I Didn’t Find Love at 158 Pickett Street

29 Jan

158 Pickett Street in South Portland

I’m actually embarrassed to admit this, but Mark and I had never been to 158 Pickett Street until last weekend. We decided to take a little drive in the snow with the puppies and initially we thought about going to Scratch, and then I suggested that we try 158. I had heard tons of good things, and many people have said they think their bagels are better than Scratch, so I was intrigued. I’m a hard bagel customer though, because in my mind there is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than a New York bagel. Truth be told, that level of bagel snobbery is what has kept me from eating here for so long.

We rolled in around 10:30 on Sunday morning and there was, surprisingly, no line. I have heard the lines in the summer can be epic, but not today. We felt lucky for a moment in time.

View from the counter

I ordered a cappuccino to go. They made it in a flash and it was delicious. It had a slightly unconventional amount of foam (as in hardly any), but was really good nonetheless. I also ordered a double chocolate hazelnut cookie to hopefully bring happiness to my life later.

Next came the bagel breakfast sandwich orders. I decided to go with The Canuck, which comes with Canadian bacon, cheese and egg. I decided to get this on an onion bagel.

The Canuck

It was fine in my opinion. Nothing out of the ordinary, and I couldn’t help but think I could have made one better at home. The onion bagel was chewy in a way that I have never experienced before. It was getting suck in all the wrong places and making my mouth raw from chewing. Trust me I love the chew and hate bagels toasted so I thought I would be thrilled with this place, but alas it was no Ess-A-Bagel or Murray’s. No kids, it just wasn’t even close. Sigh.

Mark went for a Sausage, Egg, and Cheddar Bagel on Onion.

Sausage, Egg and Cheddar on Onion sans Sausage. Not cool.

You will notice in this photo that there was absolutely no sausage on this. Another strike! I swear we couldn’t win for losing, and since we were parked out at Fort Williams Park trying to enjoy a quiet ride and breakfast there was no way to remedy this situation. He was crestfallen to say the least. I gave him half of mine to try to alleviate his heartache and contribute to his extreme need for protein.

Now, I am certainly not saying I would never eat here again, but this first impression wasn’t stellar. I have heard that their bagels and lox are awesome, as well as their omelets, so maybe I would go back and try one of those sometime? It’s going to be hard to convince my number one dining partner to go back there anytime soon though, he’s still upset (days after the fact) that he paid $6 for a sandwich that wasn’t even what he ordered. He also said he preferred frozen Lenders brand bagels, but I am sure that was just the anger talking. Sorry Pickett Street. We wanted to love you, but you just wouldn’t let us. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to redeem yourself at some point. Oh, and the cookie was a little dry—to add insult to injury.

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18 Responses to “I Didn’t Find Love at 158 Pickett Street”

  1. Joe Ricchio January 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    The mushroom and Brie omelette, with a side of sesame semolina toast, will makes things all better on the next visit. Also their Cubans is pretty righteous as well. Give them one more chance, I think you’ll be happy.

  2. ChubbyWerewolf January 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Its been at least 18 months since I’ve had a bagel from 158, but my sense was that it was almost identical to the ones served at Scratch. So much so that I wasn’t at all surprised to read that the both the starter and the recipe for the bagels at 158 Pickett originated at Scratch. (Check out Erin Zimmer’s Serious Eats piece for more on this.) But maybe things have changed since my last visit?

    I’ve had some good breakfasts at 158, though I much prefer to go during quiet weekday mornings rather than deal with the Sunday morning wall-to-wall crowd. I’m intrigued by Joe’s suggestion of both the omelette and the Cuban (especially the Cuban as I’m seriously addicted to the Cheese Iron’s Cuban panini these days). I had read at one point that 158 served a beef on weck (a much beloved Western New York staple) but I have yet to see it on the menu there.

  3. ChubbyWerewolf January 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    PS: I’ve added you to the links section on my blog. If you feel inclined to reciprocate, I’d certainly appreciate it.

    • Eat Here. Go There. January 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      Consider it done :) I love your blog, shame on me for not doing it sooner. P.S. I love the Cheese Iron too, but have never had their famous Cuban Panini. Add that to my (long) list of must eats. Thanks for reading.

  4. mistermeatball January 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    One correction of the Werewolf’s comment:

    The starter had to originate at 158, not Scratch, as 158 preceded Scratch by quite some time.

    I concur with Joe, by the way.

    • Eat Here. Go There. January 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      Since you all feel so strongly that I should give it another shot I certainly will! I’ll write a retraction should one be necessary. Thanks for reading. I appreciate the support and feedback!

