Hummus has long been strictly a utilitarian food for me.
When I’m hungry at home, I dip crackers into hummus until the next meal. If I need a quick lunch, I throw a tub of hummus and some bread into my lunch box.
But I have never thought of hummus as the centerpiece of an interesting dish, until I discovered the hummus cake sandwich at Verbena in South Portland.
It featured a cake of hummus, as you might expect, fried light brown on the top and bottom and just a little warm inside. The sandwich, $7.95, featured sliced cucumbers, little cubes of feta cheese, and a wonderful olive-flavored mayo. It came on thick, soft wheat bread from Rosemont Bakery in Portland.
I felt lucky that I had ventured into Verbena, located between a lamp shop and a market in South Portland’s resurgent Knightville section, because the place has a huge selection of daily specials only available on specific days.
The standing menu lists two salads and three sandwiches, while the specials menu on the Friday I went featured three more sandwiches, two soups, two kinds of quiche and a salad.
So before heading over, or placing a phone order, make sure you go online at verbenaonline.com to see what the daily specials are.
Diners at Verbena restaurant in South Portland.
Bakery items at Verbena restaurant in South Portland.
Window seating at Verbena restaurant in South Portland.
Vegetarian black bean soup and Catie’s Famous Chicken Salad sandwich at Verbena restaurant in South Portland.
Verbena restaurant in the Knightville neighborhood in South Portland.
Besides the hummus cake sandwich, I also tried a cup of pork and white bean soup ($4.75). The soup was creamy, almost caramel-colored, and had just a little bit of heat, in terms of spices. The white beans, carrots and tiny bits of pork were very tender. I gobbled it up pretty quickly.
The other specials on the Friday I went included; a sandwich of chicken, cheddar cheese, pickled onions, and lemon garlic aioli; a grilled tofu sandwich with carrots, cucumbers, red onions and chili-lime mayo; a broccoli and cheddar quiche; an asparagus, pepper and goat cheese quiche; vegetarian black bean soup; and a salad of fresh apples, goat cheese, walnuts and baby greens with balsamic dressing.
I noticed that earlier in the week, posted specials included a roast beef sandwich with grilled red peppers, blue cheese and horseradish mayo, and a fried chicken sandwich with pickled red onion, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce and Tabasco ranch dressing. There was also a chicken, cabbage and couscous soup.
Because of Verbena’s location in Knightville, in the shadow of the Casco Bay Bridge, it’s a good place for lunch if you’re browsing shops or doing errands on Ocean Street or at the nearby Mill Creek-area stores.
The place has very high, old-fashioned pressed tin ceilings, wood floors and honey-colored wood furniture, as well as warm green walls. There are plenty of tables and even couches. On the day I went, a half-dozen women were on the couches, knitting, and having lunch.
In good weather, one could easily grab a sandwich at Verbena and walk down to Mill Creek Park to lunch on a bench by the pond.
Not sure if ducks like hummus cake sandwiches.
But I now know that I do.
WHERE: 103 Ocean St., South Portland. 207-767-2011; verbenaonline.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
WAIT: About five minutes
PARKING: On street.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes