January 3, 2013

Eat and Run: Scratch Baking Co., South Portland

The offerings are delicious from beginning to sweet, sweet endings.

From staff reports

Anyone who drives anywhere near Willard Square in South Portland knows about the gravitational pull of Scratch Baking Co.

click image to enlarge

Three-cheese pizza and veggie and roast turkey sandwiches at Scratch Baking Co.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 416 Preble St., South Portland; 799-0668, scratchbakingco.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Bakery hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 7 a.m. to noon Sunday.

CHEAPEST GRUB: $4 for ready-made sandwiches and pizza slices. Plenty of cookies, bagels and other baked goods starting at about $1.

WAIT: Five minutes

PARKING: On street


RATING: ★★★★ 1/2

You might be on your way to walk the dog at Willard Beach. Maybe you're taking the back way to Southern Maine Community College. Or just maybe, if you're like me, you head that way because you hope to get caught in the bakery's tractor beam.

Han Solo told Chewbacca to "fly casual" right before the Millennium Falcon got caught in the Death Star's tractor beam. As for me, I don't try to escape, because -- if I can jump sci-fi tracks for a bit and get all "Star Trek" on you -- resistance is futile.

There was a time when it was all about the bagels at Scratch. Believe you me, it still is. And it's also about the cookies, the cakes, the glorious array of baked goods and such. The awesomeness of what that place has to offer is as constant as the North Star. You most likely already knew that.

But did you know that Scratch recently expanded? Did you know that you can now get soup, salads and ... wait for it, wait for it ... sandwiches? Yes, Virginia, there are sandwiches at Scratch.

I waited until I was good and hungry (OK, probably a little bit too hungry) before I initiated myself into what I hoped would be a mouthwatering foray into an entirely new dimension of Scratch's already tour-de-force array of offerings. I told myself not to build it up too much, lest I be too disappointed.

But it was love at first sight when I saw the list of sandwiches (all $7.95), and this was followed by further infatuation when I sunk my enthusiastic teeth into the pulled pork. It's described as "slow braised pork shoulder, house-made pickles and slaw on a house roll with tangy sauce."

I describe it as zippy and delicious sandwich perfection. The pork melted on my tongue, and the coleslaw, pickles and sauce held a flavorful dance party in my mouth.

Oh, and I might add that the thing was huge. I could have prolonged the pleasure over two meals. But of course, I didn't. I'm also not officially admitting to tearing into it while still in the car. Who, me?

For added temptation, there was also a basket of pre-made sandwiches of the baguette with ham, swiss and dijon butter for $4. You don't know how close I came to grabbing one for later. But I'll sleep easier knowing they're there when I need them.

The sandwich menu changes every couple of weeks, and the day I stopped in, the list included ham, turkey, roast beef, the pulled pork and a vegetarian offering (roasted sweet potatoes, black bean spread, cilantro peanut pesto, Monterey Jack cheese and greens.). By the way, all of the sandwich meat is cooked on-site, so you had better believe it's fresh.

Tossed salads made to order are $5.95, and there are three varieties. The Scratch chef salad is $6.95. You can also grab containers out of the cooler of freshly made white bean, farro and couscous salads.

Fancy some soup on a chilly winter's day? Twelve ounces costs $4.50, and a 16-ounce container is $6. The soup list changes every couple of days, and when I was there, choices were three bean chili with beef and pork, and a vegetable barley.

Not to be outdone by the new area, the bakery puts out two types of slab pizzas weekdays at 11 a.m. They're $4 per giant piece, and during my visit, the choices were three-cheese with basil or a three-onion. If you're assuming I've had said pizza before, well then, you are quite right.

Scratch Baking Co. already had a really good thing going. Now, with the recent arrival of soup, sandwich and salad offerings, it's in its own galaxy -- which, thankfully, is not far, far away.

May the flour be with you.

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


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