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Leslie Bridgers

After a decade reporting on the news of Portland's suburbs, Leslie is excited to let loose on MaineToday, where the scoops are more ice cream, less scandal -- much like her life. After hours, you can find her reluctantly covering right field for the company softball team, bowling a straight ball at Bayside or wandering down from Munjoy Hill in search of food and drink.

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Posted: April 11, 2017

Portland’s embarrassment of brunches

Let us help you navigate Portland’s ever-expanding brunch scene, from Bloodys to Benedicts.

Written by: Leslie Bridgers
It's a full house for brunch at Local 188 on Congress Street.

It’s a full house for brunch at Local 188 on Congress Street. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Brunch: It’s what’s for Sunday. And that certainly applies all year long, whether it means endless cups of coffee in a cozy booth in winter or savoring a summer weekend Sunday Funday-style.

But if there were a brunch season, it would be now. The two biggest Sunday brunch weekends – Easter and Mother’s Day – are right around the corner, and the slow thaw of spring is drawing people out of hibernation, some of them straight into flip-flops.

So, it seemed like an appropriate time to take an inventory of Portland’s ever-expanding brunch scene and break it down based on various brunching needs.

While some brunch enthusiasts will happily wait hours for the homefries at Bayside American Cafe (and still call it Bintliff’s), others would prefer a place with a parking lot – and no line out the door. With Easter this Sunday, families will surely be searching for somewhere suited for special occasions, but it’s also important to know where to get the best deals on mimosas when rent week comes.

We steered clear of places with more basic breakfasts, though we know beloved diners like Becky’s and Marcy’s are Sunday morning go-tos for many. Still, some places that serve eggs and pancakes all week long did make our list, either because they amp up their offerings on the weekends, have heartier items on their menus or make a mean Bloody Mary.

Figure out which of Portland’s 40-plus brunch spots is feeding you this weekend.

GET IN LINE

The brunch line forms outside the Front Room on Congress Street. Staff photos By Carl D. Walsh

The brunch line forms outside the Front Room on Congress Street. Staff photo By Carl D. Walsh

Sometimes the number of dining options in Portland can be overwhelming to the point that, when a discussion about where to eat brunch begins, your mind goes blank and can only recall the most obvious options. You want nothing more than to try something new, but you end up at the old standbys – even when it inevitably means waiting in line. You’ve memorized the menu at The Front Room. There’s a parking lot at Local 188. And Bintliff’s, er, Bayside will caffeinate you while you wait. Brunch is what these places are best known for, and on weekend mornings, they’re meccas for the hungry and hungover. Waiting is part of the whole experience, along with clutching your coffee mug while getting elbowed on the stairs at Bayside, the silent war for the bench spot in the waiting area at Front Room and the thrill of the unknown seating style that awaits you at Local: Will you end up in front of the kitchen? On a couch? Even though we encourage branching out for brunch, you’re not a real Portlander until you’ve been to each of these places 8 million times.

GO EGGS-OTIC

The depth of Portland’s dining scene is pushing brunch way beyond Benedicts and Belgian waffles. On Sundays at Terlingua, from 10 a.m. on, you can get can get a hot brown, pan-fried trout or chilaquiles (corn tortilla strips in ranchero sauce). The ever-ecletic Honey Paw serves tripe salad, lamb dumplings and wok-fried Chinese

Staff photo by Gordon ChibroskiSchulte & Herr 349 Cumberland Ave., 207-773-1997, schulteundherr.wordpress.com; 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday, 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. Sunday. Portland's only German restaurant serves a rib-sticking brunch that includes potato pancakes with house cured salmon, bratwurst with sauerkraut and the "Sunday roast" with potato dumplings and gravy.

Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski.

broccoli at its Sunday brunch. At German eatery Schulte & Herr, you can get sautéed spaetzle or bratwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad. Gumbo and jambalaya are always on the menu at Bayou Kitchen, and if it’s pizza you’re craving, you don’t have to eat it cold from the fridge. Slab, Tipo and The Corner Room all have it on their brunch menus. Pasta isn’t all that hard to come by either; along with Corner Room, Piccolo serves a spaghetti carbonara – and the egg makes it less of a stretch as a morning meal.

