November 11, 2012

Dine Out Maine: Edna and Lucy's serves lunch like Grandma used to make

Five miles from Freeport, this excellent cafe is worth a drive.

By NANCY HEISER

At a rural crossroads in a town whose population numbers about 1,500, you might expect to find a convenience or general store, maybe a gas station – that's about it.

click image to enlarge

Edna and Lucy’s is well worth the drive to Pownal for its wonderful soups, sandwiches and baked goods. And do try the doughnuts.

Telegram file

DINING REVIEW

EDNA AND LUCY'S

407 Hallowell Road, Pownal

688-3029; tinyurl.com/ednaandlucy

★★★★

HOURS: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

CREDIT CARDS: Mastercard, Visa, Discover

PRICE RANGE: $2.75 to $7.25

VEGETARIAN: Yes, including vegan.

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes, they can put sandwich fillings on greens.

KIDS: Welcome

RESERVATIONS: No

BAR: No

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, side entrance has a ramp.

BOTTOM LINE: Set on a country road five miles from Freeport, this cafe is a find. Soups, sandwiches and baked goods are tasty, original, fairly priced and served in a warm and homey atmosphere, drawing customers of all ages and stripes. Don't miss the homemade doughnuts.

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.

But at Pownal Center – the junction of Elmwood Road and Route 9 just south of Bradbury Mountain State Park – you'll find an excellent cafe. Edna and Lucy's, named for the grandmothers of its co-owners, draws those in the know for killer soups, sandwiches, salads and baked goods.

You can't miss the fire-engine red exterior. Inside, it's more muted and homey. The walls are painted the colors of fall, and vintage wood furnishings hold condiments and pastries.

There are two spaces – a roomy spot for ordering at the counter, and a dining area with a stool-lined counter along the windows and a few hefty tables. Two rocking chairs near the entrance suggest those in waiting take time to relax. This isn't assembly-line food.

Count me among the soup nuts of the world; I'm always on the hunt for an excellent bowl of potage. This spot's slightly sweet curried red lentil soup, made with apple cider and thick with bits of carrot, celery and onion, was delicious ($3.50).

Leave the eatery's spicy and hearty beef chili ($4.25 for about a cup and a half) for last if you want to preserve your palate for other tastes. The heat comes on late but quite strong. Soups are one of co-owner Steph Dexter's specialties.

Much of creating good food, even breakfast and lunch fare, is about knowing what goes well together and in what proportions – testing and tasting to get it right before you put the item on the menu, even if it's a sandwich written on a blackboard – and using the best ingredients possible.

To that end, Edna and Lucy's, open since 2008, uses meat from Micucci's in Portland and bread from Borealis. Sauerkraut from Morse's goes on their Reubens and Rachels (which is a Reuben with turkey instead of corned beef).

They also procure pickles from that same notable European food shop in Waldoboro. But the pickled beets are homemade, and these are excellent – shredded into spaghetti-width strands that are sharp and crunchy.

Fermented additions brighten many a dish here. A hot sandwich of grilled eggplant with homemade tapanade, spinach and pickled onions (their own) was a hot, juicy and tasty amalgam of flavors ($6.95). Hummus on a spinach roll-up was a delightful departure from the sometimes too-ordinary wrap, with arugula, cucumber slices, cheddar cheese and a heap of pickled beets melding in nice proportion ($6.75).

Edna and Lucy's brings a salient characteristic of fine dining establishments to lunch food, and it's this: Thoughtful combinations that elevate the ordinary. Sure, iceberg lettuce and tomato are fine, but capers on an egg salad sandwich inspire a little more excitement. This is how we eat now.

Seasonal salad ($7.25) had a base of arugula and mixed greens topped with walnuts, plumped-up dried cranberries, dabs of goat cheese drizzled with olive oil and pepper, and those delicious pickled beets. A homemade rosemary and dill vinaigrette made it shine.

My only quibble: The salad comes in an aluminum container that is too small for digging in to the contents without creating an overflow onto the table. A plate, even a paper one, would help. In fact, I find it a little jarring when great food is served with plastic utensils, as here. I'd like to see the cafe set up with dishwashing and silverware. At the same time, I know such an upgrade is expensive, and I'd hate to see prices go up as a result.

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