Baristas and Bites, which opened in the fall on Fore Street, grabs you with eye candy.
It’s a street-level coffee shop and grab-and-go eatery that specializes in sweets and cakes, and its display cases are filled with beautiful, delectable creations. The shop feels joyful and bright and welcomes you with warmth.
While I’m firmly committed to the idea that cupcakes, sweet rolls and pastries are acceptable any time of the day or night, I happened in to Baristas and Bites in the middle of a busy weekday afternoon. I wasn’t especially hungry and had a full afternoon of appointments ahead of me. I wanted something quick and hearty, but didn’t want to feel burdened by leaden stomach.
I passed on the sweets and instead opted for soup and a sandwich. It was a cold March day, and I wanted comfort food. Baristas and Bites came through for me.
At 469 Fore St., near the intersection of Union Street, the restaurant is convenient to downtown and the Old Port. It caters to people on the go and works as both a counter-service coffee shop, with $1 organic coffee, and a small restaurant that serves sandwiches and soups, including an all-day breakfast sandwich. Seating is limited, but I took advantage of a stool by the window to enjoy my lunch in the sun while catching up on email.
Baristas and Bites has a modern feel. The sign is ultra-contemporary, with lowercase metal letters set against a large wood slab. Light wood walls give the feel of a cottage, and the glass cases and stainless steel counters add a flash of brightness. The kitchen is open, adding to the airy ambiance. A chalkboard menu hangs from a wall.
Sandwich choices are varied. The all-day breakfast sandwich has two eggs, bacon and cheese ($8.99). There’s a chicken Caesar wrap ($8.99), a grilled cheese ($5.99) and others. All the chicken sandwiches are made with non-GMO, free-range chickens.
My gut told me to order a chicken sandwich, but I opted instead for the Genoa salami ($8.99) with a cup of chicken and vegetable soup ($4.95). The clincher for me was watching the kitchen staff prepare another salami sandwich. The salami looked inviting — a dark pink slab of meat, set against a slice of cheese and a bright green lettuce leaf, layered in a soft sandwich roll.
What I didn’t notice — and it was my fault for not reading the sandwich board more closely — was that the sandwich came with a generous olive-tomato spread. I don’t love olives, and I found the taste overpowering. Still, I ate the sandwich and enjoyed it, but wished I had ordered the breakfast sandwich instead.
The soup was aromatic and savory and warmed me through and through. It was densely packed with carrots, celery, peas, corn and other hearty vegetables. The chicken chunks were plentiful.
Next time, I’ll go with an emptier stomach and a sweeter tooth, because there’s no bad time for cake.
BARISTAS + BITES
WHERE: 469 Fore St., Portland; 773-0800 or baristasandbites.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
WAIT: 5 minutes
PARKING: On street
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes