It was a very strange moment.

I was in the Porthole, looking out over a new day on the Maine waterfront. I was reading a New Yorker article on Le Fooding, a new culinary movement in France. And I’d just ordered huevos rancheros.

My brain, and my stomach, were a little confused. But after the Porthole’s nice showing at the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off during Maine Restaurant Week, I wanted to try more of what the new chef, Paul Dyer, had to offer at the restaurant and watering hole.

What I really wanted was something simpler, maybe the eggs, home fries and toast ($6.95), but that seemed a little too routine. The biscuits and homemade sausage gravy ($5.99) sounded delish, but also a little heavy. I didn’t want to fall asleep at my desk later.
I had already tried the eggs florentine at the breakfast cook-off – spinach, Swiss cheese and two poached eggs on an English muffin with homemade smoky bacon cream sauce. It was fresh and delicious, but at $7.99, it was a little over our budget for this column. Ditto the French toast ($7.99) and the creme brulee version of same ($8.99).

So I went with the huevos rancheros.

Service was fast and friendly, an advantage of visiting the restaurant on a weekday. The place has been busy on the weekends ever since folks got a taste of the eggs florentine at the cook-off.

The huevos rancheros ($6.99) came in a very large, crispy, tortilla-like bowl. In the bowl was a generous helping of black beans and, according to the menu, corn salsa. I could see bits of corn, tomato and onion mixed among the beans.

The beans and salsa tasted fine, but weren’t anything to write home about. They had the right amount of heat, however – not too much for this time of morning, but enough to provide lovers of spicy food with a little jump-start to their day.
The best thing about the dish? The two sunny-side up eggs, perfectly cooked, lying on top.

For egg lovers, the Porthole offers a build-your-own omelet or scrambled (choice of three ingredients), served with home fries and toast for $6.96) or one of the three varieties of eggs Benedict: traditional, lobster or caprese with tomato, mozzarella and a basalmic glaze.

On the day I visited, there was a Nova Scotia Benedict special, made with smoked salmon, for $9.50. Another special offered a Guinness- and brown sugar-glazed corned beef for $7.99.

The restaurant’s breakfast menu offers dishes in just about every price range. Most lunch items range from $7.99 to $10.99. If you’re on a budget, try the fish and chips coated in Shipyard beer batter and served with cole slaw for $5.99, or the $5.99 BLT.

Bottom line: With its atmospheric location on the waterfront, just across from the Harbor Fish market, this would be a good spot to bring visitors, especially during good weather when you can eat out on the restaurant’s deck. But it’s also a good destination for locals to drop in for a quick bite, especially during the week when you’re looking for a low-key place where you don’t have to fight crowds.

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

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