For a 45 minute drive, Brunswick’s Shere Punjab offers a chance to spice things up
We all know that Colby is the better school, has the prettier females, easier classes and whatnot, but there is something Bowdoin’s Brunswick has that Waterville lacks: Indian food. And not just any Indian food, but delicious, well-worth-the-45-minute-drive Indian food.
Brunswick’s aptly named Maine Street boasts two Indian restaurants, but Shere Punjab is easily the better of the two. The clashing mustard-colored shingles and burgundy awnings attract the eyes of passersby, as a welcoming bell invites diners in from the street. The restaurant is small—a drafty square room with eight or nine linen-clothed tables varying in size. I’ve never seen more than three of them occupied at a time; clearly Bowdoin students don’t share our refined taste for superb cuisine.
Colorful tapestries and prints adorn the crimson walls, and jangling music reminiscent of a Bollywood soundtrack fills the spice-filled air. My party, which consisted of a Brunswick native who is a lifetime devotee to Shere Punjab, a few regulars and myself, took our pick of tables and immediately placed three orders of naan, a warm, traditional leavened flatbread: we got one plain, one garlic and one Punjabi, a personal favorite that is garnished with coconut, saffron and other mysterious spices.
The entrees range from nine to 15 dollars and can be ordered with one to 10 sinus-clearing stars of spiciness. I haven’t ventured past a cautionary four, but more adventurous friends stand by the 10. Most of us don’t even need to crack a menu; once you find something you love here—your ideal blend of spices, creaminess and subtle sweetness for your palate—it’s difficult to give it up for something else.
I make an effort to switch things up every so often. My usual, the saag paneer, a zesty mound of steamed spinach in a creamy sauce of traditional spices and Shere Punjab’s homemade soft cheese, called to me, but I went for the chana masala instead. It arrived, a bright orange dish of protein-rich chickpeas sautéed with tomatoes, garlic, ginger, curry and other spices. It was warm and comforting and the four stars continuing to tingle my lips long after I’d boxed the remainder (to say the portions are generous would be an understatement) and taken my last sip of Darjeeling tea. It was a bit too spicy to become a new go-to, but the chana masala didn’t disappoint.
My companions swear by the mutter paneer, chicken tikka masala (a classic), aloo mutter and chana saag. Though the desserts are tempting, especially the sweet rice-based kheer served with rosewater, I recommend walking a few doors down to cool your taste buds with some artisanal gelato at the Gelato Fiasco.
It’s probable you won’t have room for dessert, though, after your heaping portion of Indian perfection, in which case I suggest grabbing a cup of The Fiasco’s locally roasted French press coffee before hitting the road. It’ll keep the food coma at bay while you make the long drive back northward. Coffee or not, you won’t question that the drive was worth every minute.