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Thai Jar Earn Express in Lewiston, Maine

Yum! Please patronize this place. I'd had to see it go the way of other good restaurants, which usually seem to disappear in Lewiston.

Thai Jar Earn is a nondescript place at the intersection of College and Sabattus streets, a short walk from Bates College. It's in a building that used to house a variety store and sandwich counter (across the street from the lamentable Luiggi's). It's great food, well-prepared, and the price is right.

Tonight's dinner for three included chicken stay with cucumber and peanut sauces (four big skewers for $5.50); big, very fresh spring rolls with homemade peanut sauce ($4.25 -- more than enough for three people); pineapple fried rice with pork, eggs, onions, scallions, carrots and basil (a big platter fo $7.95); spicy pad thai with veggies; and a red curry loaded with chicken and fresh vegetables. Everything was fresh, well-seasoned, and delish! Our tab, including one large iced tea, came to $40.25 before tip. A bargain.

Here's a menu link:
http://www.mainetakeout.com/lewiston/...

Oops! Better link: http://www.thaijarearnexpress.com/

Fuel: Lewiston ME

My companion and I, both longtime residents of Lewiston-Auburn, recently decided to try Fuel. Finally, we have a place to go for dinner; otherwise, the Twin Cities offer very few decent dining options. Fuel is very good, although I did find the service odd.

We arrived at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday and were not acknowledged for about five minutes -- it was awkward, since there weren't many people there, and we stood out like sore thumbs. We were on the verge of leaving when the bartendender called out that the hostess would be right with us. The hostess then told us that the wait would be about 10 minutes -- the restaurant was less than half full -- and asked us to take a seat in the "lounge," a seating area right next to the bar. This would have been pleasant except for a large flat-screen TV over the bar (a real turnoff for us) and that no one offered to bring us drinks for another five minutes or so. When the bartender finally brought my companion's order, he was clutching three stemmed glasses between his hands -- sans tray, as one reviewer previously noted -- tiptoeing along and trying not to spill anything. It was silly. No matter: Within seconds, the hostess arrived to escort us to our table. I did find it odd that no one offered to take our coats or direct us to the coat rack. Once we were seated, our server noted with some irritation that I did not have a drink in front of me. When I replied that it was OK, I hadn't ordered one, she seemed exasperated. A conflict with the bartender? I wondered.

My companion ordered the fried green tomatoes to start. These were flavorless and unremarkable. For entrees, he ordered the steak au poivre, and I, the steak frites. Both steaks were excellent. The frites were, again, unremarkable. As much as I liked the hanger steak and accompanying salad, the portions of both beef and potato were far too large. The frites were served in a separate metal funnel; when I set them on the table for my companion to share, they were promptly whisked away by the server. No great loss.

For dessert, we ordered a roasted citrus gratin and a flourless chocolate torte. The gratin was outstanding. I wouldn't order the chocolate again.

Dinner for two with two drinks, one appetizer, two entrees and two desserts came to $78 before tax and tip.

The Bread Shack in Auburn, Maine

Agreed, the location is a tough one -- but it is a start-up business. If you're headed north, it's on the left just before Center Street Auto. If you reach Lake Auburn, you've gone about half a mile too far.

Just ordered chocolate ganache and raspberry frangipane tortes for Christmas Eve. Unbelieveable to get such quality for $14.95.

The Bread Shack in Auburn, Maine

This is an excellent new bakery that recently opened on Center Street (beyond Shaw's if you're headed north; tucked in amid the car dealers). The bread and pastries are superb, and the prices are great.

The place is owned by Dara Reimers, who represented the United States in the world baking championships in Paris last spring. Her baguette is fantastic (warning: it's also addictive). A baguette goes for $1.99. Her croissants, which are incredible, are around $2.50.

She's got a website (www.thebreadshack.com) and takes orders online. It's worth getting on her mailing list. On a rainy day a few weeks ago, she e-mailed subscribers to let them know that everything was half price for the afternoon. You can bet that got me into the car!