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Sweet Relish and The Laurel Coming to Maplewood

Two new businesses -- a gourmet grocery/housewares store and a bistro-inspired restaurant -- will open their doors in the Village.

Sweet Relish Gourmet Marketplace is the latest venture from Maplewood's hardest working family, the Vayas's. Mary Vayas, who owns (as well as and the chain with husband, Angelo), plans to open the shop within the next couple of weeks in the former Edith's Cafe space at 163 Maplewood Avenue.

"We will have kitchen and housewares, fresh breads from well-known bakeries in New Jersey and New York, and Italian and Greek cheeses," said Vayas, listing just some of the store's offerings. The shop will also feature artisanal oils, jams, chocolates and other goodies from small vendors in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Garden State.

As is apparent from the wonderfully varied selection of clothes, jewelry and gifts at No. 165, this lady knows a thing or two about how to curate items that people crave. "It will be a mix of things you can't get at places like Whole Foods or King's," said Vayas.

The store is scheduled to open its doors just in time for Mother's Day.

Meanwhile, over at the former spot, restaurateur Lauren Dwyer will launch The Laurel, an eclectic eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in a newly renovated space that will open on May 3.

Dwyer, who lives in Montclair but considers Maplewood her "second home," is opening The Laurel with her father, Dennis Dwyer, a seasoned, CIA-trained chef who has cooked in restaurants in New York and New Jersey.

"I've wanted to own my own restaurant since I was 17," said the 27-year-old Ms. Dwyer. She and her father -- along with Dwyer's longtime boyfriend, local realtor PJ DeCicco -- had been scouting the town for a suitable space for several years.  When , the duo jumped at the chance.

They have completely transformed the space into an airy, spacious bistro-style restaurant. The floors are light bleached wood and the walls are lined with weathered wooden benches that were reclaimed from an old church. Between the marble-topped bistro tables and the six-seat counter that runs along the front window, the place will seat 35 people. The kitchen is outfitted with brand new equipment.

As for the moniker, Dwyer said it is both a play on her name and a nod to the bay, or Laurel, plant. "Our logo also incorporates the Laurel wreath, which is associated with victory, wisdom, and creativity," she said. "And of course the bay leaf is used in cooking."

Dwyer described the cuisine as a combination of American comfort food with a European influence, with a dash of healthy-eating options. 

Patch got a sneak peek at the menu, which will include such offerings as Oven Baked Eggs, Braised Potatoes, Dutch Baby and Bruleed Grapefruit for breakfast; and a Rosemary Baked Ham Sandwich, seasonal soups, and Kale Salad with Smoked Gouda, Almonds, Apples and Garlic Yogurt Dressing for lunch.  

The dinner menu will feature Chicken Pot Pie, Moroccan Stew, Tomato Ginger Shrimp and Lemon Roasted Chicken, among other entrees.  There will also be a snack menu for those in-between times: how about some Stuffed Peppadews, Deviled Eggs 3 Ways, Crunchy Chickpeas or Greek Meatballs?

The owners plan to offer smoothies and fresh fruit juices (which they will happily mix with BYO champagne for weekend brunches). Coffee is from North Carolina-based small producer Counter Culture Coffee.

There will be a children's menu -- with housemade peanut butter and jam sandwiches -- and take out will be available.

"Biscuits will be one of our specialties," Dwyer noted, and they will be served with homemade jam and honey butter.  All of the food will be fresh and made to order, including the sauces, jams and even the ketchup.

After working in other people's restaurants for so many years, this father-daughter team is thrilled to call The Laurel their own. "This is for us now," said Dennis.  His daughter agreed: "It's our baby."

Jonah Zimiles April 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM
[words] Bookstore is excited to have these two new businesses join us on Maplewood Avenue and wishes them great success!
KSSR May 21, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I went to The Laurel the other day to try it out for lunch but they told me that I couldn't order from the lunch menu because it wasn't 11:30am yet. Do you know what time it was when they told me this? 11:25am. I asked them if they were serious and they said yes with a straight face. A terrible first impression and they lost a future customer. Sad.
Maplewood Eater May 26, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Went here for brunch. Not impressed. At all. It's a shame, too. Seems to me to be another example of fashion over function. It has the look and feel of a creative, upscale cafe. But unfortunately the menu descriptions are far more appetizing than the food itself. We paid $42 for a meal that couldn't have cost more than $7 at home. If the dishes offered anything special, I'd be happy to shell out the cash. But sadly this wasn't the case.
Porcupine June 24, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Just tried Laurel for dinner. Yes, there was a wait, but that tends to be the case when eating out, and I wasn't about to allow a few minutes delay to turn me off a restaurant (now that would be sad). I had the Greek meatballs and mussels, and my fellow diners had the burger, crispy chickpeas, mac and cheese and chicken pot pie. Between the three of us, we got a pretty good cross-section of Laurel's dinner menu. I would definitely go back again - the potpie was perfect, mac cheesy and cozy, meatballs scrumptious, and I could eat those chickpeas like popcorn. Laurel isn't a fancy restaurant. The food is simple and homey - cooking all of those dishes myself would be possible, but I couldn't as cheaply as the poster above suggested (what magical grocery store are they shopping at? I want those prices). If you're wondering whether or not to try Laurel, don't allow the first world problems up there to turn you away. It is worth a visit, and by all means get those chickpeas.
Maplewood Eater August 18, 2012 at 10:57 AM
I don't think that meme means what you think it does. First world problems? Getting ripped off for mediocre to bad food? And by the way, that "magical" grocery store is Whole Foods. You sound like a shill - pretty clearly the owner of the restaurant - but I'll straighten this out for you anyway. You're expected to pay a huge markup for food in a restaurant. Margins are slim, and that extra money is paying salary for the cooks, the wait staff, etc. In cases where the food is good and the experience is pleasant, most people are happy to overpay, because you're actually getting something for that markup. On the other end, when the food and service are lackluster, it's that much more tempting to just stay at home and make the same shit for a fraction of the price.
pzap January 27, 2013 at 08:59 PM
I have had at least 5 delicious and reasonable priced meals at The Laurel. I have cravings for the Kale Salad it is so good! Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner have all been very good - my dinner companions all agreed!

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