Sheep’s milk cheese from Spain and chicken pie with layers of lemon-flavored mashed potatoes are not exactly what most Mainers think of as lunch cart food.

But Bazkari, a lunch cart on Free Street near Monument Square in Portland, is likely to change your lunch cart view.
Ana and Ben O’Connell opened Bazkari as a catering business in the spring, then soon opened their lunch cart. Ana (formerly Ana Lucia Salas Apaolaza) is Spanish, and the food is decidedly so.

Mainers might think Spanish food is similar to Mexican food or Hispanic cuisine, but judging from Bazkari’s offerings, it’s very different. There isn’t a lot of beans or hot spices, for instance.

When I tried Bazkari for lunch the other day, I sampled the Bazkari Chicken Pie for $4.50. This was a cold dish featuring a top and bottom layer of creamy mashed potato and flavored with lemon, yellow pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Between the potato layers is a thick layer of Bazkari’s chicken salad made from Ana’s chicken soup along with vegetables, mayonnaise and extra virgin olive oil.

Although I don’t think of mashed potatoes as cold food, this chicken pie was fantastic as I ate it outside on a warm July day. It was plenty filling for one person.

The cart is located near Free Street at the entrance to the pedestrian walkway to Monument Square and One City Center, so there are plenty of benches and shade nearby.

On another day, I sampled the Very Special Rice in a container big enough for two people with medium appetites, for $6.50. Mixed in with the rice was shrimp, chicken, serrano ham, omelet pieces, green onions and extra virgin olive oil.
The rice is prepared in a kitchen space at the Public Market House, but heated on a griddle at the cart. The dish had a warm, almost toasty flavor, making the shrimp and egg really pop. Again, it was not spicy in a hot way, just flavorful. But the cart does offer hot chili sauce for people who want more punch in their food.

Other lunch items offered at the cart include: The Baz ($5), a grilled cheese sandwich with serrano ham, manchego (sheep’s milk cheese from Spain) and salmorejo (tomato sauce from Andalusia) on white bread from Big Sky bakery; gazpacho ($3.50), a cold tomato soup from the south of Spain; and snowcones ($2.50), with syrups the couple makes from organic fruit.

For breakfast, the cart offers the Very Special Egg Sandwich, $3, featuring an omelet on an English muffin with manchego and salmorejo.

The cart has a fairly small menu, with about a half-dozen items offered on any given day. In the winter, the couple plans to offer lunch delivery to areas of Portland and South Portland, with a lot more offerings and menus online at www.bazkaricatering.com. But for now, they are concentrating on catering and their lunch cart.

The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.