This past week, I did everyone on campus a favor: I went and taste-tested the food at two fine food establishments in the town of Brunswick, ME. If you ever get tired of Commons, read on to discover two places off-campus to visit for a bite to eat and dessert.

Little Saigon is a cozy restaurant located in a small storefront on Brunswick’s Maine St. Though aptly named, Little Saigon’s small size is not a metaphor for the quality of food found within. In fact, the restaurant packs a concentrated punch of Southeast Asian cuisine in its small square footage. The menu focuses on Pho, Mien, Egg noodle soup, and Bun, though the appetizer selection is more diverse.

Hungry after a long day of thesis research and a little sniffly, I ordered the Appetizer Platter and Chicken Mien. When the Platter entered into my view, my stomach did somersaults. As the kind waitress placed the dish on the table, I was already planning my attack on the meatballs, shrimp, egg rolls, and rice crêpes. I was out with a friend who didn’t like shrimp, so we had previously decided that I would eat the shrimp and they would eat the meatballs, however, I immediately forgot our agreement and dug into his steaming and savory garlic honey pork meatball once the plate hit the table. Juicy and sweet, the meatballs’ flavor quickly dissolved any guilt I felt about violating my agreement. The egg rolls were also delicious and crispy, as were the rice crêpes. Both were filled with pork and shrimp, a theme of the Appetizer Platter.

Just as my friend and I finished the Platter, our main dishes arrived. The chicken mien I ordered was presented in a gigantic white ceramic bowl full of broth, clear glass noodles, fried garlic, chicken, mushrooms, bok choy, cilantro, and scallions. For those of you unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine, all these flavors combined to create what tasted like a giant bowl of fancy chicken noodle soup. The addition of herbs and mushrooms elevated the mien above the likes of canned soup, however, the comforting effect of salty chicken broth remained.

My friend ordered the Chicken Pho, and he also noted the similarities between his dish and chicken noodle soup; pho typically includes a meat broth, meat, noodles, fresh cilantro, limes, and bean shoots, so it is decidedly similar to chicken noodle soup. However, unlike the classic canned chicken noodle of my childhood, Little Saigon’s pho and mien had more complex flavor profiles and the benefit of a warm atmosphere. Consequently, our dining experience was elevated above any other chicken noodle soup experience.

After dinner, my friend and I walked down Maine St. to Gelato Fiasco’s flagship store. A lover of all things chocolate, I ordered a “treat” size serving of Dark Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt and Hazelnut Dark Chocolate. The salty and sweet mixed well together, and my friend and I tried to make our frozen confections last longer than 2 minutes. We both failed, and our precious gelato was gone within seconds of paying.

As we walked back to our car, my friend and I reminisced on our dinner and dessert; both fit well in our stomachs and minds, and we made plans to go out to dinner in Brunswick again.