Maine’s Best Breakfasts

(Also brunches. We wouldn't leave out brunches.)

Maine's Best Breakfasts
By Joe Ricchio, Virginia M. Wright, Brian Kevin, and Grace-Yvette Gemmell
Photos by Mark Fleming and Michael Wilson
Maine egg styling by Catrine Kelty
From our February 2016 issue

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

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

The Deluxe Breakfast Sandwich, from Biddeford's Palace Diner
The Deluxe Breakfast Sandwich, from Biddeford’s Palace Diner

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
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 the locals insist on calling this dish “mixed fry” and not poutine. 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 from Krista’s, in Cornish, Maine
Deluxe Home Fries from Krista’s, in Cornish

Deluxe Home Fries
Krista’s Restaurant, Cornish

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

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 envelop the thing in real maple syrup. Perfect with strong black coffee. 141-2 Mt. Desert St. 207-288-4483

Nanny D’s Pancakes from Helen’s Restaurant, in Machias, Maine
Nanny D’s Pancakes from Helen’s Restaurant, in Machias

Nanny D’s Pancakes
Helen’s Restaurant, Machias

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

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.

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. 207-947-8732

Fried Chicken and Waffles from the East Ender, in Portland, Maine

Soul Brunch

Fried Chicken and Waffles
East Ender, Portland

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

Eggs Benedict with Pulled Pork and Fried Green Tomatoes at Hot Suppa, in Portland, Maine
Eggs Benedict with Pulled Pork and Fried Green Tomatoes at Hot Suppa, in Portland

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

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

May 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.