The Breakfast Serial

photo/Dan Zarin

Jack’s Place
597 Bridgton Rd., Westbrook

When my wife and I moved to Maine 10 years ago, one of the first places we had breakfast was the newly opened Wake N’ Bakery Café in Westbrook. Something about the name spoke to us, and we loved the friendly, funky atmosphere and simple comfort food. We returned several times over the years, even as we found other places closer to home.

When the café moved to a larger space near Pride’s Corner a few years later, we followed. It wasn’t as cozy inside, but with its wide-open dining room, cheerful service and large tables, the Wake N’ Bakery remained one of the more comfortable, family-friendly breakfast-and-lunch spots around. Dinner service was added on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but it never seemed to draw much of a crowd. In an effort to boost weekend business, the space was renovated last year to include a stage for live music, and the dinner menu was expanded.

The café reopened in January and, a couple months later, rechristened itself Jack’s Place (after the owner’s son). The name is new, but the décor and the overall vibe haven’t changed a bit. A six-foot-tall mural of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff still adorns one of the walls, and reggae music plays in the background. Hand-blown glass pipes, along with t-shirts and other merchandise, are still for sale in a back room.

My wife, 7-year-old daughter and I visited on a recent Sunday morning. Grabbing two cups of workmanlike New England Coffee from the self-serve station at the bar, we slid into a large booth and opened our menus.

The breakfast menu has also grown over the years, and now includes seven kinds of pancakes, from basic buttermilk to Oreo to Elvis (peanut butter and bacon; not for the faint of heart). There are 16 omelette varieties (also available as scrambles or burritos), plus breakfast sandwiches and specialties like crabcakes and eggs. Nothing on the menu is more than $9, which is pretty impressive in this day and age.

My wife chose an old Wake N’ Bakery favorite, the Hippie Scramble ($7.79). Loaded with generous amounts of diced vegetarian sausage, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheddar, it was a bit overcooked but plenty flavorful. On the side were two slices of raisin toast and a heaping pile of homefries. The homefries were crisp on the outside but slightly underdone inside, and could have used a bit more seasoning.

I went for the Bomblette ($7.99), an omelette of shaved steak, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese. We all agreed that though my wife’s breakfast and mine had numerous ingredients in common and, curiously, looked nearly identical, mine was better — possibly because real meat tastes better than hippie meat, but that’s just one carnivore’s opinion. I opted for wheat toast, which was a bit burnt but edible once I put some jam on it (I hope you like jam on, too).

For sheer volume and calories-to-cost ratio, my daughter’s Apple Pie Pancakes ($6.79) were very impressive. An enormous plate — the size Gritty’s uses for a full order of nachos — was filled from edge to edge by a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes with three dollops of whipped cream and what appeared to be an entire can of apple-pie filling poured over the top. This dish really was “over the top.” Calling it “breakfast” is like calling the glassware in back “tobacco pipes” — technically accurate, but more than a little misleading. I’d call it “dessert.” The girl gave it her best shot. After finishing a side order of a single fried egg (the “healthy” part of her meal), she killed about a quarter of the cakes before lapsing into a sugar coma.

This wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had. There are lots of places to get breakfast in and around Portland, and many have better food and fancier ambiance. But if your family wants a decent breakfast after noon at a place that doesn’t rhyme with “pennies,” Jack’s Place fits the bill. After a decade tackling some of the most serious cases of the munchies, they’re still serving breakfast with a smile.

— Dan Zarin

Jack’s Place serves breakfast Mon. and Wed. from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Thurs. and Fri. from 8 a.m. to midnight, Sat. from 7 a.m. to midnight, and Sun. from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.