SOUTH PORTLAND – I’ve been worried about the shopping center that opened a few years back on Broadway, just over the Casco Bay Bridge.

You know the one I’m talking about: It’s the one where J.P. Thornton’s relocated, across from Beale Street Barbecue.

My fears centered on the impression that many of the storefronts remained vacant for the longest time, leaving the few businesses that were operating looking lonely and under-visited.

I’m happy to report that is no longer the case. The center seems to be thriving, thanks in some part to Cambridge Coffee Bar & Bakehouse, a lovely eatery that offers tea, coffee and decadent, delicious pastries. A recent addition is a small lunch menu that has such offerings as chicken salad wraps and turkey clubs.

I stopped in one morning for my daily coffee and then again later that same day for lunch.

First impressions are lasting, right? Mine were positive. The cafe is clean and inviting, with a tasteful and understated wood-and-glass kitchen/register area. A bevy of freshly baked pastries tempted me.

The seating area is populated with cushy booth benches and hard but comfortable chairs. The lighting is soft, and the walls are painted a rich yellow. On the day I visited, the walls were bereft of art, but typically the walls are covered with local, original art.

For my breakfast visit, I indulged in two pastries: a blueberry turnover and a blueberry scone. Both were very good, although I preferred the texture of the turnover more than the scone.

The turnover was soft and flaky, and the blueberry filling was sweet and gooey. A slight taste of butter permeated every bite. It was light and delicious.

By its very nature, the scone was denser, but not so dense that the taste of blueberries was overwhelmed. I ate every bite, and enjoyed it. When I go again, I will try something else.

The pastry menu is vast, and includes the shop’s signature item, the popover. My mother used to make popovers, and I am fond of them. Cambridge Coffee Bar offers popovers with maple butter, fruit jams and garlic herb butter. I cannot wait to go back with an empty stomach to try a few.

On return visits, I will also sample the freshly baked muffins, bagels, biscotti, Scottish shortbread and coffee cake, all of which looked heavenly.

Along with a large Carrabassett Valley coffee, my bill totaled $6.17 — very reasonable, in my estimation.

For lunch, I ordered the chicken salad on a wheat wrap ($7.25). The salad mixture included walnut and cranberries, which offered both texture and a welcome tart flavor. It was very good and filling.

The lunch menu is limited, and by all appearances changes frequently. It was written on a message board, and has not yet been posted on the cafe’s Web site.

Folks who are picky about their teas and coffees will find many suitable choices here. I’m not one of those folks — I prefer a simple cup of coffee with cream. I’m not interested in whipped toppings or anything that requires a machine that makes a lot of noise to dispense my beverage.

I have neither the time nor patience for fancy. But I do not begrudge those who do, and it appears that Cambridge Coffee Bar & Bakehouse can satisfy any and all demands when it comes to fancy coffee and tea.

It also offers an array of cold drinks, including smoothies, blended fruit drinks and iced Italian soda.



The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.