Friday, May 25, 2018

Chef George’s Auto Mile Diner, Saco Maine

Restaurant Review – Chef George’s Auto Mile Diner, Saco Maine

I’ve found a great little breakfast place in Saco, the Auto Mile Diner. It is small, but the food is excellent, and the staff is always friendly. I’ve been there several times for breakfast and have always found the breakfasts great.

I was getting my Jeep serviced across the street and walked over for breakfast. I there are only eight tables, but I was able to find a good seat. Moments after arriving the Owner asked if I’d like coffee. After hearing my reply, a nice cup of coffee was placed in front of me. There is a menu on the table as well as posters on the wall suggesting other items. After several visits, I’ve found the Mexican Omelet is one of my favorites—peppers, onions, cheese, jalapenos, and tomatoes, wrapped in eggs with salsa and sour cream on the side. There are several choices for accompanying sides, I picked hash browns and a grilled English muffin.

The food arrived quickly and was delicious. The omelet was tasty; spicy hot and cooled by the sour cream. The hash browns were cooked nicely and the grilled muffin was crispy and soft all at the same time. It was an excellent meal.

As I mentioned, there isn’t a lot of seating and the other tables are a bit close, but that adds to the charm and character. If you are looking for a place to get a great, homey, breakfast, the Auto Mile Diner is an excellent choice.

Ambiance: 3 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Very homey and friendly.)
Price: 4 (Most breakfasts are under $10 each, not including coffee.)
Value: 5 (Good portions and excellent food.)

The Auto Mile Diner is open for breakfast and lunch 5AM-2PM Tuesday through Saturday and 7AM-2PM on Sunday. They are closed Mondays.  Be sure to check out their wall menu and their "Today's Specials menu.

I will definitely return.

Chef George's
Auto Mile Diner
819 Portland Rd
Saco, ME 04072 

(207) 284-0200

Auto Mile Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Two of "Maine's 30 Greatest Burgers"

Pleasantly Surprised and Very Disappointed

Last fall I saw an article in DownEast magazine that touched my spirit. “Maine’s 30 Greatest Burgers.” I love a good burger. Many places have frozen, preformed, 1.800-ounce burgers or they serve a 3.5-ounce “hockey puck” where all the flavor has been smashed out of it. So, trying the 30 greatest burgers in Maine sounded like my kind of challenge. Sadly, many of the 30 best were in faraway places like Lubec, Caribou, and Bar Harbor. A bit far to drive for a burger. But many places were in the Greater Portland Area. Two of them I noticed right away as being near places I often go. One is a chain that I often see, sometimes on my way to or from my dentist or when I’m shopping at Stapes or Burlington on Western Avenue. The other I drive by often when I pass through Saco on my way to or from Biddeford. 

D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches

With shops in South Portland, Biddeford, Portland, Lewiston, and Auburn, it is easy to stop by a D’Angelo and have a sandwich. I have eaten their sub sandwiches for years. Typically, I’ve ordered the Steak & Cheese and the Steak Bomb (without mushrooms) on occasion. Frankly, I barely noticed hamburgers were on their menu. But, being on DownEast’s “30 Greatest Burgers” enticed me to order their suggestion—A “Steak Number 9 Burger.”

Seating & Ordering

D’Angelo’s is an order & wait type of fast food restaurant. Ordering is done at the counter. They let you know when the food is done. When we ordered, the counter person mentioned that a burger takes a little longer than most of their sandwiches and asked if that were okay. I said yes. The Steak Number 9 Burger comes in two sizes. A 1/3 pound and a double patty 2/3 pound burger. The magazine article suggested a 2/3 pound burger but I thought that might be too much food, so I ordered the 1/3 pound without mushrooms.

D’Angelo’s is the type of place where if you remain at the counter, you can see your food being cooked and prepared. As I watched my burger being prepared, never once did I see the cook mash the burger down to speed its cooking (and reduce its flavor).  It was cooked the way I would prepare it.


