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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: March 15, 2016

Ameera Bread in Portland serves up Middle Eastern fare, including fresh-baked sammoon and naan breads

Written by: Ray Routhier
Ameera Bread

Garlic hummus with sammoon bread Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

For hardcore fans of Ameera Bread in Portland, there’s only one thing that could make the bakery’s pillow-like sammoon bread and olive oil-drenched hummus any better: a second place to get it.

Ameera Bread serves up its prized breads and hummus, along with other Middle Eastern appetizers and sandwiches, in a hard-to-see storefront on a busy stretch of Forest Avenue near Baxter Woods. There’s a sandwich board on the sidewalk to announce the bakery, but the storefront itself is set back about 50 feet and hard to see if you’re driving by at 30 miles an hour.

But owner Ahmed Abbas says he’s opening another location in April, in the Public Market House on Monument Square in downtown. The market’s co-manager, Bill Milliken, said Ameera will be taking over a second floor space being vacated by Love Kupcakes.

Abbas said the market house location will carry all the same things he has on Forest Avenue, all within walking distance to people shopping and working downtown.

So going out to the Forest Avenue location now, for breads or for lunch, will give you a good idea of what to expect downtown.

There are two white boards announcing the day’s selections, one for appetizers and spreads and one for bread and sandwiches.

Ameera Bread

Kufta sandwich featuring a lamb and spices mixture grilled in long strips. Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

When I went at lunch on a recent Thursday, I had a kufta sandwich ($6.99) featuring a lamb and spices mixture grilled in long strips. The lamb was stuffed in a rolled piece of naan bread, along with tomatoes, lettuce and onions. I browsed the counter and coolers filled with items like baba ghanoush (eggplant spread), stuffed grape leaves, and makdos (baby eggplant stuffed with nuts) while my lamb sizzled on the grill. There was also a fava bean-based appetizer that looked good.

It only took about five minutes to get my sandwich. I also had to try the sammoon bread ($3.99 for four pillow-shaped loaves) and a container of garlic hummus ($3.99). Rich olive oil had been drizzled on top, a welcome addition to the overall taste.

The kufta had a very nice bit of heat to it, not overwhelming, just sort of warm and welcoming. The lamb was tender and had a smoky, charred flavor from the grill.

I ate half of the lamb kufta plus one sammoon loaf with hummus and was stuffed. The next day I did the same thing. The third day I toasted the remaining sammoon loaves and ate them with a little remaining hummus. So I basically had lunch for three days, for $15.

The sandwiches offered the day I went included falafel (deep fried balls of crushed chickpeas) for $5.99, and a beef or chicken gyro for $6.99. There was also a chicken version of the kufta.

The place on Forest Avenue does have seating for a few people, but it’s mostly set up as a take-out place. The Public Market House has a communal seating area, so people can have lunch there.

Abbas named his business after his daughter, and in Arabic ameera means “princess.”

Which is appropriate, because for people who get hooked on Ameera’s breads, going back for more is a command performance.


AMEERA BREAD

WHERE: 845 R Forest Ave., Portland; 956-7071
WAIT: Five to 10 minutes
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
PARKING: Yes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No

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