NORWAY — I’m not usually the first in line for a veggie burger. But as I was standing in front of the cool sandwich board (butcher paper hanging from a roll) at Cafe Nomad in Norway, contemplating my choices, a longtime customer of the place told me it was a standout, so I went against my first instinct (the Cuban) and ordered the black bean veggie burger.
I sat down in the back seating area of the restaurant, which is spacious and homey and overlooks Pennesseewassee Stream. The place was humming with a sense of community; most of the diners seemed to know each other and the vibe was fairly crunchy. You know, like the clientele has a high level of acquaintance with hummus and sprouts. I hoped my burger wouldn’t be crunchy.
My lunch dates told me that chef Andrea Swietom, who cooks dinners when Cafe Nomad opens on Friday and Saturday nights, makes an effort to source as much as she can locally.
I waited no more than 7 minutes for my $8.99 sandwich, which arrived with a small bag of Cape Cod brand potato chips and a pickle worth eating (we all know how many sad spears are served sandwich-side).
The veggie burger, which turned out to be the MorningStar Farms brand, was topped with red onion, lettuce, a tomato that tasted local and really, really good, then melted cheddar and enough chipotle mayonnaise to give it a great kick. The multigrain bun was soft and fresh. The whole concoction was completely delicious and satisfying. So was the freshly made raspberry lemon iced tea I’d ordered, which brought the bill with tax up to $12.45.
One of my lunch dates was Staff Photographer Gordie Chibroski. He’s definitely not the veggie burger type, but we agreed to swap bites, and even he raised an eyebrow over how good the burger was. He shared a generous chunk of his grilled Cuban sandwich (black forest ham, lots of cheese and spicy mustard). It too was top notch.
I also had a taste of his chilled cucumber soup, which was slightly sweet and very refreshing. This was 21st century crunchy/nutty food with a local spin.
After lunch we ran into Swietom out front and she told us she and her partner used to work at Rosemont in Deering, where she was a butcher and he worked in wine and cheese. Now they live on a farm in Buckfield. The beauty of the sandwich I’d just had all started to make sense. (Although when I called to fact check, the person I spoke to let me know that what happens in the kitchen is very collaborative. Whoever is stirring the pot, it’s working.)
Norway isn’t exactly the easiest spot for anyone in the Portland area to pop in for lunch, but after spending a day there, which included only 10 quick minutes to browse in Rough & Tumble, the awesome leather goods store down the street (purses made in Maine that look like they are just in from some seriously expensive shop in Rome), I resolved to make this a regular destination. A meal at Cafe Nomad, some time in the wine and yarn store next to Rough & Tumble, a walk along the street, maybe a cross country ski at Roberts Farm Preserve just down the road in the winter? More like eat and hang than eat and run, but Cafe Nomad is the kind of place that reminds you that we don’t always have to be in a rush.
WHERE: 450 Main St., Norway. 739-2249
WHEN: 7 a.m-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and dinner from 5-9 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner 5-9 p.m. Saturday
MORE INFORMATION: Website is under construction, but the Facebook page, facebook.com/cafenomad, has more information.
PARKING: Parking lot and street parking is plentiful.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes
OUTDOOR SEATING: Yes, in the back