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Meredith Goad

Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.

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Posted: September 25, 2017

Little Bigs is the best little bakery you’ve never heard of

Written by: Meredith Goad
Thai red curry pie Photos by Meredith Goad

Thai red curry pie
Photos by Meredith Goad

I recently had to come to terms with something in my life that was getting out of control: my love for the pastries and hand pies at a small South Portland bakery called Little Bigs.

Like most food addictions, it started innocently enough. I included the bakery in a story I wrote for the Portland Press Herald about the popularity of hand pies when it opened in August 2013. I wrote about Little Bigs again when the bakery started making knock-off cronuts that led to lines out the door and a cease-and-desist order from a New York pastry chef’s lawyer. (Of course, in order to write about the cronuts, I had to sample the product myself.) I haven’t written anything since, maybe because I’ve been too busy being a customer.

Little Bigs has become a Sunday morning ritual of mine, and I am not alone. I often spy well-known names from the local restaurant industry there, sneaking a vanilla-glazed Boston cream doughnut or maple-bacon crueller into their diets on their day off. It’s one of those places you want to remain a secret (it’s often described as a “hidden gem” since it is tucked away in a nondescript strip mall across the street from the South Portland Dairy Queen) yet you also want people to know about it so they do well and stay open forever.

The place is owned by James and Pamela Plunkett; James is the chef who makes the savory hand pies, and Pamela is the baker who makes the doughnuts and pastries.

Let’s start with the hand pies, perfect for a quick lunch. They are truly small pies, hefty and light at the same time. The crusts are flaky – I sometimes wonder how they are strong enough to hold all the ingredients – and the generous fillings are well-seasoned and delicious. They come in flavors like cheeseburger, chicken pot pie, Texas chili and cheddar, broccoli and cheddar, and Indian spice samosa. My favorite is the Thai red curry with chicken ($7.75), which is like eating an order of red curry from a good Thai restaurant in a pie crust. It’s filled mostly with huge chunks of white chicken meat, along with sliced carrots and bits of green beans, red peppers`and basil, all floating in a light red curry sauce, of course.

Black Forest ham with swiss in puff pastry.

Black Forest ham with swiss in puff pastry.

If you’re not in the mood for a hand pie, other good options include the black forest ham and Swiss in a puff pastry – also a generous size – and a made-to-order fried chicken sandwich.

The Plunketts will heat any of these up for you to eat on the run; you’ll have to wait a few minutes for them to make the chicken sandwich ($7.25), which comes with lettuce, tomato, herbed mayonnaise and pickles. The only thing I would do to improve it is use romaine or arugula instead of the tasteless iceberg lettuce, which always ends up getting soggy.

Egg pie at Little Bigs

Egg pie at Little Bigs

If you’re after a savory breakfast, Little Bigs regularly offers two versions of a potato-crusted egg pie (so they’re gluten-free) and a breakfast calzone filled with scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes and cheese. The calzone is big enough to feed two, or one really hungry person.

I’ve never had a doughnut or pastry at Little Bigs that I didn’t like. (Pam says her customers often tell her that her doughnuts remind them of the ones their grandmother used to make.) Among the standouts, for me, however, are the Boston cream doughnuts, which come with both vanilla and chocolate glazes and are filled with an almond cream, and the almond croissant. Usually when it comes to croissants I am a Standard Baking fan, but Pam Plunkett makes the best almond croissants in town.

There are usually desserts available too – everything from cookies and shortbread to flourless chocolate brownies and mini pecan pies. Check the bakery’s Facebook page to see what’s new.

There are stools for sitting and eating at the bakery, but most customers seem to use these when they’re waiting for their order to be boxed or warmed up. There are two tables and chairs outside where you can sit and enjoy your goodies, but for most people this seems to be a take-out place.

Writing this has been my way of getting a little control over my Little Bigs addiction. Maybe there will be a line out the door next Sunday, and I’ll be forced to eat some yogurt and fruit instead. More likely, I’ll just stand in line like everyone else.

Little Bigs Bakery

WHERE: 340 Main St., South Portland (Route 1 at Cash Corner), 747-4233; littlebigsmaine.com
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday
WAIT: Depends on how many people are in line, but there’s no wait for food to be prepared because it’s all made fresh in the early morning.
PARKING: Yes, lots.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes. There’s a curb cut, but you’ll have to maneuver around tables and chairs on the sidewalk.

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