98 Washington Ave., Portland
Normally, buying a breakfast sandwich is all about the convenience. When I drop $4 or $5 on something I could easily make at home, it’s because I’m hungry and in a hurry and have calculated that this a reasonable price to pay in exchange for the time and effort it saves me. However, that math has changed since the pandemic delivered a body-blow to my finances while also affording me plenty of time to spend on activities like frying eggs.
So then, why would I — hell, why would anyone — spend $9 or more on a breakfast sandwich? Because sometimes, it’s not about convenience; it’s about indulgence. And when that sandwich comes from Ramona’s, the new Philly-style hoagie shop in Portland, that’s exactly what you get.
Chad Conley (Palace Diner, Rose Foods) and Philadelphian Josh Sobel opened Ramona’s on inner Washington Ave. in April, just as the coronavirus lockdown was ramping up and my family was doing our best to avoid leaving the house. So nearly six months passed before I finally made it there. I placed an order through their website, got a text when my food was ready and grabbed it from the sliding pickup window. The process couldn’t have gone any smoother — or felt any safer.
Prices start at $6 for egg and cheese on a roll. For an extra $2, you can add a slice of processed pig for the Philly classic “pork roll, egg and cheese.” But I went whole hog and ordered all three of their specialty breakfast sandwiches: the Ramona Roll ($9), Broad St. ($9), and the Breakfast Hoagie ($11).
The Ramona Roll has scrambled eggs, Cooper Sharp cheddar, bacon, broccoli rabe, and Calabrian chili spread, served on a bulkie roll. The balance of flavors was pretty much perfect, with smoky, salty, bitter and spicy elements all working together. The filling-to-bread ratio was spot on, too, and the roll was excellent.
The meatless Broad St. sandwich also hits the palate in all the right places. In addition to eggs, it has tiny, salty home-fried potatoes and mildly spicy, roasted long-hot peppers. Sharp provolone — another classic Philly sandwich ingredient — brought some nutty funk to the party, and the lightly toasted sesame-seed hoagie roll was one of the best I’ve ever had.
The most indulgent of the trio, the Breakfast Hoagie, was almost too big for one meal. It too ticked every flavor box: eggs combined with salty salami, sweet roasted red peppers, tangy pepperoncini mayo, bitter arugula, and the rich umami of sharp provolone. It was a little messy to eat, but cut in half it’s easier to hold and, voila!, you and your breakfast companion each have a delicious and convenient sandwich for five bucks and change. When times are tough, a little self-indulgence goes a long way.
Ramona’s is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.