188 State St., Portland
I really wanted to love brunch at LFK, the hipster enclave by Longfellow Square in Portland’s West End. I’d been there before, for dinner and drinks, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience — the antique typewriters and dusty old books, the just-ahead-of-the-curve cocktail menu and craft-beer list, and the burger, which ranks as one of the best in town. But sadly, they let me down.
This isn’t to say brunch there was uniformly terrible. There were some high points, to be sure. But painfully slow service and inconsistent food ultimately killed my buzz before it got going.
I invited a friend to join my wife, our nine-year-old daughter and me there late one Saturday morning. When we arrived, the dining room was less than half full (as opposed to more than half empty; as you can see, I was still optimistic at this point). We grabbed a table by the big front window and asked for three coffees. I poured in some cream, which promptly “broke” into nasty, floating bits. It was about 10 minutes before I was able to attract our server’s attention and request a replacement.
Meanwhile, we checked out the menu, so by the time she came back we were ready to order. Unfortunately, that would be the last we’d see of her for more than half an hour, when our food finally arrived.
My daughter ordered the LFK Benedict ($10), a standard-configuration Eggs Benedict served with potatoes and greens on the side. Though she’s obviously not a professional food critic (yet), her description of the Hollandaise sauce as “dull and flavorless” was spot on.
My wife had the Rosemont Scala French Toast ($9) and side orders of vegan sausage ($4) and greens ($4). The French toast was by far the best thing any of us ate that morning: thick-sliced, crisp on the outside and custardy in the middle, served with real maple syrup. The savory vegan sausage tasted primarily of rosemary, and was quite enjoyable. But the greens… Apparently the kale had, like us, been waiting quite some time; it was so cold that my wife had to ask if it was supposed to be that way (answer: no). She sent it back, and received another order about 10 minutes later. The limp, overcooked greens were vinegary, but otherwise nondescript. Adding salt, pepper and a shake of Sriracha couldn’t rescue them from blandness.
I ordered the Baked Egg Sandwich ($8), served with sausage and cheddar on a nicely toasted English muffin from Big Sky Bread Company. On the side came a dish of the aforementioned greens (mine were also stone cold) and homefries. The sausage was tasty, moist and mildly spiced, but the egg was cooked über-hard and dry, and the potatoes seemed more like a lukewarm potato salad than homefries.
Having enjoyed it in the past, my friend ordered the LFK Burger ($13), and was not disappointed. Except by the side of greens. Do I even have to mention they were cold?
Over the next several weeks, I tried to convince my family to give LFK another shot, but they weren’t having any of it. Goes to show you how important a first impression can be. Still, I wanted to be fair; any restaurant can have an off day. So eventually I returned on my own. This time, I went for the French toast, which was delicious again, but even I was unwilling to give the greens another chance. And once again, the service was painfully slow. In a nearly empty restaurant, there’s just no excuse for breakfast food to take 45 minutes to come out of the kitchen.
So while I may come back to LFK some evening for a burger and a beer, I probably won’t return for brunch. In a city like Portland, there are just too many other places serving brunch I do love.
— Dan Zarin
LFK serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.