July 4, 2013

Eat and Run: Portside Picnic

Our reviewer considers this food truck a lucky find.

From staff reports

From now on, I'm on the lookout for food trucks.

click image to enlarge

Portside Picnic, a food truck serving items featuring local Maine ingredients, in Portland’s Back Cove parking lot.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Portside Picnic’s Athena Carriere and Rick Earle serve up a lobster roll for Sandra Day.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 23 Preble St. Extension, Portland; 423-0148

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily when not raining

CHEAPEST GRUB: Small organic fries, $1; fish taco, $4. The menu changes often.

WAIT: Five minutes or less

PARKING: Back Cove Trail parking lot


RATING: ****1/2

Based on a five-star scale

I had no clue what a food truck could be until I recently had lunch from Portside Picnic by the Back Cove in Portland.

Up until that point, I had mostly thought of food trucks as carriers of wrapped sandwiches to factories during third shift. My only other point of reference was a truck that served cheeseburger subs -- three patties of beef, lots of Velveeta cheese -- on the campus of my college.

But Portland is a foodie haven, and now that the city government is allowing food trucks, there's an explosion of good food on wheels.

The first thing I noticed about the eye-catching blue truck used by Portside Picnic is its great location. It's parked daily in the lot reserved for users of the Back Cove Trail, on Preble Street Extension across from Hannaford.

It sits out in the open, steps from the water, with wonderful water and city views in several directions. You can sit on the grass and eat, take your lunch for a walk around the path that circles Back Cove, or use the table and chairs set up by the truck.

I was pleasantly surprised with the variety and the relatively low prices. The menu items included falafel burger, $5; local burgers, $5.25; steak sandwich, $6.50; fish taco, $4; lobster taco, $7.50; grilled haddock sandwich, $6.25; and chicken taco, $4.

Also on the menu but out of my price range was a BLT: A bacon, lobster and tomato sandwich for $14.50.

The folks in the truck told me the menu changes often and that they use lots of local food producers, which were listed on a sheet tacked up on the truck. Another day's menu recently included a pulled pork sandwich for $6 and a lobster macaroni and cheese for $8.

Portside Picnic seems to have a lot of lobster for a truck, so I tried the lobster taco. It came in a warm and very fresh flour tortilla. The lobster meat was sauteed and topped with fresh, thinly sliced red cabbage, tomatoes and a great homemade salsa.

The taco was great, with just a little kick of spice. (There is a shelf of hot sauces and condiments to choose from if you want more heat.) For just $1, I also got a small order of organic french fries, which were hand-cut, fresh out of the fryer and full of potato flavor.

For dessert, I decided to try something called a monkey tail -- a frozen banana dipped in dark chocolate ($3). Wow. This wasn't a paper-thin coating of chocolate like on an ice cream bar. This chocolate was about an inch thick. The dessert menu also changes often.

Based on the lobster taco and the monkey tail, Portside Picnic's food is as good as I've had for the money. And the sunny, airy location makes it a hard place to pass up. 

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.

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