July 4, 2013

Eat and Run: Small Axe, 122 Anderson St. and 385 Congress St., Portland

Local ingredients fuel truck's delicious food.

From staff reports

If you're one of those people who occasionally pop into a coffee shop or fast-food joint for a quick breakfast sandwich on the way to work, then feel guilty about it all morning, I have a solution for you: Small Axe, one of Portland's new food trucks.

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click image to enlarge

Brendan Colter takes an order from a customer outside the Small Axe, which was parked at Pearl and Congress streets.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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click image to enlarge

Bill Leavy, left, and Karl Deuben are the Small Axe owners and cooks.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

SMALL AXE

400-9971; smallaxetruck.com

WHERE: Breakfast at 122 Anderson St., Portland; lunch at 385 Congress St., Portland

HOURS: Breakfast, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until noon Saturdays; lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

CHEAPEST GRUB: At breakfast, hash browns for $2; at lunch, hand pies (three per order) or a grilled cheese with roasted tomato jam for $5

WAIT: Five minutes

PARKING: On street

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes

RATING: **** 1/2

-- Based on a five-star scale

No, you're not going to get a ridiculously healthy breakfast sandwich here -- an egg sandwich is still an egg sandwich. (If you want healthy, order their yogurt cup made with homemade yogurt, granola and local fruit.)

But you'll feel better knowing your Small Axe sandwich is made with high-quality local ingredients and prepared by experienced chefs with impressive resumes.

Small Axe serves both breakfast and lunch. I decided to try the truck's breakfast fare, so I headed over to the morning location next to Bunker Brewing and Tandem Coffee Roasters. Driving down Anderson toward Fox Street, I couldn't see the bright-orange truck from the street as I approached Bunker. But I knew I was in the right place when I saw a woman walking toward her car taking a picture of her food.

I parked on the street and walked up toward the Bunker building, where the truck was now hard to miss. (You'll have no trouble spotting it if you're driving down Anderson from downtown Portland.)

I like the Small Axe menus because they are small and accessible, yet still have good variety. For breakfast, the truck offers bagels from 158 Pickett Street Cafe served with a variety of spreads, from butter to truck-made jam, for $3.25 to $3.75.

There are three choices of egg sandwiches, all made with a folded, two-egg omelette served on a 158 bagel or English muffin: Egg ($4.50), Egg and Cheese ($5) and Bacon, Egg and Cheese ($6). The eggs come from Bowden's Egg Farm in Waldoboro.

I decided to try one of the two breakfast bowls on the menu. Both bowls start with hash browns (served in long, rectangular cakes) and two fried eggs. Then you get your choice of seasonal vegetables and goat ricotta on top (the $5 bowl) or sausage and green chili gravy (the $6 bowl). On the day I visited, the seasonal vegetables were arugula, spinach and mustard from Frith Farm in Scarborough.

It was a tough choice, but I decided to go with the $6 bowl, mainly because I wanted to try the green chili gravy. I also ordered some orange juice.

While I was waiting for my order, I kept envisioning runny, golden yolks dripping over the sausage and hash browns, and wondered if I should have asked for the eggs to be prepared over easy. I ended up taking my breakfast back to my office, just a few minutes' drive away, and when I finally got to open the small paper box (the food was still warm), the eggs were more like over medium.

That's a good, middle-of-the-road choice when you're serving a lot of different people, and they were delicious. But next time, if I order the bowl, I'll make it a point to request over easy. It's just something to keep in mind if you are particular about your eggs and like the yolks a little runny (or cooked through) -- be sure to tell them how you would like them when you order.

The sausage in the bowl looked like patties that had been quartered into small bites. The hash browns were good, although I would have preferred them a bit more crispy. The green chili sauce had just enough kick to satisfy, but wasn't too hot -- just the way I like it.

I can't wait to go back to the truck for lunch. The lunch menu includes three kinds of hand pies (three for $5, accompanied by a sauce), sandwiches ranging from $5 to $9, and rice bowls with seasonal local vegetables and your choice of meat or veggie topping and sauce (curry, sweet and sour, or barbecue).

Sandwiches (using 158 bread) are made with local pork, beef and flounder. For $8, for example, you can get local pork capocollo with provolone, pickled cabbage and Raye's mustard.

For beverages, the truck offers its own lemonade, iced green tea, bottled water and Tandem iced coffee.

Check out Small Axe for an on-the-go experience that's fast, local and delicious.

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

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