Big sandwich and delectable dessert a wonderful vacation starter

At the urging of my wife, we went back to one of our new favorite restaurants in the first hours of our vacation week. We both enjoyed Baharat on Anderson St. the last time we were there, but I was excited to delve further into their menu this time and already had some idea about what I might order. We got there shortly after they opened, sat at the bar, and proceeded to view menus and chat with the bartender.

My wife quickly ordered an A Rad Mirage – vodka, Lebanese yogurt, honey, mint, blender – which she knew to be a worthy order based on our prior visit. I took a little longer to make a decision, just trying to find the perfect beer to begin my vacation. I chose one from CA, but was then schooled about the secret, non-menu beers, changing my order to a can of Tell Tale Pale Ale from Mast Landing out of Westbrook. I was feeling local brew that night.

After we put in drink requests, the food part was easy. We started with the House Fries – sumac, toum – to share. She ordered the Chicken Plate – two kebabs with minted rice, house salad, and Iraqi flatbread. I went with The Shawarmageddon – a plus sized sandwich with chicken, falafel, house fries, and all the sauce. It’s billed as “a favorite from the food truck” and while that made it tempting, it was the phrases “plus-sized” and “all the sauce” that won me over.

When our drinks were delivered, we were a little happier than usual. I was excited to try my ale and it was a fine fit for a Friday evening. She sipped her cocktail and spoke of the great joys it produced with its top of frothiness and its ridiculously light and refreshing flavors. Indeed, the libation was noteworthy. I have yet to determine if I love or hate its name, but I suppose that’s not what matters, because it stuns the senses with a beauty rarely tasted.

We downed half of our drinks quickly and then made an effort to slow down and save some to go with the food. The fries came out with plenty of garlic sauce and I went right after them. They were awesome, but I had one minor critique. They didn’t quite have the same level of crisp as the last time we were there. It certainly didn’t end my love for them, but a solid outer shell on those guys just takes them to the next – and final – flavor and texture level.

The fries went down smoothly and we got the main courses shortly after. I hadn’t realized that house fries with my sandwich meant house fries in my sandwich, but I was totally fine with that. The sandwich was large, but it was more the density of it that amazed me. A little lettuce and some of the house pickled turnip appeared to add the final touches to my wrap and a bit of the turnip garnished the plate too. Mrs. Portlandeater’s food looked as I remembered it with two large skewers of chicken as the stars of the show.

Both of us were ready to dig in and I was pleasantly surprised that before I did, the bartender slid a small bottle of hot sauce my way. I put that aside for later and took the first bite of my weighty wrap. It was a little different than I expected, but only because when I got some of the falafel in my mouth, it was most certainly the best I’d ever had. I’m not unusually a fan of the chickpea fritter, but this was seasoned in a manner that had me biting for more.

Never one to shy away from anything that includes everything, this had all I could have expected in a single, neat Middle Eastern package. With no shortage of any particular inclusion, the high carb, high protein sandwich had great flavor and chicken, falafel, and potatoes for days. The sauces made it extra special. All I could think was “I can’t wait to have another one of these”.

I loaded myself full of the shawarmageddon and then finished off the wife’s chicken. Then as we were ready to get set and go, the bartender offered us a verbal peek at the dessert menu which we reluctantly accepted. Somewhere between saying “…but we probably won’t order anything” and feeling falafel coming out of my ears, I heard “Baklava Cheesecake” and held myself back from ordering two to take home, instead ordering only a single slice to consume immediately.

It turned out that baklava cheesecake was as good as I expected. I graciously allowed my wife to eat the orange slice garnish and have a try and then I saved her from the rest, devouring everything right down to the last crumb of flakey crust. It shouldn’t be overlooked that the cheesecake included some sort of porous, thin cookie that reduced into hard, surgary goodness that filled the gaps in my teeth as it was eaten. It was all so good. Once it was all done, we paid the $66 plus tip and moved on.

Oh Baharat, how you seem to succeed so briliantly. With your gorgeous drinks to suit all tastes and food that paints a smile on my face every time. I think we’ll see each other again and I bet that meeting won’t be all that far into the future. Go on with your bad self, serving up Mediterranean food that will make even the most hard to please fans of yours.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.