April 18, 2012

Eat and Run: Breakfast champions

Marcy's Diner has early eats -- as well as some sandwich and burger options -- down.

I know the term "silver dollar pancakes" is probably not meant to be taken literally. Most eateries don't make those pancakes as small as an actual dollar. Still, they are usually much smaller than your average griddle cake.

click image to enlarge

John Blanchette of Portland enjoys a recent breakfast at Marcy’s Diner in Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 47 Oak St., Portland; 774-9713

HOURS: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

CHEAPEST GRUB: Egg and cheese on English muffin, $3.50

WAIT: About five minutes

PARKING: On street

HANDICAPPED ACCESS: No. There's one step to get over.

RATING: 4 stars on a 5-star scale

So I was pleasantly surprised -- sort of stunned, actually -- when I got two normal-sized pancakes with my bacon and eggs at Marcy's Diner in Portland. I thought the pancakes would just be a nice little add-on -- dessert, if you will -- to follow my breakfast.

But the pancakes could have been breakfast by themselves.

The item I ordered listed two eggs, bacon or sausage, home fries and two "silver dollar" buttermilk pancakes, all for $6.75. I ended up getting essentially two breakfasts for that price.

My sunny-side up eggs were perfect, with nice big yolks. When I see "home fries" on the menu, I think of chunks of potatoes. But I got what I consider hash browns -- thin, shredded potatoes. Maybe they were out of the chunky ones. I didn't care, because these were some of the best hash browns I've ever had. No pre-made hash brown patties for Marcy's. This was a big ole' mess of shredded potatoes, nice and toasty, with just the right amount of crispness.

The pancakes were fluffy and rich. And as I said before, big.

Over the years, Marcy's has consistently served low-priced diner food quickly and with a smile. It has been a sort of oasis of comfort food in downtown Portland as more upscale eating options have come to town.

Marcy's is located on the corner of Free and Oak streets, not far from the Portland Museum of Art, so it has a steady clientele of downtown workers and people who live on Portland's peninsula.

There has been an eatery of some kind on this corner dating back to the 1930s, and the interior has an old-fashioned diner feel. There's stained wood on the wall, a wood counter, old but comfy stools, and lots of memorabilia ranging from sports pennants to lava lamps. It became Marcy's around 1989 and was taken over by Doug and Darla Neugebauer about a year ago.

The place also has lots of creative daily specials, which are usually posted on the Marcy's Diner Facebook page. Some of those specials posted in recent days include banana bread French toast, pot roast hash, and raspberry and cream cheese pancakes.

Two important things to remember about Marcy's is that it's cash only, and it's only open until 2 p.m. So it's no surprise that most of the menu is made up of breakfast items, although sandwiches and burgers are big around lunchtime.

The menu has a dozen or so breakfast combos like the one I had. For $6.50, you can get two eggs, bacon or sausage, home fries and two pieces of French toast. Or, for $7, you can get what I got, but with your pancakes flavored. If you want to try a little of everything, for $7.50 you can get two eggs, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, home fries and toast or one buttermilk pancake.

Something I'd like to try in the future are the buttermilk pancakes ($5.25 for three) with various add-ons. For an extra $1.50, you can get bits of bacon in the pancakes. Or chocolate chips. Or blueberries. Or raspberries. Or -- well, you get the idea.

Marcy's also has omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and other sandwiches ranging from a classic peanut butter and jelly ($4) to a steak and cheese ($5.25) and a bacon and blue cheese burger ($7.75).


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


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