Eight months into its tenure at 26 Exchange St., Blyth & Burrows shows the resolve of a thick-skinned sea captain in what has proven to be one of the coldest Maine winters in many years. The establishment’s name suggests as much — an homage to two commanders killed during the war of 1812 in a battle off the coast of Monhegan Island, canonized by Longfellow in his 1858 poem, My Lost Youth. Despite tying-up in a part of town that typically relies upon the warm summer sun and accompanying tourists for survival, the maritime-centric cocktail bar (and its “bar within a bar,” the Broken Dram) remains steady-as-she-goes thanks to a growing local following.
Perhaps in hopes of fast-tracking the arrival of warmer weather and lackadaisical spring Sunday afternoons, Blyth & Burrows unveiled a new brunch menu last week (designed by husband-and-wife chef/sous duo Darci and Nicholas Pacewicz), and it’s very much worth taking a look at.
Things kick off with a pecan, bourbon-caramel and cinnamon sticky bun, which is as decadent and calorie-dense as it sounds. It satisfies in its nuttiness without being cloyingly sweet, however, making it a suitable order for those who might not typically head down such a road at the beginning (or end) of a meal — myself included. Biscuits & gravy is surprisingly complex, showcasing a sauce that hits the mark in both viscosity and spice level to the point of feeling too authentic for where it’s being served. Slow-cooked eggs and carefully formed herbed biscuits give the dish a modern perspective, making this one of the more standout items on the menu.
A blood orange mimosa — playfully garnished and creamy smooth in texture — brings the ideal amount of acid to the table for balancing-out the richness of the sausage gravy.
Around 30 percent of the evening fare at Blyth & Burrows is comprised of Asian-focused dishes — mostly baos and dumplings—which carries over to the new brunch menu. Saigon tuna crudo is bright, texturally animated and subtle in flavor, carried by the presence of nuoc cham and crispy alliums. Bourbon-washed pork belly baos are better than expected, delivering a mosaic of rich flavors contained within a duo of air-light buns. A pork and chicken pâté Bánh mì satisfies, though the racy acidity of Vietnamese pickles dominates perhaps more than it should in such a preparation.
Blyth & Burrows is still the new kid on the block, and cocktails — the majority of which are still only available after 4 pm — certainly remain centric to its business model. For those more accustomed to a leisurely afternoon stroll through town than a Wharf St. last call, though, the new brunch menu is a nice introduction to what could become a mainstay fixture of the Old Port in the coming years.
Blyth & Burrows | 26 Exchange St., Portland | 4 pm - 1 am | www.blythandburrows.com