IT’S 11 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE

The best thing about brunch is its range. No matter the time of morning or afternoon, you can go sweet or savory, have cereal or a sandwich, pour whiskey in your coffee or chocolate syrup in your milk, and it’s all completely legit. For early risers (or the parents of them) who want those options first thing in the morning or those who delay the start of their day until afternoon, there are places in Portland that offer brunch items outside the typical 10-to-2 time frame. Bayside, Bayou Kitchen, The Porthole and Miss Portland Diner all start serving at 7 a.m. every day. Hot Suppa does, too, except on Sundays, when it’s 7:30. The Front Room, The Sinful Kitchen and Dutch’s start at 8 a.m. Honey Paw keeps Sunday brunch going until 4:30 p.m. and Slab extends it all the way until 7 p.m. Ruski’s offers its entire menu all day, every day, so don’t be surprised to see an omelet ordered at 8 p.m. or a meatloaf dinner on Monday morning.

Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette Slab Slab, Preble St., 207-245-3088, slabportland.com; 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sunday. Slab offers huge portions of well-made dishes, including sandwiches and salads as well it's namesake pizzas, served on wooden boards or in paper boats. At brunch, you’ll find Sunday specific menu items, including the Hangover Wedge (a pizza with sausage, pepperoni, back, roast onion, potato crumble, roasted red pepper sauce and cheese) and the Scrambled Egg Pidoni (a deep fried pocket break stuffed with sour cream scrambled eggs and drizzled with warm beer cheese; only available until 3 p.m.).

Pizza for breakfast? It’s a sure thing at Slab. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

IT’S 5 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE

For some, brunch’s defining characteristic is booze, though, by law, you have to wait until 9 a.m. on Sundays to order it, unless it’s St. Patrick’s Day (yes, that was important enough for the Legislature to make an exception). While most brunch spots offer Bloody Marys and mimosas, some put extra effort into their alcoholic offerings. As its name would suggest, Crooners & Cocktails is one of those places. Along with the not uncommon “Manmosa” (a mimosa with vodka) and Irish coffee (with whiskey and/or Baileys Irish Cream), the retro restaurant offers a blueberry brunch martini, a maple Manhattan and a Bloody Mary with sweet and sour meatballs, among other brunch cocktails. Terlingua also has a brunch-specific cocktail menu, dubbed “Hair of the Dog,” which includes a couple twists on classics (passion fruit bellini, rosé mimosa), as well as the Blueshine Half & Half (blueberry moonshine, iced tea and lemonade) and El Duderino (Allen’s, Baileys and iced dark roast). East Ender’s brunch-time drink list includes The Rum Jar (Smith & Cross rum, strawberry shrub, Italian vermouth) and Thunderclap Fizz (vodka, amaro and house-made grapefruit cordial), and Woodford F&B has the Hail, Caesar! (a Bloody Mary with clam and oyster juice) and Whiskey Cider Time (Canadian whiskey, apple cider, thyme syrup and sparking wine).

Photo by Stacy StithamMJ’s Wine Bar 1 City Center, 207-772-1400, onecitywines.com; starting at 11 a.m. Not a traditional brunch, MJ's "Sunday Funday" means $4 waffles and $3 bubbles, with or without OJ. Not a bad way to start the day.

MJ’s has $3 bubbles on Sundays. Photo by Stacy Stitham

BROKE AS A YOKE

But sometimes, the biggest factor in figuring out where to brunch is dinero. You can sip your Sunday away at MJ’s Wine Bar, where bubbly beverages (with or without OJ) are $3 a pop and $4 waffles will help soak up the suds. At Brian Boru, $3 is what you’ll pay for a Bloody Mary. Tomaso’s Canteen serves $5 screwdrivers on Sundays and, starting at noon, $2 red hot dogs and $5 Italian sausage sandwiches. Food-wise, Ruski’s might be your best bet for keeping the cost down, with several options under $5. At Miss Portland Diner, you can get two eggs with homefries and toast for $4.

ISN’T THAT SPECIAL

On the other end of the spectrum, there are times – like this Sunday – when it’s a special occasion and cost is less of a concern. Hotel restaurants are reliable for holidays, and there are a few in Portland making a fuss over your Easter eggs. For $38.95, you can have a lot of everything from the Easter buffet at Twenty Milk Street in the Regency hotel, including ham, lamb, Belgian waffles, smoked salmon and assorted pastries. Eve’s at the Garden in the Portland Harbor Hotel will have ceviche and omelet bars, salads, soups, a carving block and dessert table all for a cool $46 a head. At Union in the Press Hotel, a three-course meal for $55 offers several selections, including potato gnocchi, a shellfish crepe and whipped cheesecake. Quite a way to kick off brunch season.

 

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