The first time I went into The 5 Spot was in early July a few hours after finishing a Beach to Beacon training run. Suffice it to say, I was famished and ready to chow down on just about anything that wasn’t nailed down. But I had spotted The 5 Spot in my travels and knew I had to get there ASAP because I’m all about the cheesesteak.
I had fleeting thoughts about ordering the small sandwich, but, of course, ordered a large instead and ate the entire thing standing at my kitchen counter about 15 minutes later. I remember a few things about that day: The sandwich was awesome, and the joint was adorned with a massive collection of framed photos of movie stars, musicians and other celebs, many of them with autographs. Fun!
I knew it would only be a matter of time before I’d make my way back to The 5 Spot, and on the first day of August, a particularly hot day, I walked there from my now-former office space at One City Center. A little over a mile later and covered in sweat, I walked in and was greeted by three friendly faces: owners Rosetta Iannaccone and her husband, Keith Costello, and their daughter, 16-month-old EmmaRose.
I decided to have my second 5 Spot cheesesteak on site and had a fine time perusing the aforementioned photos of James Dean, The Clash, Joan Jett and Archie Bunker, among other notables. Costello told me he bought most of them online for the purpose of decorating The 5 Spot. I say it was money well spent.
Iannaccone told me she’s from New Hampshire, and Costello is from Philadelphia. They both arrived in Maine in 2005 and met each other five years later. The 5 Spot opened in May.
As I sit and write this, it’s still morning, and I’m wishing I was at The 5 Spot for one of its sensational sounding breakfast sandwiches. They’re actually served all day, and options include scrapple, Taylor pork roll, sausage, bacon, ham or Spam (yes, Spam) for $5, and they come with a bottomless cup of coffee.
I’ve never had scrapple and had to look it up. Wikipedia says it’s mushed up pork scraps and trimmings with cornmeal and wheat flour, which are formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, then sliced and served fried. That sounds so very wrong and yet so very right. Right? I also am not schooled in the world of Taylor pork roll but am open to it. So far I’ve led a Spam-free life, and I don’t see that changing but to each one’s own. Anway, let’s talk about what we’re all thinking about — the cheesesteaks.
The 5 Spot menu isn’t huge, and it doesn’t need to be. Do one or two things really well, and you’ll be fine in my book. Along with breakfast sandwiches they’ve got ham or turkey hoagies ($7 small, $9 large), cheesesteaks, chicken cheesesteaks and pizza steaks ($8 small, $10 large).
They come in retro-looking red-and-white-checked boxes, which yank on my nostalgic heartstrings. They’ve also just added Federal Pretzel Baking Co. pretzels to the menu for $1.75 each or three for $5. Look for homemade soups to appear on the menu beginning in October.
On my both of my visits, I ordered the same thing: a large cheesesteak. The first one I inhaled at home and the second one I sat there and ate, a little bit slower because I was in public, and also I was enjoying a visit with EmmaRose, who sat with me, much to my delight, as I adore kids. She very much wanted my headphones, and that was fine with me, provided she left my cheesesteak alone.
I’ve never been to Philadelphia, so I don’t know what a “real” Philly cheesesteak exactly is, but I can tell you that what’s being served up at The 5 Spot is absolutely delicious. The cheese sauce is made with caramelized onions, fried every morning in the fat from that day’s bacon. Trust me when I say that every molecule of steak had a molecule of melted cheese perfection clinging to it, making my mouth and belly extremely happy. As for that cheese, it’s Cheez Whiz right out of the jar.
WHAT: The 5 Spot
WHERE: 935 Congress St., Portland, 536-1430. On Facebook
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday
WAIT: About five minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: There is a 3- to 4-inch ledge at the front door.