The last time we wrote about The Local Press on Woodford Street, it was, perhaps, a couple of months after the small panini shop opened in 2013.
Not much has changed at the neighborhood shop where customers can grab a quality sandwich and cup of soup for a reasonable price – except maybe for the addition of a killer Reuben.
The Local Press is known for serving Boar’s Head meats and for its bowls of “Rundown,” a spicy Caribbean chowder made with coconut milk, curry and root vegetables. The chowder is a huge draw; a bowl of Rundown and a panini certainly make for a complete and filling meal. The menu also always includes a soup of the day, such as sweet potato bisque.
I stopped by one day recently to grab a couple of paninis for myself and a friend. I had tried the “Back Shore” before – Black Forest ham with red grapes, brie, blue cheese, organic baby spinach and balsamic reduction. This time I went with The Big O – roast beef, organic caramelized onions, organic baby spinach, Swiss cheese and horseradish mayo – and the Reuben, which of course had corned beef and Swiss topped with sauce and sauerkraut.
My friend and I split our sandwiches so we could try both of them, and agreed that if we go back to the store, we’ll be ordering the Reuben again. The rye bread was incredibly fresh, as if it had just come out of the oven – and had lots of flavor. (In fact, I’m tempted to call and ask the owner where he got it so I can go buy some.) The meat was piled high, but not ridiculously high, and the sauerkraut provided a nice tang. My only complaint – and this goes for The Big O as well – was the sandwich was really skimpy on the cheese. I actually had to hunt for it on the roast beef sandwich. It seemed as if there were maybe one very, very thin slice on each sandwich – and I even questioned if it was a whole slice. I’m not asking for piles of goopy cheese, but it would be nice to have enough on the sandwich so you can taste it. Otherwise, why bother?
Sweet Potato Bisque. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Sweet Potato Bisque and a Notorious Pig (black forest ham, caramelized onions, brie, sharp cheddar, bacon and whole wheat panini) at The Local Press in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Lunchers lunch at Local Press in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
The roast beef was served on a wheat bread, and it was fine except for the lack of cheese. The meat was moist, and the horseradish provided a little kick.
Most of the sandwiches run around $8, except for the two vegetarian options, which are a little cheaper. These include a Caprese and something called the Islander, which is made with mushrooms, local goat cheese, Kalamata olive tapenade, organic baby spinach, organic red onion and provolone.
The shop also has a decent selection of kid-friendly sandwiches. The children’s menu includes the usual PB&J and grilled cheese, but also has a couple of selections for the more adventurous child – for example, the “Nutty Nana,” which is made with peanut butter, banana, Nutella and bacon.
The Local Press also has a delicious-looking line of malted milkshakes and ice cream. Just for kicks, and because I’ve always been curious, I ordered the “King Shake,” which is an homage to Elvis: vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and banana, garnished with bacon crumbles. At first it was a little odd to suck little crunchy bits up the straw – the shake contains nutty peanut butter – but it tasted fine. Then I felt small chunks of something slimy in my mouth, and my brain immediately interpreted it as the fatty part of the bacon, which, as you can imagine, was gross. But the joke was on me. I soon figured out that these were little bits of banana that had not blended well with the ice cream. Phew.
But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. By the time I got home, the bacon garnish had sunk to the bottom of the glass and I was sucking up bits of bacon as well – and larger bacon bits clogged up the straw. To be brutally honest, this made me gag a little. The bacon is supposed to help create a salty-sweet flavor profile, but it didn’t taste salty to me. It just tasted like bacon, in a place where it didn’t belong.
But the shake itself was great. If you think you’d enjoy a peanut butter-banana milkshake, just order The King Shake without the bacon, and you’ll be happy.
Don’t let my experience with the unusual shake keep you away from this nice little panini shop. The sandwiches are very good, the Rundown chowder is great, and so is the ice cream – sans pork.
WHERE: 276 Woodford St., Portland | 207-773-0039 | localpressme.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No