132 Pleasant Hill Rd., Scarborough
Sometimes I think the phrase “hidden gem” gets tossed around a little too freely. But that’s exactly what I’d call the Honeycomb Cafe.
Located just 10 minutes south of downtown Portland, the cafe is on a stretch of Pleasant Hill Road in Scarborough better known for industrial parks, sprawling corporate campuses, and the junkyard where they tow your car. In other words, it’s not an area where you’d expect to find anything decent to eat.
But sure enough, you can. And it’s really, really good.
My wife and I dropped by on a bright, sunny September morning and staked out a picnic table overlooking the neighboring driving range. There was something strangely soothing about watching strangers repeatedly thwack golf balls into a pond, and it kept us entertained throughout our meal.
We ordered from the walk-up window — as of this writing, the owners were still working on plans to open the dining room, which has been closed for several years — and sipped hot, fresh coffee (small, $1.90; large, $2.40) while we waited.
The breakfast menu includes a large selection of creative sandwiches, mostly on homemade English muffins or biscuits. My wife chose one of the daily specials: a blueberry biscuit topped with Granny Smith apple, goat cheese, and honey ($7). The tart apple and salty cheese played nicely with the sweet honey, but the star of the show was the biscuit itself — crisp on the outside, ethereally fluffy, and packed with berries.
I considered ordering the waffle (egg, sausage and sharp cheddar on a maple waffle, $7.25), but ultimately went with a breakfast burrito ($8.25) stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheddar, roasted potatoes, peppers, onions, avocado, pickled jalapenos and cilantro-lime crema. All it needed was a pinch of salt and a splash of hot sauce to amp up the flavor.
But as much as I enjoyed the burrito, choosing a meal made with a perfectly fine, but purely functional tortilla, felt like a lost opportunity. I really wanted to try more of Honeycomb’s outstanding baked goods. So we decided to finish our meal with some homemade doughnuts ($2 each).
My wife’s Boston creme was a perfect example of the traditional New England treat, from the airy, yeasty pastry, to the smooth, not-too-sweet cream filling, to the messy, deeply chocolatey frosting. My pistachio cake doughnut, frosted in a cheerful, Shrek-like shade of green, was slightly more dense but still light, crisp and fluffy. With its salty crunch of roasted pistachios on top, this was one of my favorite doughnuts in recent memory.
I’ve already picked out a few sandwiches to try on future visits, like the Habanero Ham (egg, honey ham, habanero-bacon jam and smoked gouda on a homemade English muffin) and the Whistle Stop (English muffin with egg, fried green tomatoes and hollandaise). I’ll definitely hurry back, even if I have to wait in line next time. Because with food this good, this gem of a cafe won’t be hidden much longer.
Honeycomb Cafe is open Thursday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast is served all day.