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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: August 15, 2016

Mamma J’s in Wells will have you seeing – and eating – red

Written by: Bob Keyes
Mamma J's red hot dog, burger and fries was more than enough even for a late lunch. Photo by Bob Keyes/Staff writer

Mamma J’s red hot dog, burger and fries was more than enough even for a late lunch.
Photo by Bob Keyes/Staff writer

Tips from readers are always appreciated. By tips, we’re talking about suggestions for stories, not monetary compensation. Although ….

A timely idea for an Eat and Run review arrived last week, from a woman in southern Maine who suggested we check out Mamma J’s on Route 1 in Wells for lunch. It’s a newish place, cheerful like a quaint sleeping cottage with a welcoming front porch, tucked back from a busy stretch of highway.

There are a few tables inside, but it’s mostly a take-out place, where you order at the counter and wait for your food.

The reader recommended it for its good food and cleanliness. I stopped last week in between appointments in Portland and a commitment back home in Berwick. It was a later lunch than I am used to, and I was both hungry and impatient.

Very much on the spur of the moment, I ordered a hot dog –– Mamma’s Red Dog ($3.99) to be precise, with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes and pepperoncini, the Italian name for chili peppers, on a bulkie roll. This is way out of character for me. A simple hot dog with mustard and onions, and maybe relish if I am really feeling it, is more my taste. For whatever reason, I decided to try something different.

Just in case, I also ordered a basic cheeseburger ($7.99), which was advertised as a one-third pound burger. For the benefit of my heart, I also ordered fries ($3.99).

Sigh.

Not the healthiest lunch ever or the smartest choices, but I loved the food and was only disappointed with the lack of discipline in my decisions.

As I sat at a table and waited for my food, I realized why I had ordered Mamma’s Red Dog. The subtle motif of the entire restaurant is red –– red shutters on the windows, red napkin dispensers, red seat cushions on the chairs, red trim on the cash register, reg geraniums hanging on the porch. Even the cement curbs in the parking lot are painted bright red.

Of course I ordered the Mamma’s Red Dog. It was all subliminal.

The dog was good. It was nicely grilled and topped with just enough peppers, onions and tomatoes to give it punch, but not overwhelm it. The problem was the bulkie bun. It was very dense and a little dry. I ate the dog, but left much of the bun on my (red) plate.

I had much the same experience with my cheeseburger, which I ordered with mustard, ketchup and onions. It was grilled medium-rare, as I like it, and its flavor was fresh. But the bun was huge, and again I left the bread on the plate.

The porch at Mamma J's was a comfortable spot for having lunch. Photo by Bob Keyes/Staff Writer

The porch at Mamma J’s was a comfortable spot for having lunch.
Photo by Bob Keyes/Staff Writer

I ate my lunch under the shade of a picnic bench and caught up with email as I ate. It was very pleasant, actually, even though I was alongside a busy stretch of Route 1. Sometimes, it’s good to just follow your instincts.

MAMMA J’s TAKE OUT

WHERE: 1738 Post Road (U.S. Route 1), Wells; 207-216-9136; mammajs.net
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday through August; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October; closed Mondays
WAIT: 10 minutes
PARKING: Plenty of parking in a lot
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes

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