February 14, 2013

Eat and Run: Whip's Right Time Cafe & Catering, Portland

Tucked away in the Time & Temperature Building is a funky little bastion of tasty dayside eats.

PORTLAND - It's always good to get out and look for new places to eat. But sometimes, you've got to go inside to find a good eatery.

click image to enlarge

Owner Karl Whipple fills a bowl with his very popular portabella mushroom soup for a customer at Whip’s Right Time Cafe.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 477 Congress St., Portland. 761-8463; righttimecafe.com

HOURS: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday

WAIT: None; I called ahead

CHEAPEST GRUB: Hot dog, $2.25


PARKING: On street

RATING: ★★★ 1/2

Based on a five-star scale

Downtown Portland has several little cafes and lunch places tucked away inside office buildings, and one that is worth discovering is Whip's Right Time Cafe.

Because it's in the ground floor of the landmark Time & Temperature Building on Congress Street, it's pretty easy to find. All you have to do is go in the main door and walk past the elevators until you see a life-sized statue of a chef and the Whip's sign.

From the hall, it looks like a take-out place, with a cafeteria-style counter set up for quick line service. But if you peer behind the counter, you'll see lots of seating, mostly in old-fashioned wooden booths, so you don't have to take your breakfast or lunch with you if you don't want to.

The tables are especially good for breakfast, because Whip's serves breakfast items that are probably better when eaten right away, such as two eggs with toast ($3.50) and the option of bacon, ham or sausage ($1.50) and another option of home fries ($1.50). There are omelets starting at $4.25 and breakfast sandwiches starting at $2.95.

I tried Whip's for lunch the other day. I knew I was going past there, and I figured I'd call in an order because the phone number is so easy to remember (761-TIME). I had a warm steak and cheese hoagie (another name for a sub in some parts of the world) for $6.95. It came with a big helping of seasoned waffle fries.

The sandwich had sauteed onions and peppers, cheese and very tender steak. I like steak and cheese, but am usually prepared for it to be a little chewy in spots. This one was not -- the beef was positively melt-in-your-mouth tender.

I also liked that it came on a large and very firm roll that held everything in without getting soggy. The sandwich came in a box lined with foil so it was nice and neat, with no cheese sticking to the inside of a paper bag or some such mess.

Other lunchtime selections include the 477 Chicken Caesar Wrap ($6.50), a burger wrap ($6.25) and a veggie wrap ($6.25), as well as sandwiches of tuna or chicken salad, ham and cheese, turkey and a BLT.

There are also hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders and various daily specials, such as a Reuben panini and a pulled chicken wrap with mango salsa.

Daily specials listed on the website include an Italian hot sausage hoagie with fries ($6.95), a taco salad with homemade chili ($7.25) and a fried haddock sandwich with fries ($7.95).

Then there are the soups of the day: $3.25 for a small and $4.25 for a large. French onion and seafood chowder were the choices the day I went. And there's a baked potato bar with a price of $3.50 for an "endless choice" of toppings.

For an added bonus, I was given a Right Time Cafe sandwich card with one hole punched. All I have to do is buy seven wraps or sandwiches, and I'll get the eighth for free. 

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


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