Hidden Gem a real find in Trappe

TRAPPE — If you’ve heard about the Hidden Gem of a restaurant in Trappe, but you have never been there, it might be worth a trip.

The “Hidden Gem” has been in business in Trappe for about 18 months, but its owner Debbie Cussen said a lot of people still don’t know that it’s there.

“We’re only two blocks off Route 50 but we’re still hard to find. When people do find us, they generally go away happy.”

The restuarant is located at 29350 Maple Avenue, near the “downtown” crossroads in Trappe.

Ms. Cussen’s son Matthew’s pizzeria, Bella’s Pizza and Market, is located just “17 steps” awsay at 4014 Main Street, and the two go out of their way to make their bueinesses “a family affair” by allowing takeout to be eaten at the other place, since Bella’s doesn’t sell alcoholic beverages.

Though Matthew is 23 and Bella’s is his first effort at running a restaurant, Debbie has been in the business much longer. Many diners, she said, will remember her as the owner/operator of Debbie’s Deli and Cafe in the Shoal Creek Mall in Cambridge, which she ran for many years after moving into an older restaurant owned by Teddy Bramble.

“I told him I loved his restaurant and would take it off his hands whenever he was ready.He handed the keys to me that day,” said Ms. Cussen. “It was great. Over the years I had been collecting my own dishes and keeping a list. Having a place like that let me fulfill my dream of making these dishes.”

Ms. Cussen ran the restaurant for three years before moving to Georgia where she ran a resturant for seven years before moving to Trappe seven years later.

Upon her return she was looking for s place, when her current location became available. Even though it was off the highway and tucked away on the first floor of the backend of a much larger building, she jumped at the chance.

Ms. Cussen said she has tried to run a family-oriented place that is nice enough to also be a special dining experience and said she has two favorite slogans as pertains to her restaurant and the food it serves — “Homemade and We Mean It” and “Liver to Lobster.”

She said all her seafood is fresh, as is our other ingredients.”

Everything is made and served fresh, she said
“If we run out of it, we don’t apologize for it,” said Ms. Cussen.

Ms. Cussen said dinner is offered at “all price points” from the lowest priced entrees at $12 which include liver and onions, “really great” meat loaf, a roast turkey platter, or a hot roast beef platter. For $14, one can enjoy a five-cheese lasagna dinner, catfish, eggplant and spinach parmigiana.

There are also steaks, prime rib and lots of seafood dishes.

Breakfast and lunch are also homemade as the restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Breakfast is fresh ... and it’s not just eggs,” said Ms. Cussan, who said she has tried to present a diversified, wide choice menu for every meal.

She added that up the street, clientele can order a pizza and bring it to her restaurant to eat. At her son’s pizzeria, there is also a number of “Heat and Eat” and “Grab and Go” premade meals.

Ms. Cussen said during her first year business was really good — “you had to have a restaurant on weekends” — but that several factors have slowed business over the last three months.

She said the weather, holiday season and economy have all affected her business, but added that a rumor that her restaurant had closed caused her to lose a lot of regular business.

“I don’t really know how the rumor got started, but somehow rumor got out that we have closed - i haven’t been closed but Christmas Day since we opened — but there was a flyer sent out that alluded to that because it said people should meet ‘at the parking lot where the Hidden Gem used to be,’ and that really made matters bad.”

Ms. Cussen said she has a good idea where the rumor came from and told off-the-record of some unscrupulous things that had occured to her.

Despite all that, Ms. Cussen said she has tried to weather the storm.

“I love the restaurant business and there are people that come here and remember me from Cambridge. Several towns have asked me to relocate, but I live in Trappe and I think my restaurant being here can bring people to town,” she said.