The Corner Room on Exchange St. is one of the four differently themed “rooms” in Portland owned by restaurateur Harding Lee Smith. Their focus is on Italian and they tend to serve a reliably enjoyable meal on the occasion that they pop into my head as the place to go when I’m ready for a nice feeding. They are open for brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, whereas most of the area’s restaurants offer the great meal with an identity crisis only on the latter. That brunch was the motivation for my visit this time around when several other locations had an excessive wait to which I wasn’t willing to submit.
We arrived about half an hour after the restaurant opened on a Sunday morning. There were a few tables occupied, but most were available, making for a hasty seating. My wife immediately ordered a Coffee and we started going over the menu with a fine-toothed comb. I had no inclination as to what I wanted, but as is usual for me at all hours of the day, I was pretty hungry. Before I got anywhere with my goal of food-finding, she mentioned the donuts at the top of the menu and I went back and forth as to if I actually wanted them or not. Donuts sounded great, but she only wanted a couple bites, so I needed to know how many donuts made up the order. When I saw three come out to another table, I decided that would be too much and turned them down.
With the donut decision done, I took a real look at what was up for grabs. I skipped past the salumi and cheese menu, though I remembered how pleased I was last time I was there and had a selection of those. The full brunch menu was more my style and offered a number of items that were real contenders to win over my belly. After some thought, the leaders were pancakes and French toast, both of which I considered ordering with a side of a couple eggs for some protein. In the end, I decided on the Ricotta Pancakes – apple and raisin compote, whipped ricotta, and Maine maple syrup – and also a side of CR Potatoes to maximize my morning carbohydrate consumption. She went with Two Farm Eggs – two eggs, choice of meat, choice of toast with potatoes, choosing scrambled, sausage, and wheat.
It seemed like the staff were just getting into the swing of things for the day and the meal was a little slow to come out, but not exceedingly so. My pancakes were relatively large and topped with syrup and the ricotta with the compote on top of it all. I also had the bowl of home fries in front of me and they looked mighty appealing. I glanced over at my wife’s food which was in-line with what she ordered – nothing fancy, though there was a stubby sausage on the plate which she handed over to me, fearing I had not enough protein in my carb-heavy meal.
An initial bite of my pancakes was particularly satisfying. The light, fluffy, disks were among the better iterations of the sweet sunrise supper saucers I had had. Recently, I’ve been enjoying maple a bit more and the pancakes were perfectly appointed with just the right amount of maple to add the perfect flair to them. Plus, there was enough of the syrup on the bottom of the plate to properly coat the other two pancakes below the top one. The ricotta was a majestic whipped cream, which I found to be much more full of flavor and heavier than the usual dairy topper. The compote produced a pleasant alternative to just the maple alone and offered a little bit of autumn accompaniment.
My wife worked on her meal and I jumped over to my potatoes after a few nibbles of the pancakes. With onions, red peppers, and a nice seasoning, the were a tasty bunch. Though I wouldn’t have minded them a little more on the crispy side, they were cooked through well enough and definitely hit the mark. Next, I tried the sausage which was a solid example of a breakfast link and went well with my other food. The meat completed the meal to make what I felt was a well rounded breakfast.
Both of us neared the end and I stole a slice of toast from Mrs. Portlandeater. My hunger was satiated and I was prepared to enjoy a Sunday full of football watching. Our meal came to a low $26 before tip, which was one of the most affordable meals I’ve had in a while. I didn’t go crazy with the ordering, but still had plenty to eat. The food was very good, and as I mentioned previously, it tends to be consistently so. We had a little spring in our step on the way out which made it obvious that something had gone right.
The Corner Room is a reliable place to get a meal. Morning, noon, or night, they serve high quality sustenance at a moderate price. The fact that they were slow that day when other restaurants were so busy was a little surprising to me. It might have been too early for them to have drawn a full house by that point, I suppose. However, I feel they are well-placed in the brunch market in Portland with their combination of food, service, location, and prices. If you’re looking for a brunch and run into a snag with the crowd at other locations, definitely check out The Corner Room. Or maybe even go there first. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. I haven’t been yet.
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