Logan Abbey of George’s North Shore is one of several area food truck operators in the process of opening brick-and-mortar restaurants this season. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

In the roughly 10 years since Portland first codified its food truck rules, many popular mobile meal operations have made the leap into opening brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The conversion of food trucks into dining establishments with a fixed address sometimes happens in waves. About six years ago, eight or more trucks became restaurants, including Japanese street food truck Mami opening an eatery on Fore Street in Portland, Bite Into Maine launching a space in Scarborough, and the Small Axe truck becoming East Ender on Middle Street in Portland.

This season, a new batch of food trucks and carts are opening brick-and-mortar locations, including George’s North Shore, a truck specializing in roast beef sandwiches that is opening as George + Leon’s Famous Roast Beef in Westbrook; sourdough pizza truck Quanto Basta, opening at 249 Congress St. in Portland; Rebel Cheesesteaks, opening at 649 Congress St. in Portland; and Yolked Farm to Table, launching in Windham.

For a food truck owner, launching an actual restaurant is often a dream come true. But it’s also leveling up by an order of magnitude, requiring more money, time, staff and dedication.

Talk to the budding restaurateurs about their conversion projects and you find that while the path to a fixed location contains seemingly endless hurdles and serious financial investments, they feel the potential rewards are worth the stress.

“If you had talked to me three years ago, I’d have said I’d never do it,” said George’s North Shore owner Logan Abbey, who launched his truck in the summer of 2020. “They both present their own kinds of challenges, but there’s a big step between food truck and brick and mortar.”


“It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,” said Yolked Farm to Table truck chef and co-owner Jesse Bouchard, who hopes to open his new restaurant before Memorial Day. “But when you’re working for yourself and you’re building your own dream, it’s not as bad.”

Co-owner Suzanne Dawson makes Buffalo Chik’n Wraps in the kitchen at the new Curbside Comforts restaurant in Gorham. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


Abbey’s late father, himself a former restaurant owner, actually counseled his son some years ago against entering the field.

“One piece of advice he always gave me was, ‘Never open a restaurant,'” Abbey recalled, chuckling. “But I think he’d be very proud of me, because I’ve really taken a lot of steps to create a career out of this.”

Originally from Newburyport, Massachusetts, Abbey started his George’s North Shore truck to celebrate the comfort foods of his youth, in particular, a North Shore staple known as a “three-way”: rare roast beef shaved thinly on a griddled onion roll with American cheese, mayo and a tangy barbecue sauce.

“The food I’m doing is executed well, but it’s simple,” Abbey said. “I’m not trying to elevate anything drastically.”


Abbey counted on finding the support of Massachusetts transplants in Maine, and said he earned their repeat business practically from the start.

“We have a very devoted cult following who know what these sandwiches are, it doesn’t matter where we are,” he said. “That’s when you know it’s good. We have people who come every day. Their cholesterol, I can’t imagine.”

Logan Abbey inside his George’s North Shore food truck. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

At the start of this year, Abbey announced that he’d be moving into the former Brea Lu Cafe space on Cumberland Street in Westbrook; Brea Lu is now in the midst of moving to a new location on Main Street, also in Westbrook.

After renovations to the interior, Abbey hopes to have the space ready to open by late June. The project has so far been twice as costly for Abbey as it was to launch his food truck.

“It was a very slow build to get to where we are today, which is how we wanted it. I didn’t want to jump the gun. I really wanted to make sure we were ready for it. And I think we are now, and we have a pretty solid staff,” Abbey said. “It’s a big investment, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it would work.”

Rebel Cheesesteaks owner Peter Murphy said opening his West End location is costing about $250,000 – mostly from a small business loan. That’s 10 times what he spent to start his food cart four years ago.


Murphy is a native of Princeton, New Jersey, and like Abbey, wanted to share some treats from his home region with Mainers. He said it had been his hope even as he launched his cart in May 2019 to open a restaurant eventually, and he started looking at potential locations in January 2020.

But the pandemic, and the pricing spikes it caused, made the transition seem daunting to Murphy. The cost of his beef alone has jumped about $2.50 per pound since 2020.

Murphy also took time during the COVID era for necessary reflection.

“It gave me the opportunity to really think about what I was looking to open, what our brand stood for and what I thought the Portland market needed,” Murphy said. “I was really grateful to not have staff and a full restaurant at that point. I only had to worry about myself.”

Rebel Cheesesteaks is going into the former Local Sprouts Co-Op at 649 Congress St., a huge, 3,000-square-foot space that can seat as many as 65, which amounts to scaling up and then some for a food cart towed by an electric bicycle. But Murphy said he expects to put the entire footprint to use over time.

“Finding a space where we could grow and expand naturally was really important to me,” he said, noting that he hopes the West End location will help draw local residents, and that the nearby State Theater will help fortify his business during the winter months.


“I’m not starting from square one,” Murphy said. “Having the cart is a boon in the sense that I have a proven product. We have a brand. I’ve been able and lucky enough to make a ton of connections in this city already.

“The food and beverage community here in Portland has received this business and myself with open arms,” he continued. “I don’t think I would be as confident in this venture if it weren’t for all that love and support.”

