ROCKPORT — Take one part Los Angeles hairdresser with a yearning for burritos and one part Cambodia-reared elephant lover with a yen for spring rolls and you have a recipe for?

How about Rockport’s newest eatery, a quaint little roadside restaurant that offers the flavors of Southeast Asia and Southwest America — a charming sort of “spring rolls meet burracho burritos” kind of place with papaya salads and creamy coconut dressings all prepared and cooked in a cozy hand-built kitchen and served on natural-edge wood counters.

Nestled, if not shoehorned, neatly into a 20-foot square fire-engine red roadside building on Commercial Street near Pascal Avenue, it is called Street Food 330 and bills itself as the area’s only — maybe Maine’s only — destination eatery for the savored fares of Cambodia, Mexico and the American Southwest. All of the dishes are of the “vegetarial/pescatarian” genres.

The daily menu at Street Food 330 is displayed in color on a large chalk board. Photo by Jack Foley.

The brainchild of retired Los Angeles-area hairdresser Stephanie Turner and Cambodia-raised Marykate Moriarty — both have deep roots in Midcoast Maine — the eatery opened its doors in mid-September, after 18 months of dreaming and building and sessions with the town officials to secure the requisite approvals and restaurant permit.

If a recent Friday afternoon’s steady stream of customers is any indication, what began as off-handed chitchat between clips and colorings at Stephanie’s hair salon next door — Salon Suites by the Sea — the duo’s experiment in mainly fusion cuisine might be on target to becoming a Midcoast culinary hit.

The reception has been “really good,” Marykate said of their first two weeks. So good, in fact, that they ran out of food one day and had to make a quick run to Portland for real Asian fixings. That is something they do regularly because everything is made with authentic ingredients.

“We have gotten the most wonderful welcome from everyone,” Marykate said.

Marykate Moriarty, right, prepares an order as Stephanie Turner greets a new customer at Street Food 330 in Rockport, the new a Southeast Asian/American Southwest restaurant on Commercial Street. Photo by Jack Foley.

That the two ended up in business at all seems still to be a wondrous surprise to the pair as they navigate the tiny kitchen together like a mom and daughter in a ballet of happy harmony.

Stephanie, who has two grown sons and three grandchildren, grew up all over the country due to her dad’s work, but lived most of her adult life out West, mostly in California. There, she ran a  successful hair salon for years in Hermosa Beach, learning the nuances of the business as an owner.

But as a kid, she and her siblings summered every year with their grandparents in Hope. She  returned to the area as an adult in the 1980s for a while before heading west again.

She and her husband, Jim, married in 1999, but they met when both worked at the Waterfront Restaurant in Camden in 1985, he as a bartender, she as a cocktail waitress. They bought a home in Union five years ago and the return to Maine became permanent. Jim is a big part of the restaurant enterprise; basically, he built the place.

For her part, Marykate was born in New Hampshire. Then in 1996, at the age of 4, she moved with her family more than 8,500 miles away, to Cambodia, a country bordered by Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and the Gulf of Thailand. Her dad wanted his family to live in that part of the world, where he became involved in philanthropy work.

She grew up in Kampot, on the Gulf of Thailand, a town whose pepper is known as the best there is to chefs worldwide, she said.

Unlike kids here, growing up in Cambodia Marykate learned about UXO, unexploded ordinance; mines and shells and bombs fired and dropped but undetonated even years after the war that raged far beyond Vietnam. To this day, they kill and maim unsuspecting children and adults. In the first six months of 2022, such explosions caused 10 deaths and 30 injuries in Cambodia alone, 12 victims being under 18, according to that country’s English language Phnom Penh Post.

Marykate was also witness to the languishing impact of the war years on Kampot, which in 1974 was the scene of a ferocious, five week battle between the Cambodian Army and the rebel communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas, the latter victorious.

Growing up, she learned to cook Cambodian-style like a native, became equally fluent in Khmer, the national language, and would play in the nearby sprawling salt flats on the shores of the Praek Tuek Chhu River, where ocean water is captured and evaporates in diked enclosures before the salt harvest.

And all the way from Cambodia, Marykate, too, summered regularly as a child in Maine, with her mother’s family in Camden. She returned again in 2007 to attend Camden Hills Regional High School and was graduated in 2010.

The day after graduation, she was on a plane back to Cambodia, drawn mightily by what in effect became her real hometown and the font of so many childhood memories.  It was in Kampot that  she often found footprints of wild elephants in the dirt roads. It’s also where she gathered banana leaves from the front of the family house when word came that a man who could not afford to feed them by himself was taking the “town elephants” on one of their regular walks down her road. And it was where at her dad’s prodding each year she gave all of her Christmas toys to very poor children living in flimsy banana-leaf dwellings nearby.

