When I think of Tandem, I think of coffee and baked goods.
My thought process evolved last week when I stopped in at Tandem Coffee & Bakery on Congress Street during the tail-end of the lunch hour. I was desperate for food, and although I wasn’t certain if Tandem served sandwiches, I knew the bakery was so good I’d find something that would satisfy my pangs of hunger regardless.
I was right – the bakery is so good I was swimming in decisions: cookies, bars or some other treat. Turns out, Tandem also makes amazing sandwiches. Although I debated loading up on cookies and a slice of quiche that look really good under glass, I ordered a turkey sandwich ($10) and a piece of apple pie ($5).
I asked for both to go so I could bring them to the office and eat at my desk. I had no idea the kind of treat I was in for until I began peeling back the paper wrapper to behold a sandwich that was shockingly appealing. It looked good, with flanks of turkey extending beyond the edges of the bread. And it was substantial. I don’t know what it weighed, but I was surprised at its heft.
It all starts with the bread. Baker Briana Holt makes a quick-rising focaccia dough that she covers in olive oil and lets sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, she cooks it until it’s puffy and bubbly, and crisp on the top and bottom. She sprinkles poppy seeds on the top, resulting in a textured, chewy bread.
The turkey is layered in thick slices, and adorned with baby lettuce, spicy greens and jalapeno pickles for a kick. She spreads the bread with mayo and good old French’s classic yellow mustard, which was so satisfying I thought it must have been some special artisan sauce. I was delighted when I learned it was same stuff I have in my fridge.
What made this sandwich great was its completeness. Every detail was attended to: The turkey was fresh, the greens crisp and the bread tasty and easy to eat with two hands. And as silly as this might sound, the mayo-mustard spread was divine – just the right amount, in just the right consistency over all the right parts of the bread.
The only thing I didn’t appreciate was the poppy seeds. I love poppy seeds, and often favor poppy seed bagels when home, but out in public, I’d prefer not having poppy seeds in my teeth all day.
The apple pie was thick and stout and loaded with cinnamon. The upper crust was covered with sugar. This was my first piece of apple pie of the season, and I was glad I ordered it.
Tandem opened this location about a year ago. I’ve been a few times for coffee, because it’s a great place to talk to people and conduct interviews. There is plenty of seating, and people seem happy to be there.
As good as the sandwiches are, Tandem probably isn’t going to become a full-service restaurant anytime soon. Kitchen space is limited, so Holt and her colleagues make about a dozen sandwiches in advance, usually offering two choices during each weekday – a meat and a veggie – and sometimes three kinds on weekends. If they sell out, they’ll make more.
This might be a good time to start making more.
742 Congress St., Portland | 207-805-1887 | www.tandemcoffee.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends
WAIT: Less than a few minutes
PARKING: There’s a small lot
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes