Comfort food isn’t just food you’re familiar with, like macaroni and cheese or hamburgers, it’s food that somehow soothes your soul and your stomach at the same time.
This occurred to me after having lunch recently at LB Kitchen, a bright and cheery breakfast and lunch spot on the east end of Congress Street in Portland. At first the menu threw me because of the many phrases and ingredients I was not familiar with, like bone broth, North Spore mushrooms and Israeli couscous.
I ordered the Hell Yes Kale Caesar bowl ($11), filled with things I might usually pass on. It had chickpea croutons, kale and a mixture called “cashew obsession” on romaine lettuce. But it also had pieces of chicken poached in broth, so my whole lunch, which looked like a salad, smelled like chicken soup. And it tasted like a very rich chicken soup that had been poured onto a very fresh salad.
So it smelled and tasted like comfort food to me.
On LB Kitchen’s website, the poached chicken option is not currently available. But you can add oregano grilled chicken ($3), turmeric grilled tofu ($2) or Faroe Island salmon ($4) to the Hell Yes Kale Caesar bowl.
LB Kitchen offers healthful and creative bowls for both breakfast and lunch. There’s one with a “liquid gold bone broth,” turmeric egg and hemp seeds for $7.50; one with coconut oil, nut butter, honey, cacao nibs and mulberries for $6; and one with greens, coconut oil fried egg, lacto-fermented beets, avocado and a citrus vinaigrette for $10.
Other bowls include one with Faroe Island salmon, Israeli couscous, cucumber and tomato relish and fresh dill for $14 and one with pesto, farro, coconut oil fried egg, house-made ricotta cheese and local bacon for $13.
Sandwiches are just as creative. The Avocado Addiction for $8 is avocado on Standard Baking’s five-grain bread with truffle oil and greens. The New Yorker, also $8, is beet-cured gravlox, heirloom tomato and a caper “schmear” on the five-grain bread. Other sandwiches feature nut butter, chia jam and kimchi. There are also various “quiche-atta” selections, a marriage of a quiche and a frittata.
There are lots of interesting fresh juices and smoothies and coffee selections. The place has sort of a coffee house feel, with lots of people meeting for lunch or a beverage. There are tables, and at a recent lunch time, the place was filled, but there was also a steady stream of people getting take-out. The windows looking out onto Congress Street are perfect for people-watching.
LB Kitchen is located in an area of boutiques and shops in the city’s East End and is only a short walk from downtown. So, it’s a great spot to stop for a beverage or a bite when you’re strolling about in the city.
And it’s a place you can go with your kids. The innovative kids’ menu includes cheesy eggs with toast shapes, an almond butter and jelly oat bowl and a grilled cheese made with provolone and organic white bread. There are also French toast soldiers, little edible figures made with organic white bread, vanilla and cinnamon.
Though there’s no macaroni and cheese – the classic kids’ comfort food – on the kids menu, there is a cheesy quinoa dish. It’s made with a mix of cheeses and Maine butter, plus quinoa, so is likely healthier and tastier than the standard mac and cheese.
And just knowing that is a comfort.
WHERE: 249 Congress St., Portland
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
WAIT: About five to 10 minutes
PARKING: On street
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes