BELFAST, Maine — From Jamaican jerk specialities to gourmet hot dogs, from lobster rolls to ice cream cones, the food truck scene this summer in Belfast is vast.
The often-brightly colored trucks — and one take-out joint on the waterfront — make an inviting place to grab lunch or a treat. Then, with your hands full of tasty takeaway, it’s easy to find a comfortable place to plop down on the city’s waterfront and enjoy the summer weather as you dine.
Here’s the city’s current crop of downtown food trucks and where to find them.
Located along the Belfast Harbor Walk behind Front Street Pub.
Hours: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday.
The Jamaican Grille began its life nearly 20 years ago as a food truck painted in red, yellow and green Rasta colors that dished up jerk chicken and other delicacies around Belfast. Owner Jason Loblein, now 38, took a 14-year hiatus before opening in the middle of last summer behind Front Street Pub.
He knows Jamaican food because his family lives on the Caribbean island nation part of the year, and it’s important to him to get the flavors right.
“Jamaica is the first place I learned how to cook,” he said.
Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica. It’s derived from pit cooking, he said, and one of its characteristics is that the meat is cooked until it is so tender it falls off the bone. It’s also smoky and spicy, thanks to the scotch bonnet pepper that is a fixture of the seasoning along with salt and fresh thyme.
He doesn’t use citrus, pineapple or other fruits in his marinade, although Americans often expect jerk flavors to be fruity as well as spicy.
Loblein smokes his jerk chicken, pork ribs and steak tips over hardwood and wood from the pimento tree, which produces allspice berries, to get the flavors perfect.
He offers three meat options, three sauces and three side dishes — coconut rice and beans, “festival” or deep-fried cornbread and “sweet and tangy veg.” That last is shredded cabbage and carrot steamed with a bit of butter and vinegar.
Since opening last July, the Jamaican Grille has been a hit. He estimates that he prepares 400 pounds of chicken every week, doling up about 100 servings of jerk chicken a day.
“The only complaint we get is these portions are too big,” he said, adding that he’s looking towards opening a second location in the Portland area that would stay open year-round. “I would like to expand and move into a place with some indoor seating.”
Located at the Belfast Marina at 15 Front Street, just off the Harbor Walk and by Hamlin Marine. Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Thursday to Monday.
Jennifer Stewart and Cecil Armstrong are the driving force behind JC’s On-A-Roll, the city’s newest food truck. They are offering a wide variety of fare, including salad, lobster rolls, crab rolls, made-to-order burgers with locally-raised beef, hot dogs, fried chicken, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh hand-cut fries and blueberry lemonade.
For Stewart, opening the food truck is the culmination of a longtime dream. She worked for many years in the healthcare industry, most recently serving as the manager for a mental health group home.
“It was just very stressful during a worldwide pandemic,” she said. “I decided to follow my passion.”
For her, that’s cooking fresh, homemade fare and using local ingredients as often as possible. She’s making her own jam, salad dressings, sauerkraut and chili. Even the blueberry concentrate in the blueberry lemonade comes from her parents’ farm, Stewart’s Wild Maine Blueberries in Stockton Springs.
“Come down and see us,” Stewart said. “We’re trying to support local [farmers] and make homemade, yummy food.”
Stone Fox Farm Creamery
Located at the Belfast Marina at 15 Front Street.
Hours: from 12 – 6 p.m. daily.
The small-batch, homemade ice cream purveyors are back in the same waterfront location as last summer, with cones, milkshakes and sundaes on the menu.
“I think we’re going to be very, very busy,” owner Kathy Chamberlain said. “We already are.”
Although vanilla is the ice cream truck’s best-selling flavor year-in and year-out, she said, a few other options are in the mix, including salted caramel and chocolate salted caramel. A brand-new flavor, though, has quickly become one of her favorites: Oreo espresso, made with Oreo cookies and espresso ice cream.
“It’s delicious. Really super good,” she said.
Located on the Belfast Harbor Walk near Nautilus Restaurant and the public landing.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sundays.
At Doug Hufnagel’s distinctive green coffee cart, he serves up freshly ground and made pour-over coffee, iced coffee, hot and cold tea and hot and cold hot chocolate.
“That’s our oxymoron — iced hot chocolate,” he said with a laugh.
It’s not an elaborate menu, but it’s one that he has down to a science after more than three decades of parking his coffee cart outside festivals, concerts and the Common Ground Country Fair.
This year, sharp-eyed coffee fans might spot a few changes. One is a big map of Maine, which he encourages customers to mark with a pin showing where they are from. Another is that his small wind generator finally gave out this year, and he has replaced it with a solar panel. He uses the panel to power his lights, his water pump and a charger for cell phones and speakers.
Hufnagel still doesn’t take credit cards but is continuing to extend credit, something he feels sets him apart from other businesses. It’s also a generator of good karma.
“I was a little concerned at first,” he said. “But in two or three years out there, the only thing I’ve lost is a plastic milk crate. People are basically honest, as it turns out. I had one guy who came back this year who owed money from last year. He remembered it all year long — $2.50. People don’t like to have those small debts hanging over their heads, and it seems to me I haven’t had anybody stiff me yet.”
The Moody Dog
Located at 39 Main Street.
Hours: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Thursday – Tuesday.
Raymelle Moody is again slinging gourmet and classic hot dogs at her popular downtown food truck, which features hot dogs made by Portland’s Maine Family Farms and veggie dogs from her own recipe.
The hot dogs seem limited only by her expansive creativity. There’s a Beantown Dog, piled with baked beans, ketchup and grilled onions, a Cubano Dog, made with Swiss cheese, deli ham, dill pickle and yellow mustard, and the BLT Dog, with spicy mesclun greens, heirloom cherry tomatoes, local bacon and mayo.
This year, she’s adding a lobster slider to the menu, as well as a steak and cheese dog. That one features local beef sirloin shaved thin and sauteed with onions and pepperoncini before being topped with a slice of provolone, and she describes it as one of the chef’s new personal favorites.
Unlike last year, she is not also running a hot dog cart outside of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co., but instead is making food for the brewery to sell to its patrons.
Must Be Nice Lobster
Located in the parking lot behind the Brambles building at 2 Cross Street.
Hours: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday.
Lobsterman and entrepreneur Sadie Samuels once again is dishing up lobster rolls, crab rolls, hand-cut fries, hot dogs and burgers out of her lunch cart, which this year is parked in a more central location in downtown Belfast.