Linda

Have you been looking for an excuse to go to Rockland? We are pretty partial to this town, and love any excuse to go there. When we learned that Café Miranda is now open for lunch, we headed right down!

We love Café Miranda for it’s eclectic menu, atmosphere and amazing food cooked in a wood-fired oven. If you are up for entertainment, sit at one of the four stools at the bar , where you can see how and what they cook. It’s like watching the Cooking Channel except it’s live — and a lot more fun. How they juggle producing all their menu items is beyond me.

Their lunch menu is shorter than their dinner menu, at least a little. Everything on that menu was tempting to me, and I expect that you may have a hard time deciding as well. Every sandwich, salad and soup that was prepared while we were there looked delicious.

Their incredible focaccia bread (baked in that wood-fired oven) turns a sandwich into a very special meal. You can also order some creative dips and spreads for this delicious bread. In short, you can’t go wrong with anything involving their focaccia.

That being said, I actually ordered one of the few items on the menu that wasn’t served with focaccia — the tacos. (I also knew that George would probably let me have a bite of his sandwich.)

The taco plate intrigued me because there were so many choices of unusual fillings: haddock, barbequed chicken, black beans, pulled beef or chorizo sausage. Your two tacos (corn or flour tortillas) are served with poblanos and caramelized onions, lime, cilantro, shredded greens, aioli and their own salsa. For someone like me who adores Mexican food, this was a piece of heaven.

My barbequed chicken tacos came on overlapped corn tortillas, making them less likely to split apart. The perfect chicken — not in a thick sauce, just barbequed quite simply — was the star of this dish. The embellishments put it over the top. It was quite a plate of food, but I ate every morsel. Just writing about it makes me crave it right now.

The option of ordering a dipping sauce for their perfectly crunchy fries makes them even more special. We loved the house-made ranch with ours.

Adam, the chef for lunch that day, confessed to us, “I was nervous when you two guys ordered the two messiest items on the menu.” If there was ever a place where you wouldn’t be judged for messiness, this is it.

In addition, the menu offers other imaginative small plates and entrées, along with burgers and pizzas. You will not leave here hungry, and most lunch choices are $9-$10.
Miranda’s for lunch anyone? Yes, you need to go!

George

It’s been two years since we wrote an entire column about Café Miranda, although we’ve eaten there several times since. We’re drawn to the astonishing menu offering Italian, Mexican, Thai and other cuisine, and by what chef/owner Kerry Altiero calls the “Miranda magic. It’s a spirit, and you can’t mess with it. It’s all about honesty, integrity and performance — HIP.”

Kerry offers a unique dining experience with unusual recipes and wood-fired dishes. Fresh off his Lobster Chef of the Year victory in Portland’s Harvest on the Harbor, Kerry was there to greet us and turn us over to server Katherine, and Adam, the chef at the wood-fired oven that day. We were in good hands.

Taking our favorite seats at the counter overlooking the kitchen, the first thing I saw Adam take out of the oven was an amazing sandwich. In an inquiry I would constantly repeat for the next hour, I asked, “What’s that, Adam?” It was a reuben, my very favorite sandwich. I had to have it!

I was pleased to see one of my favorite microbrews on draft, Sebago Lake Trout Stout, one of many on the café’s impressive list of beers. Lin enjoyed an Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale in the Newcastle brewery’s own glass.

My reuben was the best ever, and I’ve eaten at least 100 of these over the years. The house mustard sauce, added to the traditional Thousand Island dressing, house-baked bread, Morse’s sauerkraut and the raw red onions and tomatoes elevated this sandwich. It was too big to pick up. And yes, I was a mess eating it — a very happy mess.

We visited with a lady from Phoenix who owns a seasonal place in Rockland, and who reported — very enthusiastically — that Café Miranda was her favorite Maine restaurant. She also shared a list of the places she’s eaten in our state — and it included many of our most highly regarded restaurants.

The fact that she places Café Miranda at the top of that list didn’t surprise us. She said she and her husband like to sit at the counter (apparently we were in “her seats”) and her favorite dish is the reuben, which comes with fries and a salad at dinner. I noticed that Adam, upon hearing this, added fries and a salad to her luncheon plate.

The song “Alice’s Restaurant” sprung to mind: “You can get anything you want, at Kerry’s restaurant. Excepting Kerry.” Well, you get a lot of Kerry too, because he’s usually at the wood-fired oven, cooking and entertaining customers.

On the way out the door, we noticed a sign advertising Café Miranda’s Sunday brunch. Yes! An excuse to go back!

 

IF YOU GO

Café Miranda
ADDRESS: 15 Oak St., Rockland (just a few steps off Main Street)
ON THE WEB: www.cafemiranda.com
PHONE: 594-2034
HOURS: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner 5-8:30 p.m.
Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Visit George’s website: www.george
smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.