The Blue Rooster Food Company
5 Dana St., Portland
On our recent vacation in San Francisco, my family pretty much ate our way across the town. The City by the Bay has long been regarded as a culinary utopia. We certainly enjoyed some outstanding meals: from Baja fish tacos to Vietnamese crab-paste pho to truffled sage fries.
But San Francisco has another, equally wellearned reputation as an almost comically expensive place to visit. By day five of my trip, as I gleefully wolfed down a $14 “umami burger” and an $8 smoothie, I began to recall what I love so much about Portland: the ability to get a great meal without going broke. After a week in California, sated but nearly penniless, I packed up my family and headed home to Maine. Three days after our return we hit the Blue Rooster for breakfast.
The Blue Rooster is an excellent example of Portland’s reasonably priced, yet topshelf, eateries. With its menu of creative sandwiches that change seasonally, baconwrapped hot dogs and handmade tater tots, this tiny Old Port outpost has been my favorite local sandwich shop since it opened in 2013. Now that they’re also serving breakfast I can finally put that love into words and share it here in The Bollard.
When we visited last month, the breakfast menu was still fairly short. It featured a handful of specialty sandwiches (all priced at $7). I chose the Redeye: fried egg, crisp pork belly, hash browns and redeye mayo (a coffee- and baconinfused condiment that could probably turn an old newspaper into a delicacy if you slathered enough on), served on a buttery, flaky homemade biscuit. Truth be told, I made a godawful mess eating that thing. It left me with greasy fingers and yolk stains that will probably never come out of my favorite tshirt. But damn, was it tasty.
My wife’s Pig Lebowski, an English muffin piled high with fried mortadella, bacon, a fried egg, hash browns and lingonberry jam, was even better — and even messier. Sweet and salty, soft and crispy, and almost embarrassingly rich, this was essentially a complete Sunday brunch designed to be eaten by hand. Well, at least in theory (it turns out jam stains are even harder to remove than egg yolk).
My daughter was in the mood for something simpler, and the cook was happy to oblige with a custom order. The split biscuit stuffed with a fried egg, thickcut bacon and white cheddar was a shining take on the basic breakfast sandwich. On the side, we shared an order of Blue Rooster’s famous tater tots ($4) — perfectly crisp and seasoned potato bites that rank among the best hash browns or homefries you’ll find around here. The same tots are also available with a fried egg, bacon, maple mayo and hot sauce as The Early Bird ($6.50/small, $12/large), a decadent dish that’s on my list for a future visit.
With less than onetenth the population, Portland will never match San Francisco for its volume or variety of restaurants. But for a breakfast of this caliber, at prices that don’t require a second mortgage, our town can’t be beat — and the Blue Rooster is living proof.
— Dan Zarin
The Blue Rooster serves breakfast daily from 9 a.m. to noon.