This couple brought their nationwide restaurant experiences together to create a unique, comforting menu. Discover what’s behind this simple menu and tantallzing desserts.
Eight years ago, Natalie and David Waeghe were growing weary of working in the corporate restaurant business in Chicagoland, so they set out to open their own place. The trouble was finding the right location. That problem was solved, however, when, during a visit to Natalie’s parents in Sycamore, they found just what they were looking for in a quaint brick building located off the downtown strip. It was the site of Michael’s, a former restaurant and wine retailer.
In 2004, the Waeghes opened Nat’s on Maple, 112 S. Maple St., a cozy eatery that offers a diverse menu, comfortable ambience and a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Operating Nat’s on Maple is definitely a team effort for the couple, who married 14 years ago and have two young children. Natalie is responsible for the front of the restaurant, while David runs the kitchen and serves as chef. “He’s always dabbling back there, trying to find a new twist on things,” says Natalie. “We serve trendy comfort foods. Variety is the key to our menu. We want to appeal to everyone.”
Lunch is known for its samples of bruschetta, along with salads, sandwiches and specials. Popular dinner items are pasta, seafood, steaks and cedar plank salmon. Chicken & biscuits and jambalaya also are popular, as is the bison burger, the latest addition to the menu. Dessert includes the tantalizing Snickers Tower: a generous bowl of Snickers Ice Cream, served over an Oreo base and topped with chocolate and more crushed Oreos. Creme brulee is another big hit.
Nat’s on Maple seats 100 comfortably in four settings. There’s the main dining room; a front room for casual dining; a private dining room that seats 14; and a small bar area that can best be described as “swanky.” The restaurant also offers catering, and the Waeghes own a kitchen trailer that they take on the road to various events, such as weddings.
Starting the business proved more difficult than the couple anticipated. They visited seven financial institutions before they found one that would give them an equipment loan.
“At first, we thought it might be a struggle, making it in a small town, but we absolutely loved the atmosphere,” says Natalie, for whom the restaurant is named. “That was important to us. My husband and I have had so many experiences in the restaurant industry that we wanted to take those experiences and incorporate our own ideas to open our own place.”
Natalie, an Ohio native, earned a degree in hospitality from Georgia State University. She met her future husband when they were both working at Dave and Buster’s in Addison. Natalie worked in management and David, who grew up in Marengo, was an executive chef. Between the two, they have worked for small family-owned restaurants, large corporate restaurants and family entertainment facilities in Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Boston and Chicago.
“One thing we didn’t like about working for corporate restaurants is that you sometimes lose focus of the guests,” Natalie says. “It’s all about numbers. Get them in and get them out. You tend to lose sight of the experience. We wanted to bring the experience back to the customer.”
Regular customers come from Sycamore, DeKalb, Rockford and the Fox Valley area. They include business professionals, concertgoers and Northern Illinois University alumni in town for a sporting event.
“I love when it’s busy,” Natalie says. “That’s my favorite part of owning a restaurant. When you’re in this business, you crave the chaos.”
Nat’s on Maple is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday to 10 p.m.; Saturday 4 to 10 p.m.; and is closed