      • kate. @ bbf January 29, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

        i was thinking, oh no, i have to tell her to try the salmon bagel, but i see you already know my opinion on it! i was not impressed w/ my first choice experience either, but friends made me go back.

      • ChubbyWerewolf January 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

        Always good to reassess less-than-stellar experiences, but an outright retraction doesn’t seem necessary. Your issues with 158 were thoughtfully conveyed and completely valid (the missing sausage, especially).

    • ChubbyWerewolf January 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      MisterMeatball is correct. Its been awhile since I’ve read the Serious Eats piece and had switched the two in my mind. Here’s a link to the article, by the way:

      http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/158-pickett-street-cafe-south-portland-maine-the-best-bagels-sandwiches-breakfast.html

  5. iwannawearthat January 30, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    So funny you just went there because I was just talking about it with a friend. We’re obsessed with Scratch but I’ve never been to 158. She said it was really good, but now I know Scratch is better!

  6. forefrontfash January 30, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    the hippi on an everything is something i crave every weekend. you’ll have to place a different order next time!

  7. Nolasox January 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    More advice re: 158 bagels. I would highly advise that you order them toasted. I understand (and agree) that this would be a complete no-no at NYC’s best bagel shops (I’ve always been a fan of Ess-a-Bagel), however the bagels at 158 (and Scratch) are a different breed entirely. I like to call them So. Portland-style bagels, which are as different from NYC bagels as NYC bagels are from Montreal’s (my personal favorite). The SoPo style bagel either needs to be enjoyed fresh out of the oven (like at Scratch, where they make them throughout the morning and you can often find them still warm on weekends) or lightly toasted. Otherwise they are too chewy and difficult to eat. Because 158 does not bake them throughout the morning, get ‘em toasted, it makes a significant difference.

    To be honest, for my first few years of eating them, I really wasn’t on board with this style bagel. It was just too different from what I was used to. But now I wake up most weekend mornings craving one from either 158 or Scratch and rarely does a weekend pass without indulging in at least one.

    • Eat Here. Go There. January 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

      Toasted huh? I will try this at some point just for you! Thanks for the suggestion and thanks for reading.

  8. Eat Here. Go There. January 30, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    I hear you guys loud and clear! I am skeptical, but I will try it again…I just can’t promise it will be soon. There are too many other places I need to try first.

  9. Elise February 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    I live very close to 158 and have been a HUGE fan for a very long time however their consistency is spotty – the bagels are always great BUT I’d say they get my order wrong 50% of the time. If I were more self conscious I’d say they are doing it on purpose but I’m pretty sure they just don’t pay enough attention. Obviously I still love them enough to return again and again but if the bagels weren’t as good as they are, the constant errors would turn me away forever.

  10. marilys scheindel March 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    After walking to 158 from my house for years (a good 45 minutes from my house) only to VERY OFTEN find a sign on the door saying “closed early–ran out of bagels”, I decided to give it another try. My friend and I walked in at 1:30 and ordered. We sat down to eat and within 15 minutes the very, very unfriendly cash-register attendant (who has seen me in there for years and has never greeted me, asked my name or acknowledged knowing me) started going around and very loudly banging all of the chairs on top of the tables. She was very purposefully making a lot of noise to send us the signal to get out. We were appalled, but had just started eating our mediocre lunches. After she put all of the chairs on top of the tables (around 30 minutes before closing time), she walked over to us and said (and I quote), “time to pack it up, ladies, we’re closing early”. We were speechless. We “packed it up”–our 1/2 eaten salad and bagel sandwich and proceeded to leave.

    I walked over to her and said (not in an angry tone), “I wish you would have told us when we placed our order that you would be closing early”. She looked down the entire time I spoke. My friend, getting huffy, said, “Hey, my friend is talking to you”. I said to her, “you know who I am: you’ve seen me in here with my family and friends for years”. She acknowledged that I was a long-time customer. I told her that it was very disappointing to be kicked out with 1/2 of our meal still on our “foil”. She simply said, “sorry, that’s the way we do business”.

    I have never, every loved 158 but I love to walk. A great 45 minute walk with ocean views along the way with a little bagel reward afterwards has been the lure for years. Needless to say, I have never been back and that was many months ago. Not worth the attitude, not worth the risk of them being closed. Go to Scratch, where the bagels are almost identical but much more consistent and also better. The 158 bagels tend to be very flat.

  11. tmp May 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Well, more for me then. I like the bagel sandwichs there and the fewer New Yorkers in SoPo this summer, the better.

    • Elizabeth October 9, 2013 at 12:49 am #

      I’m from New York and am living here for the school year. Thank you for making me feel “welcome” into your city and state. I am happy that I have could taste in bagels, unlike you. Obviously.

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