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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: May 29, 2018

Food trucks congregate at Congdon’s for a nightly feast

Written by: Ray Routhier

The great thing about food trucks is they’re so mobile you never know where you might find one. The bad thing about them is, you never know where you might find one.

If you have a favorite diner, it’s always there at the same address, day after day. But you might discover a food truck you love parked on the corner today, then go back in a week and find it’s vanished (or, more likely, at a microbrewery).

But there’s now a spot in southern Maine where you can find a pack of food trucks parked daily: Congdon’s After Dark Food Truck Park in Wells. It opened for the season last week.

The owners of Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant and Bakery will be hosting up to 10 food trucks in its parking lot Thursday through Sunday nights into late June. Then the park will be open nightly through the summer. The park will feature a core of seven trucks, which will be there most days, with other mobile kitchens rotating in.

The variety of cuisine includes fried clams from Tasting Maine, handmade pasta with truffle sauce at The Truffle Truck, pork belly banh mi sandwiches from Farm To Coast Mobile Kitchen, a burger topped with crab Rangoon at Hoss & Mary’s and gourmet french fries at Knew Potato Caboose – plus Mexican, Cajun, Creole and Middle-Eastern fare, as well as Congdon’s famous doughnuts.

“It’ll be like going to the mall food court but a lot better,” said Adam Leech, whose family has run Congdon’s since 1955. The park will also be the site of the long-awaited return of Hoss & Mary’s, a popular Old Orchard Beach eatery that closed in 2015 when owners Brian “Hoss” Coddens and Deena “Mary” Eskew moved to Key West, Florida, where they first met.

The couple ran a food truck in Key West and survived Hurricane Irma before deciding earlier this year to come back to Maine. Within hours of announcing their decision to return to Maine on Facebook in March, fans of their food had left more than 600 comments and 1,300 reactions.

The couple is borrowing a friend’s food trailer to get cooking again, while searching for a permanent restaurant space somewhere in the Saco/Biddeford/Old Orchard Beach area. The truck will serve Hoss & Mary’s famously outrageous burgers, with toppings like chicken fingers, crab Rangoon, jalapeño peppers, BBQ sauce or onion rings.

“This is a great way for us to get back in the game, Congdon’s is such a landmark,” said Coddens. “And we can get our food to our customers who have been asking for it.”

Leech is billing Congdon’s After Dark as “New England’s first food truck park.” An internet search for food truck parks shows that they’ve been springing up around the country recently, including in Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and the New Jersey shore. The park will have a beer garden with more than two dozen Maine beers and ciders, picnic tables, live entertainment and classic car shows, as well as some indoor seating, said Leech. He said his father, Congdon’s owner Gary Leech, came up with the food park idea.

The park has a lineup of about 15 food trucks from Maine and New Hampshire. There are 10 spots for trucks so they will rotate and the nightly schedule of trucks will be posted at the food truck park’s website, cadfoodtrucks.com.

Congdon’s tried out the food truck park concept last summer, with just three trucks, and decided to expand this year.

Congdon’s restaurant, not far from area beaches, is open for breakfast and lunch only, so the nighttime food truck park is an easy fit. It’s also a good fit for the area, the food truck owners say. Beach goers and vacationers are often looking for a quick bite late at night, and some nights the park will be open until 2 a.m. Summer folks also like a place where they can eat while still in a bathing suit and covered with sand.

“People can come right off the beach, bring their dog and have a lot of kinds of food to choose from,” said Patti Arsenault-Owen of Kennebunk, owner of the Tasting Maine truck. “And I like it because I won’t have to be running the streets anymore.”

And neither will the food truck fans of Maine. Unless they want to.

CONGDON’S AFTER DARK FOOD TRUCK PARK

WHEN: 4 p.m. to late night Thursdays to Sundays; opens daily for the summer beginning in late June
WHERE: Parking lot of Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant & Bakery, 1090 Post Road (Route 1), Wells
HOW MUCH: Prices vary at each food truck
INFO: cadfoodtrucks.com for nightly list of trucks
WHAT ELSE: Seven to 10 trucks will be scheduled to be there most nights, though the lineup will vary.

WHO’S TRUCKIN’ AND WHAT’S COOKIN’ – The lineup of participating food trucks

Arundel Ice Cream Shop – ice cream
Big Grampa’s Grill – steak and cheese, grill items
Congdon’s Doughnuts – doughnuts
Crescent City Kitchen – Cajun and Creole
El Camino Fresh Mexican Grill – Mexican
Falafel Mafia – falafel, Middle-Eastern
Farm-to-Coast Mobile Kitchen – farm-to-table
Fishin’ Ships – seafood
Gorgeous Gelato – gelato, deserts
Hoss & Mary’s – burgers, comfort food
Knew Potato Caboose – gourmet french fries
Tasting Maine – fried seafood, lobster rolls
The Truffle Truck – Italian
What-A-Wrap – wraps, lobster rolls

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