It was a great combination: an excellent feast at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Buen Apetito, followed by a play at the Aqua City Actor’s Theater.

Linda

“Buen Apetito” is often something I say to my first graders as they head to lunch. It means enjoy your lunch (or at least that’s my translation of this phrase). Well, when you head to the restaurant Buen Apetito, it’s a given that you will enjoy your lunch or dinner. Consistently delicious Mexican food can be counted on here. Many are in agreement with me judging by the number of people on a weekend evening.

Don’t be daunted by the number of people waiting. It looked like a long wait as we arrived, but food comes out pretty quickly and tables were turning over by 5:30 p.m. when we got there. We only had to wait 20 minutes and were able to be at the Waterville Opera House by 6:45 p.m. Their kitchen must be a well-oiled machine.

I admit to being addicted to their green sauce, which is served with tortilla chips that they cut and cook at the restaurant. I was under the impression that it was a tomatillo sauce. In hopes that I could recreate that sauce I actually planted tomatillos in my garden this season.

Our server, Kim, explained that it’s actually an avocado based sauce. No wonder I love it so much! Cilantro and chilies also shine in this sauce and I could eat it on everything. So I guess I’ll have to find another use for those tomatillos. I am able to buy this sauce at Barrels Community Market on Main Street in Waterville.

I remembered that the appetizer we tried when we were here last year was extra special, so we ordered a serving of Chicken Flautas. Tortilla-wrapped chicken is fried and served with lettuce, tomato, guacamole and sour cream. Three flautas came in the serving and though flautas are usually tiny, these were big and stuffed with what looked like a whole chicken tender (which was perfectly seasoned). It was plenty to share and we still brought one home. This was hearty and could be a meal, priced at $5.95. They were great!

Buen Apetito’s guacamole outshines any other due to the chunky pieces of avocado, chopped onion and tomato. They brighten it with the addition of lime juice. Definitely order it if you like guacamole!

I’m afraid I can’t get out of my rut as far as an entree is concerned. For me, the cheese Chile Rellenos cannot be beat. I love the sauce it is cooked in, as well as the melted-cheese topping. Surrounded by rice and beans (even these are perfect), it comes served on an oval plate and was enough for two more helpings that we took home. Poblano chilies are one of the milder ones, but the heat varies and these certainly packed a punch. I enjoyed every bite and I noticed George’s fork often headed my way, too.

The prices are very reasonable here and the portions are large. This is Mexican food at its finest, and I am so happy they are only a short drive away. George asked why we don’t come here more often. Great question! We intend to do just that.

Chef and owner Gary LaPlant has come out with a line of Deer Camp sauces. I serve the Buckshot Blueberry at home with pork tenderloin or grilled meats. His XXX Hot Sauce sounds intimidating, but a splash of this in chili, taco meat or a stir fry really enhances the flavor without taking over the dish.

My favorite sauce at the moment is Blackbear Bourbon Chipotle BBQ sauce. Quite a mouthful I admit, but it has a great balance of flavors and it seems to go with most meats.

You can find these wonderful sauces at Whole Foods. Our daughter Hilary loved them so much when she was home visiting this summer that she made a special stop at Whole Foods in Portland, on her way back to Washington D.C., to buy some. Buen Apetito!

George

The Waterville Opera House is a treasure, something we are enjoying more and more. They’ve got some outstanding performances on the schedule this fall and winter, but on this night we made our first visit to their intimate downstairs Aqua City Actor’s Theater. This is acting up close and personal. We sat almost on the stage for a presentation of Michael Kimball’s “The Secret of Comedy,” directed by Jeralyn Shattuck.

Boy, do we have a lot of talented people in Maine! The crew was all Mainers (some of whom took a while to get here, but we’re glad they are here now). While billed as a “dark comedy,” and the play did have some amusing moments, it explored a serious subject: death.

As Jeralyn wrote in the program notes, “The people in this play are not characters. They are real people that I, and you I am sure, all know.”

“The Secret of Comedy … is a play that celebrates life’s journey and all the trials, tribulations, humor and choices that we make along the way.”

It is indeed, and the actors all did a fine job in presenting it.

Of course, we arrived at the theater in an exceptionally good mood, having finally gotten back to Buen Apetito.

And Linda is right. Don’t let a crowded entrance, full of people waiting for tables, deter you. The food is worth the wait. Two years ago, when we wrote our first column about Buen Apetito, Chef Gary LaPlant, who owns the restaurant with his wife Susan, told us he was hoping to construct a bar/waiting area sometime in the future.

Well, finally, he’s doing it! On Sept. 9, Gary emailed me and said, “We should be starting our expansion in the next few weeks. We are adding a bar/waiting area. The bar will have 10 seats. The rest of the area will have a few high tops and some seating for people waiting on our busy nights.” That is really good news.

We are not coming late to Gary’s party. We first ate at his restaurant when it was a tiny place up the street. He more than doubled the size when he moved to this space 10 years ago next to Railroad Square Cinema. But still, we’ve never been there when it wasn’t bustling. OK, so I’ve said nothing yet about the food!

I have so many favorites here that it’s always difficult to choose. But on this night, I went wild and selected a special. Blame the sign in the waiting area. I kept staring at this item on the specials list: BBQ Bourbon Beef Brisket. Four things I love! I chose to have it in a burrito and I swear the thing was a foot long. It was stuffed with meat and soooo tasty.

“I can’t believe anyone eats all this,” I told our server. “They don’t, usually,” she responded. I initially thought I might be up to the task, but that flautas appetizer made it impossible — and I very much wanted dessert. The burrito provided two more meals at home.

Gary’s Mexican Baked Chocolate is something you’ll dream about. With a mousse-like center and crisp top, it is served warm with vanilla ice cream. Ohhh my.

Prices here are more than reasonable. My massive burrito cost just $12.95. Our appetizer was only $5.95. We each had a tasty Margarita, with Cuervo Gold, priced at $6.75. That fabulous heavenly chocolate dessert was only $4.95. No wonder there’s always a waiting line! There aren’t many places you can get great and creative food like this at these prices.

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.