Do you have any old friends who you don’t see very often but when you do you pick up right where you left off? That’s precisely how I feel about Artemisia in Portland. Maybe I take it for granted that it will always be there for me when a consistently delicious lunch is needed. On the other hand, maybe I need to step up my friendship maintenance plan with the place and visit more often. A recent lunch date reinforced this notion.
Like any friendship, there are quirks. For example, it took a bit too long to get our order taken but real friends don’t let these small things bother us. It afforded more time to chat with a friend I was lunching with and I’m sure if we had pressed the issue it would have been remedied post haste.
Artemisia and I go back many years and I’m as invested as ever because the quality of their lunches has remained steadfast with new offerings folded into their menu over the years. Which brings us to the heart of the matter: The Pollock Sandwich ($9). It’s grilled chicken, spinach, provolone, artichoke-feta spread and roasted red peppers on French peasant bread grilled on a panini press. Faced with a make-your-own sandwich bar situation, this would be my fantasy sandwich. How did they know this?
The Pollock delivered on its unspoken promise of perfection by being many things at once: succulent, gooey, savory, multi-dimensional and immensely satisfying. The plan was to eat half now and save the rest for dinner. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. It was served with coleslaw that I didn’t love because it was on the sour side; perhaps it was the choice of cabbage? Or vinegar? Either way, no love lost, I didn’t go there for the slaw.
My friend ordered The Fujita ($11). The Fujita is ahi tuna (cooked medium rare, sliced then chilled) with Asian slaw and sriracha aioli, fresh cilantro and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. It’s served folded in grilled pita bread. Her several minute silence that followed its delivery spoke volumes but a follow-up email revealed her actual thoughts. “Tuna was perfectly rare, packed with flavor and great portion of it. The pita wrap was nice and thick and quite savory.” She also said that there was too much slaw and greens on the wrap, though this was said by someone who polished the entire thing.
How did four years pass between visits? Shame on me for letting this relationship slide, especially since it’s such a fulfilling one. Future visits will surely include The Georgia ($8.50) which is cherry wood dry aged bacon, lettuce, wine ripe tomatoes and bacon-avocado aioli on toasted French peasant bread. The Charlie ($9.50) is roast beef, Gorgonzola aioli, lettuce, tomato and red onion on the peasant bread grilled on the panini press. Other enticements include burgers and several salads with artistic names like The Frida, The Diego, The Cassatt and The Renoir. Artemisia also serves breakfast and dinner.
WHERE: 61 Pleasant St., Portland, 207-761-0135, artemisiacafe.com
HOURS: Breakfast and lunch 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, brunch 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, dinner 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday
WAIT: 10 minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: A small step once you enter