Tacos La Poblanita has a stall in the food court at the Maine Mall. Photo by Megan Gray

Malls have the kinds of smells I often associate with being a teenager. I think I still have a headache from the overpowering colognes of the trendy stores I visited with my friends. There’s the too-sweet-vanilla-cupcake scent from a candle store, and the combination of spritzes from three different tester bottles of body spray. Fifteen-year-old me could probably follow my nose to a buttery Auntie Anne’s pretzel from deep inside a fitting room a mile away.

The Midwest mall where I grew up did not have the enticing aroma of Tacos La Poblanita, however. This local business started as a food truck and opened its first location at the Maine Mall in South Portland last year and a second location recently in Westbrook. When my husband and I visited the mall location for a weeknight dinner, I wished I could have spent my busgirl tips there instead of on whatever disappointing cookie I probably bought 15-plus years ago.

We arrived as mall traffic was winding down for the day and had our pick of food court tables. The menu included tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, enchiladas and quesadillas. An additional sign advertised several new items in neat, handwritten letters: tacos de birria, tamales, empanadas, corn and nachos.

I chose the tacos de birria ($5.50 each or three for $15), while my date picked a California burrito with carnitas ($13.75). We also ordered bottles of Jarritos from the cooler to drink (guava for me, mandarin for him). The employees were friendly and fast; our food was ready in less than 10 minutes. I’m glad we didn’t wait long because I could suddenly smell fresh and spicy aromas from the kitchen, and my mouth was watering. Both meals came with chips and two salsas, and we felt like we got a lot for our money.

Tacos de birria from Tacos La Poblanita in the Maine Mall food court. Photo by Megan Gray

My tacos were full of tender beef and melty cheese, and the tortillas had been fried perfectly. My hands were quickly covered in juices that required all the napkins that came with our order, and I would have happily ruined my work outfit by wiping my hands on it just for those tacos. They were that delicious. Maybe that’s another benefit of setting up shop in a place where I could buy a new white shirt? The salsas (especially the salsa verde) were perfect accompaniments, and my soda had just the right sweetness to balance the subtle heat.

I was quite full from my three tacos but still managed to taste a bite of my husband’s sizeable burrito. It was flavorful and filled with meat, cheese, beans, fried potatoes and salsa de arbol. His only regret was not adding guacamole, but we will definitely be back. I’m so glad this business has grown (and that both locations are conveniently located near my workplace).

My nose led me wrong with the body sprays years ago, but it definitely did not disappoint me now.

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