On the first day of my family’s pandemic staycation, it rained.

So to brighten the mood we decided to get a fancy (for us) lunch from Taytene Cafe on Broadway in South Portland. The quaint little eatery opened June 1 about a half mile west of the Casco Bay Bridge, and serves Vietnamese dishes like banh mi sandwiches, pho soups, various rice and noodle dishes, and bubble tea.

For the four of us, we ordered a bowl of pho with cooked beef, a dish called bun that featured grilled pork on rice noodles and various vegetables, plus two banh mi sandwiches, one with roast pork and one with beef. My daughters also split a blueberry bubble tea.

A bowl of pho with beef and noodles from Taytene Cafe. Photo by Ray Routhier

I had never had bubble tea, and I’m still not sure about how I feel about the big pearls of tapioca (or whatever it is) that I slurped through the straw. But it had a very nice blueberry flavor.

The pho was the star of the lunch, for $10.95. It had an extremely flavorful broth with hints of basil and other sweet and savory flavors, though it looked almost clear. There wasn’t much else in it besides the beef and noodles, but that was plenty. There was also a sweet oil that came in a separate container and went well with the soup, though I’m not sure that’s what it was for. There was also a spicy sauce and some crushed nuts that we used on various parts of our lunch.

The banh mi sandwiches were both on really nice baguette-style rolls and pretty big for the price, $5.95. The meat in each was tender, as were the variety of vegetables. There was some sort of creamy condiment, but it didn’t make the sandwich spicy, like some banh mi I’ve had. That’s probably what the extra spicy sauce was for.

I really liked the dish called bun, for $10.95, which was basically roast pork and vegetables on top of rice noodles, with an egg roll and no discernible sauce. The meat was tender, again, and everything tasted fresh.

A grilled beef banh mi sandwich from Taytene Cafe. Photo by Ray Routhier

I liked that Taytene has an online ordering system, which was pretty easy, but could have used a little more description for some items. If you don’t know what usually comes on a banh mi or in pho, you wouldn’t know exactly what to expect.

Taytene is geared to takeout. I noticed only a couple of tables but plenty of space to keep your distance from people while picking up an order inside.

The menu is pretty extensive beginning with appetizers like chicken wings, bao bao, dumplings, egg rolls and spring rolls. Besides different kinds of pho there’s a chicken noodle soup. The banh mi can be made with roast pork, crispy pork, grilled beef, shredded chicken or crispy chicken. There’s also a combo banh mi and one with egg and Vietnamese sausage. In addition to the bun rice noodle dishes with various meats, there are rice plates, including one with crispy pork belly.

There are also espresso and hot and cold coffee drinks and more than a dozen flavors of bubble tea, including avocado, mango, lychee, black sugar, green apple, strawberry and pineapple.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: