The giant rounds of naan bread from Ameera Bread on Forest Avenue were one of my early, happy discoveries when I moved to Portland. I’d previously lived in Houston and New York City, two of the most diverse spots in the United States, with eye-popping global food reflecting their international populations. While I knew the food in Portland would be good – the city had a national reputation for excellent food, after all – would it satisfy my palate’s itch to roam?

The former Ameera Bread on Forest Avenue is now called Dina’s Cuisine. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

Those chewy, generous, flavorful flat breads ($4.45 for four rounds) reassured me, and I’ve bought them regularly ever since. The naans are still sold at Dina’s Cuisine, the newly renamed Ameera Bread, which shut down abruptly last September after a family dispute that landed in court. As far as I could tell on a recent visit, the rest of the menu at Dina’s, as well as the decor, was also unchanged. Ahmed Abbas, who owned Ameera, was manning the counter and the stove in early May.

The falafel are wrapped in that wonderful bread, which is practically reason enough to order them. The bread envelops the fried chickpea patties, a handful of Iraqi turnip pickles and brightly colored amba sauce, which was a surprise, as I’d expected tahini sauce. Amba, made from pickled mangos, is apparently standard with Iraqi falafel, and Abbas is a native of Iraq. The sandwich ($6.95), which is made to order and served warm, makes a filling lunch, but if you’re more than ordinarily hungry, add potatoes to the falafel sandwich for Dina’s Falafel ($7.45), which the menu touts as a signature item. You can also get a falafel plate ($14.95).

These are just a very few of the many choices at Dina’s, sold at the counter for immediate eating or as takeaway for a future meal in plastic containers, thawing in a refrigerated case on the left as you enter. (There are two cramped tables if you want to eat your meal in situ.)

The menu ranges from Lebanon to Turkey, Iraq to Greece, Syria to Egypt, and encompasses gyros, kebabs, spinach pies, bean and yogurt dips, bulgur and rice dishes, and honeyed Middle Eastern sweets. While I was there, a small girl eyed the Turkish delight in the case hungrily, pointing at it for emphasis – the confection was at eye level for her – but she remained tranquil when her mom firmly told her no.

Hameeseh spread, made from eggplant, red peppers and onions, atop toast. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

I lingered, unable to decide what to order. As my own mom would have told me once, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I went home with two falafel sandwiches; a container of homey, mildly spiced lentil soup ($5.95); a container of hameeseh ($4.95), a quite sour eggplant dip; and one lahmajoun ($3.95), a chewy flatbread slightly larger than my open hand and topped with a hint of ground lamb, spices and, according to the menu “unique sauce.” Not including tip, the total bill came to not much more than $30, and two people got three healthful meals/snacks out of it, plus a culinary expedition far beyond the boundaries of Portland, Maine.


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