August 22, 2013

Eat and Run: Cia's Cafe, South Portland

The grab-and-go fare is really good, and the vibe is friendly.

From staff reports

Cia's is the kind of place that makes you say, "I wish there was something like this in my neighborhood."

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Jeannie Dunnigan, owner of Cia Cafe in South Portland, makes a veggie roll-up with fresh local produce.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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The finished sandwich contained cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus, provolone and walnuts.


WHERE: 72 Ocean St., South Portland. 747-4414

HOURS: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

CHEAPEST GRUB: For lunch, a small array of sandwich priced from $5.25 to $5.75

WAIT: 5-10 minutes

PARKING: On street only


RATING: ****

It's a friendly, cozy little spot in the Knightville area of South Portland where residents pop in to grab a croissant or scone in the morning on the way to work, or a coffee drink or ice cream cone in the afternoon.

During the time I was there, the tables weren't all taken, but I saw young mothers with strollers chatting at a table, a family on a bike ride stopping in for cool drinks, young men with coffee in hand working on their laptops, and a group of older women gathering for a chat over a coffee. There was even a highchair in the corner, and a small table with children's books for the little ones.

There are colorful rattan sofas and chairs for lounging, local art to look at on the walls, funky orange light fixtures, and when I was there the stereo was playing classics like Rosemary Clooney singing "Sway With Me."

The food is mostly grab-and-go fare in a pastry case; think bagels, muffins, cookies, scones and croissants. They had blueberry hand pies on the day I visited that looked flaky and delicious. The cafe touts its homemade brownies, and the clerk will ask you if you want a middle or a side piece.

There's also a freezer case filled with Smiling Hill Farm ice cream. (Cones range in price from $1.50 to $3.20.)

The cafe recently started offering a small assortment of classic sandwiches such as chicken salad; tuna salad with celery, dill, pepper and mayo; egg salad with dill, mayo, mustard and pepper; and a veggie wrap. I ordered the chicken salad, which was made with white meat chicken, craisins, pecans, walnuts and mayo on whole wheat bread. The sandwich came in one of those old-fashioned green baskets like they serve food in at drive-ins.

The cafe usually also has a special where you can order a sandwich, a bag of chips and a cold drink from the cooler for $7.77.

The chicken salad sandwich was simple and fresh, and there was something about it that really gave off that homemade vibe -- I felt like I was in my own kitchen eating a sandwich I'd made myself. I washed it down with a medium chai latte for $3.50. The menu board is full of both hot and iced drinks including espressos, cappuccinos and lattes in different sizes, smoothies ($3.75 and $4.75) and frappes ($4.50).

Next time you're in the neighborhood, pop in and give Cia's a try. I know I will be back to try one of those tempting treats in the pastry case.

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.


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