Mark Hannibal said he chose the name for his new business because he wants people to know it was all about having fun.

Marko Loco’s Crazy Good Food is a Mexican-style concession that operates out of a mobile canteen truck. Hannibal and his wife, Megan Cressler, came up with the idea after returning from a trip to the West Coast to adopt their daughter, who was born Dec. 13.

“While we were out there, we came across these taco trucks,” said Hannibal. “They were parked anywhere. One truck was just pulled over in a wide spot in the road near a winery.”

Lower prices, contact with chef highlight street concessions

Hannibal said prices were low at the mobile concessions, and they were often family-run operations.

“You can get tacos for two bucks,” he said. “It was authentic food. Great stuff.”

In addition to $2.50 tacos, Hannibal will sell burritos for $6 and a small Mexican salad for $5.

Hannibal has been an instructor at Waldo County Technical Center since 2007 and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He worked in the kitchens at The Sail Loft and Cappy’s and owned and operated Hannibals Cafe in Union from 1993 to 2006.

He said the concession would allow his sons to join him and Cressler in their summer employment and that he liked the casual way food trucks engage the public.

Restaurant dining involves large staffs, and customers purchase plates with side dishes. These and other factors make the cost of a restaurant meal higher than that of food from a concession truck. Hannibal said tacos were the Mexican equivalent of hot dogs, except they require the cook to blend ingredients and make sauces.

“You have to make the taco taste good,” he said. “I’m good at it.”

“I haven’t been in a commercial kitchen in five years,” he said. He said he liked the way food helps people connect with one another. In a food truck, customers have direct access to the chef, he said.

After three days of operation, Hannibal was optimistic.

“I had 150 fans on Facebook before I’d sold a taco,” he said. Hannibal said online social networking connects customers in San Diego through a single site where they can identify the truck or cuisine they are looking for, and find its location in real time.

In spite of his hopes for success, Hannibal has no intentions of quitting his job at WCTC.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I love working with the kids.” He said he has had one student go on to CIA and three accepted in the culinary program at Southern Maine Community College.

“They have a great program there,” he said.

Number of locations grows

So far, Marko Loco’s has gained permission from the city of Rockland to operate according to his plan of using vacant public parking spaces as vending sites. He had the truck fitted out with a fire suppression system, something that is not required for the short-term stays of most festival food concessions, but is needed for a victualer’s license in Rockland and other municipalities.

With that license, Hannibal will be able to park his truck in the two parking spaces required by its length, and open his service windows to the Rockland sidewalk, “like they do in the rest of the country,” he said.

The operation can not impeded or obstruct vehicle or pedestrian traffic, and Hannibal said he plans to set up his truck on side streets and in other places where local workers can easily come to get their food, without getting caught in summer tourist traffic.

In Union, Hannibal has a permit from the town and an agreement with Mic Mac Market on Route 17. He is hoping to get permission to set up near the Maritime Farms store and is looking into the prospect of selling at farmers markets.

Public perception hampers permits

At the July 5 meeting of the Camden Select Board, Hannibal was told that town had no provision in its ordinances for a mobile food concession. He said he has permission from a property owner to set up in a lot on Route 1, but that a fast food business is not allowed in that zone.

Camden Code Enforcement Officer Steve Wilson said permitting mobile food vendors was “kind of a gray area.”

Wilson said that type of business could operate in the B2 Highway District, the B1 Downtown District and the BR River District, as long as it met any conditions set for the district. He said food vendors need permission from the owners of the property where they plan to do business, before seeking permits from the town.

Wilson said a Good Humor ice cream truck that has been seen and heard in Midcoast towns this summer had no permit in Camden, and that he asked the police department and lake warden to notify the operator of that concession that he must stop selling in the town.

“People are having a hard time conceptualizing what we’re doing,” said Hannibal. “They see the Smoothie Shack, Scott’s Place, and Duos in Rockland.” While those businesses run out of trucks or trailers, their locations are fixed. People don’t have experience with transient businesses, he said.

“I just want to have fun,” said Hannibal. “I don’t want to be tied to one location. He said he wants friends from Belfast to Rockland, and in Knox County’s non-coastal communities, to be able to find him in their neighborhoods.

“I want to share my enthusiasm for food,” he said. “I love the Mexican culture, the music and the food.”

“Mobile vendors have been around forever,” he said. “In the early days, people were making bread and rolling it around in carts. People made food in their apartments and hawked it on the streets.” He said today’s mobile vendors incorporate social media and “cool trucks” into a traditional way of sharing food.

Hannibal said he was too late to get in the gate, but has an off-festival site during the North Atlantic Blues Festival, July 16 and 17. Marko Loco’s Crazy Good Food will be at the Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show, Aug. 12 through 14; both events take place on the Rockland waterfront.

Updates on Marko Loco’s Crazy Good Food can be found at Facebook, by searching for Marko Loco Tacos.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.