I have had the pleasure of knowing the family of Maplewood Burgers for a few years now. I can remember hearing about this weird, shady convenience store in Sulphur that sold these wild stuffed burgers. I have to be honest, I was extremely skeptical of the whole random old gas station serving food thing. After all, the name didn't even say burgers.

To tell the story of SWLA's famous stuffed burgers, we need to step back to the late '90s. Ajay and Amita Patel left their home in India after selling their convenience store and opened one in Tampa, Florida. They were no strangers to food or owning a store. Anita began to look around at what the hot food item was in the area and discovered Cuban sandwiches. She didn't want to serve just normal Cuban sandwiches, though. She wanted to add something new to the item, making her product different than the rest around them. The store was a hit, and the Patels stayed in Florida until moving to Louisiana in 2011.

Red meat. That was the Patels' realization as to what the people of Louisiana wanted. They opened Maplewood Discount in 2011 on Maplewood Drive. The store was a general grocer, but the Patels got to work on how they were going to serve food at the same time. Anita landed on making burgers, but not just normal burgers. As with her Cuban sandwiches, she had to be different. The stuffed burger was born. As word got around the area about these mythical masterpieces, the store began to replace its aisles of grocery items with tables and chairs.

As the community of Sulphur began to support the small store, a new location came to mind for the offspring of the Patels, along with a slight name change. Krish and Saay wanted to add more stores in the community they had fallen in love with. Saay took the drive over the bridge and opened up Maplewood Burgers on Nelson Road in Lake Charles. It was a hit when it opened, as they expanded into the breakfast business of stuffing omelets, burritos, and even breakfast stuffed burgers. As they were stuffing our bellies, the Patels also wanted to give back to the community that continued to support them the entire time. They began to reach out to local schools, businesses, and charity events as their way to give back to the community that welcomed them in 2011.

As 2020 began, the idea to open a new store in Moss Bluff began coming to fruition. However, just as they were ready to start building, COVID-19 hit businesses harder than anyone could have imagined. As they struggled through the pandemic, they were hit with Hurricanes Laura and then Delta. Most would have given up at this point, but the Patels fired back by helping the community attempt to recover. They helped the best way they knew how: by serving food. They teamed up with other local business owners and began serving food to the community for free. They knew many people had nothing after Hurricane Laura, and they hated to see the area they had fallen in love with struggle for simple things, such as a good hot meal.

The family has recovered and struggled just like the rest of us, but they have not stopped. They have now officially opened their Moss Bluff location. They still continue to help the area in every way they are needed, and they do not intend to stop. As I talked to Saay with my mouth half full of the Hangover Burger, he began to get teary-eyed as he talked about the love and respect he has for his own parents and brother not knowing how to quit. The tears came for both of us as he talked about the love they feel from the community as they serve them the best product they can. It dawned on me that their slogan of Bigger Than Burgers means just that. It seems they want to give back all they can, and the burger place is just something that comes along with it. The Patels may not technically be from Southwest Louisiana, but with their hearts and actions, they sure do belong here.