Chicken Salad (Clayton’s Cafe)

Today’s sandwich is chicken salad, from Clayton’s Cafe in Yarmouth. It combines white chicken breast, tossed with Danish bleu cheese, mayonnaise, red grapes and lettuce, on sourdough bread.

Location: 447 Route One, Yarmouth
Price: $6.50
Notes: As does nearly any self-respecting white anglo-saxon protestant, I expect a certain amount of fruit in my mayonnaise-based salads. My mom’s coleslaw always had raisins in it, and often pineapple. I have eaten Ambrosia salad at a picnic. And yes, I have known the cooling touch of a Summer Waldorf salad. Under normal circumstances, I’ll have savory, stinky sandwiches, piled high with peppered salami and smeared with taleggio. But when my fancy turns to chicken salad, I want it to be jammed up with plenty of things other than chicken. I want candied pecans. I want curry and apples. And, as the chicken salad is served at Clayton’s cafe, I want halved red seedless grapes and chunks of bleu cheese.

Recommended by two readers on the From Away Facebook page, Clayton’s Cafe is exactly what a fine sandwich shop should be. A large space, with plenty of tables for dining in, alone with a newspaper, or with a group. A gorgeous case of bakery items, including homemade Pop Tarts, oversized cupcakes, giant chocolate-dipped macaroons, topped with bins full of old-timey penny candy. One whole wall is devoted to prepared salads, entrees, a daily selection of soups, and freshly-made sandwiches. Local art and photography lines the walls, and the staff is friendly, outgoing, and hospitable, without a trace of the smugness sometime found in places that know how special their beautiful, handcrafted food is.

When you unwrap a sandwich from Clayton’s, it’s hard to believe just how much lunch you’ve gotten for so little money. In Portland’s West End, this would be a $12 sandwich. Clayton’s seems to understand also, that an excellent sandwich is only partly about what’s inside it, starting with insanely thick-cut, pleasantly sharp sourdough bread. The chicken salad itself is made with 100% white meat chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, and tossed with just the right amount of mayonnaise. A few studs of earthy bleu cheese are a surprise in every other bite, but never manage to overpower the sandwich. The halved grapes burst and pop in your mouth, mellowing out the otherwise strong flavors of the sandwich, and changing the consistency of the sandwich filling as you eat it.

Can you base where you live on proximity to a sandwich you really love? If so, I expect Yarmouth’s population to swell, as Clayton’s becomes more popular. If I lived closer, I would be at Clayton’s Cafe every single day. This sandwich was perfect; quite simply, one of the best I have had since moving back to Maine.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed “Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road,” as well as the taco-centric blog “Eat More Tacos,” and the junk food-centric “Spork & Barrel.” His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, “‘Wich, Please,” was named “Hottest Restaurant in Maine” for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.


  1. Ah. Let me wax nostalgiac about Clayton’s. I went to the little private school down on main street in Yah-mouth. Clayton’s used to be just down the street in old building (my dad says it was a church, I think it was meant to be a theater.) Clayton’s was terribly popular back then, and sometime after I graduated and moved far away. I heard it never really got back all of it’s gusto after the change of location. Glad to hear the food is still good though, Clayton’s is where I cut my chops as a baby food snob 🙂

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  2. The building that Clayton’s used to be in is an old grange hall. The new location is not quite as charming, but the food is just as good. When my husband was trying to get me to move to Maine ten years ago, we went there for lunch.
    See what happens?

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  3. Clayton’s Famous Chicken Salad Sandwich is incredibly delicious. I do live in Yarmouth and dine at Clayton’s very often. I have tried almost every sandwich and have never been disappointed. Soups are awesome too … always very creative. Great breakfast sandwiches and Coffee By Design and awesome scones and hearty AND delicious breakfast bars…. Did I tell you I love this place? Oh, and even takeout dinners and even when I’m running late because they’re open until 7 pm. I could go on….

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    1. Joline, you’re a lucky, lucky lady. We have never been disappointed at Clayton’s, and you’re right, their soup is divine. It’s the kind of shop that I am happy to eat in as often as I can, while being jealous that I didn’t open it, myself. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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