Ultimately, the best sandwiches start with great bread. Several restaurants on the Seacoast tackle this step by baking their own.
You can’t be faulted if your mouth starts to water as soon as you enter the Beach Pea Baking Co. in Kittery, Maine, winner in our Best of Taste bakery category and sandwich runner-up. The air is filled with the scent of baking breads (and cookies, cakes, pastries…). Grab a seat in the light-filled café or outside at one of the picnic tables to enjoy one of their signature sandwiches, served on just-baked artisan bread. The Bell & Evans Chicken Pesto is a longtime favorite with roasted-in-house chicken and basil pesto served on rosemary bread. The Roasted Roast Beef is served with a tangy horseradish aioli on roasted garlic bread, or try the Curry Chicken Salad with celery and raisins served on multigrain bread. Of course, you’ll have to finish your meal with one of the selections from the bakery counter.
Seacoast diners are loyal fans of Me & Ollie’s, in downtown Exeter and several other locations throughout the area. No wonder: the bakery-turned-café begins with organic wheat, which is milled on site and used for their traditional American and old-world artisan breads. That’s where their oven-toasted sandwiches begin. You can build your own, selecting from eight main fillings; eight spreads including basil pesto, chipotle mayo, and horseradish aioli; and a variety of veggies and cheeses. Typically, you’ll have up to nine fresh-baked breads to choose from. If that sounds like too much thought, simply order one of their specialty sandwiches; we’ve never been disappointed with the Deli Corned Beef served with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mustard on German Rye. Try the Vegan Veritable Veggie, hummus packed with assorted vegetables, served on The World’s Healthiest Bread.
“We love making sandwiches,” says Penelope Brewster, owner of Ceres Bakery in downtown Portsmouth. “We make them as if we were eating them ourselves.” The lively bakery and café is a longstanding go-to spot for breakfast and lunch (and a great place to pick up a loaf of bread and scrumptious baked goods to take home). There’s a reason for its popularity: they make their own breads, salads, and several spreads, including an addictive hummus, and they don’t skimp on ingredients. Two best sellers are the Gobbler, with roast turkey, homemade mushroom stuffing, and cranberry sauce, and the Curried Chicken Salad. Bread selections change daily, as do the house-made soups, and the friendly staff are happy to build a sandwich to your liking, from a wide selection of fillings and toppings.
It didn’t take long for Popovers on the Square to become a local mainstay in downtown Portsmouth; they now have a second location in Epping. Folks flock to this bistro-style eatery for its amazing pastries, coffee, and hot chocolate, and its soup was voted tops in our Best of Taste poll. They also have great sandwiches, including several gluten-free options. For brunch (served all day), try the Salmon & Egg Panini, with native smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, and two fried eggs on pita flatbread, or the signature Scrambled Eggs in a Popover with cheese. Lunch standouts include the calories-be-damned Monte Cristo Panini, a turkey, ham, and melted Swiss concoction pressed between fluffy, sweet French toast, or the Mediterranean Chicken Wrap, with moist grilled chicken, olive tapenade, and feta cheese, drizzled with cucumber yogurt sauce.
Usually, we order pizza at the When Pigs Fly Wood- Fired Pizzeria in Kittery, Maine, and are never disappointed. The smoky, wood-fired pies are some of our favorites. But that same know-how for dough translates into great sandwich bread. The Turkey BLT on cranberry bread, the out-of-the-box Grilled Cheese, with bacon and Brussels sprouts, and the Italian Grinder, with house-made charcuterie, are all winners.