A few weeks ago, I headed up to Portland, ME with my best friends from college. We live all over New England and a few times per year we try to get together and explore somewhere new. We've done Hartford, CT, Mystic, CT, Northampton, MA and many more.
When we decided on Portland, I got straight to work researching restaurant options. The last time I was in that city was three years ago, when my mom and I did a girls weekend for my birthday. We stayed at the Chadwick Bed & Breakfast, which is so charming. I can't recommend it enough. I hope to go back!
I still had a bunch of things in my "must try" list, so I dusted it off as we planned this getaway. In addition to resurfacing those top picks, I put out a call for ideas on Twitter. The first person to respond was Laura Finaldi, a retail and tourism reporter for the Herald Tribune. She wrote, "Bayside!!! Bayside is a must." I took one look at the menu and knew we had to go there.
On our first morning in town, we hopped into one car and headed straight for Bayside American Cafe. We were still a block away when we could see the line out front. We put our name in, and the host let us know it would be about 40-45 minutes. He pointed us toward the coffee station, where you are welcome to pour a cup and it take outside with you while you wait.
We passed the time people watching and taking photos. When the host stuck his head out of the front door and shouted, "Do I have a Molly, part of five?" We shrieked in delight and he said, "Well, that is the most enthusiastic reply I've gotten all morning!"
We were escorted to a booth on the second floor, toward the back of the dining room. It was at that point we noticed Bayside has a roof deck. You can't see it from the street, but it's there and it would be a lovely place to enjoy a few cocktails.
Our first order of business was drinks. I think we ordered one of every available cocktail! Between us, we had a bellini, a mango mimosa, a hibiscus cocktail, a Bloody Mary and a peach cooler (that one is booze-free).
We all agreed the drinks were huge! Much more generous pours than we're used to receiving at brunch. All of the ladies loved their selections, but I was disappointed by the Bloody Mary. It didn't have any zest or kick. A friend suggested I sprinkle in some salt, which did help.
We placed our food order (savory egg dishes all around, plus one sweet thing to share) and in a delightful turn of events, our waitress brought our French toast first!
This is the strawberry cheesecake French toast, and I am drooling just looking at it again.
The cheesecake icing was decadent and the strawberries added a nice, tart contrast to every bite. If you got a bite without icing, it was a bit dry. Thankfully there was local maple syrup available to solve that problem!
The first of the savory dishes to arrive was the roasted root vegetable hash. They offer it in both a full and half portions. My friend went with the half.
A few bites in she said, "I don't usually go for a vegetarian breakfast option, but this was worth it! They let me get hollandaise sauce on the side, which I appreciated. I loved the scallions - they added a great pop of flavor. I also asked for a side of extra crispy bacon, and it did not disappoint."
Next to her, a friend had made her own omelette, requesting mushrooms, broccoli, olives and roasted garlic. When the plate landed in front of her, she said, "This is interesting, this is more like a crepe. It tastes very light, not greasy at all. The roasted garlic was the best part. I also enjoyed the homemade bread on the side. It was so fresh it didn't even need butter."
Across from me, a friend was delivered the huevos rancheros. As soon as I saw her plate, I wished I had ordered it.
She described the dish as, "Scrumptious," and continued on to say, "The pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole ratio was excellent. The egg and rice and beans were delicious. I wasn't into the tortilla being grilled, I would have preferred they left it fresh."
To my left, a friend was about to cut into the lobster eggs benedict. When in Maine!
She took a few bites and shared, "There wasn't a ton of lobster here. I was surprised the spinach on the benedict was raw, I was expecting it to be sauteed. That said, the hollandaise sauce was great and the eggs were cooked perfectly. The potatoes were crispy and seasoned well."
I went with the veggie eggs benedict. Most brunch places offer some rendition of this, but it's typically just a tomato and avocado, or tomato and spinach. The Bayside version has tomato, spinach, portobello mushrooms, button mushrooms, summer squash, broccoli, red onion and red pepper. Now, I know you are asking yourself, "How can they possibly fit all those veggies on an English muffin?" I have no idea, but it's a breakfast miracle.
I loved the dish, including the home fries on the side.
We all agreed that the food at Bayside was worth the long wait. We also appreciated the kindness of every member of their team - from the host who never got annoyed when we asked how many people were ahead of us on the list, to our waitress who delighted us with the French toast appetizer, to the bar back who noticed one of us dropped a knife, and was over in a flash, picking it up before she could even bend down to retrieve it.
Bayside is open each week, Thursday - Tuesday, from 7:00am - 2:00pm. I highly recommend arriving before 10:00am to cut down on wait time.
Thank you to Laura for this killer recommendation!