Sue Cole helps customer Lee Proscia, of Freeport, who stopped in for a bagel and sweet treat at South Freeport Village Market. You can get breakfast, lunch or dinner at the market. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

I like to eat late. When I book a table at a popular restaurant and find only the dregs of the reservations remain – 4:45 p.m. or 10 p.m., slots chefs sometimes refer to as “off the hump” – I’ll pick the latest option, undaunted. Don’t threaten me with a wee-hours good time.

But recently, I’ve been wondering if I’m missing something by not sitting down at the table closer to twilight. If my mission is to dine out and share my experiences with readers so you can decide if you want to spend your money on the same thing, shouldn’t I write for the night owls and early birds, alike?

All of which is to say, when I read the word “dinner” in a recent Instagram post from South Freeport Village Market, the latest Big Tree Hospitality endeavor, it got me thinking.

Now, I hadn’t been ignoring South Freeport Village Market. I had already stopped in twice since June, when this new incarnation (and brand-new building) opened on the same footprint where the old South Freeport Market stood for decades. I first visited to grab a fantastic Rwanda Bean latte ($4 for 8 oz.), a Little Spruce Baking Company croissant ($3), and to admire the newly reconstructed building, an airy space whose steeply pitched ceilings and walls seem to both generate and reflect light. Then I returned this winter, when I pulled over to snag a bottle of Lurbira Garnacha wine ($14.99) from the thoughtfully selected retail beverage section.

Sure, when I was there, I noticed the abundance of ready-made Big Tree Grocery goods in the coolers and deli cases. I even made a mental note of how perfectly the business seemed to be moving in lock-step with a recent national trend of combining a limited-selection retail shop with on-site dining.

Detroit-style pizza made with Salumeria Biellese pepperoni, muenster and mozzarella cheese, and house-made sauce. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

It was all there, from the menu of cold and hot sandwiches, to fishing lures, wine, fresh produce, and even a heated display case where slices of the restaurant’s saucy, crisp-crusted, tray-baked Detroit-style pizza ($7) taunted and tempted. But dinner at one of the dozen-or-so dining room seats? The thought never occurred to me.


Why not, though? “We’ve leaned heavier towards morning and lunch, it’s true. And generally speaking, people have been viewing us more as a breakfast or lunch spot, and I think we’ve shined there,” co-owner Andrew Taylor told me. “But we’re active all day, and people can come in to get grab-and-go items, take-home meals, or stop by for sandwiches or burgers and fries for their family for dinner.”

I’d add salads to that list. Not only for South Freeport’s Caesar with smoked mackerel dressing ($12, add an extra $3 for garlicky, crisp-fried falafel), a salad hearty enough to make a meal of, but also for the counter-service restaurant’s Greek Salad ($14), a semi-composed take on the diner classic, upgraded to feature house-roasted red peppers, high-quality Kalamata olives and baby spinach. Adding crunchy romaine hearts in place of drab iceberg steers the salad in a Niçoise direction. Double that if you opt for tuna salad on the side for an extra $6.

South Freeport’s sandwiches are, as Taylor suggests, terrific options for an early-evening/late-afternoon dinner – especially the hot ones. Battered, golden-fried pollock fillet strewn with house-made pickled red onions and cucumbers, slathered in smoked paprika tartar sauce (the same sauce used on fried fish at Eventide, Big Tree Hospitality’s flagship restaurant) and nestled into a pillowy shallot bun? Incredible.

I’m also inspired to return at dinnertime for another of the restaurant’s cheeseburgers ($14) prepared with chuck and round-cuts of beef sourced from Peppermint Fields Farm in Fryeburg, aged at Windham Butcher Shop and ground at the Big Tree prep kitchen in Biddeford.

“I think Peppermint Fields is unbelievable. It’s got to be the best beef in the state, and you can’t get it anywhere but from Windham (wholesale),” Taylor said. “We add that smoky element to it with blocks of cheddar we smoke ourselves in Biddeford.” On the plate, the flavors are a delight, even when the burger cooks a bit too long and leaches water into the shallot bun.

