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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 14, 2016

SMCC’s buffet will have you coming back for more

Written by: Ray Routhier
A patron loads up on dinner. You can eat your fill for a bargain price, although the SMCC website counsels moderation: "All you care to eat." Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

A patron loads up on dinner. You can eat your fill for a bargain price, although the SMCC website counsels moderation: “All you care to eat.”
Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The all-you-can-eat buffet, for $6.48, is reason enough to try Oceanview Dining Hall at Southern Maine Community College.

Throw in the gorgeous views of the ocean, islands, Fisherman’s Point and Portland Head Light, and the eatery becomes a “gotta see it to believe it” kind of place.

Because it’s a college dining hall and tucked away on campus away from through streets, it’s not a place many people know about. But it is open to the public, and really worth a visit.

The aptly named Ocean View Dining Hall offers sweeping views of the Atlantic. Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The aptly named Ocean View Dining Hall offers sweeping views of the Atlantic.
Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Located just steps from the ocean, the dining hall has massive walls of windows on three sides, affording views no matter where you sit.

The wooden cathedral ceiling gives the dining hall an open and airy feeling. The room is filled with tables and chairs, so you do have do some navigating to get from the food, beverage or dessert stations to your seat.

I made several trips on, trying to take advantage of the “all you care to eat” promise on the dining hall’s web site.

What is available at the dining hall varies throughout the day, from breakfast and continental breakfast to lunch, light lunch, dinner or late night fare. I went for full lunch, which is served weekdays from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m.

I walked in on a sunny Tuesday, paid my $6.48 (including tax) and got some instructions on how it all worked. The soups, salads, pasta and entrees were all sort of clustered together near the cashiers, the beverages were facing the dining area, and the desserts were around the corner.

There are no trays, so plan on making a few trips.

The day I went there were two kinds of soup, a taco bar, a salad bar, pizza slices, pasta with various sauces and a few other things, including churros, black bean and corn salad, and vegetarian burritos.

I grabbed a bowl of Tuscan white bean stew and made a salad with greens, cherry tomatoes, red peppers and honey mustard dressing. All the vegetables were fresh and crisp.

The stew had white beans, carrots, celery, onions and big, herbed croutons, which absorbed the broth nicely.

I also had a bowl of cavatappi pasta with marinara sauce. The pasta, unlike some at buffets, was not soggy or over-cooked, but just right. The sauce was a little sweet and a little peppery.

For dessert, I had sort of a blondie bar that was pumpkin-flavored and had chocolate chips. I also had a butterscotch chip cookie.

I thought of going for a taco from the taco bar, but refrained. I remembered the phrase “all you care to eat” on the dining hall’s website. That’s very different than all you “can” eat, I thought, and I didn’t care to get stuffed that day, although I could have. I may go another day when I’m hungrier and really put these various theories to the test.

The menus change daily and with each meal, but they’re online, so you can take a quick look and go when there are things you want to sample.

The dining hall’s location not only gives diners a great view, but it gives people a excuse for a very pleasant walk.

There’s a walking and jogging path that connects the campus to Spring Point, with its fort and lighthouse, and to Willard Beach and Fisherman’s Point.

So you can eat all you “care” to, then take a carefree walk along some of Maine’s most picturesque coastline.

Oceanview Dining Hall

WHERE: Oceanview Dining Hall, Southern Maine Community College, 2 Fort Road, South Portland. Dining hall is located at the corner of Shoreway Lane and Campus Center Drive.
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
WAIT: None
PARKING: Yes, at a visitor’s lot on Arboretum Drive or on Benjamin Pickett Street. Both are a few minutes’ walk.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
WHAT ELSE: What is available varies throughout the day, from full breakfast early to full lunch, light lunch, dinner and late night fare. To see what’s offered and when, including specific menu items that day, go to smccme.sodexomyway.com and click “Dining Choices” then “Oceanview Dining.”

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