The burger was amazing. The extra fat, seasoning, and flavor from the grilled steak, with the mixture of grilled onions and peppers, made for my kind of burger—flavorful. The 1/3-pound variety was more than enough food. I liked it very much; I’ll be back. My wife had the steak and cheese sandwich and, as usual, she loved it.


Ambiance: 3 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 4 (They took the time to cook the burger properly.) 
Service: 3 (The counter staff was friendly, but there is no table service .)
Price: 5 (A reasonable lunch cost under $10.00 plus tax.)
Value: 5 ($7 for a great burger is a great buy, add a drink and a bag of chips for $2.79 more, and you receive great value.)


I was pleasantly surprised that a restaurant that I’ve gone to on occasion has a great burger that I didn’t know about. 

Rapid Ray’s

When we first stopped at Rapid Ray’s, we didn’t understand the place. The atmosphere is more like an order window at a sports arena than even a fast food restaurant. We thought we’d drop in for a burger, but learned there are no tables. You might be able to stand along the ledge by the windows and eat but, we weren't in the mood for that. We left and decided to come back when we wanted to take out.

We returned and decided on a double hamburger, a “Big One” (a double cheeseburger), and a large order of onion rings. After a couple minutes, one of the guys asked how I wanted them.  Following the recommendation of the “30 Greatest Burgers” article, I said “loaded.” A minute or so later, they were ready, and I took them home. I have never been more disappointed in a burger. I’ve never seen tomatoes sliced that thin before. The single piece of lettuce was entirely hidden by the utterly unremarkable bun. The onion rings were awful. Many of them were stringy, the first layer under the onion skin, can’t bite through them, choke you when you swallow them onion rings. They were also greasy, leaving puddles of grease at the bottom of the box.
I couldn't figure out why it was identified as one of the “30 Greatest Burgers in Maine.” From their website, I learned that Rapid Ray’s is “Maine’s original fast food takeout,” that they stay open to 1:30 in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights (12:30 AM Monday thru Thursday), and that they opened in 1953. I guess that earns them a place as an iconic Maine eatery. But, the only claim to greatness I can think of is they probably taste great at 1:00 in the morning when you have the munchies and nothing else is open.


Ambiance: 1 (No place to sit and eat.)
Food: 2 (Ultra-thin tomato & lettuce, on a mushed bun.)
Service: 3 (The counter staff was friendly.)
Price: 4 (A double burger & fries is about $6.00)
Value: 3 


I was very disappointed that the “Maine’s 30 Greatest Burgers” article led me astray. I’ll never go back to Rapid Ray’s. Wendy’s, Burger King, and McDonald’s all have better burgers at about the same price—Oh, the Saco McDonald’s is open 24 hours.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Restaurant Review – Q Street Diner


image of sign for Q Street Diner, South Portland,ME
Sign: Q Street Diner, South Portland
I have long heard of the “Q Street Diner” in the center of “Knightville” in South Portland, I’ve heard they have a great breakfast and an excellent burger. Recently, I was going from an appointment in Falmouth to the South Portland Library Genealogy Group meeting and thought I’d swing by the Q-Street Diner and give them a try. 


I arrived about noon and was by myself so I just waked up to the small counter near the kitchen pass shelf and seated myself.


It was a little late for breakfast, so I decided to order a burger for lunch. I’m still in search of the world’s greatest onion rings, so I substituted onion rings for fries.

I was a little surprised when I saw, what appeared to be my order on the pass shelf.  After it being there for several minutes and seeing the waitress pass by several times, I pointed towards, with a quizzical look on my face. She indicated the order was just waiting for the meat to be cooked. Sure enough, a few minutes later one of the cooks added the meat to the plate, added a couple strips of bacon. Quickly, the waitress delivered it. 


