The Picnic-style roll, with coleslaw, celery salt, and butter.
Photo Credit : Mike Urban
Perched on a grassy rise near the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Bite into Maine’s popular lobster truck (which is technically a trailer, but we’ll stick with the more common term) serves tasty lobster rolls and more to visitors to historic Fort Williams Park. Bite into Maine owners Sarah and Karl Sutton love to say that they have “the best office view ever,” thanks to their coveted spot overlooking the park, lighthouse, and craggy ocean shore. Who can argue with that?
So how does a Maine lobster truck come to be? The Suttons moved to Maine more than a decade ago from Minnesota, where they worked primarily in graphic arts. Settling in Portland, they became instantly enamored of lobster rolls, and eventually they hit upon the idea of buying a food truck and selling lobster rolls in the area. Around 2011, they applied for permission to have a truck in Fort Williams Park; given their rookie status, they were somewhat surprised when they got it.
They shopped around for a utility trailer (the park didn’t allow full-blown food trucks), found one that met their needs, and outfitted it for their fledgling business. Since then, Bite into Maine has become an integral part of the lobster roll scene in the Portland area. Food and Wine hailed the Bite into Maine lobster roll as one of the best in the nation, and more recently BuzzFeed Food and Yelp put it at the head of their list of the top 25 lobster rolls in America.
What makes Bite into Maine really special is the six (yes, six) varieties of lobster rolls that it serves. First, there’s the Maine-style roll, dressed in mayonnaise and fresh chives and served in a toasted, buttered split-top bun. The Connecticut-style roll features warm lobster meat with melted Cabot butter over the top. Things get more inventive with the picnic-style roll, which features a bed of homemade coleslaw tucked into the bun, topped by lobster meat, sprinkled with celery salt, then bathed in butter.
The Suttons break exotic new ground with their three other lobster rolls: wasabi, curry, and chipotle. The seasonings are blended into the mayo and mixed with the lobster meat in quantities that enhance but never overpower the flavor of the lobster. These rolls have proved to be wildly popular, especially with the local crowd, which is used to inventive cuisine from Portland’s scores of eateries.
The rest of the menu is simple and homegrown: a basic grilled cheese sandwich, creamy red potato salad, a vegetarian caprese sandwich, potato chips, and whoopie pies. Maine-made sodas and Moxie are the beverages of choice.
Since there are size restrictions for food service setups in the park, the Suttons picked their trailer carefully and spent two years fine-tuning the interior in order to best serve the large crowds that seek them out in the summertime. Inside the trailer, there’s a small griddle for toasting the buns and sandwiches, a preparation table stocked with lobster meat and accompaniments, a small refrigeration unit, and not much else. When the trailer is at its peak of operation, in the middle of summer, there may be as many as four or five people working cheek-by-jowl in the tight space, but the Suttons have engineered it to work efficiently and effectively.
The success of Bite into Maine has inspired the Suttons to expand into two new venues. One is an Airstream trailer parked next to the Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, serving up lobster rolls on weekends to the craft beer crowd. The other is a brand-new bricks-and-mortar eatery on U.S. Route 1 in nearby Scarborough, adjacent to the kitchen where the Suttons do all their prep work for the mobile food operation.
It’s not easy to carve out a niche in Maine’s lobster roll scene, but Karl and Sarah Sutton have done so impressively, leaving natives and visitors alike delighted with the results.
Have you ever visited the Bite into Maine lobster truck?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.