Sam Hassan has wanted a restaurant in a community lacking in pretenses, and he's found it in Maple Falls.
Hassan operates the Maple Falls Café, which he took over last spring at 7471 Mount Baker Highway. Hassan's experience in owning and operating a restaurant is extensive, including several Seattle eateries that received quite a bit of media attention, such as the Rio Brazilian Grill, the Samba Brazilian Restaurant and most recently the Paratii Craft Bar in Ballard that he sold in February 2013. He's also had restaurants in Rio de Janeiro and London.
He ended up in Maple Falls after paying a visit to the area. He became interested in opening a distillery and saw an ad for the Maple Falls building. He had never been to the Mount Baker area and fell in love with Maple Falls, particularly the wooded setting. Teaming up with business partner Louise "Lou" Stromberg, the restaurant had a quiet, low-profile opening. He still has plans for a distillery.
Along with being in the forest, he enjoyed the idea of coming into a small town and keeping the menu simple, relying on items grown by local farmers to feed his creativity. As a result the menu is quite varied, including the Brazilian feijoada (a stew with beans and meat), fruit cobblers and the John Wayne Burger. The burger earned its name from a joke; one day on the restaurant's sandwich board was scrawled a fake "Best burger I ever had" quote attributed to the movie star and it caught on. The restaurant also has started delivering pizzas.
"(Running a restaurant in Maple Falls) gives me a chance to be myself," Hassan said. "I really enjoy interacting with the locals and meeting the farmers. This is exactly what I was looking for."
The meats are marinated, which has made the burgers a hit for local residents and Canadian visitors, he said.
The restaurant was involved in organizing the inaugural Maple Falls World Music Festival last spring, bringing in musicians from various countries, including France, Brazil and Ireland. Hassan said they plan on doing it again this year.
Winter hours for the restaurant are 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. For further details, visit maplefallscafe.com or call 360-599-1800.
-- The Bellingham Farmers Market is gearing up for its Saturday, April 5, opening with a variety of new vendors to go along many returning businesses. In the food-to-go category, new sellers include Kat's Crepes, Good to Go Meat Pies, Food Haus (German food) and Skagit Valley Cured Meats. New craft vendors include Cherry Clothes for Kids, pottery from Creative Muds, jewelry from Tamara Kelly's and natural cleaning supplies from Earthen Home. New farmers this year include Bluebell Gardens, Brittle Barn Farms, Leaky Dam Farm, Mariposa, Spring Time Farms and Outer County Farm.
-- Guido's Italian Cuisine Steakhouse & Pizzeria of Ferndale closed earlier this month.
-- A building permit application was filed to put in a new retail smoke shop at 4182 Cordata Parkway, near the Whatcom Transportation Authority Cordata Station.
-- Plum Chic, the women's consignment on Bakerview Square, was recently sold. According to the company's Facebook post, Carolyn Hansen purchased the business from Jennifer and Ryan McKee.