Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Nancy Heiser
(Continued from page 1)
The menu at Naral’s presents food from the Arabian peninsula and nearby: falafel, babaganoush and hummus, as well as other less familiar specialties.
NARAL'S, 34 Court St., Auburn. 344-3201; narals.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday
CREDIT CARDS: All major
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $4 to $9; sandwiches and entrees, $5 to $24
VEGETARIAN: Yes, many options, including vegan
RESERVATIONS: Preferred on weekends
BAR: Full. Eleven beers on draft. About 20 bottles of wine, including two Turkish, most under $30. All drinks half-price at happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m. daily and 1 p.m. to close on Sundays.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
BOTTOM LINE: Go to Naral's for an unusual dining experience that involves good, Arabian-inspired food in attractive if nondescript surroundings, with friendly and personal service and relatively budget-friendly prices. Belly dancing demonstrations on Friday and Saturdays. The restaurant also offers late-night meals and dancing on the weekends.
Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value: *Poor **Fair ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary.
The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.
The minor incongruities of atmosphere and purpose make the establishment a little confusing to someone hankering for an authentic ethnic meal, but it's not off-putting. The space is comfortable and roomy. From a restaurant goer's standpoint, Naral's offers large portions of good, unusual cuisine at fairly economical prices. We could have easily made a dinner of Middle Eastern appetizers, and both palate and wallet would have been quite happy. The single Greek salad ($9), with lots of fresh feta cubes and an excellent vinaigrette, was family-sized -- big enough for four.
Overall, the flavors at Naral's were robust and enjoyable, but didn't vary as much from dish to dish as one might expect. And the same accompaniment -- a sharp slaw of green pepper, raw onion and lettuce -- came with every entree and most appetizers.
We concluded our meal with a communal pot of Yasunn tea, an Egyptian beverage of cinnamon, fennel seed, honey and black tea ($5). Baklava had that rich, butter and honey syrup and delectable pistachio and walnut paste, but the filo layers were tough to cut into, and lacked a delightful crinkle upon biting. Basbusa (also $7), a dense cake made from semolina flour, coconut and almond, was new to us and delicious.
Naral's is open every day, from 11 a.m. into the wee hours, and the kitchen serves during that time too, for late-night munching. The owner appears to be working hard to create an inexpensive venue for food, drink and dancing. "We want people in this town to be happy," he said.
Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at: