Sometimes, in the course of writing for this website, we get a little bit wound up over a new discovery. This is one of those times.
It’s not that ¡Que Rico!, the brightly-painted red food truck located smack on the water in Newcastle, is exactly new. Owners Sara McKenzie and Michael Castillo are starting their second season on the Damariscotta River, specializing in Mexican street-food-style tacos, burritos, and empanadas. It’s just that it’s taken this long for us to try it.
It would be easy to miss ¡Que Rico!, entering Damariscotta from the South, as the truck is located in a tiny slip of parking lot, between Parker Interiors and a shop called “Milling Around,” across from a defunct service station. And parking is at a premium; the food truck shares parking spaces with Milling Around, although there is ample on-street parking nearby, at least in the early spring, before the crowds arrive. Find a spot, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in town, with three picnic tables facing the onshore breeze, and a sole hammock chair, hanging from a branch facing the river, swaying gently in the sunshine.
The menu is simple, charmingly rendered in handwritten paint on both chalkboards and on paper takeaway menus. The focus here is on traditional Mexican tacos; in this case, flavorful piles of chicken, steak, chorizo, or carnitas, loaded onto soft corn tortillas and topped with lime-marinated onions. There are also a few strands of crunchy lettuce, perhaps in a nod to some Americans’ more Tex-Mex expectations for tacos, but probably just to add a little texture to the proceedings.
The menu also features quesadillas, “mulitas,” which are corn-tortilla quesadillas, and burritos, served in 12-inch flour tortillas, as well as gluten free rice bowl options for anyone entrenched in a gluten-free lifestyle. Drinks include a thoughtful selection of glass-bottled Mexican Coke (made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup), and assorted flavors of colorful “Jarritos,” an insanely sweet (and delicious) Mexican soda.
Service is appropriately informal for a food truck; owners Michael and Sara are quick to joke, good natured, and cheerful. Sodas are self-service, from a big ice-filled cooler out front (with a notoriously finicky hinged top), and food all arrives in paper trays or to-go containers.
We sampled one of each kind of regular taco, a fish taco, and a deep-fried chicken empanada, for good measure, washed down with a Tamarind Jarritos soda. It’s possible one of our dining companions smuggled in a beer in a paper cup, but that’s just between us. No need to broadcast it on the internet.
The street-style tacos were each delicious, with flavorful combinations of perfectly-seasoned meat served simply on warm, fluffy corn tortillas. The chorizo was a standout here, as was the Baja-style fish taco: A large, crunchy battered strip of haddock fillet, topped with pickled cabbage slaw, and chipotle crema to provide just the right amount of smoky bite. The emapanada was crispy, without being heavy, and filled to overflowing with chicken and cheese. More pickled cabbage slaw brought some welcome crunch and acidity to the mix, and made for a dish we would definitely order again.
Each dish we tried was perfectly paired with house-made salsas, ranging from “mild and green” to “spicy and smoky.” While each was delicious, we leaned hard into the green tomatatillo salsa, which brought a bright freshness to the other smoky, spicy flavors. And if spice is what you’re after, be sure to ask for the “back of the house” hot salsa; it walks the fine line of total palate-destruction carefully, and is for serious heat-eaters only.
Overall, we were very, very impressed by ¡Que Rico!, a definite new contender for “Best Tacos in Midcoast Maine.” Serving an array of street-style tacos simply not found in most local places, who tend toward heavier, crunchy-shell-sour-cream-ground-beef-bowls, the lighter, flavor-focused preparation is a welcome addition to our local casual dining scene. A satisfying lunch shouldn’t run you more than ten bucks at ¡Que Rico!, and the scenic seating makes for a wonderful place for a quick midday break.
All of the elements are in place. These guys are going to crush it this Summer, and we can’t wait to join the queue for more tacos.
¡Que Rico!: 67 Main St, Newcastle, ME 04553. (207) 650-8664. Facebook.