“Can I take you out to lunch when I get home?” The text brought a tiny tear to my eye. My wife wanted to treat me to a mid-day meal. Sure, she owed me for dinner from the night before, but I had already forgotten about that, so a lunch on her sounded like a legitimate bonus. She didn’t like any of my suggestions about where to go though, so when she suggested Salty Sally’s on Congress St., I was okay with finally trying it. We had considered a visit a half dozen times before, but this time it would actually happen.
The restaurant had tables on the left, a seating island in the middle, and a bar along the right side. The restaurant touts itself as a bar and grill, but had more of a bar and diner feel to me, not that it mattered. The waiter/bartender came around and provided menus and waters. The menu was for brunch and reinforced my initial thoughts about it as a diner. It didn’t offer anything too fascinating, just a reasonable selection of breakfast and lunch options, occasionally with a little twist or turn.
While we were looking at the menus, we declined drinks and accepted a review of the specials. There were two, and one of them – Creme Brulee French Toast – sounded crazier and sweeter than any dessert I could imagine. After some internal debate, I passed and looked for something a little more breakfast and a little less diabetes. One of the breakfast burritos or a breakfast sandwich on an extra large English muffin sounded pretty good, but in the end, I decided I wanted an omelet. The only one I saw was the Chili and Cheddar Omelet with hash browns, and I was okay with that. Mrs. Portlandeater went with a favorite lunch item – Grilled Cheese (mozzarella, meunster, and gouda) with tomato bisque.
Before leaving our table, the waiter informed me that the hash browns in my order were actually tater tots. I told him that was great and my mouth started watering. I’m not sure there’s a deep fried food I enjoy more than tater tots, so I was hardly concerned. He left and we waited for our goods. The restaurant was about half full with a few patrons walking in and out as we relaxed with hunger our only concern. When a couple tables got their food before us, I became a little jealous, but attempted to exhibit a reasonable amount of patience.
Our meals arrived before long and I found myself with a folded egg encasement and potato puffs. My wife’s soup was topped with some shredded cheese and a nicely toasted sandwich. I tried a tot immediately and was super pleased at how well fried they were – crispy and crunchy. I threw down some ketchup and sriracha to dip some of the rest into. Then I readied for battle against the omelet. Not sure I’d ever had a chili omelet, I approached cautiously, separating a manageable amount from the rest of it, hoping the bean and beef concoction wouldn’t fall out. I tried a bite and was pleasantly surprised by the nice smooth chili. It wasn’t overly spicy-hot, but had plenty of flavor. A smattering of cheese added a fine finishing touch.
I swept through my food like a tornado, finding it to be just the amount of sustenance I needed. My wife had a little of hers left over and I went for a taste of that, taking the remaining portion of the grilled cheese for a spin. There was plenty of cheese, but the best part was that I could pick out each one easily. The combination of them all made for a small army of cheesy awesome. A sip of the bisque brought forth some creamy tomato, a little basil, and a tiny bit of cheese topper. It was a pretty fine example of the lunch standard.
We finished all we had minus a few drops of bisque and decided that was enough. It was a solid meal and most certainly enough for the time being. The cost came to just a smidge over 20 clams before tip. I suppose that’s pretty inexpensive considering I can’t remember the last time I got meal with table service for that price for two. The food was good – not fine dining, but high quality, well executed, and mildly inventive. The casual, relaxed atmosphere seemed amply suited for drinks, a meal, or both. Though I can’t say how they are at other times, Saturday around lunch was a good hour to be there since it wasn’t overly busy. Go there for an omelet, a sandwich, or try the decadent French toast special.
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