I have racked up more than my share of omelette memories from the past decade. Dozens of brown-skinned, overbeaten, five-egg monstrosities at greasy spoons up and down the East Coast; toothpick-skewered eggy spirals of tortilla, chunky with red pepper and potato at a pintxos bar in Barcelona; even a jiggly, ketchup-dabbed omu-rice in Tokyo that — when I nicked it with the tip of my knife — hastily unzipped to expose its runny, golden interior.

But I had not tasted my favorite omelette of the last 10 years until I ate lunch last weekend at the Other Side Diner.

What makes this $12, spinach-and-Cabot-white-cheddar omelette so good is the same set of virtues that put the Other Side Diner into the same category as many of Portland’s top restaurants, as well as that of its kissing cousin, the nationally celebrated Palace Diner in Biddeford.


In much of the world, if you want to test a chef’s skill, you ask her to prepare a classic, three-egg omelette. Sounds easy, right? But so much can go wrong, and with few ingredients, mistakes are nearly impossible to hide.

Temperature is key. But then again, so is salt. And now that you mention it, so is fat…and timing.


“We make ours in the traditional French style, so that it’s soft and delicate,” owner/general manager Jessica Sueltenfuss said. “It’s three eggs, herbs, cheese. Not a lot else.”

When folded over a wilted handful of fresh spinach, Other Side Diner’s omelette is pale, silently disavowing any prior contact with a heat source — certainly nothing as vulgar as a pan. Hold the plate up to the light from the restaurant’s wall-spanning picture windows, and if you angle it just right, you might catch a single glint from melted butter on the omelette’s surface. Perhaps.

That same attention to superb execution is applied across Other Side’s menu, from the egg-salad sandwich that borrows a Japanese convenience-store trick of tiling crescents of still-drooling hard-boiled egg between slices of crisp white toast ($12), to a grilled chicken club that cleverly layers its fats (thick-cut, local peameal bacon and lemon-garlic mayonnaise) on opposite sides of the sandwich to prevent juices from the brined, butterflied chicken breast soaking into the toast ($13).

Even the hash browns, which Other Side serves plain ($5) or stuffed with a nugget of confit pork shoulder ($6) reveal head chef/owner/butcher Pete Sueltenfuess’s comprehension of how a straightforward dish can be elevated with a playful technical tweak.

Combining shredded Maine potatoes with beaten egg and a little potato starch, he creates a starchy matrix that gets portioned directly into the deep-fryer with an unusual tool: an ice cream scoop. After a quick bath in hot oil, the result is a crunchy, flat-bottomed sphere that trails tentacles of caramelized potato. Break one apart with your fork, and you’ll find tender, savory shreds steaming inside. I may never look at a hash brown the same way again.



Still, an understanding of process only takes you so far as a chef. You also have to know what makes a dish taste good.

Ingredients that sparkle on their own might overwhelm or lose their luster when combined with others. Among these, herbs are notoriously tricky to get right — especially tarragon.

Add too little, and it disappears into a nanoscale flash of green on your tongue. Add too much, and you wonder if someone snuck a Good N’ Plenty into your food.

Other Side finds the ideal ratio of chopped parsley and tarragon to brighten the glutamic tang and nuttiness of the Cabot white cheddar in its omelette, while still leaving the focus firmly on the barely set Maine eggs.

The shrimp salad BLT Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Almost as an extra-credit homework assignment, the kitchen takes those very same herbs and reapportions them to enliven another, very different dish, the shrimp salad BLT ($13). Here, the saltiness of smoked, wet-cured bacon and sweetness of quick-poached Costa Rican shrimp from Laughing Bird Farm are offset by lemon-garlic mayonnaise and a judiciously generous dose of parsley and tarragon.



Watch television cooking competitions and you can almost always identify the person who’ll be sent home next. As soon as you spot someone in a pinch thinking they can get out of trouble by using one of the Three Horsemen of the Culinary Apocalypse — caviar, truffles or foie gras — you can practically hear the clock ticking.

Restaurants frequently tart up dishes with these same ingredients, thinking they add a veneer of sophistication. Worse, you’ll sometimes see pyrotechnic extras like ghost pepper or edible gold leaf tossed in to disguise still-visible problems under an unnecessary (and expensive) scrim.

When you’re making an excellent omelette from five or six components, every one of them counts. Each element has to be at least as good as the final product. Pete and Jessica Sueltenfuss, both trained at ingredient-focused restaurants like Fore Street and Boston’s famed Eastern Standard, understand this well.

And because the couple has spent the past five years producing house-made charcuterie and selling sandwiches and deli meats made from local ingredients at their first business, the Other Side Delicatessen, they also understand sourcing.

“The concept at both the deli and the diner is really the same,” Jessica Sueltenfuss said. “It’s about simple cuisine with a little Greek influence to reflect Pete’s family background (his mother’s side is Greek) and being able to support local Maine farmers and producers and still be able to make breakfast at an affordable price.”

I’d like to see them take things a step further, jettisoning their corporate bread supplier and shifting to some of the area’s fantastic baked goods. I can imagine that their already-wonderful French toast ($11) would only improve if the thick slices of brioche were baked nearby.


Other Side takes simplicity a step further in its pared-down perspective on the traditionally turgid Greek diner menu. “When I think about those, I think about menus that are 8 pages long, and that’s so overwhelming to me,” Jessica Sueltenfuss said.

At Other Side, you’ll find a concise list of eight lunch options, seven breakfast choices (served all day), and a few daily specials. Everything, including a kids’ menu and a short list of beers and wine, fits on one side of a sheet of printer paper.

Other Side Diner server Jena Meier chats with Zack Goeringer and Lindsey Collins as they have breakfast at the counter one day in August. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Brevity suits the 35-seat restaurant. As does a new paint-job that softens the eye-watering orange-and-red color scheme left behind by previous tenant Hella Good Tacos into a desaturated, 1950s-noir. Décor is no longer a distraction.

Today, the room’s simple aesthetics gently guide your focus back to where it belongs: the invisible upgrades on your plate. So when you cut into a triple-decker stack of lemon-zest-infused pancakes ($11), you’ll notice how they stand up taller than most do. A little Greek yogurt (naturally) gives them their fluffy structure and also helps them retain moisture.

Don’t cheap out: spring for the house-made lowbush Maine blueberry compote ($2). It adds a pleasing layer of mineral sweetness and — no surprise — clocks in at only three ingredients: sugar, blueberries and lemon zest.

Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of two 2018 Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.

Contact him at: andrewross.maine@gmail.com

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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