Kyle “Fred” McNair was in Portland’s Old Port when an idea hit him. It was around closing time for many bars and he saw a line out the door for Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Seeing that line, he realized two things: one, Five Guys was making quite a bit of money staying open late, and two, that there obviously weren’t many late-night options for food in Portland. So what did he decide to do? Start a fried dough cart, of course.
The decision for fried dough makes sense, once you hear Kyle’s reasons. Growing up in the 845, Hudson Valley, NY, he’d visited his aunt in Biddeford and made many treks to the pier at Old Orchard Beach. On the pier, what do you find? Fried dough. And what was one thing that Portland most certainly didn’t have? Fried dough.
So, in 2018—with no background in baking, food service, or experience owning his own business—Kyle picked up a food cart on Craigslist, started an LLC, and by 2019 was slinging dough.
Kyle is a self-described hustler—and one look at Fred’s Fried Dough Instagram account verifies that fact. When the weather is warm enough, Kyle posts up every Friday outside of High Roller Lobster Co. for Fred’s Fried Dough Fridays. Outside of that, you’ll find him across Maine: at the Brunswick Airshow, posted up around Portland, even doing the ingenious idea of slinging fried dough at weddings.
Kyle said that as a fifth-grader, he’d buy four-packs of Bubblicious gum and sell them individually to other kids. So the urge to do his own thing, business-wise, runs deep.
That’s not to say that he’s running his fried dough cart just for the money. His fried dough is vegan. He’s hard at work on a gluten-free fried dough. He has multiple toppings beyond the staple of powdered sugar, including cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate too. Now, three years into his business, he’s busier than ever.
So why did he choose Maine? Growing up in Newburgh, New York, Kyle harbored dreams of living in Biddeford, where he’d spent those summers with his aunt. Around 2015, Kyle decided to make the leap and move to Maine. But, after looking into it, he found that Portland was more his speed, with its nightlife, food scene, and wealth of opportunities to hustle. Now, six years later, Kyle’s fried dough is a Portland staple, the answer to your late-night cravings.
You can keep an eye out for Fred’s Fried Dough cart on Instagram or Facebook at @fredsfrieddough, and you can contact him to book him for your next get-together at [email protected].
Written by our fabulous volunteer blogger Brett Willis