Award-winning doughnuts off the beaten track are just part of the FUN at this cafe

Route 9 in Pownal is like many other rural Maine roads on the way to somewhere else, trimmed with horse farms, old colonial houses and a meeting hall or two.

But after passing Bradbury Mountain State Park southbound, just beyond the intersection of Elmwood Road, a sassy, black-trimmed, red wooden building approaching on the left signals a tasty diversion from the ordinary.

A faded green truck parked next to the building sports the word “FUN” on the license plate. The bold black letters on the side of the building announce: “Wicked Good Sandwiches.”

You have arrived at Edna & Lucy’s sandwich shop and cafe, an unexpected, backwoods oasis of hearty soups and sandwiches, baked goods and award-winning, get-’em-while-you-can doughnuts.

Owners Steph Dexter and Sabrina Warner originally started Edna & Lucy’s restaurant as a year-round alternative to their seasonal garden installation and maintenance business. Prior to the gardening venture, Steph had been a chef in a Portland restaurant and Sabrina had taught nursery school. Why not open a restaurant? Sabrina chuckled when she talked recently about Edna & Lucy’s humble origins and said, “You never go hungry when you run a restaurant!”

In late 2008, the Pownal location was available, with the condition that the restaurant be open for breakfast. Although Steph and Sabrina had only planned to open a sandwich shop, by adding breakfast sandwiches and homemade raised doughnuts to the menu, they were able to fulfill the breakfast mandate. Opening in the spring of 2009, Edna & Lucy’s — named after Steph and Sabrina’s grandmothers, respectively — has since become a popular daytime destination.

Stepping through the front door, hungry diners are greeted by a Bradbury Mountain-sized chalkboard menu of sandwiches, soups and salads. There’s a daily soup and sandwich, with some soups being so popular that some regulars call ahead and order extra servings to freeze, Sabrina says. Pea soup with bacon, spicy curried black bean soup and mushroom lentil soup are just a few customer favorites.

For the cafe’s sandwich offerings, staple deli meats like pastrami, turkey and roast beef work in tasty combinations with lots of good fixings. But both Steph and Sabrina agree the key to a great sandwich is the sauce.

“Sauces make the sandwich sing,” says Sabrina, hinting that it might just be Steph’s Spanish romesco sauce that makes the hot pastrami and sauteed onions on Borealis rye bread burst into song. (Hint confirmed! I later tried the pastrami sandwich, and it is the best I’ve ever had.)

Another of Edna & Lucy’s popular sandwiches is egg salad. Egg salad? Yes, egg salad. Steph mixes in capers and homemade pickled onions before carefully plopping it on bread with crispy slices of fresh lettuce and tomatoes. No limp lettuce at Edna & Lucy’s. “It MUST be fresh!” says Sabrina.

The dining area is warm and sunny, with yellow and red painted walls doubling as a “gallery.” Sabrina curates the work of local artists, changing it every six weeks.

Fresh ingredients, surprising and fun flavor combinations and a warm atmosphere — that’s what Edna & Lucy’s offers. What more could the hungry masses want?

They want dessert. Sweet things like chocolate chip cookies and apple galettes by New Gloucester baker Debbie Thurlow of “Debbie’s Pies.” Which is why you’ll find them at the cafe too.

Along with doughnuts. Doughnuts just like Steph and Sabrina’s grandmothers might have made. Plain or sugared, and made fresh every morning, the doughnuts won a Down East magazine Editor’s Choice award in 2013 for “best overlooked doughnut” in Maine.

FUN indeed! But get there early: The doughnuts are known to sell out before the day is over.

The author’s red pepper pesto

The owners of Edna & Lucy’s didn’t offer a recipe for today’s Eats column, but author Julie-Ann Baumer presents her version of Spanish romesco sauce, which she says is “extremely tasty” on a deli sandwich.

1  12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed

3/4 cup cilantro

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon dried coriander

Pinch of cinnamon

1 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Put ingredients in a blender or food processor one at a time. Blend until smooth, but not liquefied. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate for at least six hours to thicken.

Edna & Lucy’s

407 Hallowell Road, Pownal

Wednesday-Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.


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