Bacon Cheeseburger with Onion Rings
Q Street Diner, South Portland, ME
The onion rings were as I expected they would be, warm but not hot after sitting under a heat lamp for many minutes. The tomato and the lettuce were not cold, but they weren’t hot as I feared they would be. The burger was clearly hand formed from loosely ground hamburger, not a frozen, preformed burger.  It was well done, rather than the medium I asked for, but it still had some juiciness and flavor. The bun was okay and slightly toasted. The bacon was crispy and the garlic mayo was tasty.  The onion rings I received had several “nearly skin” pieces that didn’t taste very good.

Parking can be a challenge at the Q-Street Diner. They have a small lot alongside, which is not near enough for all their clientele. I was surprised to learn that they don’t take credit cards, but apparently, they do have an ATM available.  Luckily, I had cash and didn’t need to avail myself of the ATM. (I hate paying ATM fees.)

Rating: 3.2

  • Ambiance: 3 (Typical diner environment.)
  • Food:  3 (Burger okay, tomato not ripe, onion rings below average.) 
  • Service: 4 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
  • Price: 3. 
  • Value: 3  


The Q-Street Diner was okay. I saw some really nice looking breakfasts go by so, I’ll probably go back sometime for breakfast. But with so many other restaurants in the Knightville area of South Portland, I’ll probably try one of them for my next lunch there. 


Q Street Diner
9 Q Street
South Portland, ME 04106

Q Street Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Osaka Sushi and Hibachi (Coon Rapids, MN)

Restaurant Review – Osaka Sushi and Hibachi (Coon Rapids, MN)

I was visiting friends in Minnesota and the group decided it would be fun to visit Osaka Sushi and Hibachi. I hadn’t been to a hibachi grill for many years and thought it would be great fun.

We made reservations the day before and arrived as a group of seven about 10 minutes before our reservation, but we still had to wait before we were seated.


One of our party asked the server for hashi. The server server responded to see if she wanted her sake hot or cold. Upon further explanation, it became clear that the server didn’t know what hashi are. (It's the Japanese word for chop-sticks.) The server said she was Vietnamese and didn’t speak Japanese.  I admit, I don’t speak Japanese either, but I do know the word hashi and a server at a Japanese restaurant should know what hashi are.

Food Arrival

Shrimp Tempura - Osaka Sushi & Hibachi
I wasn’t happy with the arrival of appetizers. Although I was impressed when I saw the Shrimp Tempura, but it was another ten minutes before my vegetable tempura arrived. It was almost as though our individual appetizer orders had been given to several different cooks and they sent the food out when they were finished without anyone in control of the kitchen. Appetizers for the table should have arrived near in time to each other rather than staggered over many minutes.


Teppanyaki chefs are typically famous for their antics. Making the food is an art and serving it is supposed to be fun for the customers. Our chef was really boring. Rather than clattering his utensils with fascinating motion and sound, he turned the rice with one spatula and clanked his other spatula on the side of the grill in what really became to be a cocophany of sound -- not pleasant to see nor hear. The fried rice had a tiny amount of vegetables added to it and only enough sauce to turn its color slightly. It definitely was not worth the upcharge. I guess the chef thought that squirting sake into people’s mouths from across the grill would be a sufficient entertainment – it was not.   

The entrée itself was quite good. I had the Filet Mignon and Shrimp and found both the meat and the shrimp delicious. However, none of the sides were particularly good. The onion soup was bland, the iceberg lettuce salad was overdressed with just a few shards of carrots, and the noodles were overcooked.

Members of our party were still eating their meals when the cleaning crew came to clear the table. It was obvious that we weren't done yet, but apparently because none of us desired dessert, we were done in their eyes. It wasn’t that someone came and asked if they could take the plate from someone who had clearly finished. They just came and began clearing without asking and began clanking plates into the grey bus pan. We had to tell the bus person to leave and return after we had finished eating. He had to be told twice and finally gave us a look disgust that we were being unreasonable and he was only doing his job and left. I found his actions rude. There were still a half a dozen griddle stations empty, so there wasn’t any reason we should have been hurried.