That habit of giving still is evident. Recently, Marykate was queued up in her car to buy coffee and noticed a U.S. Marine Corps sticker on the vehicle behind her. She gave the cashier extra cash and told her it was for the Marine’s coffee. He pulled over and thanked her.

“I love my Marines,” she said.

So how did the two from-far-away folks get together and start a Maine restaurant?  They get a kick out of recounting how it all began — in the hair salon next door. Stephanie was cutting hair and Marykate was a client of another hairdresser at Salon Suites by the Sea. As Stephanie talked with her client she mentioned shopping for home cooking ingredients at Veranda Asian Market on Forest Avenue in Portland.

“My ears went up with that,” recalls Marykate, 31, who was getting her hair done in the next room and also shopped regularly at the Portland store.

The mother of three and married to lobstering sternman Jordan Roling, the couple lives in Rockport. Marykate had been to culinary school. But most recently, she ran the Angkor Wok Cambodian food cart at the Thresher Brewery on Main Street in Searsmont. The cart’s name is a takeoff on Angkor Wat, the sprawling 12th Century temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Back at the salon, an intrigued Stephanie listened intently to Marykate’s story and knew she had stumbled on a culinary kindred spirit.

But the two women had something else in common that made the bond they felt even stronger. Stephanie’s husband, Jim Turner, enlisted in the US Marine Corp at the age of 18 and served in Vietnam as a Huey helicopter gunner, she said. Marykate’s dad, who lives in Cambodia, also is a US Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War.

“When Marykate told me about her dad, it touched my heart. It was very much a part of the blended connection I formed with her,” said Stephanie.

She and Jim visited Vietnam and Cambodia 13 years ago. It was Jim’s first trip back since the war ended in 1975. “Many parts of it in Vietnam were emotional for Jim,” Stephanie recalled.

“So, I told her that I had an idea about burritos. Can I have your phone number? I haven’t told my husband yet.” she recalled saying excitedly.

They met soon after and the entrepreneurial  intrigue began, with both husbands on board.

When Stephanie, a real animal lover, mentioned the restaurant had to be meatless, Marykate replied, “I’m fine with that,” she recalled.

The interior of Street Food 330 was all hand built by Stephanie’s husband, Jim, a woodworker and high end wood finisher — from the natural-edge food ledges where seated guests eat, to the prep table and countertops and the racks for pots and pans and utensils.

The owners/founders of Street Food 330 work like a pas de deux in their tiny but well-appointed kitchen, in full view of customers with whom they keep up a friendly banter. Photo by Jack Foley.

Stephanie’s salon and its multiple private, individual business owner-rented rooms is staffed by an array of beauty care professionals and has been a big success, and it was a concept new to Maine, according to Stephanie.

She and Marykate see the restaurant in a similar light, noting the nearest other Cambodian eatery is in Massachusetts and great Southwestern fare is hard to find. Anyway, combining Cambodian with Southwest was a no-brainer because so many of the ingredients are the same and because it is something different, the women said.

“It is a concept that hasn’t been done in Maine,” said Stephanie, who has  “always had in the back of my head making burritos.” So, she hung up her comb and scissors, retired from hairdressing and went into the restaurant business with Marykate. Stephanie’s the burrito chef and Marykate cooks Asian.

Along Highway 1 in Rockport is an old boat decorated with the American flag and with the new eatery’s name, Street Food 330, lettered on the stern. Photo by Jack Foley.

Inside Street Food 330 (330 is the street address) there are a lot of veggies and fish and beans wrapped up in tacos, tortillas and translucent, delicate rice paper. Accompanying fillings range from long-simmered borracho and black beans to white fish, cilantro, cucumber, salmon and creamy coconut and peanut dressing.

You can get a traditional Vietnamese Bahn hoi, a bowl of vermicelli noodles, with lettuce, cucumber cilantro and topped with a garlic lime fish sauce, for $15.

Or Banh Xeo, a Vietnamese pancake, with tofu or shrimp, sweet onions, bean sprouts and more for $15.

The shredded green papaya salad includes long beans, tomatoes, cilantro and roasted peanuts tossed in tamarind dressing and goes for $6.

On the Southwest portion of the big, multi-colored chalk board menu, two fish tacos with sides are $14, the borracho bean and cheese quesadilla goes for $5 and the Americana burrito at $8 comes with black frijoles, lime cilantro rice, Mexican salad and a salsa of choice.

And while they are soaking up what feels like a delicious success, the women are quick to give an appreciative nod to Doug Clayton, who owns the salon and restaurant buildings and has been an enthusiastic supporter.

“You couldn’t ask for a better landlord,” Stephanie said.