Union Bagel Company- Portland, Maine 

An Everything bagel with lox cream cheese, preserved lemon and capers $7
lain bagel with caramelized onions and everything cream cheese $6

When we travel, we try our best not to rely on big name websites for suggestions. They certainly boast more up to date reviews but we find the bloggers who have seen fit to include that particular establishment in their post, have done so for a very good reason. UBC has joined the list of gems delivered to us through the medium of the internet. Small in size but robust in flavour, it was the perfect local spot to grab our pre boat ride breakfast. 

When I say a local spot, I mean it in every sense of the word. UBC may have been the idea of Paul Farrell and his friends but it was crowdfunded through an online Kickstarter project in 2012. Kickstarter is a website where artists, musicians, filmmakers and other designers can present their ideas to the world and get the financial help they need to bring their project to life. It is an independent company based in New York City and since 2009, 159,351 projects have been ‘backed’. The people obviously felt strongly about bringing a better a bagel to Portland, because in a short 30 days, the project had 109 backers and had surpassed their goal of $7500. As promised, 10% of the $1000 which had been ‘over-funded’ was redistributed between other Kickstarter projects that the founders thought interesting; a grist mill, a farm stand and an apiary in Brooklyn.  

Here is the link for the original project:

With the funds secured, UBC was established in the basement of Portland Public Market. At first it was just a wholesale bakery but as more and more customers were popping in to buy bagels for themselves, Paul Farrell felt he had to offer them cream cheese to go with it and before he knew it, it was a full scale enterprise. Sadly, shortly after the funding had been acquired the ‘original five’ founders split up and the work load was not so fairly distributed between those who stayed involved, eventually it all go to much, operations had to cease and all the equipment was put into storage.

But, I firmly believe that things that are meant to be, are meant to be and that was certainly the outcome of UBC. In 2013 they dusted all that equipment off and opened their current location on Cumberland Ave. Newly refreshed and with more help from the community, Paul Farrell continued to bring his vision to life, producing outstanding bagels made with organic flour. The bagels are hand rolled, boiled and baked on a stone hearth in the traditional manner, which was quite obvious when we arrived to taste the end result. 

When we walked through the door, it was early on a quiet Saturday morning in Portland. In the East Bayside neighbourhood there were no cars on the road and there wasn’t a soul to be seen. Inside, a team of women worked steadily at their particular stations, humming along to the sound of the radio. The baskets on the counter were already brimming with freshly made bagels, flecked generously with salt, onion and garlic. A steady stream of sunshine pushed eagerly through the clouds and streamed in through the windows where plants hung in various glass vessels. Such a simple idea but it’s those little things that separate the unforgettable from the forgettable. A blackboard on the wall listed that days offerings. True to Portland form, it was a mish mash of organic ingredients and local products.

I am writing this post almost a year after our trip to Portland, but I do remember very clearly how delicious the bagels were and how with so few ingredients, an incredibly flavourful masterpiece had been given to me in a brown paper bag to enjoy in the Portland sunshine. Don’t overlook this local (as it gets) treasure. 

147 Cumberland Ave, Portland, ME 04101