Since 1963, Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn has served home-made buckwheat pancakes with 100% maple syrup to hungry patrons. After suffering through not one, but two, fires, the family persevered. They rebuilt their sugar shack into a thriving restaurant where they serve their buckwheat pancakes and sell their maple syrup to the public. A few modern conveniences have improved and quickened the syrup production process, but the end product is just as authentic as it was all those years ago.
About a 1 1/2 hour drive from Rochester, NY, Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn is located in the small town of Angelica, NY. Don’t blink, because you might miss it. And you don’t want to miss it. Oh, and bring cash, because they don’t take any other form of payment.
It didn’t help that the temperature hovered around 17F on the Sunday afternoon we decided to make the trek out for pancakes to the Maple Tree Inn . With four of us in the car, the hour and a half drive didn’t seem too long. I had heard stories of people walking a long way just to get to the inn, as parking was said to be so overcrowded. However, I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to walk far at all. Sharon parked the car on the side of the road, a few hundred feet from the Inn entrance. We made our way up the road and got into line.
The line moved very slowly. For the first half hour, Barb, Mary, Sharon and I stood on the dirt and stone driveway, and then later on concrete, exposed to the elements in the outdoor line. We passed the time by chatting with fellow pancake warriors. But soon the cold was almost unbearable. Eventually we made our way to the “enclosed” section of the line, which consisted of wooden beams wrapped with plastic sheeting, enough to keep out the wind, but also the sun. Finally, we got inside! We waited another 20 minutes or so until we were finally seated. Over an hour is unfair amount of time to wait for pancakes, regardless of how wonderful they may be. HINT: visit during the week when the line is close to non-existent.
Think log cabin on steroids. Fashioned with walls of polished wood, the Maple Tree Inn was definitely inspired by a log cabin design. Wall decorations reminisced of a simpler way of life, in a simpler time…possibly when there was no heat? I was happy to see that there were modern bathroom facilities with running water and that the inn was wired with electricity. Seriously, I didn’t know what to expect, so I was excited for little victories.
Waiting in line for our table seemed a bit like a frontier cattle drive. The hostess only wanted to know how many people in each party – no names. We jostled for position, holding our ground. When we made it to the front of the line, behind a party of 6 or so, she called “four” and we strutted past the larger group as if we had accomplished some great feat – our table was now ready – step aside. I felt a rush of hot air hit my face as we entered the dining room – no lack of heat here. The hostess led us to the back of the dining room, to a cozy table and chairs by a window. Hey, this was prime seating space. Nice.
Once seated, there was no foolin’ around. The waitress lingered as we quickly looked at the menu and placed our orders. There was little time to read the back of the paper place mat, to find out about the history of the place.
The menu at Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn is simple. That’s good because your brain may be too frozen to think after waiting in line outside in the tundra.
You can have pancakes, eggs, more pancakes, ham, more pancakes, sausage patties or….well, pancakes. You see, the pancakes are available with unlimited refills. Yes, your read that correctly – unlimited refills. To make things easy, there are a few combinations to choose from:
- Buckwheat pancakes, a sausage patty, and a slice of ham – $7.55. (Add two eggs for and additional .80 cents).
- Buckwheat pancakes with two sausage patties (or two slices of ham) and scrambled eggs – $8.40
- Buckwheat pancakes with two sausage patties (or two sliced of ham) – $7.65
- Buckwheat pancakes with two scrambled eggs – $7.30
If you aren’t in the mood for pancakes (then why are you here?), try a burger, sausage burger, maple dog or a ham sandwich. Sides of sausage, eggs, ham, toast, and applesauce are also available.
You can also order off the children’s menu for kids under 12. Children under 2 years old get pancakes for free.
Desserts ($3-$4) feature a variety of maple desserts, including cheesecake, sundaes, ice cream, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and more. Thirsty? Choose from the standard array of beverages including coffee, tea, iced tea, milkshakes, juice, milk and soda. However, the maple tea (hot) or maple milkshake (cold) might just melt your maple cravings.
Each of us ordered pancakes, but with different sides. One ordered them with sausage and eggs, one with eggs and toast, one with no side. I ordered them with eggs and ham.
