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Naral's; Old Vines Wine Bar; Chase's Daily; Bresca

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Naral's, a nine month-old Middle Eastern-ish restaurant in Auburn, merits three stars from The Portland Press Herald's Nancy Heiser for an "unusual dining experience that involves good, Arabian-inspired food in attractive if nondescript surroundings." The "ish" is because Naral's menu is all over the map: burgers, onion rings, Maine seafood basket and Caesar salad appear along with hummus, kofta, Moroccan-style roast chicken and Yemeni lamb shank. Heiser finds "moussaka made with ground beef was greasy and skimpy on the eggplant, potatoes and bechamel sauce." She has good things to say about a "rich and enormous bowl of harira soup" and "Bitingan ma'li, an entree-sized appetizer of fried eggplant, a tomato-based sauce, ground lamb and rice, was another delicious bargain."

From a restaurant goer's standpoint, Naral's offers large portions of good, unusual cuisine at fairly economical prices. We could have easily made a dinner of Middle Eastern appetizers, and both palate and wallet would have been quite happy.

Dining alone at Old Vines Wine Bar in Kennebunk, where "portion size is conducive to ordering several dishes to share amongst two diners," Joe Ricchio puts his "eating pants on" to assess the menu for Maine Magazine's Eat Maine blog. He tucks into a autumnal menu of roasted squash soup; golden beets salad with hazelnut vinaigrette; "broiled shrimp and spicy chorizo that have been simmered in olive oil and garlic;" and mac and cheese with shiitakes.

Since 2009, proprietor Mike Farrell has provided a place for residents of Kennebunk to escape the crowds of tourists, and the ambience of the renovated barn makes it feel like a hideaway of sorts. It is simple and cozy, with dim lighting and cooking aromas wafting from the small wooden "kitchen bar" in the corner ...
In addition to wines, there is also an "extensive cocktail program, with "over 20 different creations." Bartender Scott Doherty "makes his own bitters, grenadine, and tinctures, in addition to exclusively employing fresh squeezed juices."

Annalee Archie of the Connecticut-based To Markt, To Markt blog takes a day trip to Portland, satisfying her "late lunch tummy rumblings" at with a beet salad at Duckfat, saving room for dinner at Bresca.

Each plate was more beautifully presented than the next, and my eyes followed them out of the kitchen and to the other diners' tables with excitement and jealousy. The farm-fresh ingredients were celebrated on each dish: their flavors, shapes, and colors were enhanced and combined in a way that demonstrated the chef's appreciation for their naturalness ... Bresca is a treasure. Everything from the ambience, to the decor, to the warm, home-y feel and the lovingly crafted food is exceptionally well-done.

The Map & Menu bloggers spend a Sunday in Belfast, joining the line of regulars waiting at Chase's Daily for brunch, which they highlight in a string of pretty photos.

First, the space is fantastic – large, open, warm with hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, and full of light from the front picture windows. Second, the sheer number of people and line of customers that didn't balk at the idea of waiting half an hour to sit for breakfast. I'm pretty sure that the entire town of Belfast passes through the front doors at some point every Sunday morning.

· Naral's Offers Robust And Enjoyable Flavors In The Wee Hours [PPH]
· Old Vines Wine Bar & Tapas, Kennebunk [Eat Maine blog]
· Day Trip To Portland (Maine, not Oregon) [TMTM]
· Chase's Daily [M&M]

[Photo: Naral's in Auburn/restaurant.com]

Naral's

34 Court Street Auburn, ME 04210