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There will be a sustainable industry roundtable discussion at the restaurant Maepole on Thursday, Nov. 15. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com).

I visited Maepole for the first time on a pleasant August night as both the month and summer drew to a close. The new restaurant, which specializes in quick- cuisine — including hormone-free meat and nothing with high-fructose corn syrup — resides at 1021 N Chase St.

This area is more industrial, and a water tower and other warehouses blend into the background of Maepole. The outdoor dining area is fantastic — a porch strung with lights and several bright blue picnic tables form a backyard of sorts.

Now for the food — the typical way to order at Maepole is divided into four steps. These are as follows: 1) Choose a base; 2) pick two sides; 3) add a protein; and 4) pick a sauce. Let’s start out with my number one.

I chose brown rice, and while this may sound boring from the outset, it’s not. Herbs and lemon are mixed in with it, which pairs nicely with the comforting taste of the brown rice.

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Customers at the new Maepole restaraunt on Friday, August 31, 2018 on Chase Street in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com).

For my two sides, I picked seared green beans — they were paired with delicious vidalias — and mac and cheese. The green beans and vidalias were extremely flavorful, and they could make converts out of the pickiest of eaters. The mac and cheese, on the other hand, was a bit too sticky. I tried to get forkfuls of it, but it proved difficult. It tasted good, but it definitely wasn’t the crispiest or cheesiest iteration of the side I’ve ever had.

Shredded pork with citrus and Latin spices was my choice for protein as I rounded out the solid portions of my meal. The pork had a nice texture — it wasn’t too chewy but still offered enough to savor. The spices and citrus added complexity to a meat that’s often not considered that complicated.

The fourth and final step of ordering at Maepole is choosing your sauce. There are four sauces, and each one is as unusual as the next: buttermilk, turmeric-ginger, sriracha-honey and pesto vinaigrette. I was feeling in the mood for something a little spicy, so I decided on sriracha-honey. I poured it across my my brown rice and veggies, and it was nothing like I’d ever had before. The heat of the sriracha enlivened the brown rice, and the sweet aftertaste of the honey helped cut the overall spiciness.

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Customers at the new Maepole restaraunt on Friday, August 31, 2018 on Chase Street in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Christina R. Matacotta, crmatacotta@gmail.com).

The ways in which Maepole isn’t your typical restaurant didn’t stop there — instead of the run-of-the-mill Pepsi or Coca-Cola drink machine, it has a Boylan Bottling craft soda fountain. Every Boylan beverage is made with cane sugar, which cuts down on the carbonation and completely eliminates high-fructose corn syrup.

Flavors range from root beer to ginger ale to even black cherry, but I decided on a classic lemon-lime soda. This soda was immensely refreshing, and the sour flavors were offset nicely by the pure sweetness of cane sugar.

Even though every Maepole meal is served to the customer in what looks to be a to-go box, don’t assume that you’re not going to get a hefty amount of grub. I left the restaurant satisfied, and I’ll definitely be headed back to try some new and exciting combination of food and outdoor dining.

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