Ambiance is a lot like aesthetics. It’s personal, and entirely subjective. When you find a place that has good ambiance, where you are comfortable hanging out, you tend to go back.
There was a period, many years ago, when I spent a lot of time at The Local Buzz in Cape Elizabeth, because I liked the vibe and I also found it favorable for a good conversation. It was easy feeling comfortable there, and conversations flowed naturally.
For a variety of circumstances, my routine changed and I began spending less time at the Cape Elizabeth coffee house, bar and bistro than I had in the past. After a two- or three-year absence, I stopped in a few weeks ago and immediately felt right at home.
I had an appointment at 1 p.m. and arrived an hour early to grab a bite and catch up on work. It was raining pretty hard, and I was looking for a place to escape quietly. I nabbed a seat at the bar, powered up my laptop and settled in, ordering a grilled cheese panini ($7.50). First impressions: The menu was outstanding, at least for a coffee house. There were many appealing choices, the prices were reasonable and the food looked good.
I also debated the BLT and a ham and brie panini ($9.50) and, in other circumstances, might have opted for a local hot dog ($7). There was a ham, fig and smoked cheddar sandwich, a hummus wrap and veggie burger, as well as a range of salads and bar snacks. The breakfast sandwiches are equally good and made with locally sourced ingredients.
There’s really good coffee by Coffee By Design and a nice selection of local beer.
The Local Buzz is spacious. I was the only one seated the bar, but several tables were occupied, one near the front by a large group of friends, who cackled loudly but didn’t bother me because they were far enough away, and a couple behind me and another solo guy, working on his computer.
The barista/bartender/cook was chatty and friendly, but respectful of my desire to work. He mostly left me alone, and I never felt rushed or ignored.
The sandwich was pretty near perfect, with gooey, stringy cheese that was so good and so well melted I had to ask what it was: Cabot cheddar. I made a note of it and will seek it out for the next grilled cheese sandwich I make at home. The bread was lightly grilled, and the sandwich held together well despite the oozing cheese.
It came with a bag of chips, which struck me as a little low-rent, but not enough to lessen the enjoyment of my meal. It was a simple sandwich, well done, which is all I expected and hoped for.
There are two other things worth nothing about The Local Buzz. It supports local artists, with live music and with a rotating gallery of art work. On view through the end of April are painted wood fish sculptures by South Portland artist Link Stevens, who fashions the fish on a band saw, paints or stains them, and then arranges them in schools on a backdrop of driftwood that he collects while boating in Casco Bay. He’s been making them for about three years and recently has begun showing his work in galleries.
I love how his pieces capture the movement of small fish when they travel in schools. Most of the pieces hanging at The Local Buzz are menhaden, a key food-chain species for bluefish, stripers and tuna. He’s also got a few sperm whales and tuna.
Between my lunch and my coffee appointment, I spent about two hours and $15, which I deemed money well spent. With all the new this and new that in the world, it felt good to be back to a familiar place.
WHERE: 327 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth
HOURS: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: 10 minutes, but what’s the rush? Pull up a chair and stay a while.
PARKING: Plenty of spaces in a lot out front
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes
INFO: 207-541-9024 or localbuzzcafe.com