Sammie Angel wanted a place where customers could step back in time, gather their friends on the porch and enjoy good food and fellowship. That’s just what she’s done at Dixfield’s Front Porch Café.

Linda

Mary Richards, my friend and co-worker, told me of a unique lunch place in Dixfield. “It’s really different and they serve great food,” she said. “I had an amazing salad. And you should see how they’ve decorated the cafe!”

Well, on our recent visit we found that the Front Porch Café does indeed serve really good food — in large servings — at very reasonable prices. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of community we found there.

One table of five seemed to know the waitress and owners well. They also knew everyone else who came in for lunch. There’s a good reason — they come here every day it’s open, every single day! Obviously they enjoy the food and the camaraderie here. They think the world of Sammie and her husband, Chef Clint Bailey. Others turned up that day while we lunched — regular customers who come here all the time.

Clint wanted us to try his soups. My cup (more the size of a small bowl) of tomato basil soup was incredible. The thick soup boasted great tomato flavor, perfectly seasoned. It tasted like summer to me. Yum!

Breakfast is served all day here. The J.J. Holman, an omelet made with fresh broccoli or spinach, was pretty tempting. The H.W. Park is pretty famous here — French toast stuffed with berries and cream cheese. Clint told us the first summer they opened, an article titled “The Toast of Dixfield” was written and they raved about this dish. Turns out it was in time for Dixfield Days and they were swamped with orders that day. Clint said he used two cases of bread and had never made so much French toast — in one day — in his life.

Four kinds of paninis are served: roast beef, pastrami, turkey or ham. We shared the turkey panini. It was filled with lots of turkey, cheese and sautéed onions and peppers.

Their Reuben is one of the most popular items on the menu. It is made with pastrami instead of the usual corned beef. After the list of ingredients, it states “incredibly good” on the menu. That, my friends, is quite an understatement. It is hands down the best Reuben I’ve ever tried. I’m going to be craving it again soon.

Linda, our server, makes the desserts for the café. Customers claimed that the bread pudding here was “the best.” The peanut butter pie is pretty well known, too. And because we were very full after our sandwiches and soups, George asked for a slice to go. We split it that night and yes indeed, it was amazing — rich, yet not heavy. Little chunks of chocolate were hidden in the crust and there were larger pieces of chocolate on top of the pie. It was decadent.

George

Let’s start where I did, with an emailed message from friend Sandy Faucher Mason who alternates between her house on Togus Pond in Augusta and a home in Florida. Here’s what Sandy had to say:
 

“I just wondered if you have ever checked out The Front Porch Café in Dixfield? We were over in Peru last Saturday buying some handmade wooden crafts, and were able to squeeze into the café just before they closed at 3 p.m. It is the coolest, funkiest little café I’ve ever been to, and all five of us loved the food.

“We had everything from bananas French toast with real maple syrup to homemade fish chowder. And OMG — the homemade bread pudding (special recipe) was to die for. The hospitality was amazing too.

“Sammie, the owner/operator was so sweet and really loved telling us all about the 150-year-old house. Then she showed us her 42-foot village display on the front porch! We ended up spending two hours there. It has funky signs and decorations and wood burnings. This place is true small-town Maine, and we are all going back.”

I think you will agree that Sandy has a future career as a travel writer. It was good to verify all that she wrote — and indeed, it’s all true.

If you read online reviews, as I do before we visit an inn or restaurant, you will find that virtually every post starts with Sammie who has turned this special place into her very own. She’s much more than a host. She’s an instant friend. And her vivacious personality dominates the restaurant.

And, oh yeah, Texan Clint Bailey can really cook. My scrumptious fish chowder was full of delicious chunks of halibut, the broth that’s thick and perfectly salty. Clint said the wife of my friend, Maine guide William Clunie, of Dixfield, gave him the recipe.

Linda did not exaggerate about the Reuben — but she didn’t tell you that I ordered it and then had to give her half of the sandwich once she tasted it. I also had to share my peanut butter pie with her at home. It was really, really delicious. I ordered it after a customer said he had it every day! I’m not sure he’s the same customer who brought in the sign, “Thou Shalt Not Weigh More Than Thy Refrigerator.”
Clint’s coleslaw was a favorite of mine, and he shared his secret dressing with us — after I promised not to tell you. It was both sweet and a bit spicy.

Sammie and Clint are embarking on a new venture soon: dinner, three times a week. The menu looks really good and we’ll be back to try it.

While the food is good, the café’s decorations will astonish you. Alas, the amazing village display on the porch will be gone to make room for tables and chairs for summer dining. But the decorations inside the restaurant, including the “outhouse,” will bring you inside and probably keep you there a while. I especially loved the artistry of Jay’s Alan Hutchinson. Check out his engraved table tops.

And you’ll want to sign your name on the entrance wall, as guests from all over the world have done. While this eclectic café draws customers from all over, it’s very much the possession of Sammie, Clint and their friends and neighbors. You’ll be one, as soon as you arrive for your first visit.

IF YOU GO

The Front Porch Café
WHERE: Route 2 at the entrance to Dixfield’s business district, on the right if you are headed north and set back from the road.
PHONE: 562-4646
HOURS: Open year-round from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. except Tuesdays. Starting April 18, the café will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for dinner from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. with special menus each night. Thursdays are pasta and more; Fridays steaks and seafood; and Saturdays family comfort food. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more

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