November 6, 2011

Dine Out Maine: Food's creative, delicious and abundant at Bintliff's

Bintliff's American Cafe, which serves brunch daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., is no ordinary hash house.


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Bintliff’s American Cafe serves brunch daily at 98 Portland St. in Portland.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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The decor inside Bintliff's, with its walls framed with antique-style ephemera, borders on eclectic.



98 Portland St., Portland. 774-0005;


HOURS: Brunch daily, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CREDIT CARDS: Visa, Mastercard and American Express

PRICE RANGE: $2.99 for a single pancake to $12.99


KIDS: Welcome, but no children's menu

RESERVATIONS: Accepted Monday to Friday; not taken Saturday and Sunday. Expect a wait on the weekends.

BAR: Full. Specialty drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, available.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, on the first floor

BOTTOM LINE: Bintliff's American Cafe has been serving brunch to Portland for 18 years, and the skill shows. They know what works, and they balance familiar standards with enough creativity to keep the energy fresh. Like your well-worn jeans accented with a brand-new scarf, the Bintliff's experience makes you feel simultaneously comfortable, modern and satisfied.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value: *Poor  **Fair  ***Good  ****Excellent  *****Extraordinary.  The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

We were led upstairs, and instead of the offered booth -- perfectly overstuffed and comfortable for the upcoming winter months, but too dim for one of the season's last bright mornings -- we asked for outside seating, and the hostess cheerfully obliged. Nestled into a metal table and chair in what can best be described as a treehouse locale, we sat on the upstairs back patio. (Winter has reared its ugly head since the date of this review, so outside dining may no longer be an option.)

The branches provided a canopy to filter the autumn sun, and we were able to peek over the railing at the large party below us on the first floor deck. This was a perfect spot to spy what other diners had ordered. I love watching the translation of menu to plate, but I loved overhearing the convivial spirit most of all.

Beverage requests -- hot green tea and a non-alcoholic Sparkling Peach Cooler ($2.79) with peach and cranberry juices, soda water and lime -- were brought almost immediately upon ordering.

I was excited to note the presence of local favorite Rocket Fuel, a high-test concoction with its creative roots at the Gorham Grind coffee house.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Signature Bloody Mary ($6.99) too -- spicy and smooth with a refreshing tang. Both the Bloody Mary and Mimosa ($7.99) are 14 ounces, no ice, and worth every penny. 

The Tuscany Scramble ($7.99), however, is my favorite. Crispy croutons and soft roasted garlic scrambled in eggs, all tossed with fresh tomato and shaved Parmesan cheese.

The Bintliff Scramble ($6.99) is equally impressive in its simplicity: Eggs, fresh basil, cracked black pepper and Italian cheese. 

Simple, creative abundance seems to be the motto at Bintliff's. 

The Eggs Buerre Noir ($8.99) is a combination of portabella and button mushrooms, capers and parsley saut? in browned butter, but be warned: The dish is as rich and heavy as it is described. Delicious, but heavy with flavor. 

Three lean strips of North Country Smokehouse thick-cut applewood smoked bacon ($3.29) were delivered hot and crisp, with barely a hint of fat. 

If taste tends toward a Benedict, Bintliff's offers a variety, but the standout is the Maine Lobster Benedict with large portions of fresh lobster and spinach all balanced on an English muffin with two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce (market price).

Also, the Louisiana Bayou Benedict ($10.99) with grilled Andouille sausage on homemade corncakes topped with two poached eggs and spicy Cajun hollandaise is a clever Bayou-meets-Casco Bay interpretation. 

The verdict? Bintliff's is remarkably consistent in its brunch offerings, and it has been so for more than 18 years. There will always be a wait in line during weekend peak time, but the staff mitigates any inconvenience with ample coffee and the promise of tasty, unique dining. 

If you feel like a casual brunch for grown-ups and are willing to pay just a bit more for an elevated experience, Bintliff's is my hands-down, immediate recommendation.  

(Be sure to order the corned beef hash.)

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a freelance writer and published author.


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