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Leslie Bridgers

After a decade reporting on the news of Portland's suburbs, Leslie is excited to let loose on MaineToday, where the scoops are more ice cream, less scandal -- much like her life. After hours, you can find her reluctantly covering right field for the company softball team, bowling a straight ball at Bayside or wandering down from Munjoy Hill in search of food and drink.

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Posted: May 2, 2017

Get revved up for food trucks

What’s new this season in southern Maine’s street eats.

Written by: Leslie Bridgers

 

Renee Rhoads serves customers from her food truck "Mashed" on the Eastern Prom. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Renee Rhoads serves customers from her food truck, Mashed, on the Eastern Prom. Staff photo by Jill Brady

It’s been only four years since Portland permitted food trucks to sling their varied fare from the city’s streets, but a lot has happened quickly.

The fleet has more than doubled, with 20 trucks now licensed in the city, and several of the longer-standing ones have done well enough to open full-fledged restaurants.

Although some have shut down their trucks to do so, others, including Mami and El Corazon, will continue to operate on wheels, as well. Bite Into Maine is even adding a second truck this season, as it opens a brick-and-mortar location.

At the same time, a couple of restaurants — El Rodeo in South Portland and trendy Thai spot Boda — have started food trucks as side businesses. And two successful out-of-state trucks, Cousins Maine Lobster and Tasting Maine, which were started by Mainers, will make ancestral voyages this season.

Just as a few food trucks always fall by the wayside, more business owners will start their engines for the first time this spring, ready to take advantage of the business generated by the bustling brewery hubs on Industrial Way and in East Bayside, as well as concerts and events at Thompson’s Point, including Street Eats & Beats, a festival on May 20 specifically for food trucks.

While the breweries, especially, keep several food trucks running year-round, many trucks are just getting going for the season, including Bite Into Maine’s famous Fort Williams lobster roll truck, which opens this weekend.

Here’s what’s new on the Portland food truck scene, as it starts revving up. For information on other trucks and what they’re serving up, go to our food truck guide.

  • The young men who made Maine proud in their 2012 appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” have since turned Cousins Maine Lobster into a wildly successful franchise with food trucks selling Maine lobster, well, pretty much everywhere but here. That changes next week, when the cousins and California residents bring a truck back home to southern Maine, where they both grew up. Though they hope to gain a local following, the truck will primarily be in tourist areas, from Kennebunk to Freeport, where they expect to find customers from other parts of the country looking for their brand. You’ll be able to track their location on their website, through social media or with their app.

    Photo courtesy of Cousin's Maine LobsterCousin’s Maine Lobster Various locations in southern Maine. cousinsmainelobster.com With the help of TV show Shark Tank, two cousins from the Portland area have brought fresh Maine lobster rolls to cities all over the country. This year, they’re bringing the business home with a truck that will travel from Kennebunk to Freeport. Also on the menu are lobster quesadillas, lobster tacos, lobster tots, chowder, whoopie pies and more. Follow the truck through on Facebook and Twitter or get the Cousin Maine Lobster app.

    Photo courtesy of Cousins Maine Lobster

  • Cousins might be the best known name in Maine lobster roll trucks nationwide, but Bite Into Maine, perched by the picturesque Portland Head Light, probably gets the most attention of any local food truck, frequently landing on “best of” lists. Starting this month, an Airstream that the owners have been using for catering will be situated by another Maine icon, Allagash Brewing Co.
  • Two longtime servers at Congress Street hotspot Boda, which already serves Thai street food, approached their bosses with the idea to start a food truck. Scheduled to start rolling by the end of the month, Thainy Boda (pronounced “tiny,” get it?) will have some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, as well as some new ones and specials. The plan is to hit the breweries and big events but also to spend one day each week serving lunch on the street. Facebook and Instagram accounts will keep curious customers posted.
  • Another existing business is expanding — but by scaling up. The Little Jamaica food cart is converting to a full-sized truck and should be on the road within the next month, hitting spots like the Eastern Prom, Commercial Street, local breweries and area reggae shows, including the Point Sebago Reggae Festival on June 9 and 10, which the truck sponsors. Chris Tweedie, co-owner with Derrick Anderson, said the truck will allow them to serve customers better, faster and without having to worry about the weather. Billed as “Portland’s Island Flava,” the truck serves a range of Jamaican eats, from fried plantains to an oxtail dinner.

    Photo courtesy of Little Jamaica

  • Brand new to the Portland food scene is Mashed, already serving up its dishes “in a nest of mashed Maine potatoes” on weekends on the Eastern Prom. Owner Renee Rhoads, who was a fourth-grade teacher in Yarmouth until starting this venture, said the concept was built around her sons’ favorite dish of hers, Swedish meatballs with gravy served over mashed potatoes. Other menu items include the makings of a turkey dinner, a reuben and shepherd’s pie. Everything is gluten-free and there are vegan options. For dessert, try hand-dipped Needhams.
  • Another new addition is actually a food truck veteran. Not long after Kennebunk native Patty Arsenault-Owen moved to Atlanta, she got sick of barbecue and started craving seafood. So, she decided to make and sell it herself. She and her husband, Fred Owen, opened Tasting Maine food truck in 2012, selling New England seafood classics, from clam strips to lobster bisque. Now, in addition to barbecue, she’s tired of the Atlanta traffic, so they’ve decided to move back home and bring the truck with them. They plan to park in a lot by Congdon’s Doughnuts in Wells, where the restaurant’s owner is in the process of seeking town approval to have a few trucks (including his own) operate out of the parking lot after the diner closes for the day.

    Photo courtesy of Tasting Maine Tasting Maine Congdon's, 1090 Post Road, Wells, On Facebook Started by Mainers living in Atlanta, Tasting Maine is returning home this summer and expects to be up and running by July, selling New England seafood classics, from clam strips to lobster bisque. It plans to park in a lot by Congdon's Doughnuts, the owner of which was working to get town approval this spring to have a few trucks there.

    Photo courtesy of Tasting Maine

 

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