January 17, 2013

Eat and Run: 158 Pickett Street Cafe, South Portland

Our reviewer is charmed by the cafe's funky vibe – as well as its robust portions of yummy nosh.

Hanging out with a bagel and a coffee at 158 Pickett Street Cafe in South Portland will make you wish you were a college student again.

click image to enlarge

A bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich makes its way to a customer at 158 Picket Street Cafe.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 158 Benjamin Pickett St., South Portland; 799-8998

HOURS: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday

CHEAPEST GRUB: Bagel with spread, $3

WAIT: About five minutes

PARKING: On street

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes, there's a ramp in the back.

RATING: ★★★★

Based on a five-star rating

Or at least that you could eat like one more often.

The cool and funky shack is smack-dab in the middle of the seaside campus of Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. So unless you live nearby or find yourself at SMCC often, you might have to go a little out of your way to eat there.

But it's worth the trip, in more ways than one.

First, it makes great bagels, breads and sandwiches, and is a cozy little spot on its own. But its location near Bug Light Park, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Willard Beach makes it a great base from which to start out on a stroll or bike ride. Get yourself some sustenance, then head out to explore the often underrated South Portland coastline.

On a recent frigid morning, I was merely looking for sustenance before work, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat at the small counter near the wall of the cafe. It was a Thursday morning, but most tables were full.

The cafe has newspapers and magazines lying around to peruse, plus posters and flyers for interesting local events, so there's plenty to do if you're there alone. The place looks like somebody's rustic lakeside cabin, so just looking around is interesting.

The bagels at 158 are among my favorite anywhere -- a little chewy and crisp on the outside; really soft and mouthwatering on the inside. I ordered the Canuck bagel sandwich for $6, which consists of scrambled egg, cheddar cheese and Canadian bacon on the bagel of your choice. (I chose sesame).

The Canuck was filled with a mound of freshly cooked egg, lots of melted white cheddar, and a very thick slab of the bacon, which is more like ham than what usually passes for bacon in America.

The sandwich would have made a very filling lunch by itself, and for breakfast, it was a little too big for me that particular day. So I cut it in half and saved the rest for lunch.

Some other bagel sandwiches I'd like to try on 158's menu include Hogzilla ($7.50), with egg, cheddar, bacon, ham and sausage; Capone ($6), with egg, prosciutto and pesto; Grecian ($6) with egg, feta cheese, spinach and scallion; salmon ($7.50), with cream cheese, salmon, cucumbers, red onion, capers and fresh dill; or honey walnut ($4), with cream cheese, candied walnuts and honey.

You can also get just a bagel with the spread or cream cheese of your choice for $3.

The breakfast menu includes homemade granola for $5.50, eggs and toast for $5, and omelettes ranging from a cheddar for $7 to a ham and brie for $8.50.

There is also a sandwich menu, with lots of salads, and a daily soup selection. One of the hot sandwiches is a Cubano for $8.50 -- shredded pork, black forest ham, cheddar, pickles and house mustard. There are several creative grilled cheese sandwiches, including one with apple, red onion and cheddar for $8, and one with mushroom and brie for $8.

One the cold side, you can get, among other things, a curried chicken salad sandwich for $8 or a turkey sandwich with smoked gouda cheese, cranberry relish, greens and mayo for $8.

And speaking of cold, once it's not so cold out, the cafe opens up its lovely backyard garden to customers.

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


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