In the Azores Islands of Portugal, they're bolo levedos. In the fishing and beach towns of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, "Portuguese muffins." Whatever you call the sweetish, griddled breadstuff, John-Fletcher Halyburton knew he had to have them for Lottie & Zula's, the New England-inspired sandwich joint he and his sister Emily Peterson recently opened in the former Toro Bravo spot on Northeast Russell.
The plan was to bring them in frozen from a childhood favorite bakery, Amaral's in Fall River, Mass. But then Halyburton—who goes by "Fletch"—happened to mention Portuguese muffins to Lottie & Zula's coffee roaster, Christopher Hall of Push X Pull Buckman.
"His jaw kind of hit the floor," says Fletch. "He was like, 'Wait. You mean bolo levedos. You're not gonna believe this, but we actually carry them here.'"
That's because wholesale baker Jenna Legge—who is "Jen's Bagels and Pastries" on her own, as well as one-half of the COVID-delayed Southwest Portland brick-and-mortar Jen & Bee's—is from New Bedford, the heart of New England's Portuguese American fishing community, and just 25 miles from Fletch's hometown of Bristol, R.I. Legge, who only recently discovered she was of Portuguese ancestry, had been teaching herself how to make bolos mostly for her own consumption, but she also began offering them to clients, including Push X Pull.
Now, those bolos are the heart of the Lottie & Zula's breakfast menu. The sturdy but tender flat bun—something like a cross between an English muffin and a King's Hawaiian roll—makes for a really satisfying bacon, egg and cheese, with some of the same sweet richness as a McGriddle or a Monte Cristo, though not nearly as over the top.
Lottie & Zula's New England theme—the restaurant's slogan is "Not a Lot of Fuss, Just a Wicked Good Sandwich"—continues at lunch, with fairly classic East Coast items: tuna melt, meatball, hot or cold Italian grinder, made on either sliced bread or sub rolls. Same are named after favorite spots from Halyburton's childhood, as well as the movie Fletch (for obvious reasons), and the colorful/criminal former mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci.
It's blue-collar food from high-end cooks with Masshole attitude. The cheeseburger grinder—one or two beef patties on a sub roll with all the fixings of both a burger and a sub—is called "My Guy D'Angelo" after the Rhode Island sandwich chain D'Angelo's, which, according to the Lottie & Zula's website, has "kind of gone to shit these days."
The ultimate goal is to be a full-service East Coast style deli/market, but for now it's a well-managed takeout operation, with delivery by bike courier CCC, a separate pickup window and a colorful street art mural obscuring the fact that you're outside what used to be one of Portland's most beloved and bustling high-end restaurant spaces.
The change is one of many on that stretch of Russell between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Williams Avenue, most of which happened prepandemic: Gone are Secret Society (now a yoga studio), Bunk Bar (now Cliff's Bar) and Russell St. BBQ (slated to become a Killer Burger in 2021), while the lack of music at the Wonder Ballroom keeps the whole block quiet.
By default, that makes Lottie & Zula's the loudest spot on the block. Here's what to know about the two items most worth yelling about.
BUZZARD’S BAY & THE ANGIE
The bacon, egg and cheese "Buzzard's Bay" ($7), a "classic eggwich," pays tribute to the body of water near New Bedford, while "The Angie" with butter and jelly ($4) is named for a family friend that Fletch refers to as a "second mother." She's the woman who introduced him to most Portuguese baked goods, especially during holidays. "One of the most incredible people in the world," he says. "Without her, I don't think bolo levedos would be on my radar."
One of Fletch's favorite things about bolos is they already have a "skin"—that lightly brown exterior from their initial griddled bake. Once they get to Lottie & Zula's, they're sliced, crisped up in the oven, given an additional toast under the salamander, and finished with butter and salt.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese(s)
The bacon is from Carlton Farms and the eggs free range, but the key to the Buzzard's Bay is double cheese: Tillamook sharp yellow cheddar for flavor and good old American for meltiness. If you like a runny egg sandwich, you'll have to wait until COVID-19 is over, given the realities of takeout and delivery. "For now, we break the yolk and cook the egg to medium," says Fletch. "It travels better and is cleaner to eat in your car or after 30 minutes."
On the opening menu, The Angie came with butter and spiced grape jelly, including such flavorings as cinnamon and allspice. It's based on a recipe by Fletch's father, who makes it with Concord grapes from the backyard. But it's also seasonal, and the restaurant's first batch is already tapped. "It doesn't really taste the same when you don't have fresh fruit to work with," Fletch says. He's working on some different freezer jams to rotate in until the grapes return.
EAT: Lottie & Zula's, 120-A NE Russell St., 503-333-6923, lottieandzulas.com. 8 am-4 pm Tuesday-Saturday. Breakfast all day, lunch 10:30 am to close. Takeout and delivery only.