An Organic Experience at Local Sprouts Cooperative, Portland, ME
On my recent visit to Local Sprouts, I was introduced to a whole new concept in restaurant ownership. Local Sprouts is a worker/owner cooperative restaurant, the only one of its kind in Portland. The concept of the restaurant is that employees and customers are encouraged to buy into the restaurant, thereby, giving them partial ownership. It is a democracy driven workplace where each owner has a voice and a vote on major decisions regarding the restaurant. At the end of the year, all of the owners share in any profit. The restaurant philosophy is community based. Almost all of their produce is locally sourced. They also offer cooking classes for immigrant refugees trying to familiarize them with how to make “American” food. In recent months, the restaurant has brought in one of the farmers to teach lessons on butchering a pig and how to cure the meat as well.
The atmosphere at Local Sprouts is very laid back. They offer free Wi-Fi for their customers encouraging their customers to eat and get some work done at the same time. There are many paintings and sculptures hanging on the walls of the restaurant (some even for sale) giving it a Bohemian feel. There is a small area with little tables for the kids to play at, a small bar, plenty of tables, and couches placed about adding to the eclectic feel.
The menu at Local Sprouts is eclectic. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner and are open 7 days a week. The menu is extensive with options like vegan pancakes and house made granola or fish tacos on house made tortillas with rice and beans. The customer next to me ordered a sesame tofu stir fry with seasonal vegetables. Her portion was very large and the aroma was enticing. It was loaded with veggies!
I sampled two soups on my visit. The first soup was a lemon grass, garlic, and chicken soup; it was reminiscent of pho. The stock was homemade, simmered using free range organic chicken from A Wee Bit Farm. It was a vibrant, colorful soup with tinges of purple, orange, and green. Big pieces of chicken floated amongst rice noodles, pea shoots, cabbage, shitake mushrooms, and carrots. Cilantro lended a more complex layer to the soup. The flavor was light and clean. I really enjoyed the soup and felt like I was eating healthy as well.
The second soup was a French onion soup with croutons and bacon. The soup came in a classic crock with cheese bubbling over the side. The broth was a vegan, vegetable base loaded with local Vidalia onions and shallots. There was a sweet aroma to the soup which I believe came from sherry. The croutons were made from Borealis bread and generous portions of Cabot Cheddar was floated on top. The French onion soup was substantially filling and paired with a local beer it was the perfect meal. A cup of soup is very reasonable, costing $3.50, while the larger bowls cost $5.00.
Local Sprouts offers a large variety of drinks ranging from coffee, cappuccinos, organic teas, Maine beers on tap, and organic wines. They also run Bomb Diggity Bakery out of the same location with many sweet delights to finish your meal. Local Sprouts is an affordable restaurant with generous portions. It's definitely worth a visit to this unconventional yet comfortable gathering spot!
Local Sprouts Cooperative’s mission is to provide people in Maine with creative local and organic food and holistic learning through cooking food for our community.