Food on the move

Could a Fort Williams lobster-roll trailer one day cruise the Old Port?
By LEISCHEN STELTER  |  July 20, 2011

PILED HIGH A Bite Into Maine lobster roll.

Maine and lobsters: There's just no escaping the association. Nearly every guest I've entertained in this city has requested lobster. And who can blame them? Maine has staked its reputation on lobsters — just take a look at our license plates. In order to fulfill such visitor requests, I typically head to Portland Lobster Company on Commercial Street for its outdoor seating and high probability of live music. Or, if I really want to give my guests the full Maine experience, I'll drive out to The Lobster Shack at Two Lights State Park so we can sit along the rocky coast while devouring Maine's famous crustacean.

Recently, I've added a third option to my lobster list. Perched atop the hill at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth overlooking one of Maine's most famous lighthouses is a 72-square-foot food trailer, Bite Into Maine. It's certainly hard to complain about the location, says Sarah Sutton, who co-owns the new mobile eatery with her husband, Karl. "This is such an iconic place," she says looking out at the spectacular 180-degree ocean views on this beautiful summer day, "we had to make the food iconic to Maine, too."

Bite Into Maine sells lobster rolls for $13, offered six different ways: Maine style, Connecticut style (warm lobster with drawn butter), wasabi, curry, chipotle, and picnic style. Picnic style is Sarah's twist on the Maine-style roll, with lobster meat served on top of homemade coleslaw. The rolls are served with about five ounces of knuckle and claw meat, bought from Cozy Harbor Seafood in Portland.

Bite Into Maine also serves Rice's Red Dogs, Fox Family Potato Chips, Moxie, sodas from Maine Root Co., and Smiling Hill Farm ice cream. And as the weather turns cooler, Sarah says they'll start offering lobster chowder or stew.

While this location is ideal, next year the couple hopes to be rolling down the streets of the Old Port. They were originally inspired to start a food trailer after visiting Austin, Texas last year. "The food trailer scene there is huge," she says. "I practically ate every meal out of a truck the week I was there." She couldn't figure out why Portland — in all its foodie-town glory — doesn't have more of a mobile-food scene. And then she found out: city ordinances and tight restrictions block the trend.

When the couple began researching ordinances and contacting various councils and committees to get the necessary permits, they kept striking out in Portland. "I came up against red tape — no one wanted to deal with me," Sarah says. The city's size restrictions were too burdensome for their food trailer and the couple wasn't interested in having a smaller-version food cart.

So when Cape Elizabeth announced it would be conducting a pilot program for food vendors in the town-owned Fort Williams Park, the Suttons were all over it. They were selected to be one of five food vendors in the park, and the only ones given a six-month permit. Despite a cold and rainy June, business has been good so far, she says. The weekends remain the busier days, but there's always a steady influx of people visiting the park.

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  Topics: Food Features , Old Port, lobster, lobster roll,  More more >
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