Jesse and Mindy Bouchard have operated the Yolked food truck for almost four years. They’ve made the leap to brick and mortar and are building out their restaurant – the interior shown here – on Route 302 in Windham. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Like Murphy, Jesse Bouchard of Yolked Farm to Table always saw his food truck as a means to opening his own restaurant.

“Owning a restaurant isn’t something you can just jump into,” he said. “I needed to start somewhere, and the food truck was a great start.”

Bouchard, formerly executive chef at Piper Shores retirement community in Scarborough and Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, decided to cash out half his 401k and bought a food truck about four years ago with a roughly $30,000 investment.


Opening the new restaurant with his wife and partner, Mindy, is proving to be about 10 times the cost of starting the truck, he said.

From July 2019 until last fall, the Bouchards had been operating their food truck from a fixed location, on the lot of NU Brewery in New Gloucester.

“We opened right before COVID. Everybody likes a challenge,” Bouchard joked. “But we were perfectly placed in the market for takeout and curbside pickup. It became so much more than I thought it would be.”

But the couple found the truck limiting, particularly since they weren’t able to capitalize on alcohol sales. “I was missing out on half the market,” Bouchard said.

As a trained chef, Bouchard also wanted to flex his fine dining muscles. And while he was able to offer elevated takes of comforting classics featuring farm-fresh product, there’s just so much two people working in a 120-square-foot space can do.

By contrast, his forthcoming restaurant, a former carpet store at 868 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, features a 1,225-square-feet kitchen. The extra space will allow Bouchard to produce a variety of new dishes, including desserts and baked goods from a bakery area in the kitchen, handmade pastas, and a full selection of appetizers like mussels and local charcuterie.


Equal in space to the kitchen, the restaurant’s dining room is designed to have a barn aesthetic with exposed beams and vaulted ceilings. “Being able to have a proper dining room and entertain the way we like to with our families and friends will be a big advantage,” Mindy Bouchard said.

Co-owner Suzanne Dawson outside Curbside Comforts restaurant in Gorham in April. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

In neighboring Gorham, former vegan food truck Curbside Comforts was similarly able to expand its offerings to include a full line of vegan ice cream when it opened as a restaurant a year ago at 680 Gray Rd. As a truck, Curbside Comforts had specialized in vegan versions of comfort foods, dishes like mac-and-cheese, plant-based chicken tenders, and burgers and fries.

Curbside Comforts co-owner Suzanne Dawson said the space, formerly Sweet Life Ice Cream Shop and Cafe, came fully equipped with ice cream equipment, including soft-serve machines. She’d wanted to sell vegan ice cream from the 18-foot food truck she’d bought in January 2021, but the small soft-serve machine she had wouldn’t operate properly inside the hot vehicle, where summer temps sometimes hit as high as 117 degrees.

Dawson doesn’t miss the hassles of food truck life, from vying for parking spaces to working sometimes from 6:30 a.m. until after midnight. Last summer was a successful first season for Curbside Comforts as a takeout-only restaurant, and they did enough business that they hope to be able to stay open seven days a week this summer.

Still, Dawson and her partner, Trent Grace, found that the year-round business model comes with built-in challenges of its own, particularly in a seasonal region.

“Sales were incredibly slow this past winter,” Dawson said. “So slow that this coming winter, we’re planning to close for January and February. We weren’t able to meet our minimum most days, and that was tough.”



Like the other new restaurant owners, Betsy English is counting on her ability to scale up at her Congress Street location, formerly the home of LB Kitchen.  With her truck, a 1959 Morris Minor that she outfitted with two pizza ovens, English was able to turn out as many as 75 sourdough pizzas a day.

In the restaurant space, where her new Italian oven can bake up to six pies at once, English said she should be able to crank out 175 pizzas or more on a good day.

Quanto Basta’s new home also has a backyard space, a rare and coveted feature for Portland restaurants, where she plans to park her food truck, though she may get it up and running again in 2024 if her business is secure.

“I started as a food truck, and I really wanted there to be that connection between the food truck and the brick and mortar,” English said. “But I need to focus on getting up and running first, and feeling confident in what we’re producing.”

Co-owner Trent Grace puts out an open sign at Curbside Comforts restaurant. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Dawson sold the Curbside Comforts truck last November, answering the question these entrepreneurs inevitably face in the conversion process: What to do with the food truck once the restaurant opens?


The Bouchards have listed their own truck for sale, though it’s currently operating in front of their restaurant space, and doing double-duty as a marketing tool.

“We wanted to be visible to a new customer base,” said Mindy Bouchard. “And we’ve met so many people since moving here. People are beeping their horns as they go by, they’re excited.”

Murphy will rest the Rebel Cheesesteak cart this season as he gets his restaurant going, though like English, he may resurrect it next year.

“Even though I was only open four days a week with the cart, it was a full seven-day job,” Murphy said. “I just didn’t have the energy or time to be able to do the cart and focus on this next venture.”

Abbey said he expects staff to operate the George’s North Shore truck three days a week this season, even after his restaurant opens. “We’re kind of crazy,” Abbey said. “But it’s extra income, and with the new restaurant, we need it.”

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