Maine’s Best Breakfasts

Originally Published in the February Issue of Down East Magazine

Photograph styled by Catrine Kelty

Written By Joe Ricchio, Virginia Wright, Brian Kevin, and Grace-Yvette Gemmell

Photographed by Mark Fleming and Michael Wilson

You can watch my appearance on “207” on  WCSH Channel 6 right here

Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey! And, um, a whole lot more. We got up early and ate our way across the state to bring you this definitive list of Vacationland’s 30 most mouthwatering breakfast dishes — sweet to savory, traditional to oddball. This is how Maine does the most important meal of the day.

Deluxe Breakfast Sandwich

Palace Diner, Biddeford

Maine's Best Breakfasts

Perfectly toasted oversized English muffins hold the Palace’s egg omelet “square” with melted cheese, canned jalapeño, and a healthy dose of high-quality mayo. The menu lists bacon, but wise diners ask instead for thinly sliced Taylor Ham — a style of pork roll that originated in New Jersey and is so delicious that it ought to be on that state’s flag. “It’s really just the basics, working in blissful harmony,” says co-owner Greg Mitchell. “Salty, cheesy, smoky, and spicy all tucked into a perfectly griddled English. How can you go wrong?” 18 Franklin St. 207-284-0015.

Enchiladas and Eggs

Crissy’s Breakfast and Coffee Bar, Damariscotta

One part traditional bakery, one part Latin-influenced breakfast café, unassuming Crissy’s serves up two mean cheese-and-onion enchiladas paired with eggs as you like them. The chorizo, from Maine Family Farms, is a must-add. Another nice touch: the little bites of yummy blueberry muffin that Crissy’s brings every table as a starter. 212 Main St. 207-563-6400.

John’s Breakfast Sandwich

Q Street Diner, South Portland

Scrambled eggs, sautéed onions and peppers, cheese, and sliced Italian sausage on thick, griddled Italian bread — a comforting sandwich like something your grandma would have made in a 100-year-old cast-iron skillet. Turn up the nostalgia with Q Street’s McDonald’s-esque pattied hash browns. 9 Q St. 207-767-0299.

Home Fries

Chase’s Daily, Belfast

They’re served with egg dishes, but Chase’s home fries could stand on their own, sliced thin and browned until crispy around the edges, while still tender in the center. Flecked with parsley, but not overly spiced, they’ll remind you how good potatoes can taste. 96 Main St. 207-338-0555

Mixed Fry
(don’t call it “poutine”)

Two Rivers Lunch, Allagash

The Arctic chill of far northern Allagash helps justify a breakfast of crispy fries laden with rich gravy and melty, shredded mozzarella. Be warned that, due to the town’s non-French heritage, locals insist on calling this dish “mixed fry” and never utter the p-word. 75 Dickey Rd. 207-398-3393

Kielbasa and Eggs

Sunrise Cafe, Freeport

A recurring crew of hungry plowmen rolls in on winter mornings; they requested kielbasa years ago. These days, Sunrise Cafe goes through 25 pounds of it a week (even more in touristy summer months), and we get why — onions, peppers, and grilled kielbasa add crazy zip to the fluffy scrambled eggs. 475 U.S. Route 1. 207-865-6115

Louisiana Bayou Benedict

Bayside American Cafe, Portland

It stopped being called Bintliff’s last spring, but the ownership hasn’t changed at Bayside American Cafe since 2003. Nor has this excellent benedict — two johnnycakes with poached eggs, smoky andouille sausage, and a spicier-than-average hollandaise. 98 Portland St. 207-774-0005.

Deluxe Home Fries

Krista’s Restaurant, Cornish

Maine's Best Breakfasts

It’s a good sign when the options for grilled home fries necessitate their own section on the menu. The deluxe version — heaped with bacon, cheddar, green onion, and sour cream — is worth driving out of your way for, especially if you top it with a fried egg or two. “I thank the universe for my proximity to these home fries,” says devout Krista’s regular Alex Steed. “They are the caulk — comprised of carbs, fat, and happiness — that can fill any cracks in your heart and/or soul.” 2 Main St. 207-625-3600.

Cinnamon Bun

Home Kitchen Cafe, Rockland

The breakfast menu is vast, but don’t order without getting at least one cinnamon bun (they’re plenty big to share). “Sinnies” are topped with cinnamon and white sugar glaze, while “stickys” are topped with candied pecans and brown sugar glaze. Think of them as the breakfast equivalent of table bread. 650 Main St. 207-596-2449.

