November 15, 2012

Eat and Run: Vaughan Street Variety, Portland

If you're looking for tasty eats at reasonable prices, this place is spot on.

click image to enlarge

Vaughan Street Variety’s No. 7 focaccia sandwich boasts basil pesto chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 235 Vaughan St., Portland; 772-8993

HOURS: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

CHEAPEST GRUB: Egg and cheese on English muffin, $2

WAIT: Three minutes for breakfast, a bit longer at lunch

PARKING: On street



Based on a five-star scale
One cure for insomnia is a quick trip to the market for the newspaper and a breakfast sandwich.

I found myself up against a short night of sleep one day last week, and spent the better part of three hours waiting for sunup. As soon as the clock turned to 7 a.m., I high-tailed it from my West End apartment to Vaughan Street Variety across from Maine Medical Center.

One of the joys of city living is close proximity to neighborhood markets. Vaughan Street Variety is one of them. It doesn't have everything, but it has most anything a guy might need in a pinch.

This morning, I needed breakfast. My fridge was mostly bare. I had no butter for my bread, no milk for my cereal and no eggs for my hash. I was dairy deprived.

But the market is a three-minute walk, so I didn't go without for long. Rather than stock up on provisions to cook for myself, I ordered a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, grabbed a banana, a blueberry muffin and an Oakhurst orange juice (as well as the old reliable PPH), and walked back to my apartment.

First, the positives: The breakfast sandwich was very good, and for $2.50, it felt like a bargain. I ordered it on an English muffin, which was lightly toasted. The egg was cooked thoroughly, without a runny yolk. The bacon was crisp and plentiful, and the white American cheese was drippy and gooey. It came tightly wrapped in tinfoil, and emitted steam when I unfolded it back home. Perfect.

The banana was fresh, the juice sufficiently chilled, and the newspaper engrossing and full of vital information, without which I would have been lost and lacking sufficient bearings to start my day.

The only negative: The blueberry muffin was dry and almost inedible. I picked apart a few chunks and tried to soldier on, but I ended up tossing the muffin and chalking it up to misfortune.

I paid $8.18 for everything, which seemed reasonable. The counter man was friendly, conversational and efficient. I waited less than five minutes, and was on my way.

Because of its convenient location to Maine Med, Vaughan Street Variety is a popular lunch spot for hospital employees. Nothing against the hospital cafeteria, but workers like to step off campus for fresh air and something different in their food choices.

And choices they have. In addition to daily soups and specials, Vaughan Street offers a range of lunch options including roll-ups, traditional sandwiches and freshly baked focaccia. The focaccia cost $7.50, and that's the steepest price on the menu. The roll-ups are mostly $6, and the traditional sandwiches check in at about $5.

At lunch, I opted for the smoked turkey roll-up with cream cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato, Bermuda onion and alfalfa spouts. The wait was much longer during lunch, but worth it. The roll-up was just what I needed to prepare me for my afternoon nap.

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


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