Here’s the best news of all: Lisa’s Legit Burritos, Gardiner’s delightful gathering place for great food and conversation, will soon open a second location on Water Street in Augusta.

Linda

Whether you are looking for a fast takeout lunch or craving light Mexican food, we think we’ve found just the place. Located on Water Street in Gardiner, Lisa’s Legit Burritos is a find. We stopped in for lunch recently to enjoy a sampling of their very reasonably priced Mexican specialties.

Bubbly and effervescent, owner Lisa Liberatore sets the tone of this restaurant. She’s cheerful and chatty and readily makes connections with her customers. We noticed that she knew the first name of most everyone who came in!

You can’t help but smile as she juggles taking orders, keeping a watchful eye on her 11-month-old son Dorian and visits with all who enter. She makes it look easy.

Dorian is as cheerful as his mom and patiently waits until it is time to go home for a nap. He charms all the guests with his big beautiful eyes and easy smile. Perhaps he, too, is cut out for the restaurant business.

When you enter, you grab a menu and place your order at the counter. Most of the menu features three items: tacos, quesadillas and burritos. The meat choices are chicken, beef and pork, all slow-cooked with Mexican herbs and spices. We tried all three kinds and found them to be much more flavorful than Mexican entrees at other places. The meats were tender, moist and full of flavor without being too spicy. You can order mild, medium or hot taco sauce when you place your order.

Vegetarians are not left out here. You will find spinach and tomato or sweet potato and spinach quesadillas, and bean and rice or sweet potato burritos.

In addition to all these choices, you can pick from five tortilla flavors. We tried the cheddar jalapeno version for our beef burrito. I was concerned that George might want to order the Voluptuous Burrito, which is two feet long! Instead, I talked him into the smallest version since we were just sampling. Ours came with beef, rice, beans, lettuce and cheese. It was so delicious that we ended up ordering another one to split.

The biggest surprise for us was how special the chicken quesadilla was. The herbed meat is so good that it jumped to the best quesadilla we remember eating. Do not miss the side of guacamole if you are a guacamole fan. I also loved the crunchy taco filled with slow-cooked pork. I really like crunchy corn tortilla shells even though they are a bit messy to eat (according to George).

Also on Lisa’s menu are nachos, hot dogs (regular or Mexican toppings) and desserts.

During the weekday lunch hour we noted that many people ordered takeout, and the orders were ready in no time flat. People who work nearby are lucky!

There’s one other special part to this restaurant. The back of the dining space houses Book It! which sells gently used books. You can even browse in the bookstore while you wait for your order. I found a copy of “If You Were a Writer” in the kids’ section. It’s the most perfect book to introduce youngsters to writing that I’ve ever seen — and as a first grade teacher, I grabbed it. The prices here range from $2-$5 for most books, with all profits going to the Gardiner Library. What a great idea!
 
George

Yes indeed, the two-foot-long Voluptuous Burrito was calling my name, but my diet counselor ordered the smallest burrito for us. So I was especially amused when she decided to order a second one.
When Courtney, who was smiling the entire time we were there (must be one of Lisa’s staff requirements), asked what we liked the best, we were both hard-pressed to answer. For me it was a toss-up between the burrito and the quesadilla.

And then there’s Lisa’s creative dessert burrito: luscious cheesecake covered in chocolate sauce and wrapped in a tortilla. Yummy. You can also get it with blueberry or strawberry preserves. Next time, I’ll try the chocolate-covered jalapenos. That’s got to be a great combo.

Lisa was training Devon the day we were there, and she will work in the new Augusta location. If they can create the same environment that exists in the Gardiner restaurant, it’s bound to be a busy place.
We made several good contacts while sitting there, including a leader of the Gardiner Main Street group. When Mike Miclon popped in to pick up lunch, he was kind enough to sit with us and outline his ambitious plans for Johnson Hall, where he is the recently appointed director. Mike is well-known in the performing community, and we are looking forward to attending some of the performances at Johnson Hall.

Of course, as long-time trustee of Mount Vernon’s library, I was delighted to find Lisa’s back room filled with books for sale to benefit the Gardiner Public Library. The selection was impressive.

While we were eating, I saw a lady select a novel by one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly, and take it to her husband at their table. “How much is it?” he asked. “$4,” she replied. “Grab it!” he exclaimed. He got that right.

And they get a lot of things right at Lisa’s Legit Burritos.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

IF YOU GO

Lisa’s Legit Burritos
242 Water St., Gardiner
203-2013
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Open until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
OPENING SOON: 185 Water St., Augusta, 620-1040
Check out their Facebook Page for more information.