March 29, 2012

Eat and Run: Lunch at Big Sky, that bread is why

The bakery's sandwiches never disappoint.

It was fun while it lasted.

click image to enlarge

Rose Darrell and Sarah Smith make sandwiches at Big Sky Bakery in the Market House on Portland’s Monument Square.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: Market House, 58 Monument Square, Portland


HOURS: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

CHEAPEST: For lunch, $3.50 for a garden salad

WAIT: Three minutes


RATING: Four stars on a five-star scale

Summer in March was an anomaly, but what a great excuse to grab lunch and eat outside. I reveled in the outdoor cafes that sprang up along Congress Street during that unprecedented run of warm weather last week.

On Thursday, with just a short amount of time before a staff meeting, I escaped the confines of our climate-controlled office environment, joined the shirtless masses on Monument Square -- modestly, I remained fully attired -- and grabbed a sandwich and salad from Big Sky Bread Company.

The sandwich shop operates in the Market House at 28 Monument Square, and I frequent it most often mid-afternoon for an oatmeal raisin cookie ($1.55). The cookies, which are about the size of large saucers, strike a balance between being crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle.

I've never had one that didn't satisfy, and I treat this near-daily disposition as an alternative to a nap. As soon as I feel my eyelids beginning to droop, I walk across the square and grab a cookie.

I also occasionally avail myself of Big Sky's breakfast delights on my way into work. I am particularly fond of the egg and cheese sandwich ($3.25) and toasted bagels.

But last week, it was all about lunch.

Big Sky is known for its delectable breads, and as such, it's a marvelously inviting place to visit. Who can resist either the aroma or the allure in general of freshly baked bread?

Blessedly, Big Sky remains casual. It has not been overrun by an uptight restaurant crowd that might want to turn this into an exclusive spot. You order at the counter, step back and wait while your meal is prepared by a small but efficient kitchen staff.

There are no tables, unless you take your food to a commons area upstairs. On this day, I took it outside into the sun.

I had a ham and cheese ($6.50) and a garden salad ($3.50). Both were very good, if not exceptional.

I started with the salad. I was most impressed by the variety of ingredients. I noted two, if not three, varieties of lettuce and greens, sprouts, cukes, red peppers, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced carrots.

The salad was served in a cardboard container with a plastic fork, and I was directed to the counter to choose from an array of packaged dressings. It tasted fresh, and was large enough to serve as a more than adequate side to my full-sized sandwich.

Served on German rye, the ham-and-cheese was a pure delight. Thinly sliced lean ham was layered between the bread slices, with a single slice of Swiss separating lettuce greens and a tomato slice. Both bread slices were smothered in spicy honey mustard.

I did not resist finishing the whole thing, although I felt full after consuming half the sandwich. To be sure, a half-sandwich and salad would have been sufficient.

Had I not been so gluttonous, I might have come back later that same afternoon for a cookie. But then, I surely would have felt guilty when I returned on Friday to satisfy my oatmeal-raisin craving.



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


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