On Portland’s Eastern Prom, the More Food Trucks the Merrier

After neighbors complained, the city’s food-truck hub went downhill — and that’s not a bad thing.

La Mega, parked on Portland's Eastern Prom
La Mega owner Joe Radano got his used Piaggio truck from Sicily and fitted it out as an espresso bar. Photo courtesy La Mega
By Will Grunewald
From our September 2022 issue

In recent years, the Eastern Promenade park became Portland’s food-truck hub, with a dozen or more mobile kitchens crowding the curb any given day. Customers lined the sidewalk and lingered on benches and picnic blankets, taking in views of Casco Bay. Residents along the Prom, though, weren’t universally enthused — some resented the lost parking spaces, the packed sidewalks, and the constant thrum of the portable generators the trucks rely on for power. Tensions came to a head earlier this year when city officials instituted a plan to relocate the trucks to a parking lot a few hundred feet downhill, away from homes. There were only 10 spots available, but the city got applications for 14, so it assigned spots by lottery.

One truck that missed out was Eighty 8 Donuts, maker of miniature, made-to-order doughnuts. Without Eighty 8 around, La Mega — a mobile espresso bar built into the back of a 1992 turquoise Piaggio Ape, a little three-wheeler delivery truck from Italy — would miss a key breakfast partner, as the Prom’s food trucks are otherwise geared toward lunch. Another lottery loser was Mr. Tuna, a sushi cart and longtime presence on the Prom. Owner Jordan Rubin organized a protest outside city hall. In short order, officials backtracked, determining that, based on truck dimensions, the parking lot could indeed accommodate 14 spots after all.

Now that the dust has settled, homes at the top of the Prom have their relief from noise and congestion. The trucks lost a little street-level visibility, but they didn’t have to move far, and customers still get to lounge in the park. One recent sunny weekday, La Mega and Eighty 8 Donuts were up and running early, serving a trickle of customers, and the lineup was in full swing by late morning, slinging falafel, pizza, tacos, and more.

Two of the trucks represented rather different sandwich traditions. Minh Nguyen and Vy Phan, owners of Vy Bánh Mì, moved to Maine from Vietnam a decade ago and brought their home country’s fusion-y sandwich that incorporates French imperialist influences — fresh baguette with mayo, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots, radishes, and jalapeños, plus proteins ranging from pâté to lemongrass beef to Cajun shrimp. Logan Abbey, meanwhile, moved to Maine from the not-so-distant North Shore of Massachusetts and opened George’s North Shore, offering that region’s specialty roast-beef sandwich: a buttered, griddled, and mayo-slathered bun loaded up with a heap of thinly sliced roast beef that’s smothered in barbecue-esque sauce.

For something sweet, Maine Maple Creemee Co., one of the trucks that initially lost out in the lottery, was dishing up its silky soft serve — two flavors daily: maple and a rotating one. The rotating option was strawberry, made with Maine fruit, just as the maple is made with Maine syrup — together, they made for a delicious twist in a house-made sugar cone. That day, another first-rate ice-cream truck, Gelato Fiasco, happened to be parked in the next spot over. A little redundant, maybe. But when it comes to food trucks on the Eastern Prom, the more the merrier.