly, for all the talk about revamping the bar’s kitchen, I’m very suspicious the poppers were frozen. But again, fried cream cheese — I really can’t complain. Also, the poppers came with ranch and fry sauce. The fry sauce was just OK, but I prefer ranch anyway.

I ordered a flat iron steak cooked medium-rare. It’s the cheapest cut on the menu and I figured if Maple Mountain Bar and Grill is looking to establish a reputation as a steakhouse, I should order the steak, right? Here was another small mishap: Our waitress informed us they weren’t preparing flat iron steak that night. I switched my order to the salmon — I love salmon. My coworker ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which we also felt is a basic meal that would allow us to easily judge the quality of the food.

I ordered mashed potatoes to accompany my salmon and my coworker’s sandwich came with fries. Honestly, her fries might have been the best part of the meal. They were PERFECT. Thick cut, perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, not too salty — I’m dreaming about them even as I write this. My mashed potatoes had a good texture but featured a flavor we couldn’t quite place that wasn’t exactly good. However, eating them with the provided gravy did improve upon the mysterious flavor.

Unfortunately, the main events of the meal — the pulled pork sandwich and the salmon — were pretty disappointing. The pulled pork sandwich was dry and not very memorable. The salmon was memorable, but not for all good reasons. The flavoring of the salmon had great potential — it was sweet, a little spicy, with lots of dill. (I love dill, so that was great for me; my coworker does not love dill so she didn’t love it as much. So that’s just a matter of preference.) However, it was severely overcooked and I ultimately left most of it untouched, in favor of stealing my coworker’s fries.

Oh, and the worst part of my meal was the steamed veggies on the side. Let me be clear: I love vegetables, but I didn’t know I loved vegetables until I cooked them for myself. Steamed vegetables will always be the worst choice! Also, the menu says the vegetables are “seasonal,” and the owner confirmed the restaurant sourced as many ingredients locally as possible. I was expecting some fresh zucchini sauteed. What I got was definitely a frozen vegetable medley that had probably been popped in a microwave — and I’m confident about this because the mix was zucchini, but also broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrots. Regardless of the season, locally sourced carrots do not come in baby form. I didn’t even touch the sad-looking vegetables on my plate.

Despite the so-so nature of our entrees, my coworker and I rallied for dessert. The Maple Mountain Bar and Grill offers three desserts currently: bananas foster, cheesecake and a cookie skillet (chocolate chip cookies baked and then served with vanilla ice cream). We ordered the cookie skillet because, hello, cookies and ice cream.

I’m really not sure how this is possible, but even though the cookies had a crisp outside texture, they were completely uncooked in the middle. Just straight goo. Which, if you’re a cookie dough fan, is great! They were still warm and paired with vanilla ice cream, super delicious, as all cookies/cookie dough and ice cream is. After a few bites though we were done.

Overall, I have to confess I was disappointed. Despite alleged renovations to expand the kitchen and train new staff, a lot of our meal seemed like it was either prepared from frozen or pre-packaged ingredients, or it just wasn’t cooked well.

However, I will not be writing off the Maple Mountain Bar and Grill anytime soon, and I plan to return. I just noticed this week the website has been updated to include “Taco Tuesday,” “Wings and Whiskey Wednesday” and “Thirsty Thursday” featuring fish and chips. I love tacos, wings, and fish and chips, so I’m definitely willing to come back and try these. Plus, Maple Mountain Bar and Grill offers tons of other fun activities, like karaoke, dancing and even a paint night every other Thursday, which is perfect to enjoy alongside drinks and appetizers, which by far were the best parts of our meal.

So, for great drinks and excellent fries, jalapeño poppers and beyond at the beginning or end of a fun night singing karaoke, dancing, playing pool or painting — I’ll definitely be returning to the Maple Mountain Bar and Grill. I’ll probably just skip the salmon.

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

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