The Greater Portland vegan community went wild this spring when a vegan hot dog cart called Sup Dawg? announced it planned to hit Portland’s streets. Months have passed, and I’m sorry to report it won’t happen this year. Katie Knowles, owner of the planned vegan hot dog cart, said her partner pulled out of the venture and she’s had to postpone the launch until 2018.

But even if we can’t score a vegan hot dog out and about in Portland this summer, there are plenty of other plant-based street eats to try. This year’s fleet of mobile edibles includes three new vegan-friendly options.

Mashed, which operates out of a 1972 Shasta camper, offers a simple menu: vegan mashed potatoes with a choice of vegan, vegetarian or meat-based toppings.

Proprietor Renee Rhoads launched the Mashed trailer expecting to slowly test the waters with a couple hours each weekend on the Eastern Prom. Right away, she began running out of food.

“It just kind of blew up,” Rhoads said. “It’s been a little overwhelming since I started. I wasn’t expecting it to take off, and I now have events booked into December.”

Rhoads attributes her rapid success to the fact that while most of us love mashed potatoes, many “people don’t make mashed potatoes because they think it’s a pain.” Or a special occasion food.


Her potatoes (always from Maine) are prepared with soymilk, vegan butter and a plant-based sour cream Rhoads calls her “trade secret.” (In blind taste tests she conducted with friends and family before the launch, Rhoads said the vegan mashed potatoes always beat out the dairy-based potatoes.)

The Mashed menu rotates through comfort foods piled on top of the potatoes such as BBQ lentils and carrots, Beyond Meat in Buffalo sauce, Thanksgiving-style tempeh, chickpea curry, housemade Italian vegan sausage, and vegan Swedish meatballs.

Before launching Mashed in April, Rhoads taught school for 22 years. She wrapped up her final term teaching fourth grade at Yarmouth Elementary School and serving as the school’s garden coordinator before beginning her first food service venture.

In contrast, the owners of the newest vegan-friendly food truck on Portland’s streets have a history in the food business that stretches back to their childhood. Falafel Mafia opened for business late last month driven by brothers Dylan and Cameron Gardner.

“I was raised making falafel,” said Dylan Gardner, who worked most recently at Five Fifty-Five and Grace. The pair have taken over the family business from their dad, David Gardner, who opened a falafel booth in the 1990s at the Common Ground Country Fair. It quickly became a popular fixture there and at other fairs and festivals. Their parents had previously owned a restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, where falafel was a top seller.

“We realized at the end of Common Ground last year that it was time,” Dylan Gardner said. “So many people had asked us when we were going to open up a food truck.”


The falafel menu on the Falafel Mafia truck is all vegan – Gardner feels “it is a crime to put dairy on falafel” – while a complementary gyros menu is meat-based.

The Thainy Boda food truck sells a changing menu of Thai-influenced vegan dishes.

“Falafel pairs best with fresh produce and savory Middle Eastern flavors,” Gardner said. “It’s not really authentic to have dairy with falafel. In Israel and Egypt, they’re not putting cheese or sauces or tzatziki on falafel. That’s a Greek thing.”

Which means the truck’s falafel comes stuffed in a pita with house-pickled vegetables, different types of hummus or baba ganoush. Each day, they offer two to three falafel pitas, one falafel taco and a falafel steam bun. The bun is similar to Asian steam buns but is filled with falafel, pickled corn and vegan avocado tzatziki.

Recently, some food truck owners in the city’s wider fleet have started leasing brick and mortar spaces to open restaurants, but this season’s third vegan-friendly truck did the reverse. The Thainy (pronounced “tiny”) Boda truck is the latest project from Dan Sriprasert, who owns Boda and The Green Elephant, Portland’s leading vegetarian dining spot. Both restaurants serve vegan dishes and so does the truck.

Thainy Boda sells a changing menu of Thai-influenced vegan dishes that have included morning glory stir fry, fried Brussels sprouts, grilled rice balls, and grilled shiitake skewers. Many of the items come straight from Boda’s menu.

“We understand there is a huge vegan demographic in the Portland area and are happy to cater to that demographic, as well as non-vegans,” said Seyha Chea, who runs the truck with Myles Roberson. “The vegan options sell very well.”


The best way to find these food vendors is to follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. All three plan to be at concerts and events at Thompson’s Point this season, and all are regulars at the city’s many breweries and on The Eastern Prom.

Wherever he’s parked, Falafel Mafia owner Gardner said he’s eager to pair the family’s falafel with a changing array of local greens and vegetables.

“August and September are the best months for produce in Maine,” Gardner said. “It’s going to get really exciting.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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