Never having eaten buckwheat pancakes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. They were light and airy and remarkably thin, more like a crêpe. I couldn’t help but notice a smokey flavor in the pancakes, although none of my table mates made mention of it. My first serving included two large pancakes, two scrambled eggs and two large slices of ham. I rounded out my order with a glass of refreshingly tart cranberry juice.
The eggs were tasty and cooked well. I had asked for them to be cooked “scrambled hard.” I got the distinct impression that the eggs were scrambled however they were scrambled, and that was that – deal with it. I got this impression first from the waitress’ shrug upon hearing my order and that we received our food within about 45 seconds of placing our order – really, I’m not kidding. Obviously, the kitchen staff has the food ready to go. There really would be no other way to serve the huge number of people in this dining room so quickly.
The ham was tasty, not too salty. I was pleased with the large serving size of the ham. Unfortunately, the all-you-can-eat aspect of this meal applied to the pancakes only. I would have liked another slice of ham, but no worries, the endless trail of pancakes made up for it.
Our server brought more pancakes before we were even half way through our first dish. They were served on a plate, covered with another plate, and placed in the center of the table, family style. We took one or two, and then yet another plate of pancakes was delivered and placed ON TOP of the first plate of pancakes. This made me a little nervous because we should be eating the pancakes on the bottom first. At one point, there were three plates of pancakes stacked in the middle of the table! Ahhhgggghhhh! It was like an episode of I love Lucy, except that there was no “OFF” button to stop the conveyor belt!
We made short work of the bottle of home-made maple syrup on the table. It definitely made the pancakes slide down more easily. And, since the waitress had apparently been distracted by pancake fever and forgot to bring my cranberry juice refill, I certainly needed help getting those pancakes down.
One of my lunch companions tried the Maple Tea which she said had a maple taste to it, but not anything unexpected.
As we practically rolled out of the dining room, overfull with pancakes, we came upon the tiny nook of a retail area near the cash register. It was just enough to make me want to stop and see what they had to offer. It was chock full of buckwheat flour, a large variety of maple syrup, t-shirts, pens and other fun mementos.
Had they sold snow globes with people freezing in line outside, I might have purchased one. Instead, I settled for a pen, a small piece of heart-shaped maple sugar candy, and a few tea bags of Maple tea.
The hostess and the servers at Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn were all friendly, albeit highly efficient. It is easy to see that they are trying to be polite as possible, while working as quickly as possible. With a long line of patrons, there is not time for chit-chat or leisurely conversation.
As I mentioned, our food was delivered in record time, and it just kept coming…too quickly for my liking. After driving an hour and half to get there, and waiting in line in the cold for an hour, we weren’t about to be rushed through enjoying our buckwheat pancakes. Oh, and that refill glass of cranberry juice only came after one of my table mates flagged down a server with hand signals that would make an airport runway worker proud!
Yes, the buckwheat pancakes were a nice treat, and the maple syrup was simply delicious. I am glad that I had the opportunity to go to Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn. I had heard about it from several people over the years and I had hoped some day to get there. Would I go back? Yes, I would, but only if the temperature was over freezing and if I didn’t have to wait in line outside. The best bet for that is to go on a week day, so I am told. Give it a try to enjoy the maple syrup that New York State has to offer. You better hurry though, because this year’s season ends on April 12th!
If you go:
Maple Tree Inn
4321 County Road 15A
Angelica, NY 14709
(2 miles from Short Tract, NY)
Email: unable to find an email address
Twitter: unable to find a Twitter account
Business Hours: Tues-Fri: 9am – 8pm, Sat: 8am – 8pm, Sun: 8am – 6pm (Closed Mon and Easter Sunday)
Meals Served: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu: Yes
Accepts Credit Cards: No – Cash Only (ATM in the lobby)
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service: Yes
Take Out: No
Outdoor Seating: No
Parking: Free and plentiful in private lot
Valet Service: No
Bar Seating: Yes
Coat Check: No
Date opened: 1963
Date visited: Sunday, March 22, 2015 (brunch)