Portland Pottery Café
122 Washington Ave., Portland
If you’re not the kind of person who spends a lot of time at art studios and galleries, chances are you’ve never been to Portland Pottery. I’d driven past Portland Pottery’s East End studio and gallery dozens of times over the years without giving the place a second thought. When the word “Café” was added to their sign in mid-2012, I made a mental note to check it out, and then promptly forgot about it. (Mental note: maybe it’s time to invest in an actual notebook.)
More than a year later, after a morning spent driving around looking for a gift for my wife, my daughter and I finally stopped at Portland Pottery. Not only did we find the perfect handcrafted ceramic bowl, we also discovered a hidden gem: the café. After sharing an enormous lemon-poppyseed muffin, we vowed to return soon for a full breakfast.
On the Saturday before Christmas, the café was nearly empty when the three of us arrived. We chose a table near the self-serve coffee station and poured some of the fresh, strong brew into a pair of handmade mugs (coffee is $1.50; free if you buy a mug).
The breakfast section of the menu is pretty short. Choices range from a breakfast sandwich ($6) to a veggie-and-cheese omelet served with toast and housemade jam ($7.95). There’s also a rotating selection of frittatas (the morning we visited, the options were spinach/feta/mushroom or chard/bacon/goat cheese; also $7.95), but it was the daily specials, displayed on a chalkboard, that spoke to us.
My daughter and I both chose the New Englander Wrap ($9.95), a wheat tortilla stuffed with corned-beef hash, homefries, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. We found it immensely satisfying and perfectly seasoned, with crispy bits of beef, onion and flecks of carrot throughout.
My wife, who was more in the mood for an early lunch, decided on the Beet and Goat Cheese Pressed Sandwich ($7.95). For someone who loves beets as much as she does, this was a fantastic sandwich. It was buttery and crisp on the outside, and simultaneously sweet, salty and creamy on the inside. All of our meals were garnished with an unexpected treat — half a banana, split lengthwise and gently caramelized with a crème brûlée torch — that lifted the meal to even greater heights. (Our friendly server informed us that those same bananas occasionally appear in a Sunday brunch special, Banana Brûlée Waffles. Hell, yeah.)
The three of us also shared a sweet-potato Cinnamoon Roll ($5). We discovered that this pastry was named not for its round, full-moon shape, but rather because its massive size gives it a gravitational pull capable of changing the tides. The bright yellow cake and sweet, sticky icing were absolutely to die for. We barely made it through half.
From an economic perspective, adding an eatery to a gallery makes a lot of sense; I imagine each side of the business attracts customers to the other (indeed, we ended up buying a few more small items to give as Christmas gifts). Whatever the reason, I hope this café is here to stay.
— Dan Zarin
Portland Pottery Café is open Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-7 p.m. , Friday and Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.