From Little Lee

A Little Cajun in Maine

What do you think of when you hear the words breakfast in Portland, Maine? Do you think jambalaya and gumbo? How about jalapeño cornbread and huevos rancheros? Probably not…and neither did I. But, that’s exactly what you’ll get when you visit Portland’s Bayou Kitchen – Maine’s FAVORITE breakfast spot.

Welcome to the Bayou Kitchen!
Welcome to the Bayou Kitchen!

Normally I give myself a little time to take a quick jaunt around whatever town I’m visiting for breakfast, but unfortunately Portland, Maine was my first stop on a whirlwind tour of New England, and I just didn’t schedule enough time to explore everything the city had to offer. Looks like I’ll be back for a visit…and I can’t wait!

Fortunately, I was able to make some time to partake in The Bayou Kitchen’s mouth-watering breakfast fare. And, if you’re in Portland or near Portland, it’s something I highly recommend…but only if you don’t mind waiting or waking up early. This place is only open until 2 p.m., is incredibly busy and rightfully so.

I could smell the food from down the block. It took me right back to New Orleans – the smell of Cajun spices and crawfish – I quickened my pace as I rounded the corner. As I walked up, I noticed a large crowd milling about…I could tell they were equally eager as I was to get into the joint.

Michaolopoulous prints adorning Bayou's walls.
Michaolopoulous prints adorning Bayou’s walls.

When I walked in, once again, I felt like I had been transported to the Crescent City – a swath of purple, green and gold colors, Mardi Gras beads, fleur-de-lis and a couple of James Michalopoulos‘ prints adorning the space. Oh, yeah, and a giant alligator hanging on the wall. It’s a feast for the eyes, really.

Welcome, friends!
Welcome, friends!

Speaking of feast, I started mine with an endless cup of very strong coffee. Not bad for $1.65. I sat down with owner Karl Silander – a totally laid back, easy-going kinda guy and a native to Maine. I found this very interesting considering the origins of his restaurant’s cuisine.

But, that didn’t stop Karl. It’s obvious his research into Cajun cooking paid off handsomely. The result is a menu that’s eclectic and diverse, and if it’s a traditional breakfast you’re after they have that too…but why go boring when you can go bold? And, bold is where I went and I loved every morsel of it.

Not that you'll need to add any more flavor to Bayou's food...but check out this hot sauce selection!
Not that you’ll need to add any more flavor to Bayou’s food…but check out this hot sauce selection!

I started with a taste of their Gumbo. Made with chicken, crawfish, andouille sausage and, “a whole lotta goodness,” says Karl, Bayou’s gumbo captures the very essence of this unique Louisiana dish. “With Cajun cooking,” Karl says, “No one flavor should over power the other. You should be able to taste every single thing in a Cajun dish.” Indeed, I did, savoring every last bite.

Mmmmmm...gumbo and jalapeno cheddar cornbread.
Mmmmmm…gumbo and jalapeno cheddar cornbread.

Next up was the Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread – again, a nod to the South. It was lightly crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside and was paired perfectly with the gumbo…and the Red Beans and Rice.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I had red beans and rice. Regrettably, it might have been at Popeye’s Chicken somewhere…and these were definitely NOT those. Bayou’s red beans and rice were a little smoky flavored with a nice bit of spice and a lot of heat…well, let me explain. When you order Bayou’s red beans and rice, be sure not to inhale them. Allow a little time for them to cool, then eat. 🙂

The last dish was Huevos Rancheros with their vegetarian black bean chili that is slightly sweet, but very flavorful. The eggs are cooked to perfection and blend nicely with the chili and flour tortilla. You can wipe your mouth now.

A little huevos rancheros, a little red beans and rice and a whole lotta flavor!
A little huevos rancheros, a little red beans and rice and a whole lotta flavor!

I’d like to thank Karl’s employee, Pat, who was a gracious host and who kept filling my endless coffee cup and to the brilliant folks who made my breakfast feast worth the trip.

The Bayou Kitchen is located at 543 Deering Avenue in Portland, Maine. You can visit their Web site at www.bayoukitchenmaine.com.

Cajun Cooking Champs....yes, I concur.
Cajun Cooking Champs….yes, I concur.

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