Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cheap Eats #3, Asmara

Experience the Tastes and Customs of Eritrea in Portland, Maine

Your host at Asmara first brings warm, lemon scented wet towels on a decorated tray to wash your hands before your meal. Eritrean food is eaten with your hands and fingers (no silverware).  The meal is carried to the table on a large, colorful mosob, and served on injera, a flat, unleavened, spongy bread made from teff flour. Pull off a piece of injera and scoop the food, rolling it up almost tortilla style. My dining companion, Iris, ordered chicken in yellow curry sauce, and birsen, a red lentil stew which was mild on the spice scale, but very tasty.  I had a savory lamb stew in spicy sauce with turmeric and garlic with a side of tsebi hamli, which are stewed collard greens.

A standard meal rings in at $13 which, while not "cheap", is a viable alternative to the heavily advertised restaurants in town. Asmara, named after the capital of Eritrea, has no website.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cheap Eats #2

Becky's Diner is an institution here in Portland, Maine. In the Diner's 20 year history she has undergone several facelifts and remodelings and this summer hosted Guy Fieri for a filming of his Food Network show "Guy's Big Bites".

I went down to the waterfront this morning at 5:30 to see who'd be there eating before going out lobstering. Waitresses greeted all comers by name and chatted about the day's planned activities.  It's a sort of community coffee club kind of place.  If you had the time or inclination to drop in often, you'd become one of the regulars.  One waitress remarked that "Old Sam" had missed 2 days in a row of coming in and asked if someone would go and check on him.

My breakfast of French toast, link sausage, and coffee cost $11.36, not particularly cheap, but the friendly down home atmosphere must be worth something.  If you don't go early on a Saturday or Sunday,  morning there will be a wait.  She is very popular.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cheap Eats in Portland Number 1

Here's the question: Does a cafeteria qualify as belonging in the category of  "Cheap Eats in Portland"?  I say it does for a couple reasons. First, cafeterias are often cheap and provide decent but not gourmet food and second, this is my blog and.......

My first entry is the cafeteria at Maine Medical Center, which you may now be saying to yourself eeuw, that's creepy.  But why is the idea of eating at a hospital cafeteria any more creepy than any other cafeteria?  Perhaps there are sick people upstairs, but the hospital "cafe" is for the visitors, not the patients.  You won't be sitting next to someone with oosing sores or coughing tuberculosis spores into the mashed potatoes.

Anyway, my plate of orange chicken with fried rice and a salad-by-weight only cost $7.  Beat that!