March 12, 2010

Eat & Run

— From staff reports

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by John Patriquin.Tuesday, January 6, 2009. Chef Troy Dionne displays a meatloaf plate he serves at The Painted Turtle in Gorham.

jpatriquin

SCARBOROUGH — There is so much to like about The Painted Turtle Cafe, located on County Road in Scarborough, near the Gorham line.

For one thing, the food is home-cooked and completely hearty. If I were blindfolded, I would bet that my wife prepared the meal.

Second, it's reasonably priced. At lunch on Monday, I paid $4.95 for a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn. My wife ordered a bowl of chili and corn bread muffin, also for $4.95. And those were some of the more expensive choices on the menu.

Are you kidding me?

A meal like that in downtown Portland would have cost twice as much, easily.

In these times of tough economics, a full meal for less than $5 is a great deal indeed, and a smart investment.

But here's the kicker: It was all very good. My hunk of meatloaf was a good 2 inches thick, and packed with green peppers and onions. It was maybe just a tad dry, but otherwise full of flavor and completely satisfying. The mashed potatoes tasted fresh, as did the corn. As I like to do, I mixed the corn and potatoes up into one heaping pile and devoured the whole thing.

I left nothing on the plate. I just went back to work and napped.

Well, not really. But you get the point.

My wife loved her chili. It was hot and spicy -- in other words, warm and flavorful, packed with beans and peppers. It was served in a crock, with the corn bread muffin on the side. Very nice.

Because we felt guilty about ordering so much food and paying so little, we also sampled a cup of fish chowder. The chowder was less creamy than I prefer, but packed with large chunks of potato and hunks of fish.

All of the above were part of The Painted Turtle's lunch-special options for the day, which our friendly waiter told us were introduced to offer diners variety during the cold-weather season. Most of the rest of the menu consists of sandwiches, burgers, appetizers and the like, and the chef wanted the menu to have some winter substance.

Mission accomplished.

As for the rest of the menu, check out some of these prices: large ham Italian, $1.99; single hamburger, 99 cents; tuna club with fries and a pickle, $4.95; ham and swiss with fries and slaw, $4.75.

The Painted Turtle also serves breakfast, with two eggs, toast, home fries and a choice of meat for $4.99; or two egg-and-cheese sandwiches for $3.

With prices like that, I can't afford not to go back.

The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.

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