Fort Williams Park is a 15-minute drive south of Portland, Maine. It boasts verdant fields in the summer, panoramic coastal views and the oldest lighthouse in the state, the Portland Head Light. But recent years have seen the rise of another attraction that’s been rivaling the park’s pictorial landmarks: the Bite Into Maine food truck. For the last five years, owners and husband-and-wife tandem Karl and Sarah Sutton have been dishing out what Food & Wine has dubbed one of “America’s Best Lobster Rolls”. And people are lining up for them.
In a state that’s well known for lobster rolls, Bite Into Maine is unique. They only use real butter; their sauces and salads are made from scratch (except potato salad); and, most importantly, they never use frozen lobster meat. “A lot of year-round places don’t have any other option than to use other frozen lobster meat,” says Sarah Sutton, which explains why they’re only open from May to the end of October. “We’re in Maine and we’re going to offer the highest-quality ingredients. That’s just one of our things.” The lobster meat is sourced from Ready Seafood Co., a company that works with local fishermen in nearby Scarborough. Sutton says they rarely use tail meat, calling it too tough, and opt for knuckle and claw meat instead. As for bread, they use a traditional New England-style hot dog roll that’s made by a Portland bakery named Sorella’s.
The Suttons’ food truck caters to a variety of palates by selling six types of lobster rolls: Maine (also called a Classic), Connecticut, picnic, wasabi, curry and chipotle. When asked which is their most popular, Sutton says there’s no contest. “Out of every 10 rolls, eight will probably be classic. Actually, it depends. For locals, if they get the picnic roll they usually never go back.” The primary difference between each roll is their sauce. The Maine-style roll is mayonnaise-based, while their Connecticut uses butter. As for their picnic roll, that sits on a bed of coleslaw. Ultimately it doesn’t matter which lobster roll you order (they’re all delicious; I tried them all) because you’re getting more than a great meal. Standing on a cliff that’s overlooking a crashing shoreline and a historic lighthouse, while eating a fresh lobster roll underneath a flapping American flag — you’re getting a quintessential Maine experience.
There weren’t any food truck ordinances in Portland when Karl and Sarah first wanted to open Bite Into Maine. Seeing as Portland was an up-and-coming “foodie” city, the couple found this odd. Meanwhile, nearby Fort Williams Park opened up a food vendor program, which Sutton says has “basically the most photographed lighthouse in America.” So the couple decided to open up their truck there instead. “It’s turned out to a perfect location for what we do. We would never leave now. It’s like a true Maine experience.”
For visitors looking to find Bite Into Maine’s food truck, it’s usually in their allotted spot in Fort Williams Park every day during the summer (Friday through Monday during the shoulder seasons). But to make sure, check their website ahead of time. In addition to serving out of their food truck, they’re able to book special events and weddings upon request.
Bite Into Maine’s Maine-Style Lobster Roll
Serves four people
1 pound cooked fresh Maine lobster meat, chilled
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably extra heavy (see Cook’s Note)
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more if needed
4 New England-style hot dog rolls (see Cook’s Note)
Minced fresh chives, for topping
1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
1. Cut and tear the lobster meat into large chunks, closely checking for bits of shell. Keep the claws as intact as possible for the best presentation.
2. In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix the lobster meat with the mayonnaise, coating evenly. The more chilled the mayonnaise, the better it will coat.
3. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, liberally brush the melted butter on both sides of the hot dog rolls and place in the skillet. Toast each side to a golden-brown color, using more butter as needed.
4. Fill each roll with about 4 ounces of the lobster mixture. Sprinkle the tops with chives. Serve with a lemon wedge, which can also be squeezed on top.
5. Serve immediately — the goal is to serve when you still have a warm, buttery roll with the cool creamy lobster meat. Enjoyed best with a view of the ocean.
1. Extra-heavy mayonnaise, which has extra yolks added, is thicker and richer than regular mayonnaise.
2. New England-style hot dog rolls are split-top rolls with flat sides. If you are unable to find them in your area, try using another roll and slice the sides flat for a greater grilling surface.