Bread and Brew
Bright and airy and smelling faintly of cinnamon, Lovejoy Bakers is pretty much just what you want in a bakery - and in a neighborhood café.
This welcoming spot opened about six months ago on the corner of Northwest 10th Avenue and Lovejoy Street, just down the street from Jamison Square. The head baker is Dan Griffin, who was a production manager at Pearl Bakery. He co-owns the place with Marc and Tracy Frankel, who own the local mini-chain of Pizzacato pizza places.
Lovejoy Bakers covers the full bakery spectrum, from baguettes to butterhorns. My introduction to the place was a breakfast sandwich of egg and fontina on a ciabatta roll.
'Do you want to add bacon?' asked the woman at the counter.
'Yes!' I said.
Minutes later, the sandwich arrived. The eggs were very fluffy - clearly scrambled just seconds before - and the fontina was well chosen as a cheese with the personality to assert itself through the layers of egg, smoky bacon and fresh bread.
At lunch, the sandwiches take to globetrotting. You can get a Vietnamese bahn mi with tri-tip steak, a Reuben, a Philly cheese steak or a sandwich made with hummus and Mediterranean salad.
I went with the Cubano, a combination of ham, roast pork, provolone and pickles. Served on a ciabatta roll, this sandwich looked small when it first appeared, but after a few bites, I realized how filling it was. Also how good. The top of the roll had grill marks on it, and the whole thing was smoky, with sharp bursts of mustard and pickle to set off the double dose of pork.
My lunch date went for the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup and found both to be neither classically traditional nor desecrated with too much innovation. The tomato soup is dense and full of basil. The grilled cheese - sharp cheddar and fontina - is made with thick slices of extremely light and flakey bread that gives the sandwich an airy, pastry-like quality.
For dessert, there are cookies. The Russian tea cake is large with a graceful, snowy dome. Biting into it, you move through the layers from powdery sugar sweetness to buttery density to the crunch of a hazelnut-filled center. The triple chocolate cookie is marbled with white chocolate and has that supple crispness that fresh-baked cookies should have.
What about the bread?
Portland is an excellent town for bread, but not for sourdough bread. Some of our best bakeries don't even carry it, so I was excited to see a sourdough baguette at Lovejoy Bakers. Like most Portland sourdough, though, it wasn't sour enough, and it had a one-note quality where it should have had a wider range of fermented flavor.
There was much more snap to the rye with caraway seeds. This round loaf of light rye bread, with a big crusty crown on top, is springy and tangy, and the caraway seeds add their exotic sweetness.
A few nearby grocery stores are starting to carry Lovejoy Bakers' bread, as well, but I recommend a trip to the source. Before Lovejoy Bakers moved in, the large space was home to a parade of very short-lived restaurants. The corner, close to the Lovejoy onramp, always felt like the raw outer edge of the Pearl, but now it feels a lot more like part of the neighborhood.
Lovejoy Bakers, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (kitchen closes one hour earlier than the bakery counter), 939 N.W. 10th Ave., 503-208-3113, www.lovejoybakers.com