Thursday, May 23, 2013
From staff reports
Today we take a look at another hidden Portland lunch spot known to certain office workers but not to the general public.
Alejandra Guardado with a ham and Swiss on rye.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
MIDDLE STREET CAFE
WHERE: 100 Middle St., Portland; 772-5544
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday
CHEAPEST GRUB: Breakfast sandwiches, $2 to $3 range; grilled cheese, $3.50
WAIT: Five minutes
PARKING: On street
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes
Based on a five-star scale
A few weeks ago, we visited Mom's Cafe in the basement of One Canal Plaza. Last year, we shared a spot that had become a favorite of Press Herald employees -- the Clock Tower Cafe in the basement of City Hall.
The Middle Street Cafe is not in a basement, but it is in a big office building filled with lawyers and investment bankers. It's just across the street from the Portland Police Department and Bresca, one of the city's best-known fine dining restaurants.
This is probably the tiniest local cafe I've been in during the past two decades of living in Portland. There are a couple of tables and chairs set up in the atrium outside for people who want to sit down and eat, but no one was using them the day I visited.
The cafe is basically a counter where you order your sandwich, soup or salad from a menu on a board up above. The rest of the room is filled with things like potato chip displays and coolers for bottled water and soft drinks.
The offerings are as simple as it gets -- sandwiches made with egg salad, chicken salad, roast beef, chicken breast and other standard fare. Prices range from $3.50 for a grilled cheese to $5.95 for a turkey club.
On the day I visited, the soups of the day included haddock chowder. Soups range in price, depending on the size of the serving, from $2-plus to about $4.
You know it's an office building when you have a variety of inexpensive breakfast sandwiches on the menu for all those workers who skipped their morning meal.
In addition to bagels and other basics, the Middle Street Cafe sells hot breakfast sandwiches. They cost around $2 to $3, depending on what you ask for, and are basically your standard English muffin-egg-cheese-and-breakfast-meat fare.
I was there for lunch, so I tried the turkey club, which came with turkey breast, bacon, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes and a smear of mayo. When the woman behind the counter asked if I wanted my bread toasted, I said yes, but later wished I hadn't. The bread was so lightly toasted, it just tasted dry.
I had a similar sandwich at Mom's Cafe for about a buck more, but with its dark green lettuce and thick-cut bacon cooked fresh on the premises, it was worth that extra dollar. The Middle Street Cafe version of a turkey club was fine as sandwiches go; it just didn't wow me. And there's certainly no law that says every sandwich should be a religious experience. Sometimes, a sandwich is just a sandwich.
It would be nice to go back and try a few other things, including that haddock chowder or maybe a breakfast sandwich. The cafe seems fairly busy, so all those lawyers and workers in the financial industry must know something.
Or maybe they're just saving up for dinner at Bresca.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $7.