Creative comfort food in a comfortable setting.

Wow, maybe I have a talent for advertising slogans. Well, not usually, but I guess I was inspired by my recent visit to Verbena, a cafe in the Knightville section of South Portland in the shadow of the Casco Bay Bridge.

Verbena is located on the stretch of Ocean Street that leads to where the old bridge to Portland used to be, and which is now a dead end. So it’s a fairly quiet stretch as far as through traffic is concerned.

But it’s only a one-minute drive from the current bridge, and certainly worth the trip.

The restaurant has a fairly unassuming storefront from the outside, but is very roomy and comfortable inside. There are arm chairs and a couch, lots of tables, art from local artists on the walls, plenty of reading material and even an area full of toys for children.

It’s a nice place to have lunch, but it’s also a really quick walk from the waterfront and from Mill Creek Park, two great places to eat your sandwich from Verbena.

I picked up several things to take home for dinner. One was the turkey meatloaf sandwich with grilled red onions, cheddar cheese and herb mayonnaise ($6.95). I had mine on homemade style white bread.

The sandwich featured a thick slice of the meatloaf, cut in two and doubled up on top of itself. It tasted like turkey dinner, with bits of vegetables in it. The grilled red onions were soft and sweet, with the cheese melted on top. The sandwich was warm and wonderful.

I also tried Catie’s Famous Chicken Salad with celery, grapes and apples on a baguette ($6.95). All of Verbena’s breads are made by Rosemont Bakery in Portland. The chicken was practically pureed, giving it a very light texture. The grapes, celery and apple pieces helped make it one of the best chicken salads I’ve had.

I sampled some chicken and penne soup, which was $5.75 for a bowl, with some baguette pieces on the side. The broth was very rich, with lots of dark chicken meat that appeared to have just fallen off the bone, along with veggies and pieces of penne. It was very filling.

The menu has several other sandwiches, including house jerked steak ($7.25) with grilled onions, sweet potatoes and spiced orange mayo; grilled chicken with roasted artichokes, feta cheese, baby greens and lemon garlic aioli ($6.95); and a grilled vegetable sandwich with goat cheese and a balsamic-basil dressing ($6.95).

All the sandwiches come on the bread or wrap of your choice.

There are also salads, daily soups, sandwich and entree specials (including all sorts of quiches), baked goods and sweets, and coffee drinks.

The menu and daily specials are online at, which makes it very convenient if you happen to be going home over the Casco Bay Bridge. You can call ahead and pick up your order without much of a wait.

Verbena’s does catering too, and recommends checking the website before visiting, because there might be some days it has to close for events. Those closings are posted in advance. 

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