Rick’s Lobby Café
400 Congress St., Portland
Rick’s Lobby Café was the perfect choice for what will hopefully be my last takeout-focused column this year. Located in the office building next to the post office across from Portland City Hall, it’s geared for customers on the go. There are a couple small tables, but it is inside a lobby, across from an elevator, and the lobby is not large.
I called to place an order on a Saturday morning last month (the online ordering system was temporarily offline) and headed downtown to pick it up. I chatted with Rick Wood, who owns and operates the cafe with his wife, Molly, while he put the finishing touches on our order.
After several good years serving breakfast and lunch to office workers, the cafe was forced to shut down at the start of the pandemic. Even after it was technically allowed to reopen, the customers just weren’t there — pretty much the entire Portland white-collar workforce was working remotely. Rick said those customers are starting to trickle back in, and he’s hopeful business will improve.
There’s actually good reason to believe it’s poised to skyrocket. But first, the food.
My family and I started with The Stack ($7), five silver-dollar pancakes served with Maine maple syrup on the side. The cakes were light and fluffy, but a little bland.
Next we tried the Steak & Eggs Wrap ($9). Stuffed with shaved steak, American cheese, caramelized onions and scrambled eggs, it was definitely more “cheesesteak” than “steak and eggs,” but whatever you call it, it hit the spot. All it needed was a dash of hot sauce to push it over the finish line.
Next up was The Great Hambino ($8). This was the messiest of the bunch by far, but the combo of eggs, ham, cheddar, dijon mayo and thinly-sliced Granny Smith apples, piled high on a butter croissant, was totally worth the extra napkins.
Our final sandwich was the meme-ready Rickroll ($9) — scrambled eggs, sausage and American cheese rolled in a fluffy, oversized buttermilk pancake and served with a side of real maple syrup. It was rich and decadent and delicious and, no, I’m never gonna give it up.
Who knows how many white-collar workers will return in the coming months, but a whole bunch of hungry blue-collar workers are about to show up. Construction is expected to begin soon on an 18-story apartment tower right behind the building the café occupies. The high-rise would be the tallest building in Maine and will have over 260 apartments. I’m confident Rick’s combination of good food, fair prices and unfailing cheerfulness — the soul and funk never quit at Rick’s — will win over his new neighbors for years to come.