Hella Good Tacos transitioned from a popular food truck to a 75-capacity restaurant in March of last year, opening in the space that was occupied by Steve & Renee’s Diner for 30 years. Josh and Melissa Bankhead, both from California, have eased Steve & Renee’s loyal clientele into adopting their authentic Mexican menu (much of the food is from Melissa’s Mexican-American family recipes) including some original diner staples, like pancakes and French toast. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Josh and Melissa whip up a mean traditional breakfast alongside some new, Mexican breakfast items, like tamales and eggs, breakfast burritos and chorizo sausage. Breakfast is served all day on Sundays, in addition to Hella Good’s taco lunch menu.
A self-proclaimed homebrewer and beer lover, Josh has made beer a priority at Hella Good. There are 10 taps altogether, four of which pour from a makeshift, heavily stickered (and loved) kegerator fridge that signals to patrons that this place is serious about beer. The 10 beers on tap are a mix of local craft brews, as well as some of Josh and Melissa’s favorite California beers (all $4, $5 and $6), and one tap for Urban Farm Fermentory’s Blueberry Kombucha ($6). One wine by the glass and bottle is available for $5 and $21, respectively.
And if you can’t find what you’re looking for on tap, there’s a good chance one of the 18 beers by the can or bottle will satisfy. These include Tecate and Modelo (both $2.50), and all beers on this list are $6 and under (many listed at $3 and $4).
Josh says the transition from food truck to restaurant is a lot more stress and completely different, but they were ready for the change.
“It’s really nice to be in a neighborhood spot,” he says, “and it hasn’t been too difficult because we had experience doing events, like beer festivals, so we were ready for the volume part of [the restaurant].”
Still, the biggest change, says Josh, is not getting the chance to interact with people as frequently – Josh and Melissa are still in the kitchen, but they’ve hired a staff to help take orders at the counter and serve. A major upside for them now is that food sales aren’t weather dependent.
“When we had the food truck, it’d be a really nice day out and we’d be dead,” Josh says, “or it’d be stormy and no one would be out. It was the in-between days, the gloomy, cloudy days when we’d get business.”
Inside, the walls are colorfully painted, and tchotchokes – like a pig figurine wearing Mardi Gras beads and a sombrero, or the Day of the Dead skeleton cut-outs on the wall – give the space an entirely new personality. The name “Hella Good” is a reference to Josh and Melissa’s home base in California. Josh says “hella good” is an expression in California akin to “wicked” in New England – naming the restaurant Hella Good Tacos is a shout-out to their West Coast friends and a wink to any Californians visiting Maine.
While Hella Good is no longer available by food truck in Monument Square, the location, across from Howie’s Pub and Veranda Thai, has attracted a following. Josh says they are able to keep prices low because rent is cheaper off the peninsula, and restaurant industry folks have made Hella Good a regular food stop after dinner shifts. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday with $2 tacos all day and a $2 beer special.
“It’s kind of like happy hour all the time around here,” Josh says, referring to how low they can keep prices.
Check Hella Good’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram posts for updates about beer events, live music, and specials. As food truck veterans, this pair knows how to keep patrons coming back for more – on the road or off.
500 Washington Ave., Portland | 207-775-2722 | facebook.com/hellagoodtacos
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, breakfast 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, breakfast 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Outdoor seating; self-serve salsa bar; fun tchotchkes to admire; quick service; fun atmosphere
PARKING: Free parking lot
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes
BOTTOM LINE: Hella Good Tacos transitioned from food truck to a 75-capacity restaurant last year, opening in the space that was occupied by Steve & Renee’s Diner for 30 years. Josh and Melissa Bankhead, both from California, eased Steve & Renee’s clientele into an authentic Mexican menu by including some original diner staples, like pancakes and French toast. Open until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Hella Good is also a place to find great craft beer, both local drafts and some of the Bankheads’ favorite California brews. The atmosphere is fun and funky, with quick service and a unique neighborhood feel.