Cold sandwiches are also lovely here, especially my favorite, a hoagie stuffed until groaning at the seams, its Little Spruce sesame roll barely withstanding the pressure of house-brined and smoked ham, spinach, pickled sweet-hot peppers and tongue-tingling harissa mayonnaise ($15). All intentions to the contrary, I could barely finish half.


I did the next best thing, I grabbed a container of crunchy, not-too-sweet cole slaw ($5), another of creamy, oniony local potato salad ($4.99), and brought them home for the next day’s lunch. Noshing as I browsed the South Freeport Village Market menu, I saw something that made me realize I had to return for breakfast.

See, during some of the darker days of the pandemic, Big Tree Grocery orders buoyed me. Some people took solace in sourdough baking or playing charades over Zoom. Me, I got a lift from Little Spruce’s glorious blueberry muffins. There were weeks when I ordered two boxes of them, parceling them out conservatively to last through one of those never-ending weeks.

You can order those very same muffins at South Freeport Village Market, in part because co-owner (and frequent behind-the-counter staffer) Alison Parsons is also one of the founders of Little Spruce Baking.

The Potato Head sandwich, made on a Rover bagel, involves a baked egg, smoked cheddar and American cheese, sausage, hash browns and Calabrian mayo. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

That weekend, I enticed a friend to come along. And there, seated at two of the powder-coated blue bar stools facing South Freeport Road, we devoured two phenomenal, flat-top griddled blueberry muffins dribbling with melted maple butter ($5 each). A toasted Rover bagel with Calabrian-chili cream cheese ($4.50) was also involved, as well as a gigantic Potato Head sandwich ($8), a carryover menu item nicked from Big Tree’s similarly themed, seasonal Higgins Beach Market.

“It’s kind of a decadent, go-to breakfast like one of those all-in-one ‘logger’s breakfasts’ with everything you can imagine on it: an egg patty, smoked cheddar and American cheese, sausage or bacon, a hash brown, pickled jalapeños,” Taylor said. “It’s a mouthful, that sandwich.”

Perhaps I was already full of blueberry muffin and bites of bagel, but I had the same thought, immediately followed by another: I wondered how that sandwich would taste for dinner…


Kitchen manager Kelly Kulis packages thumbprint cookies made with leftover ingredients, including locally sourced blueberries. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

RATING: ****
WHERE: 97 S. Freeport Rd., Freeport. 207-708-7008
SERVING: Daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
PRICE RANGE: Breakfast items: $3-8, Salads & sandwiches: $12-16
NOISE LEVEL: Shopping for office supplies
VEGETARIAN: Some dishes
BAR: Retail beer and wine
BOTTOM LINE: Big Tree Hospitality, one of Maine’s best-known culinary success stories, envisioned South Freeport Village Market as a breakfast-and-lunch café with a small, thoughtfully stocked retail market attached. And it is that, but in this newly built structure with gleaming stainless hood, flat top grill, deli counter and oven, the business is well-equipped to become a great spot for an early evening meal. Co-owner Andrew Taylor is quick to emphasize that this business, like its Big Tree siblings Higgins Beach Market and the Town Landing Market in Falmouth, exists primarily for the surrounding community. No marketing blitz. “We try not to shout from the mountain tops that we’re here. We want it to grow organically, but with these markets, we end up getting a lot of press.” Indeed. With house-made components from Big Tree’s Biddeford production kitchen and baked goods from co-owner Alison Parsons’ Little Spruce Baking Company, it’s no wonder. Menu standouts at lunch or dinner include bountiful ham hoagies slathered with harissa mayo, upgraded Greek salads, crunchy-crusted Detroit-style pizzas and nostalgic, fabulous fried pollock sandwiches on house-baked shallot buns.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service, value and type of restaurant (a casual bistro will be judged as a casual bistro, an expensive upscale restaurant as such):

* Poor
** Fair
*** Good
**** Excellent
***** Extraordinary

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits each restaurant once; if the first meal was unsatisfactory, the reviewer returns for a second. The reviewer makes every attempt to dine anonymously and never accepts free food or drink.

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 seven recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association.

Contact him at:
Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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