Truth be told, I never got around to venturing into 18 Hampshire St. in Portland when it was Sangillo’s Tavern. But at the recent suggestion of my standing lunch date Jen, we tried out the recently opened Tomaso’s Canteen now occupying that address.
The floor is a polished gray cement and there’s about five gray metal tables and a wood and steel bar lined with black-topped stools that can hold about a dozen people. The space is small but not crowded and is certainly welcoming. We were cheerily greeted and grabbed a table where we perused the blackboard specials menu.
That’s when I eyes landed on something called a “pig in a poncho” for $4. Our server explained that it’s a red hot dog covered in bacon and then deep fried. Heck yes I ordered it along with a cup of chicken noodle soup, also $4.
Jen opted for the haddock wrap ($10), the soup and a side of fries ($2) for us to share. It took a speck longer than it should have for the food to arrive but the soda refills kept coming and soon enough the food was presented. We both dove into the soup but our opinions differed vastly. Although we both thought it was steaming hot and a generous portion, Jen was hoping it was would be more traditionally made. I on the other hand, found its unexpected zip delicious and different. I won’t wait to get a cold before I go back for more of it.
Jen did however rave about her haddock wrap and said it could have easily been shared by two people. The wrap was in a delicious, crispy wrap that was filled to the brim with haddock, lettuce and a lemon caper mayo sauce. She asked them to hold the onions but was pleasantly surprised by the caramelized onions that were on it. Jen said she plans on returning ASAP for the “liquid lunch” offerings on the menu along with some wings.
Without coming up for air after my tasty soup, I first feasted my eyes on the pig on a poncho. I was surprised by the lack of bun but quickly got over myself upon realizing that it didn’t need any bread. As promised, it was indeed a hot dog (the red kind) surrounded by bacon and drizzled with a heavenly honey mustard sauce. I savored the flavor and ate it as slowly as I could. In between bites I swiped hot and crispy fries from Jen and drank about a half a gallon of Diet Coke.
Tomaso’s Canteen is a short walk from just about anywhere in downtown Portland and I encourage people to color outside their pre-established lunch lines and give it a whirl. Don’t be in a huge hurry so you can sit back and relax. Tomaso’s Canteen also offers flat-top burgers, ($6 single, $8 double, $10 triple), steak and chicken bombs ($9), wings (Buffalo, Thai chili, jerk or dirt $11) and red hot dogs ($3) along with various specials such as the “pig in a poncho,” crab stuffed portobello ($9) and other sandwiches.
The bar snacks menu is also speaking my language with stuff like chicken parm egg rolls ($7), sausage calzonadilla ($8) and mac & cheese ($5, $7 with crumbled bacon) among other delectables. And yes, Tomaso’s Canteen has an impressive collection of boozy beverages, but that’s a story for another day. This was a week day lunch after all. But don’t think I didn’t notice something called the Vito Corleone (Johnny Walker and Disaronno) on the house mixed drinks menu. Wow.
WHERE: 18 Hampshire St., Portland. 536-1285, tomasoscanteen.com
HOURS: Open daily 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
WAIT: 10 to 15 minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes