August 16, 2012

Eat and Run: Mellen Street Market, Portland

This market has a great vibe and some promising menu offerings, but our reviewer didn't exactly love the sub he sampled.

PORTLAND - Can we agree that flatulence is not a good thing?

click image to enlarge

Mellen Street Market’s steak and cheese sub.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 79 Mellen St., Portland; 772-2206

HOURS: 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 a.m. to noon and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday

CHEAPEST GRUB: $1.25 for a hot dog

WAIT: Five minutes

PARKING: Off street

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Maybe, but the front step might present some problems


Based on a five-star scale

OK, maybe there is some medical benefit to releasing all that pent-up gas. But that's not what we're talking about.

A story: Last Thursday night, I went to my neighborhood Mellen Street Market down by Park Avenue to pick up a sandwich before the Shakespeare in the park show at nearby Deering Oaks. Never mind that I had the date wrong. (It was right in the paper, by the way.)

But I digress.

I got a sandwich to enjoy while watching the show at Deering Oaks. When I realized I had the dates mixed up, I trekked back up the Mellen Street hill to my West End apartment to enjoy my steak and cheese delight on my deck along with a cold Geary's Summer Ale.

I got in the elevator and immediately noticed a not-very-nice odor. Ugh, I thought. Someone really messed this space up. How disgusting and rude.

I scrunched my nose and waited the few seconds it takes for the lift to ascend five floors. By the time I got there, I realized the foul odor I was smelling was not gas. It was dinner.

Oh, boy.

It almost embarrasses me to admit that I ate my sandwich. The whole thing -- and it didn't taste nearly as bad as it smelled. In fact, it tasted OK.

I ordered a steak-and-cheese with green peppers and onions for $6.49, which I thought was a fair price. The bun was chewy, the veggies were freshly grilled, and American cheese embedded underneath the meat melted into a favorable gooey mix.

The steak? Eh. So-so. It was very chewy, which disappointed me. But it was mostly chunky and not cut into strips, so it was easy to eat.

A lot of meat passes as steak these days. I presume these chunks came from a low-end cut, something my mother used to call minute steak.

God bless her, but my mom was no cook. She would often buy these cheap steaks, pound the heck out of them with a cleaver, and fry those puppies up on the electric stovetop. (For me, that image is all about the 1970s.) It took just minutes to cook them through, hence the name.

This sandwich felt like my memory of those minute steaks.

Next time I visit Mellen Street Market, I won't order the steak and cheese. I likely will try a pizza ($6.75 for a small cheese) or perhaps the meatball ($4.49 for a small) or the salami/provolone Italian ($4.39 for a small).

I like this market. It's a working-class place, with a small selection of groceries and a decent cooler of beer and some pretty basic wine choices. If you don't want a whole pizza, you can order by the slice.

I had to laugh as I waited at the counter. In addition to copies of some very positive write-ups about the breakfast sandwiches, the front-facing glass featured taped-up pictures of all the local thieves, captured on security cameras.

Hey, I thought, those are all my neighbors. I wonder if they know their mugs are plastered up for all to see.

Maybe it was they who fouled the elevator after all. It certainly would be right within their character. 

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $7.


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