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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 22, 2018

Cia stands for coffee, ice cream and art, but don’t skip the sandwiches

Written by: Ray Routhier

The sign at Cia Cafe in South Portland lists the place’s eclectic offerings.
Photos by Ray Routhier

Coffee, ice cream and art — what else do you need?

Nothing, really, but at Cia Cafe you get those three essentials of life plus a cool place to hang out and a very creative menu of sandwiches and baked goods.

It’s become the hot gathering spot in the up-and-coming Knightville section of South Portland, just down the street from Foulmouthed Brewing and around the corner from Taco Trio. Just over the Casco Bay Bridge from Portland, the waterfront neighborhood is luring folks who a few years ago might have sought out eateries and hangouts in that city’s Old Port or Arts District.

On a recent Monday at noon, the place was packed with people chatting over coffee, playing checkers, working on computers or eating lunch. With large windows, the place is bright and affords great people watching. Some people browsed the art on the walls and the crafts for sale while waiting for tables; others took their coffee or food to go. (The name, in case you haven’t caught on, is an acronym for coffee, ice cream and art).

The menu is a work of art too, in terms of creativity. There’s a sweet treat called an affogato, which is a scoop of ice cream with a double shot of espresso poured over it, for $4.85. There’s a host of two-egg breakfast sandwiches with interesting toppings that come on a choice of homemade English muffin, croissant, bagel or biscuit.

The Saco breakfast sandwich – two eggs, bacon, tomato, guacamole and Cabot cheddar cheese on a biscuit – at Cia Cafe in South Portland.

On a recent lunch-time excursion, I tried the Saco breakfast sandwich (Cia has another location, on Beach Street in Saco), which was two eggs, bacon, tomato, guacamole and Cabot cheddar cheese. Mine was on a very buttery and moist biscuit, for $4.95 — a small price for a pretty filling lunch. The cheese and guacamole went together well and gave it an overall creamy and smooth texture. The biscuit was perfect, if a bit crumbly. I ate the last of the sandwich with a fork and knife.

Another breakfast sandwich, the Sopo, had Swiss and provolone cheeses on the eggs, with arugula, tomato and something called Sopo sauce. I tried Sopo sauce on my daughter’s House BLT, and it tasted like mayo with some spice, but I don’t really want to know what’s in it. I feel the mystery adds to the flavor. There was also a breakfast sandwich with eggs, onion, spinach, smoky chipotle sauce, and Swiss and provolone cheeses, for $4.95.

I ate lunch with my family and the three others all got something from the extensive sandwich menu, which features eight cold sandwiches and 11 hot ones.

The House BLT

Because I was “working” at this meal, I coerced my wife and daughters into allowing me bites of their sandwiches. So besides trying a House BLT on wheat ($6.65), I also sampled the Grilled Cheezie Caprese on marble rye ($7.95) and the Cia Cubano ($8.40) on sourdough.

The caprese included provolone, tomato, seasoned olive oil and pesto. The cubano had some really tasty, smoky ham, with Swiss cheese, mustard and sliced pickles. It was buttered and grilled. One other sandwich on the menu I’d like to try on a return visit is the Vermainer ($8.75) with carved turkey, sliced apples, Cabot cheddar cheese and something called Vermainer sauce.

And I will return. Even though I ate well, I feel I still need to try some coffee, ice cream and art to get the place’s full effect.

CIA CAFE

WHERE: 72 Ocean St., South Portland, 747-4414. ciacafe.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
WAIT: About five to 10 minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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