Port Bean Cafe is a nice winter hangout, a friendly place to meet a buddy on a cold day for a cup of coffee and a sandwich, bowl of soup or pastry, depending on the time of day.

That’s what I did on a recent gray day when I popped into the warm cafe to wait for a friend I was supposed to meet for lunch. There were plenty of Coffee by Design drinks to choose from while I waited at my tabletop that was made with Portland Coffee Roaster beans.

The cafe is spacious, with seven tables (two-tops and four-tops) and a comfy green sofa for those who want to settle in. Local art hangs on the mocha walls with white beadboard trim, and the room has a beautiful tin ceiling.

Behind a pastry case filled with luscious-looking treats, a giant chalkboard menu outlines the soups, salads and sandwiches that are available for the day. A bowl of lobster stew ($10.95) was tempting on this cold January day, but there were many delicious-sounding sandwiches to choose from as well, some of them hot off the grill.

If you just want the basics, try a bakehouse sandwich for $7.95, with a choice of tuna salad, homestyle turkey, baked ham, chicken salad and BLT.

I was torn between the specialty sandwiches ($8.95) and the hot grilled paninis ($8.95). Specialty sandwiches included choices such as bistro roast beef, grilled salmon and walnut chicken salad, which was diced chicken breast mixed with walnuts and cranberries and served on a croissant. The panini options included mozarella-tomato, supreme turkey, black pastrami and something called ultimate tuna.

When my friend arrived, we decided to get the Turkey Bacon Rave off the specialty sandwich menu and the Ultimate Reuben off the panini menu and split them.

The Turkey Bacon Rave was huge, made with thick slices of bread and piled high with turkey, applewood smoked bacon, jack cheese, tomato, lettuce and bakehouse sauce. This sandwich was so large, I’m not sure I could have eaten a whole one. Luckily, Port Bean has specials where you can order half a sandwich or a small salad with some soup for $7.95.

The Ultimate Reuben panini came with a thick serving of corned beef, melted Swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on multigrain bread. I’m not a regular corned beef person, but this was my favorite, and I would order it again.

When I talked with my friend the next day, she said her lunch was so filling, she had to go home after our visit and take a nap.

A pleasant ending to a pleasant afternoon.

The Features staff of The Portland Press Herald anonymously samples meals for about $7.


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