Saturday, April 27, 2019

Portland, Maine Food Truck Update—2019

It's been a few years since my last survey of the food truck fleet in and around Portland, Maine, and as you'd expect from these mobile eateries, a lot has changed since then. Here's an update of who's slinging food from a truck/cart this summer and where you can expect to find them.

Businesses are listed in alphabetical order, and bonus details about special food truck events this summer are featured at the bottom of the post.

Bite Into Maine - The OG food cart returns for its 8th season in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, serving several styles of lobster rolls. Since the cart's start, BIM's locations have expanded to a year-round commissary in Scarborough and an Airstream trailer at Allagash Brewing that opened in April. The Fort Williams cart opens May 4th. Come high season, the cart and trailer will be open daily, but check the website to confirm.

Cannoli Joe's - This dessert truck is out serving several different flavors of cannolis like White Chocolate Raspberry, Sicilian, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, and even Piña Colada. Find them parked on the Eastern Prom and Commercial Street at the bottom of India Street from 11am-4pm.

Eighty 8 Donuts - Winters takes this mini donut business (formerly Urban Sugar Donuts) to its Sugarloaf brick and mortar shop. Come summer, Rosie the donut truck is back in action in Portland. The truck's season kicks off at Street Eats and Beats June 1st. Find these tiny delights this summer at Thompson's Point, the Eastern Prom, and special events.

Falafel Mafia - This vegan Mediterranean food truck serves up pitas and bowls of their falafel topped with tahini and pickled and fresh vegetables. Find them on the Western Prom, at Spring and Temple Street, at various breweries, and in the Back Cove Hannaford parking lot, as well as Thompson's Point concerts and other special events.

Fishin' Ships - This nautical, pun-riddled fried seafood truck kicks off its season at Street Eats & Beats June 1st, launching into a busy season. They be at Rising Tide and the Industrial Way breweries and special events throughout the summer.

Photo courtesy of Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen

Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen
- Known for its steamed buns and banh mis, this truck spawned a café in Biddeford after its owner needed prep space for the truck. Now the truck and a cart dubbed Steam Machine can be found at breweries and special events throughout the summer. The Steam Machine, serving steamed buns, can be found at Austin Street's Fox Street location every Sunday.

Grillin' Brazilian - This Brazilian themed Airstream trailer managed to serve food through the winter by posting up at Definitive Brewing regularly. Now it's traveling to other breweries (Industrial Way and East Bayside) and has a regular spot on Thursdays at Austin Street's Fox Street location with a new food cart.

Kuno - Serving Peranakan cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Malaysian, owner Nick Lee runs the former Thainy Boda truck. Lee is a former cook at Thainy Boda and bought the truck from Boda's owners when they decided to sell. Launching in February (brave), Kuno has been serving at breweries (Goodfire, Bunker) and on the Western Prom near Maine Med.

Mainely Burgers - This truck has "graduated" (heh, get it, because it was started by college students) into two brick and mortar restaurants in Boston and Cambridge. But the food truck carries on at its regular spot at Scarborough Beach State Park as well as special events throughout the summer. Look for its sister truck Mainely Treats too.

Mami - This truck grew into a successful brick and mortar restaurant on Fore Street, so the truck is out less these days. But it's still available for catering and special events, so you may still catch it. It will be at the May 5th Gastro-Go-Go at Rising Tide (see bottom of post for more information on special food truck events).

Photo courtesy of Momma Baldacci's

Momma Baldacci's
- The CN Shawarma/Baharat truck has been resurrected, this time as a mobile version of a longtime Bangor Italian eatery that closed in 2006. The son of the original restaurateurs launched the food truck in late 2018. You'll find Momma Baldacci's serving pastas, strombolis, subs, and cannolis at Definitive Brewing every Wednesday this summer.

Muthah Truckah - Find grilled sandwiches from the Muthah Truckahs at various breweries in East Bayside and on Industrial Way. The truck also posts up at businesses during the weekday for lunch, so check social media for the latest schedule.

Noble Barbecue - Noble Barbecue is known for its over-the-top barbecue meats and sandwiches (particularly their "Scrappy Fries"). With a successful brick and mortar on Forest Ave., the "Mobile Noble" can be found at... you guessed it, breweries and special events! I've run into the truck at Lone Pine Gorham's already this season.

