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Sweet Spot

Introducing Hillcrest’s buzziest new resto!

Baker Kelly Stillwell’s apple pie update

Maple-bacon doughnuts cruise through the dining room on a 7-foot tray.

The mod, twinkly patio at Great Maple

Great Maple (thegreatmaple.com) bursts with party potential, which isn’t surprising when you consider it’s the latest offering of Johnny Rivera. He’s the Hillcrest king of cool (proprietor of fun-loving mainstays Hash House a Go Go and The Tractor Room) whose gap-toothed smile can light up a room the same way the Sputnik-inspired chandeliers over his newest eatery’s smashed-glass-and-brass bar cast a golden glow. Johnny is Great Maple’s heart, but that bar (with seating!) is the bustling resto’s hub and the first thing you see upon stepping into the midcentury-made-modern homage to its diner past. Behind it, the kitchen shimmers with activity. Off to one side, in a nook anchored by an abstract painting that sets the room’s vibrant sunshine and seascape color palette (Johnny’s design inspiration was the classic ’60s film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), bartenders pour drinks and mix cocktails, pausing to flip the records playing during happy hour on a vintage stereo (bring your vinyl). Front and center, cooks dash about, prepping dishes like lobster poutine, mini puff pastry-swaddled beef Wellingtons, excellent steak frites or a crispy-skinned duck that takes Great Maple’s diner roots in an madcap Paris bistro direction. But fans of Brian’s or Topsy’s still mourning the passing of those predecessors should take heart: Their fun, gum-snapping diner energy remains. It’s just channeled into cocktail carts zipping between tables delivering seasonal shake-ups, or into the 7-foot, hand-built, treat-laden planks born aloft through the room when the bar’s red light blinks on, a bit of doughnut-delivery theater. “This place is a survivor,” Rivera says of the iconic space, slotted for IHOP infamy before he wrangled the lease. “But we had to burn a lot of sage to give it this brand-new start.”