249 Congress St., Portland
I go out to breakfast a lot. Obviously. Mostly it’s a weekend thing, when I don’t have to rush out and accomplish stuff afterward. That’s important, because many of these meals tend toward the heavy, greasy side of the spectrum, and I couldn’t follow them with physical activity if I wanted to. But sometimes it’s nice to have a breakfast that doesn’t make me feel guilty for the rest of the day. And in Portland, one of the best places for those occasions is LB Kitchen. I brought my family there on a recent morning and we left full, happy, and with a distinct lack of self-loathing.
My wife and I had pre-caffeinated, so we decided to try some of LB Kitchen’s signature drinks. She ordered the Crimson and Clover ($5), a warm latte-like concoction made from beetroot, turmeric, ginger, almond or oat milk, and a few exotic ingredients (ashwagandha, maca, astragalus root) that I had to Google to identify. The beautiful pink beverage was satiny smooth, foamy, slightly sweet and lightly spiced with clove.
My daughter and I shared the Purple Rain smoothie ($7) of almond milk, blueberries, banana, almond butter, acai, and bee pollen. I was afraid it would be gritty from the berry seeds, or overpoweringly nutty, but it was neither. Creamy, smooth and not too sweet, it would make a perfect weekday breakfast with just a slice of toast on the side.
My LB Sandwich ($9, plus $1.50 for a coconut-oil-fried egg) was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in recent memory. The locally sourced bacon was thick and meaty, the avocado was perfectly ripe, and the fried egg was crispy around the edges, just how I like it. Pickled jalapeños and vegan spicy mayo added just enough heat, and even the lettuce and tomato were fresh and flavorful — not a given in February in Maine.
My wife tried the Harissa Hash ($12), a bowl of well-seasoned sweet potatoes, black beans and lightly dressed greens, topped with a fried egg and crème fraiche. The harissa sauce was less spicy than expected, but still packed a big punch of flavor.
If there’s a waffle to be had, my daughter will order it every time, and this morning was no exception. LB Kitchen’s version ($8) was crisp and fluffy as a cloud, and a touch of beetroot in the batter gave the waffle an earthy sweetness and a stunning pink color. The accompaniments of pitaya (dragonfruit), fresh berries, maple syrup and whipped cream made every bite a home run.
It’s definitely possible to make healthier choices than we made — the menu includes several whole-grain bowls, vegetable-heavy sandwiches and the like — but to me, LB Kitchen shines brightest when they put a healthyish spin on traditional breakfast fare. The prices aren’t the lowest in town, but the quality of both the ingredients and their preparation made the cost seem totally reasonable. I can declare without shame that I’ll be back soon.
— Dan Zarin
LB Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.