Smalls

The front of Smalls, on the steeply-sloping Brackett Street in Portland, with its door deeply recessed between two windows.Smalls, which opened in January, is the latest addition to Portland’s small but thriving speciality coffee scene, a chance discovery which I made on Google Maps when planning a trip downtown at the end of last week. Located on Brackett Street in Portland’s West End, it’s a stone’s throw from the Casco Bay Bridge and a 15-minute walk from the Old Port and the heart of downtown.

One of the things I really admire about Portland’s speciality coffee scene is its diversity. No two places are the same (even when they’re part of the same group) and Smalls only adds to that. The front of Smalls is part coffee shop, restaurant and bar, while at the back, it’s a lovely little store, selling groceries, gifts, candles and personal care products, with an emphasis on reuse and local produce.

I can only really speak to the coffee shop part of Smalls, which serves Variety Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn in New York City. The Lucky Shot seasonal blend is on espresso, while there’s also decaf and a batch brew filter option. If you want to try more of Variety’s range, Smalls has a selection of retail boxes offering a variety of single-origins.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Smalls, on the right, on the corner of Brackett and Summer Streets in Portland's West End.
  • From the street, it doesn't look like much, but inside it goes a long way back.
  • I think that the A-board covers most of the bases!
  • The door, on Brackett Street, is deeply recessed between two windows. Let's go in.
  • The door, as seen from inside. It forms two cosy window seats.
  • This one, on the left as you enter, is the cosiest of the two...
  • ... with its n-shaped window bench. The back rest in the window is a nice touch.
  • The space on the other side is brighter, since it has two windows, with seating provided...
  • ... by a window-bench and two chairs, arranged around a small, round table.
  • The rest of the seating is at the counter on the left (seven stools in all)...
  • ... and at this bar on the opposite wall, which has another seven stools.
  • This water station concludes the coffee shop/restaurant/bar part of Smalls.
  • The rest of Smalls, accessed through the opening in the back wall, is the store.
  • You'll find all sort of things back here. Candles and beauty products, for example.
  • Off to the right are more shelves lined with various goodies...
  • ... which continue around the corner into this window alcove.
  • However, that's only a small part of it. There's a lot more up these three steps at the back.
  • There are various consumables on another round table in the second room...
  • ... while to the right are various drinks, grocery items and more candles.
  • The back wall features kitchen utensils, including a range of reusable coffee cups.
  • Finally, off to the left, there's a chiller cabinet with various delicatessen items.
  • Let's go back to the front half of Smalls.
  • Nice branding, by the way.
  • I also liked the flowers and plants which were out in abundance.
  • There are more retail items in the front section, including boxes of coffee.
  • If you've come for coffee, the concise menu is on the wall to the left of the...
  • ...  espresso machine, a rather lovely blue La Marzocco Linea.
  • This is right at the front of the counter...
  • ... with some very fine cups on top.
  • If you scoot around to the right, just past the till, you can watch your coffee being made.
  • There's also batch brew, although the brewer and its grinder are tucked away in the back.
  • Returning to the tilll, there are croissants...
  • ... along with a small pile of menus. The food is on one side...
  • ... with the alcohol (beer, wine and cocktails) on the other.
  • This accounts for the rather well-stocked bar behind the counter.
  • I kept things simple, opting for an espresso, served in this beautiful white cup.
  • However, I'll leave you with this box of coffee I bought to take home with me.
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Smalls is on the corner of Brackett and Summer Streets, a (short) block away from the Harbor View Memorial Park. It’s a modest spot, one of three on the ground floor of a fine, old house facing onto Brackett Street, occupying the space between Summer and York Streets (I told you it was a short block). Smalls is on the right, the steeply-sloping Brackett Street running away to the left. The door is deeply recessed between two large windows and although narrow, Smalls goes a long way back inside, running all the way to the far end of the building.

Smalls is effectively split into two, the coffee shop/restaurant/bar occupying the front section, while the store is at the back, itself split across two bright, well-lit rooms. You’ll find all sorts here, from candles to face-scrubs, along with a large delicatessen/grocery section, although you’ll need to return to the till on the counter to pay for your purchases.

Talking of which, the counter, a curved affair, is off to the left as you enter, set back slightly from the door. The espresso machine is right at the front, while the concise coffee menu on the wall to the left. Next comes the till, where you order and pay, and where you’ll also find a neat stack of menus. Beyond that, the counter is effectively seating, with seven round-topped stools, hooks under the countertop and plenty of power outlets. You get a view of the bar, stocked with drinks for the various cocktails, while in the far corner is the open kitchen.

There’s more seating on the opposite side, where a bar runs the length of the wall with seven more round-topped stools, once again equipped with multiple hooks and power outlets. A mirror runs along the wall at the back of the bar (matching one set on the wall behind the counter), with shelves above, holding retail boxes of coffee, various bottles of wine and many potted plants.

The last of the seating is in the windows to either side of the recessed door, which forms two cosy bays. The one on the left, which is behind the door as it opens, tucked in between the counter and the window, is the cosier of the two, with an n-shaped padded bench running from the door to the left-hand wall. Its counterpart on the right has a round table with another padded window bench and two chairs.

Smalls is open from eight in the morning until eight in the evening, slowly changing from a coffee shop to a bar as the day goes on. The menu offers a small range of sandwiches and salads, with a variety of small plates, plus local oysters (not available at weekends). There’s also a selection of cocktails, beer and a wide range of wine if that takes your fancy.

When it comes to coffee, Smalls has a commendably concise menu and some very cute-looking cups, none of which is very big. I was tempted by a cortado, but decided to go with an espresso. Despite Variety having been around since 2008, this was the first time I’d come across the roaster, so wanted the full taste of the coffee without any milk.

My espresso arrived in a delightful cylindrical cup, the shot pulled impressively short on the blue La Marzocco Linea. The Lucky Shot blend, currently a mix of washed coffees from Ethiopia and Colombia, produced a very fine, rich, sweet espresso. I was so impressed that I bought a box of the Tupac Amaru, a washed coffee from Peru, to take home with me.

28 BRACKETT STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04106 • USA
www.smallsisgood.com
Monday 08:00 – 20:00 Roaster Variety Coffee Roasters (espresso + batch brew)
Tuesday 08:00 – 20:00 Seating Counter, Bar, Table, Window Seats
Wednesday CLOSED Food Sandwiches, Salads, Small Plates
Thursday 08:00 – 20:00 Service Counter
Friday 08:00 – 20:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 20:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 15th April 2022

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