Nom Bai Street Kitchen - Serving Vietnamese and Cambodian street food, this truck has been at Thompson's Point concerts and Congdon's After Dark in past seasons. Scant details are available for this year's kickoff, but they are scheduled to be at Rising Tide Brewing a few times this summer.

Tacos del Seoul - This taco trailer serves a fusion of Korean and Mexican food with tacos, burritos, and bowls. Its season will kick off May 5th at the Gastro-Go-Go Cinco de Mayo party at Rising Tide. Find them at breweries (Allagash, Rising Tide, Lone Pine), Thompson's Point, and special events throughout the summer.

The Greeks of Peaks - Serving Greek food "just like Yiayia used to make," this food truck can be found at the East Bayside and Industrial Street breweries and special events. You'll find all the Greek hits: gyros, souvlaki, spanakopita, Greek salad, and fried halloumi cheese served here.

The SaltBox Cafe - This food truck is actually a small shingled shed on a trailer that serves breakfast and lunch on the Eastern Prom. Find them beginning May 4th at 8:30am on the Prom, and occasionally at Rising Tide and the Industrial Way breweries.

Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck - Serving up "gourmet vegan junk food from his synthwave themed mobile kitchen" (which is just a hilarious description), Chef Tony and his rad truck can be found on Spring Street and in the parking lot of Tony's Donuts on outer Congress St.

Other mobile food eateries you may encounter at Portland breweries:

To sample several food trucks at once, consider these events:

Street Eats & Beats
This annual food truck festival will have over 25 mobile eateries from Portland and beyond at Thompson's Point on June 1st. Tickets are $12 and drinks from Tito's Vodka and beer from Gritty's will be available. There will be live music and outdoor games. Must be 21+.

Fork Food Lab First Friday Pop-Up Markets
Fork Food Lab, the Bayside communal kitchen/business incubator, is holding monthly pop-up markets for its members at Rising Tide Brewing. Several food trucks rent space at Fork for prep, so you'll potentially find The Greeks of Peaks, Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck, and Falafel Mafia, as well as a number of food carts and caterers.

This gathering of food trucks happens regularly throughout the summer. The first event kicks off on Cinco de Mayo from 12-5pm at Rising Tide Brewing with at least 7 food trucks and carts, live music, games, and of course, beer from the brewery.

Congdon's After Dark
Congdon's is a breakfast and lunch spot in Wells (with delicious donuts), and last year its owners had the genius idea to host these "after dark" nights with food trucks and beer. Billing itself as "New England's only food truck park," Congdon's After Dark has over 10 trucks nightly on summer weekends (Thurs-Sun). Check the schedule—there's a great variety of trucks and even brings the return of Hoss & Mary's, a longtime OOB fave.

Maine Brewers Guild Festival
This beer festival on July 27th at Fort Preble in South Portland will have multiple food trucks in attendance.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

BBF Travels: Spring Break in Nashville

I vacationed in Nashville two weeks ago—over St. Paddy's Day and (unbeknownst to us) the start of the SEC tournament. The timing sounded like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect may have been a few thousand people too many. Although, in "Nashvegas," there may never be a time where you can avoid the mobs of people wandering on Broadway, whether they're draped in "Bride Squad" t-shirts or University of Kentucky jerseys. 

During our trip, we learned that for the past several years, over 100 people a day moved to Music City, making it the seventh fastest growing city in the U.S. After a weekend there, we may not be ready to move just yet, but with the early spring, great restaurants and bars, and the music scene, it was a pleasant place to spend a mid-March weekend. 

We arrived early Friday to get in a full day and headed right for Pinewood Social, the sweetest bowling alley/coffee shop/bar/restaurant that provided the right amount of hospitality to be a relief after traveling so early in the morning. (Do enough people come right from the airport to the bowling alley that they have a process for holding your luggage? Perhaps yes?)

We had reserved a lane, and after we checked in, we were escorted through the restaurant to a 6-lane alley, flooded with natural light. An hour and a half of bowling with lattes, brunch cocktails, avocado toast, and chicken and biscuits and we had officially transitioned into vacation mode. 

We stayed in an Airbnb in East Nashville, about a 10 minute ride from downtown, in a sweet bungalow that made us want to cancel all our plans and sit on the porch drinking wine in the delicious spring weather. 