Ambiance: 4 (Expected Hibachi grill seating.)
Food: 4 (Meat and shrimp were excellent, vegetable tempura okay and fried rice boring.) 
Service: 2 (Server was barely adequate; teppanyaki chef was only adequate, and bus person was rude.)
Price: 2 (Entrée was over $30, including the fried rice upcharge; drinks, appetizer, and a modest tip brought the bill to $50.)
Value: 3 (Expensive for what you get.)


I found the server unprepared to serve in a Japanese restaurant, the appetizers delivery uncoordinated, the Teppanyaki chef uninspiring and the bus staff rude. The friendliness I’ve experienced at other Hibachi grills wasn’t there. I won’t go back.


Osaka Sushi and Hibachi
12580 Riverdale Blvd
Coon Rapids, MN 55448

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Portland Pie Company - Scarborough, ME

Looks can be deceiving. 

Restaurant Review – Portland Pie Company, Scarborough, ME

“It’s all about the dough” is a great moniker for the Portland Pie Company. The dough is great but the pizza, not so much.

We stopped at the Portland Pie Co a couple years ago and I guess we had forgotten why we hadn’t returned immediately. I remember now….

We arrived a bit after noon on a Sunday and the place was quite busy.  However, a hostess seated us right away; we ordered our “water with lemon,” a beer, and a cider and reviewed the menu.

The Fryeburg Fair
Portland Pie Company - Scarborough, ME
When the drinks arrived, we ordered our food. I’m still looking for great hamburgers and ordered what they call the Fryeburg Fair - Two beef patties topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickle, finished with a mix of ketchup & mustard it is served in their pie pocket.  I substituted a salad for potato chips for the side. I was a little concerned when the waitress didn’t ask me how I would like it cooked.

My wife decided upon the Mount Katahdin – A pizza with a pesto sauce, fresh spinach, artichoke hearts and sliced tomatoes woven in a three cheese blend.  She ordered the 14” thin crust so she could have some to take home.

Then we waited.  And we waited.  The waitress stopped by to tell us our order was “coming right up.” We waited some more.  After more than 45 minutes the food finally arrived. The pizza looked amazing.  The burger was one of the most pathetic looking ‘burgers I’ve ever seen. Clearly, they intend to present the burger with a side of fries or something, but when served with a side salad you just get an empty plate with a pickle spear and their burger stacked upon itself in a mistaken attempt to make it seem more like “tall food.” The side salad was served with the burger (not before like most places do) and was a beautiful mix of lettuces with plenty of tomatoes, onions and cucumber slices.  The salad was and excellent choice and well worth the $1.00 upcharge. The burger tasted better than I was expecting. The beef, although well done, was still juicy and tasty. The pita bread looking pizza dough pocket was quite good, better than most buns at other places.

Soggy Mount Katahdin
Portland Pie Co.
As I said before, the pizza looked amazing. However, it was one of the worst tasting pizzas ever. It was soggy and had a greasy taste only expected on a meat pizza. Neither of us could taste the basil. When you took a slice off the platter, it left a snail trail.

The server didn’t offer to put the remaining pizza into a takeaway box for us. But otherwise, she was okay, albeit quite busy.

Rating - 3.0

Ambiance: 4 (Nice “pizza joint” atmosphere but too noisy for conversation at midday.)
Food: 3 (Pizza was soggy, the burger was good.) 
Service: 2 (Server was okay – But a long wait for food.)
Price: 3 (Lunch was under $13 each, not including drinks)
Value: 3 (There are many pizza focused restaurants in the area. Better pizza can be found elsewhere.)


Pizza looked much better than it tasted.
The bottom line is that the burger looked weird but tasted quite good and the pizza, that looked really good, was not very good at all. Looks can be deceiving. I am sure it will be years before we return.


We went to the Scarborough location, 499 Expedition Drive, across the parking lot from Cabella’s.