Friday, February 17, 2012

South Portland: Food Destination?

Fresh from Scratch Baking Co.
Despite its small size, the City of Portland, Maine (66,000) has a well-earned reputation as one of New England's best food cities. Sure, Boston has more restaurants, but Portland has the quality! And this food scene isn't confined to Portland. Just on the other side of the Casco Bay Bridge is the City of South Portland. Not much goes on there, and few tourists bother to visit. However, for many locals, this is the place to eat during the summer months when hoards of tourists descend on Portland and all the restaurants get crowded. South Portland has a number of good restaurants, bakeries, and cafes, making it one of the unappreciated food destinations in southern Maine.

My favorite lunch spot, at the moment, is Verbena. It's an unpretentious, yet sophisticated place that caters to the South Portland business community. Its menu changes daily, with only a few items offered on a regular basis. The regular menu offers flank steak, grilled vegetable, and chicken salad sandwiches. The daily specials usually include a vegan option, such as black bean cakes or spicy tofu sandwiches. I particularly like their spicy squash sandwich, oatmeal cranberry cookies, and brownies (not vegan).

Just down the street from Verbena is the Bridgeway Restaurant. The Bridgeway is an old-style restaurant. Nothing fancy here, just simple, well-prepared food at very reasonable prices. If you want to travel back to the 1950s, go to the Bridgeway and have a Martini.

Scratch Baking Co. is a wonderful bakery that has been around for a few years. It always has fresh bread, bagels, pastries, and cookies. It's located in Willard Square, a pleasant intersection in a residential area that seems to be evolving into a mini-food node. Recently, David's opened a second restaurant just down the street.

158 Pickett Street Cafe
Finally, there's 158 Pickett Street Cafe. Located near Southern Maine Community College, 158 has the best bagels in the Portland region. A causal place for a quick morning bite, 158 is bursting with atmosphere and friendly folk. And most importantly, 158 is inexpensive. 

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