George

Whenever someone wants to meet with me in the Portland area, I insist on getting together in my “Portland office,” a corner booth by the window at Hot Suppa! on the west end of Congress Street. So of course, when Linda and I decided to start this Let’s Do Lunch series, Hot Suppa! was at the top of our list for a visit.

The small, cozy dining area is inviting with a small bar, booths along one wall and three larger tables along the picture windows looking out on the street. A huge chalk board on the back wall lists the day’s specials and brews — always with a good choice of Maine microbrews.

For lunch I enjoyed an Oxbow ale while Linda had an Allagash White. We’d spent the morning at the Maine Restaurant Association’s Expo, where food tempted us at many booths. OK, tempted me. But Linda insisted we not eat anything there, so I only got a few nibbles when she wasn’t looking.

That was actually a good thing, because portions at Hot Suppa! are large. We started with a side order of fried green tomatoes, a favorite anytime we are here.

The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch items all day until dinner when a very creative menu takes over for the evening. My favorite lunch items are the BLT and Cubano, and Lin ordered the BLT on this visit, making my choice easy. The Cubano is a Cuban-style pork and ham sandwich with gruyere, brown mustard amd cornichion pickles on a toasted French bread ($11). Yummy doesn’t begin to describe it.

Our server, Rebecca, has been here a long time and is both friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and all things Portland. Both Mo Sabina, the chef, and his brother Alec, the manager, have become friends of ours and spent quite a bit of time visiting with us that day. They grew up in Gorham and are hard workers. It’s great to see them succeed and prosper.

Alec’s significant other, Angela Ferrari, a Farmington native, has filled the walls with her stunning works of art, all for sale at reasonable prices. It’s a real pleasure to enjoy that art during your meal. I’ve had lunch with lots of people here, and they all became regular customers. You should, too.

Linda

The first time I tasted Hot Suppa!’s fried green tomatoes I fell in love. They are double battered before being fried, and the batter is well-seasoned. Once cooked, the crusty outside combines perfectly with the soft tangy tomato inside. Their addictive remoulade of mayonnaise, capers, cilantro and a dash of hot sauce (with some other spice I can’t quite figure out) has me craving these often.

George has finally understood that when he goes to Portland and has lunch there, he is to bring home an order of fried green tomatoes for me. When I go there for lunch, I lean toward the Fried Green Tomato BLT.

The southern cooking influence really shows up on the dinner menu — from chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits to oysters and pork belly with red beans and rice. Mo went to school in the South and fell in love with the food. Now he serves it right here in Maine.

Olde Post Office Cafe

George

It was a very long winter for me. Mount Vernon’s cafe was closed in January and February for renovations. No place to go for those great breakfasts. No place to hang out with friends and neighbors. No place for lunch. I was so happy when they reopened.

While it is true that I have been known to have breakfast here and still be at the cafe when lunchtime rolls around, I am more apt to come for lunch. And if anyone wants to meet with me in this area, I insist on doing that at the cafe.

Chef/owner Sarah Chaisson is a great cook, and after I had one particular sandwich about a hundred times, she named it after me, calling it the Gorgeous George. But to be humble, I asked her to change that to the George. It’s a pulled-pork sandwich in a wrap, and it is so good. Even if it isn’t on the menu, they can usually make it for me.

Haddock chowder on Fridays is another favorite. Linger at a window seat and enjoy the view of the lake, or sit on the porch in summertime and watch the fast-moving stream rushing by just beyond the screen. I love the art here, which rotates every month. The staff is wonderful and so are the customers. Be ready to say “hi” and visit with us.

Linda

My favorite sandwich at The Post Office Cafe keeps calling my name. It is the Californian, a panini of turkey, avocado, red onions, cheese and mayonnaise. The soups here are always good, and then there is the cilantro coleslaw. Everything here is fresh and delicious. It’s a great cafe and draws customers from all over Maine.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.

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