After a nap, we ventured back out for night one in Nashville. On the agenda, a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium, best known for hosting the Grand Ole Opry from 1942 to 1974. Little Feat was playing that night, a stop on their 50th anniversary tour. 

We didn't have dinner plans for that night, which was not a great plan in a crowded city on a Friday night when you're on a time crunch. But fortunately, the second restaurant we went into could seat us—Adele's, the southern outpost of New York chef Jonathan Waxman. We enjoyed a great dinner of cauliflower and kale salads, local fish, and the chef's signature roast chicken before heading to the theater to dance the night away. 

The next day, after a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, we turned to the next item on our to-do list: Nashville hot chicken. Admittedly, my only experience with the regional food was seeing it served at Big J's Chicken Shack with a pair of gloves to protect your hands, so I was a little afraid of the stuff. 

Fortunately, the place in our neighborhood, Pepperfire Hot Chicken, offered different levels of spice. I boldly chose medium, which was a slow-building spice but nothing unmanageable. Some fried okra and mac and cheese rounded out the meal of Southern staples. 

Saturday afternoon, we headed back to our favorite intersection in East Nashville. With a brewery, a hipster restaurant that looked like a mash-up of Tandem Coffee and Drifters Wife, and a record shop/craft beer bar, we felt like we could spend the whole weekend between here and the aforementioned porch and be very happy indeed. 

The brewery, Southern Grist Brewing Co. just happened to be releasing two collaboration brews with Mast Landing Brewing Company the day we visited (of course, since Maine is everywhere!). The 14 or so styles on tap that day ranged from New England IPAs to an imperial raspberry sour with marshmallows. We had such a good time, relaxing in the sunny tasting room, enjoying the first delicious local beer we'd found on the trip. 

Side note: did we fly a quarter of the way across the country to do the same thing we'd do at home? Why yes, yes, we did. I offer no excuse. 

For dinner on Saturday night, we went to The Green Pheasant, a new Japanese restaurant downtown. While we waited for our table, we sipped on our cocktails and admired the gilded interior. Our meal was a flurry of delightful courses, from a ginger-carrot dressed wedge salad and a sashimi bowl to the rich, handmade noodles tossed with a spicy crab butter. A "fair food" dessert of a tempura-fried chocolate cake capped off the most decadent meal. 

But of course we weren't done... I had to try the Pearl Diver. This tiki bar back in East Nashville has the most incredible 60s California motel/grandma's living room vibe going on. It was truly like I'd died and gone to hipster heaven. There were adorable men in romp-hims (that's rompers for men), too-cool-for-school bartenders, and delicious, slushy rum drinks.

We got our nightcaps and headed away from the crowded, dark bar to the lobby-like entrance, where we could watch the night's dramas unfold from a safe distance.

The next day was St. Patrick's Day! We started with a hearty brunch at Marche Artisan Foods (and one of the many fabulous biscuits of the trip) and decided to spend the day away from the craziness of the downtown.

We checked out the Nashville Zoo, enjoyed a pubby lunch (and whiskey!) at Whiskey Kitchen and then headed home to regroup for our final Nashville activity: a night at The Bluebird Cafe.

Are you so impressed that I've made it this far without mentioning "Nashville," the TV show?? I must confess I do not have a lifelong love of country music, but rather a healthy obsession with Connie Britton and the ABC drama/soap opera "Nashville." 

As so many scenes take place in the Bluebird Cafe, I was excited to see a show at this iconic club (and definitely had the thought in the only bathroom in the club—Connie Britton definitely sat on this toilet too!!). 

Turns out... the popularity of that TV show has transformed The Bluebird from local jam spot into a tourist attraction. When the lead singer asked how many of us were from out of town, every single person in the club raised their hand. So it's hardly a locals' spot anymore, but remains a great place to chance upon a national act or songwriter behind the hits in an intimate space. 

After our busy weekend, we made the executive decision to cancel our dinner reservations, order a pizza, and go back to the rental to start the new season of Queer Eye. A little R&R was needed after being on the go all weekend! 

So how'd we do?? For three full days in Nashville, we sure saw and ate a lot. The spring weather was hard to leave, but we're always happy to come back to Maine!