If you’ve lived in Portland longer than I have, you probably have fond memories of the Good Egg Café. This Congress Street eatery drew crowds of loyal regulars throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Well, it’s back. Sort of. The reincarnated Good Egg lives within the walls of Pepperclub, that East End mainstay of vegetarian-friendly world cuisine. Pepperclub does a decent job with dinner, so my wife and I figured it was worth giving breakfast a try. Arriving with toddler in tow, we sat down and waited. And waited.
Service at breakfast requires a different sense of urgency than at dinner, and they haven’t quite figured that out yet. Here’s my first free lesson for Good Egg waitstaff: At dinner, coffee is a beverage to be savored over a slice of chocolate torte. At breakfast, it’s a potent medicinal tincture to be taken regularly, in large doses, and fast. In other words, get me a freakin’ cup of coffee before I accidentally stab myself with a fork!
Speaking of coffee, I had high expectations for their custom organic blend, roasted locally by Coffee by Design. Alas, it was slightly bitter and decidedly mediocre. Maybe it was just a bad pot. We all make mistakes.
Where the service fell short, the food rose to the occasion. My omelet of bacon, scallions and cream cheese was perfectly fluffy and accompanied (for a buck extra) by a modest portion of crisp, lightly seasoned red-potato homefries. “Eggs from Hell,” a colorful plate of eggs, tortillas, chipotle sauce, salsa and spiced black beans, was quite tasty — though not nearly as fiery as one might expect from its go-ahead-I-dare-you-to-eat-it name. My two-year-old daughter, Naomi, ate most of the beans. I never get any beans when she’s around.
Other promising menu items included corned-beef and veggie hashes, breakfast pitas and homemade granola. Prices are very reasonable, with most entrees between $4 and $7.
But the real stars of the menu belong to the carb family. Cinnamon rolls are a house specialty, and should not be missed. Warm, buttery and bursting with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins, they bear only a passing resemblance to their oversized, sticky, cloyingly sweet cousins. Bravo. My oatmeal molasses toast was crusty, chewy and flavorful (although I had to track the waitress down for some jam — again, there’s some room for improvement). Multigrain pancakes, made from a blend of wheat, corn, rye and brown-rice flours, struck the perfect balance of nutty, complex flavor and airy, almost spongy texture. My only complaint here was that Pepperclub, like many other places in town, has the audacity to charge extra for maple syrup. I expected that when I lived in California, but in Maine? Maple grows on trees here, people, come on!
Bakery items are available to go, including homemade breads, English muffins, granola and pancake mix. For $7.50, you can pick up a frozen Cinnamon Roll Take-Home Kit and feel good knowing a buck is going to the local school district.
My advice? Give it a couple months, then come in for a cinnamon roll and whatever else suits your tastes. Once they get the service quirks ironed out, the Good Egg at Pepperclub will certainly be a worthwhile stop. And if you close your eyes, maybe it will feel like 1988 all over again.
— Dan Zarin
The Good Egg Café at Pepperclub serves breakfast Tues. through Fri. from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., Sat. and Sun. from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.