Myles Henry DownEast Benedict

Maine Diner, Wells

Seafood and hollandaise are a classic pairing, so it’s surprising — particularly in Maine — that you don’t find them partnered on breakfast menus more often. The Myles Henry (named for a co-owner who passed away in 2010) augments a classic bennie with a briny kick from a pair of house-made fried cod cakes. 2265 Post Rd. 207-646-4441.

Two Egg Sandwich and a Blueberry Muffin

Portland Pottery Cafe, Portland

It’s not the first place you’d look for a classic, diner-style, just-greasy-enough breakfast sandwich with gooey white American cheese, but this pottery studio and store’s café serves an especially good one, with a choice of ham or bacon. Save room for a plump, buttery, hot-from-the-griddle blueberry muffin sprinkled with coarse sugar. 118 Washington Ave. 207-772-4334.

Cheese Blintzes

Morse’s Sauerkraut & Euro Deli, Waldoboro

Waldoboro is our original German outpost, and Morse’s six-booth backroom restaurant is the only place in the state to go übergeschnappt on Teutonic breakfast fare. Save the babka and stollen French toasts for another day and dig into two daintily rolled, pan-fried crepes stuffed with an airy blend of mascarpone, cottage cheese, and a touch of cream cheese. Toppings change week to week and season to season, depending what fruit’s available from nearby Beth’s Farm Market, but lingonberries are always an option. 3856 Washington Rd. 207-832-5569.

Maine's Best Breakfasts

Lobster Omelet

Third Alarm Diner, Sanford

It looks like a prop, almost too neatly folded to be real, but inside this perfect-looking omelet is a mess of fresh, sweet lobster and mild American cheese. Unlike many a short-order omelet, Third Alarm’s never-chewy eggs suggest the kitchen staff did their homework on the proper omelet-cooking temperature. 47 Washington St. 207-490-0557


Rolly’s Diner, Auburn

If you’re from Maine, you likely don’t need to be told what this, er, scatological acronym stands for, but the dish is a rich sausage gravy with mounds of ground beef and pork. You could have it over biscuits, but it’s better on a “shingle” of crispy Texas toast. (Get a side of from-scratch crepes too.) 87 Mill St. 207-753-0171.

Cafe Monte Cristo

Café This Way, Bar Harbor

A variation of the croque monsieur, the Monte Cristo is meant to be gluttonous and nap-inducing. Café This Way’s version uses thick slabs of French toast loaded up with fried eggs, ham, and melted cheese, and they practically envelope the thing in real maple syrup. Perfect with strong black coffee. 141-2 Mt. Desert St. 207-288-4483.

Nanny D’s Pancakes

Helen’s Restaurant, Machias

Maine's Best Breakfasts

You’re not getting the recipe for Helen’s golden, impossibly fluffy pancakes out of owners Julie and David Barker. Other than admitting it involves “a whole lot of real butter,” they’re tight-lipped about the pancakes that David’s “Nanny D” used to flip on summer mornings before her family went out to rake wild blueberries. Order a short or a large stack with those same blueberries — the pride of Machias! — or chocolate chips. Helen’s kitchen does not hold back on either. 111 Main St. 207-255-8423.

Bagel Toasted with Pimento Cheese

158 Pickett Street Cafe, South Portland

Some refer to pimento cheese as “the caviar of the South.” We call 158’s version an irresistible, scrumptious cheesy spread. Though the thin, crunchy bagel is delicious — especially the salt variety — we swear it’s only there to discourage us from eating the sharp, orange cheese spread by the spoonful. 158 Benjamin W Pickett St. 207-799-8998

Cheddarwurst, Eggs, and Toast

Moody’s Diner, Waldoboro

“Nothin’ finah” than a big juicy pork sausage all swelled up with cheddar cheese. Moody’s is a roadside institution that’s been around for almost 90 years, the kind of Formica-counter joint where you can order this artery-clogger at 5 a.m. (when Moody’s opens its doors) and nobody looks at you twice. 1885 Atlantic Hwy. 207-832-7785.

Breakfast Sandwich of the Day

Edna & Lucy’s, Pownal

Whatever Sabrina Warner and Steph Dexter put into their daily breakfast sandwich — maybe a thick sausage patty or applewood smoked bacon, maybe on rosemary focaccia or a toasty English muffin — these foil-wrapped beauties are always simple and succulent. Don’t skip the sugar doughnuts, all crunchy exteriors and soft, warm centers. 407 Hallowell Rd. 207-688-3029

French Toast

D’Ellies Bakery & Deli, Carrabasset Valley

Thick slices of exceptional bread make for first-rate French toast, which in turn benefits from peaked embankments of whipped butter and plenty of maple syrup. If it’s going to be a long day on the slopes (or just haunting the après bars), this is your carb-y fuel. 5 Village West, Sugarloaf Mountain Resort. 207-237-2490.

