Paris and Norway

EAT MAINE- January + February 2012
By Joe Ricchio | Illustration by Kathryn Thomas

 

Each month Joe Ricchio gives local insight into his favorite places to eat and drink. He recommends that you pace yourself as you Eat Maine.

 

1 | Shaner’s Family Restaurant

I’m often left pondering what particular elements of a dining establishment push it into the “family restaurant” category. Is there a rule against cussing that’s accompanied by stiff penalties such as a “swear jar?” Is there a legal quota for the amount of high chairs that must be kept in inventory? In the case of Shaner’s, I’m guessing it’s the exceptional diner-style food offered at prices that will appeal to both parents (who will have to pay for their finicky children’s partially eaten meals) and frugal grandparents (who lived through the Great Depression). Also, Shaner’s frappes are the best around, so at least you can be sure the kids won’t leave hungry.

193 Maine St. | South Paris |  207.743.6367

 

2 | Ari’s Pizza and Subs

As a fanatical lover of pizza, there are several categories that I divide the food into, most of which revolve around different eating situations. Ari’s fits into the “go out for pizza” category, since it conjures up childhood memories of my entire Little League team packing into the pizza parlor for an orgy of cheesy excess. I can remember, like it was yesterday, the thick and flaky crusts, the copious layering of mozzarella, and the hurricanes of grated Parmesan and red chili flakes all being washed down with oceans of Dr. Pepper, diluted by crushed ice.

457 Main St. | Norway | 207.743.9566

 

3 | 76 Pleasant Street

At the end of a very long day spent snowshoeing through the woods, I stumbled upon a sight that seemed far too good to be true: an old mansion with tantalizing smells wafting out into the winter air. As I prepared to bang on the window to ravenously greet the people inside, I thought that perhaps I should use the front door instead, after prudently removing my ski mask to reveal my human identity. Once the owners were convinced that I was not, in fact, a Sasquatch, I was welcomed in with open arms to enjoy a modern yet rustic dining experience that features roaring fireplaces in each room. The wine list is quite thoughtful, and the many New World selections pair perfectly with the creative fare, which includes local mussels served out of the shell with frites and chorizo in a hauntingly aromatic saffron and lemongrass broth.

76 Pleasant St. | Norway | 207.744.9040 | 76pleasantstreet.com

 

 4 | Cafe Nomad

While lounging about in the spacious cafe rereading Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic for the thirtieth time, I feel as if something is amiss. Maybe it’s the four outrageously delicious cappuccinos I downed like shots of espresso, or perhaps it’s the fact that Silverstein’s poems make me painfully aware that one day I may have to grow up. I can’t be sure. To help piece my thoughts together on this important topic, I purchase a BLT panini and a bottle of affordable yet flavorful red wine, then I retire to consume them at my house while frantically flipping through the pages of Where the Sidewalk Ends searching for words of comfort.

450 Main St. | Norway | 207.739.2249 | cafenomad.com

 

5 | Ocean Pearl Chinese Restaurant

For me, the greatest part of dining out at old-school Chinese-American restaurants is that I can feel completely comfortable ordering frozen piña coladas. Typically, I even go so far as to declare that I would prefer mine made with “Bacardi, not Well Rum.” I make it a point to leave the colorful umbrella in the drink for as long as possible, usually right before I suffer a puncture wound in or around an eyeball. In my opinion, Ocean Pearl serves the best Chinese-American food in Maine. The soups actually taste like they are made with real stock, the sauces aren’t clunky and cloyingly sweet, and the vegetables, I am happy to report, are readily distinguishable in flavor from one another.

1570 Main St. | Oxford | 207.743.9743

 

6 | The River Restaurant

It always makes me optimistic when I see house-recipe buffalo wings on a menu with six options of alarm sauce, followed by a disclaimer that the “4th, 5th, and 6th alarm are not for people with heart or respiratory problems.” The warning clearly tells me that they take their comfort food seriously here. If you ask the locals, they will eagerly tell you that the River is definitely worth a trip off the beaten path.

64 Bethel Rd. | West Paris | 207.674.3800

 

7 | Market Square Restaurant

On a recent visit to South Paris, a friend and I needed to make a pit stop for a quick bite to eat and a frosty domestic pilsner, which is a craving all in itself. As we scrutinized the menu, diner classics such as homemade meatloaf, ham steak, and homemade chicken pie stood out, but I decided to go for a double cheeseburger “Royal” (with mayo, lettuce, and tomato), forgoing the hand-cut fries in favor of potato chips, since I didn’t want anything too heavy to overpower my mug of Coors Light. My dining companion opted for the “single” trip to the salad bar, deeming the “unlimited” option unnecessary. This was when I discovered that he apparently has some kind of weird fetish for fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. Deeply embarrassed on his behalf, I returned to my meaty cheeseburger and pillowy, perfectly toasted bun in an effort to pretend he had never confided such a dark secret.

24 Market Sq. | South Paris | 207.743.3911

 

 8 | Dave’s Sauna

This well-maintained sauna out in the middle of West Paris just so happens to include a bar with a pool table, pizza by the slice, and a small but quality selection of wines (in addition to other libations). It’s almost as if you would never have to leave—you simply drink, nap in your car in the parking lot, go inside to detox in the sauna, eat pizza, and repeat. They urge patrons to “clean up their act,” but in the case of someone like myself that may be a bit of a tall order.

20 Paris Hill Rd. | South Paris | 207.743.7409 | davessauna.com

 

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