I’ve lived in the Portland area for almost 20 years so I honestly don’t know why I had never been to The Bridgeway Restaurant in South Portland. The place is an institution that dates back to the mid-’50s. Nestled in the heart of SoPo’s Knightville neighborhood, The Bridgeway offers up classic American fare in what I consider to be a retro environment that likely hasn’t changed much through the years.

My dining companion arrived with rumbling stomach just before noon on a recent Friday and found the place to be empty save for one gent sitting at the bar. We tucked into a booth near the window and perused the lunch menu and soon after two other parties arrived. I was amused by the two older fellows who were seated by us when they both ordered cocktails, one of which I am certain was a Manhattan. Hey, the joys of retirement, right?

The lunch menu has 13 offerings on it, and many of them were appealing to me. The grilled turkey, cheese and tomato served with french fries goes for $7.95. There’s broiled haddock for $9.95, chicken teriyaki for $8.95, lasagna with meatball for $8.95 and a clam cake plate for $7.95, among other items. I was just about to order the chicken teriyaki when our server mentioned that one of the day’s specials was shaved steak sliders served with fries for $9.95 and so that’s when I went with. Meanwhile, my friend opted for the chicken Parmesan. It was $8.95 and came with a choice of spaghetti or angel hair pasta.

While we were waiting for the food to arrive I took a quick look around and realized there was a whole other section – and a big one at that – of the restaurant that was closed for lunch service. But I can imagine the joint jumping if not at present day then years back. I even heard The Bridegway used to have a popular piano player.

When the food arrived we dove right in. The sliders were delicious with peppers and onions and were just the right amount of food. I didn’t leave a crumb behind. Now on the one hand, the amount of french fries was a bit skimpy, but on the other hand there were plenty. I’m just being petty because I never met a fry I didn’t love and would have eaten all that were presented to me. So in essence, I owe The Bridgeway some gratitude for not placing a mountain of fries in front of me.

As for my friend, she said her chicken Parmesan was perfectly good. It wasn’t earth-shattering but it was satisfying. We both got a kick out of the vintage-looking plates the food came on. Some might call them outdated – not me, I love that kind of thing.

The Brideway isn’t hip, it doesn’t offer any kind of funky fusion fare, and some could argue it could use some updating. But you know what? It’s also a respectable spot that is honest about what is has to offer. This wasn’t lost on me or my lunch date, and for that reason I’m glad it’s there and I am glad that it surely has a legion of longtime diners who keep the historic place in business.

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

aponti@pressherald.com