Nothing draws more student crowds than the promise of free food, and that is exactly what occurs at the Annual Taste of Portland last Wednesday. Food trucks and booths gathered to show off their stuff while students milled about to sample foods of several different vendors. A success in the past, this year was no different. The Wishcamper lawn outside the Glickman library never smelled so delicious.
Portland’s food community is more alive than ever, sizzling its way into 8th place in The Huffington Post’s “Best Restaurant Cities in the Nation” by the Huffington Post. These tasty hidden gems often hide around busy streets in the Old Port. Taste of Portland helps to change that, offering students accessibility to foods and business they might otherwise not have known about.
This year students sampled food and drinks from Leonardo’s Pizza, Coffee by Design, Kamasouptra, The Marshmallow Cart, and many more. Curtis Scott, an employee of Leonardo’s Pizza, said the event will definitely bring more business to the shop.
“Most of our business is students,” he explained. “We deliver fast too, people are always surprised. We’re the best pizza in Portland!” Navid Rohani, a junior Human Biology major, disagreed. “I think Otto’s Pizza was scrumdiddlyumptious,” he exclaimed. Rohani believes Portland has one of the best food communities in the U.S.
Every year, USM hosts a welcome week for students with several events. The Taste of Portland event was part of this series. At the first Taste of Portland in September 2013, Chris O’Connor, the director of Portland Student Life, talked about the events formation. “One of the things we think about when we plan USM events is that students love free food, and Portland is known for this food truck phenomenon. Student love these food trucks so this year we thought ‘why not try something different?’ and it’s been widely more popular than we could’ve imagined.”
Lily Denmeade, an undeclared freshman is originally from Vermont but heard about the quality of Portland’s restaurants, which didn’t hurt her decision to go to USM. Denmeade said she’ll continue exploring the cities food options after The Taste of Portland. Taking his place behind his marshmallow cart was Madison Gouzie. This particular food vendor sells artisanal street-side roasted s’mores on homemade graham crackers, warm and gooey rice krispie treats and belgian waffles. They also make flavored marshmallows. At this event, his specialty marshmallow flavors included root beer, coconut and vanilla.
Hailing from Westbrook, he and his friend from college started the cart, experimenting with recipes and perfecting flavors. Their business has taken off from there. They’ve gotten quite a bit of good press and have made it to the second round of the entrepreneurial game show, Shark Tank. The episode is set to air in a few weeks, so look for them! The duo has operated out of New York City, where they did very well, but they wanted to get back to Portland.
“The food scene here right now is awesome because it’s still growing,” said Gouzie. “I run into other cart’s all the time. If you go downtown, you see so many carts, all with so many different options.”
Some of Portland’s most famous food trucks what weren’t in attendance on Wednesday are El Corazón, a trendy Mexican truck, famous for their hot dogs and fish tacos. You can scout them out on Temple or Strong Street. The more nomadic The Muthah Truckah sells an impressive array of sandwiches. Love Kupcakes is extremely popular, vending organic, local cupcakes out of a 1960’s travel trailer. Check out their twitter to see where they’ll be selling their sweets next! FoodTrucksIn.com is also a great website to help track your favorite trucks throughout the streets of Portland.
Maggie Coffin, an undeclared freshman, partakes in Portland’s food culture all time. “I support it because it’s just really different from anything else. It’s so welcoming, different, and eclectic,” she explained. “There are so many choices. In central Maine, you just have Texas Roadhouse.”
So if you’re a USM student, do not hesitant to support Portland’s vivacious and growing food scene. Whether you choose a sit down restaurant or a food truck, you’re sure to have a quality meal. Try some authentic Asian cuisine, test your spicy tolerance with some Mexican, or grab from a large variety of good-old American hamburgers. Portland’s food culture is waiting for you.