BRUNCH in PORTLAND
3 great ways to begin any weekend
THE GOOD EGG at the PEPPERCLUB
The re-creation of a breakfast place many remember with glowing nostalgia, the Good Egg at the Pepperclub is even better. For one thing, as owner Mary Paine points out—her long curly hair itself improved by streaks of astonishing gray—the multigrain bread they used to use was from Pepperidge Farm. “I didn’t want to do that,” she said, her standards honed by years as a partner at the Pepperclub. She uses an old James Beard recipe for oatmeal bread (similar to what was once sold at the long-gone Bakehouse Bakery, of the same era) that she has
elaborated on with other grains, creating a sturdier, shaggier, chewy multigrain all her own. Her English muffins, also chewy and flavorful, with a portion of whole-wheat flour and a little honey, are the standard toast set under the poached eggs. The “Eggs from Hell” are my preference, with smooth fire in a little cup—chipotle hot sauce—to pour on the plump black beans. Enjoy with the fresh tomato salsa, sour cream, and eggs, however you like them. And old fans of the corned-beef hash (served with two eggs and toast) won’t be disappointed at all as they feast on this mix of corned beef, potato, onion, carrot, and parsley.
The earth tones and black-and-white zigzag designs decorating the restaurant keep the inside mellow and friendly, though it may leave an innocent customer unprepared for the stealth attack of the sticky bun, its thin, rich pastry rolled in multiple whorls and tucking in chopped walnuts and raisins—all as sticky as possible, and totally irresistible.
The Good Egg at the Pepperclub
Mary Paine, co-owner
78 Middle Street
Open Tuesday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.;
Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The best part about brunch inside these dark gold walls is not that you can just “just walk in,” as one friend remarked, pleased at having found a seat in one of the wood booths. It’s that the Spanish-style frittatas, the huevos rancheros, the strong coffee (the cream dispensed in a small bottle with a metal pourer), and, yes, the calm, quiet, relaxed atmosphere all add up to a totally satisfying weekend morning. And, if my visits are any indication, there is no dreary wait which only adds to the pleasure.
Smoked-salmon eggs Benedict with hollandaise is likely to be a wintertime specialty, as is baked eggs with pesto cream sauce over spinach, served with a side of garlic toast.
Mexican hot chocolate with crushed almond, vanilla, cinnamon, and chili pepper will heat you up in the cold. Some customers order this slightly spicy drink as a mocha latte, mixed with espresso.
The huevos rancheros special is a worthy version of this standard, with the smooth kick from the ranchero sauce on top of the fried eggs and black beans, complimenting the cool richness of those thoroughly American indulgences, guacamole and sour cream. The pesto
frittata boasts a layer of summery pesto on its open face, with melted provolone and diced tomatoes enriching the tender eggs. The home fries from quartered, small red potatoes are always well browned and hot, with a slice of hearty multigrain toast served alongside.
From their list of sandwiches, burgers, steak, chicken, or vegetable dumpling salads, the Thai chicken sandwich is a stand-out. Served with a sweet chili glaze, caramelized onions, and spinach on a grilled roll, with a small salad and those scrumptious home fries.
Celia Bruns, owner
61 Pleasant Street
Open for brunch
Saturday and Sunday,
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
dinner from 5 p.m.
Fresh-squeezed orange juice—not Odwalla—makes a body grateful. In fact, everything about this modern restaurant makes you feel well taken care of, including the space itself—its sleek surroundings, the smooth concrete surfaces, the curves of the metal railings and walls. Even the shag pillows laid out on dark seating cushions near a wall of artfully scrawled words create a little world of their own.
The eggs Benedict are worthy of gratitude, with vibrant eggs and tender ham from Sunset Acres Farm in Brooksville. (The ham is packed at Curtis Custom Meats, which I love even though the man who answered the phone there hung up on me when I asked how they are made. “I’m not going to tell you anything,” he said. “Find something else to write about.” Some secrets are worth keeping…)
You can get ham and cheddar on sourdough any day of the week. An omelet with Sunset Acres chevre—definitely from the Brooksville farm—is perfect as is a bowl of classic tomato soup. The onion soup with gratineed gruyere makes the perfect start for a wintertime sledding trip. Also perfection is the pain perdu (French toast), made with fresh brioche and served with pecan syrup.
Is it Sunday, yet?
205 Commercial Street
Brunch available Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; lunch
and dinner follow until 10 p.m.; breakfast served Monday to
Friday, 8 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.; lunch and dinner served until