January 5, 2012

Eat and Run: The Crooked Mile, Portland

This joint leads the pack when it comes to delicious food and superb service.

From staff reports

When noontime starvation had me in its grips the other day, I took the straight and narrow path down to The Crooked Mile in Portland. I hadn't been there in years, but had a hunch I had made a good decision upon opening the door.

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Matt Chamberlain serves a Jersey Joe Italian sandwich at The Crooked Mile in Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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The Crooked Mile


WHERE: 8 Milk St., Portland; 772-8708

HOURS: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday

CHEAPEST GRUB: Grilled Cheese and Grilled PB&J on 12-grain bread, $3.75

WAIT: Five minutes

PARKING: On the street


RATING: *****

Based on a five-star scale

The joint was absolutely jumping, with the seating area pretty much filled to capacity and a formidable line that almost went out the door. I thought to myself, as my stomach growled, "This could take a while," but much to my delight, the staff at The Crooked Mile operates like a well-oiled machine. Within about five minutes, I was out the door, a Jersey Joe Italian in hand ($6.95, includes chips).

Dare I say it was one of the best sandwiches I've ever had? Yep, I'm saying it, and with good reason. First off, the baguette on which it was served was sheer perfection. Crispy yet chewy, it afforded a comfortable home to the dense stack of ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, mayo, oil, vinegar and oregano. (Hold the tomatoes for me, thanks).

This was the kind of sandwich that teeth are meant to be sunk into, and rest assured, I did just that. The pepperoni gave the sandwich all the zing it needed, and every bite was a mouth-watering symphony of Italian joy.

I was so smitten with The Crooked Mile, I went back the very next day. Again, the line was all but out the door, and again, the wait was surprisingly short.

This time, I opted for the Chicken Bleu sandwich ($6.95), and my only trouble is that I can't decide which one I loved more. The Chicken Bleu was served on that same divine baguette and consisted of grilled chicken, blue cheese crumbles, walnuts, red onions and greens with balsamic vinaigrette. I had a Julie Andrews moment, because those are all a few of my favorite things.

What's more, I ran into a friend who was picking up a Cranberry Bog salad, so I pleaded with her to chime in on it. Forty-five minutes later, she emailed me with these sentiments:

"The Cranberry Bog salad makes for a lunch you can look forward to -- and people don't tend to look forward to salads. It's huge, with an ample sprinkling of cranberries and walnuts, topped with chicken salad. The dressing is an accompaniment, not a cover-up. And best of all, regardless of how busy the lunchtime rush is, the salad is still turned around in record time."

I have a feeling we'll be bumping into each other there again, because I'm determined to try pretty much everything on the entire menu, including the breakfast sandwiches and sweet treats, in the coming months.

Shea's Veggie Wrap for $5.50 (provolone, hummus, cukes, tomatoes, carrots, red onion and mixed greens) and the Jersey Joe Chop Salad for $6.95 (salad version of the sandwich) are high on the list, and if you're a fan of beets, here's one for you: The Beatnik ($6.95), in both sandwich and salad form, features beets, grilled chicken, roasted almond slivers and red onions with arugula and red wine vinaigrette.

The Features staff of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.


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