George

It’s easy to see why Buen Apetito is so popular: tasty food, large portions and low prices. We’ve been eating at Gary LaPlante’s restaurant since he first opened many years ago in a tiny place up the street. After he moved to his current location beside Railroad Square Cinema, there were often long lines waiting in the hall to get into the restaurant.

Thankfully, Gary has expanded by adding a new entrance with a bar and several tables. You might still have to wait, but not nearly as long as in the past. It was surprisingly busy on a Tuesday night.

Admittedly, I am in a rut here. The Pulled Pork Burrito ($12.95) always calls my name. The house-smoked pork combined with the homemade chipotle barbecue sauce is beyond tasty. Gary does a superb job with all of his sauces. I noticed a lot of other customers that night also ordered the burrito, which is huge and filled with black beans, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions cilantro and lime juice. I’ve never been able to eat it all.

I began with another favorite here, the Cuervo Gold Margarita ($6.75). You have barely sat down when your server brings out some crispy chips and three types of salsa. A great start to our dinner. With my entree, I enjoyed a beer from Funky Bow Beer Company, brewed in Lyman. I even loved the glass it came in.

Beyond full, I was still disappointed when Linda forbade another course. I’d been looking forward to their fabulous Mexican Baked Chocolate dessert. Guess next time I’ll have to have it as an appetizer.

As our friendly and helpful server Katie, who has worked here for eight years, placed a huge bag of leftovers on our table, Linda leaned my way and said, “Make a mental note. Don’t order so much food next time.” Nice thought, but not at all realistic.

Linda

Although we have been dining at Buen Apetito for years now, I always look forward to a meal here and have never been disappointed. There are a few constants here: a friendly and efficient staff, a busy dining space and huge portions. I like the dining room with its cozy green walls decorated with huge paintings of chilies and other vegetables.

When I was teaching, I often said, “Buen Apetito” to my first-graders as they headed to lunch. It means enjoy your lunch — at least that’s my translation. It’s a given that you will enjoy your meal here.

We love the Chicken Flautas appetizer here. Someday I am going to come here and just order this as my main meal. Shredded chicken fills corn tortillas which are fried and served with lettuce, tomato, guacamole and sour cream. Three flautas came in the serving, and though flautas are often tiny, these are substantial and reasonably priced at $5.95. They are certainly big enough to split for two or even three people. George and I each ate one and we brought one home.

Buen Apetito’s guacamole is superb thanks to chunky pieces of avocado, chopped onion and tomato. I forgot to order some to go with our entrees, so I was happy to see a small cup of it on the appetizer plate. And this is exactly the problem I have here: I want to order everything I like, which is a lot of dishes.

I like the combo plate because you can choose three selections from the five offered. In the name of trying new things, I chose an entomatada and a tamale to go with a favorite dish, chili rellenos. I adore their cheese-stuffed rellenos, and the ones served that night were pretty spicy (but so good).

I discovered that I like tamales on a trip to Arizona last spring. Apetito’s version contains seasoned shredded chicken inside a layer of corn masa that is steamed. It is topped with a mild tomato-based sauce and melted cheese. I have never noticed it on their menu before, so I was happy to try it.

The biggest surprise was the fantastic entomatada. You have a choice of fillings and mine was shredded beef. A corn tortilla is wrapped around the filling and topped with sauce, cheese and cilantro. George agreed that this was eye-rolling good. My dilemma of making choices here just got more difficult. The platter of food also has Mexican rice and refried beans.

No one leaves here hungry, and most patrons are carrying doggie bags. We enjoyed another feast of Apetito’s great food the next night at home.

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

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