#1 on a Bialy

Ohno Café, Portland

Most Ohno regulars have opinions on which of this neighborhood café’s seven breakfast sandwiches is best. We’re partial to the #1 — maple-glazed prosciutto, Vermont cheddar, Tabasco, and egg — and we always get it on a bialy (like a hole-free bagel), so the goodies won’t escape when we eat it on the go. 87 Brackett St. 207-774-0773.

Sausage Gravy Biscuits and Eggs

Dysart’s, Hermon

Dysart’s 24-hour truck-stop diner is a Bangor-area institution, and the sausage gravy with house-made biscuits and eggs is a profoundly satisfying, if heavy load. Take your server up on the fresh fruit substitution for home fries — your stomach will thank you. 530 Coldbrook Rd. 207-942-4878.

Fried Chicken and Waffles

East Ender, Portland

Maine's Best Breakfasts

A few spots in Maine serve this classic soul-food pairing, but the East Ender kitchen wins out by a) infusing the chicken’s buttermilk brine with onion, which helps keep the meat moist while the skin gets crunchy; and b) using yeast-raised waffles, which lend themselves to fluffy interiors and crispy outer crusts. “Everything starts the day before, just like Grandma would have done,” explains co-owner Karl Deuben. Served with whipped brown butter and maple syrup and only available during Sunday brunch. 47 Middle St. 207-879-7669.

Beef Pho

Huong’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Portland

It’s not an intuitive breakfast choice, but few foods stir the awakening soul like a steaming bowl of pho, the traditional first meal in Vietnam. Huong’s starts serving theirs — a fragrant broth loaded with noodles and your choice of meat (thinly sliced steak, meatballs, and tripe, among others) — at 10 a.m. 267 St. John St. 207-775-2344

Almond Granola

DiCocoa’s, Bethel

Owner Cathi DiCocoa and her crew obsess over unadulterated ingredients — they even make the vanilla extract used in their granola. A honey-sweetened mixture of baked oats; toasted sliced almonds; and sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and flax seeds, DiCocoa’s granola has just the right ratio of crispy cluster to nutty crumble. Served with yogurt (house-made, of course). 119 Main St. 207-824-5282.

Red Flannel Hash

Deer Foot Farm, Appleton

Locals gather at this unassuming farm on a quiet country road on the weekends, when Carrie Roberts and her family serve hearty breakfasts made largely from foods grown and raised onsite or within a few miles. Topped with two eggs over-easy, this earthy twist on corned beef hash — deep red thanks to roasted beets — is as delectable as it is gorgeous. 1221 Union Rd. 207-785-3200.

Maine's Best Breakfasts

Eggs Benedict with Pulled Pork and Fried Green Tomatoes

Hot Suppa, Portland

This delectable mountain of breakfast love might send you flailing back into bed. The luscious, hickory-smoked pork complements the bright flavor and texture of the fried green tomatoes. If the silky and slightly citrusy hollandaise sauce didn’t mingle so perfectly with the runny egg yolk, it even might feel like gilding the lily. Co-owner Moses Sabina calls it “a trip into Southern decadence.” Hot Suppa is small — just a dozen tables and some barstools — so get in early on the weekends or be prepared to wait. 703 Congress St. 207-871-5005.

Cretons and Ployes

Doris’ Café, Fort Kent

Owner Linda Daigle has a secret recipe for cretons, a savory Acadian pâté made from ground pork butt, onions, and seasonings (those are the secret part). Many of her French-speaking customers spread it onto another regional specialty, the house-made ployes. Made from buckwheat flour, versatile ployes can be eaten like pancakes or as flatbreads, rolled up and served with every meal. 345 Market St. 207-834-6262

Skillet Breakfast #1

Boynton-McKay Food Co., Camden

Think of Boynton-McKay’s most popular breakfast item as an inside-out omelet: spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli are sautéed, sprinkled with jack cheese, and served (topped with two soft scrambled eggs) in a pretty ceramic skillet. Need meat? Opt for Skillet #2, loaded with spicy chorizo. 30 Main St. 207-236-2465.

Sausage Wrap

Lil’s Café, Kittery

Lil’s takes the on-the-go breakfast wrap up a notch. Superb breakfast sausage from neighboring whole-animal butcher Maine Meat gets the Middle Eastern treatment, with feta cheese and a tomato-y, cumin-y shakshuka sauce. If you’re not eating in at the tiny, exposed-brick café, then grab extra napkins, because these wraps are bursting at the seams. 7 Wallingford Sq. #106. 207-703-2800.