When school began last year, the train I rode to class almost consistently passed a bright blue food truck parked in the Boston University area.
It took a number of train rides to decipher the large lettering printed on the side of the truck, which didn’t appear to be English: Bome? Bone-something?
…Bon Me, got it.
Because I rarely passed Boston University campus on foot, I only came in contact with the truck during a morning or afternoon commute. When I found out this food company caters to a Cambridge crowd as well, I decided to visit it in Harvard Yard this past week.
(Make your own Vietnamese dishes! Click here for delicious recipes.)
About Bon Me
You can say Bon Me began with a husband and wife, an unwanted DHL delivery truck, and a dream. In 2010, Patrick Lynch and Alison Fong unexpectedly won the City of Boston Food Truck Contest.
From this victory blossomed a new opportunity for the couple: to create their very own food truck business. So they got their hands on a used DHL truck, constructed a delicious Vietnamese-inspired menu, and Bon Me was born a year later.
Along with a restaurant in Kendall Square, there are now four Bon Me trucks touring Boston and Cambridge. I use the word “touring” because these vehicles have a reputation for blowing into town and garnering lengthy lines of customers from the surrounding area.
It isn’t difficult to spot a Bon Me truck. Their lines are usually enough of an indicator, sure, but even the trucks give themselves away.
Sometimes they’re blue and other times they’re orange, red, or even yellow. I like to think of the design as “flashy, but classy.” These colors enhance Bon Me’s image as a provider of fun and new cuisine.
The Bon Me Menu
Speaking of the food: what does Bon Me have to offer? Vietnamese, yes, but Patrick Lynch and Alison Fong sought to transform this cuisine in a way that would have even college students (second pickiest of eaters, next to kids) lining up for lunch.
The star sandwich in Vietnamese cooking is known as the báhn mì sandwich, which was originally made by combining two slices of crispy French baguette smeared with liver pâté. But that was one of the earliest representations of a báhn mì sandwich.
Nowadays, it can be made using two baguette slices smeared with mayo, sliced cucumber, cilantro, carrots, soy sauce, and whatever protein your little heart desires. This recipe, of course, is open for edits, which Bon Me takes advantage of.
Their menu is sweet, simple, and to the point. No ongoing list of possibilities or anything that’ll slow down the line. Here’s how it works, in four easy steps:
- Select the dish you’d like: a rice bowl, a sandwich, or a noodle salad.
- Choose a filling: decisions, decisions. Among others, there’s Chinese BBQ pork, spice-rubbed chicken, and roasted soy & paprika tofu.
- Choose your drink: spicy-ginger lemonade? Thai basil iced tea? Vietnamese iced coffee? Be adventurous!
- Help yourself to some extras: There are deviled tea eggs and chocolate rice pudding for just $2.50 more!
My meal at Bon Me
I crossed the green Harvard Yard to get to the food truck, which was parked in front of the Science Center. It was warm out, almost scorching if you stood directly under the sun, so that, to me, is good weather for eating outdoors.
When I first contacted a Bon Me representative a few days prior about scheduling my visit, I was politely warned that it’d be difficult to interview the employees on-site because the truck is so popular.
This was not an exaggeration—upon arriving at noon, I was already facing a line of hungry customers. From where I stood, I could see several employees within the truck. They scribbled orders, clipped them up for preparation, spooned food, and distributed it in boxes to those in waiting.
As the line shortened (or, more accurately, as the line lengthened but my place in it advanced to the front of the truck), I caught a better glimpse of the menu. It only took a minute or two before I decided I’d try a BBQ pork sandwich with a Thai iced tea. I’ve never had Thai iced tea before.
I know what you’re thinking: my order sounds awfully familiar. Perhaps this is because, save the iced tea, it’s the same meal I selected from the Momogoose menu in my first Food Truck Fridays entry.
I was thinking that because both trucks serve Vietnamese food and therefore have this sandwich on their menu, it’d be interesting to take note of new ingredients and preparation techniques, if I could find any. That, and I’m a diehard fan of BBQ pork.
It’s important to note that if you make your way to the Science Center and find the oh-so-familiar chain of patient customers gathered outside the truck, don’t fear. The line moves very quickly. I ordered only about five or six minutes after arriving.
Last summer, I worked at an ice cream shop and dealt with nonstop rushes of customers on a near-nightly basis. I remember feeling so dizzy and frustrated throughout the chaos that it was a miracle if anyone got a smile from me upon receiving their order.
But despite the customer rush happening before me in eighty-degree weather, the Bon Me employees worked with an impressively timely rhythm and still managed to stay in high spirits.The young woman who called me for my order had mispronounced my name and still had the patience to laugh about it, so bravo for good-natured employees.
There’s a large clearing outside the Science Center meant for hanging out/dining. Here, one can find small café tables complete with chairs and long lunch tables blanketed with tent-like coverings for shade. I chose the latter, having stood in the sun too long.
Sampling the Bon Me menu
The pork in my sandwich was grilled to a point where the edges were blackened and had a pleasant charred flavor. I may or may not have snuck a few cubes into my mouth first—before biting into the crispy baguette. This pork also seemed a bit saltier than the pork I had eaten at Momogoose, which was delightful.
At one point I opened my sandwich to take a closer look at the ingredients. I could make out lots of shredded carrot, fresh greens, diced onion, and some cucumber. I don’t think I’ve ever sampled a sandwich with cucumber before. Delicious!
And, of course, there was the orange-tinted sauce. It tasted similar to the Momogoose sauce, which was blended mayo and sriracha.
The Thai iced tea was great. I sipped and sipped but couldn’t find the right words to describe the flavor. At one point, I almost asked the shy diner sitting beside me if he could give me a hand.
In terms of appearance, it looked like iced coffee. It had a sort of creamy flavor and—don’t laugh at me—each sip reminded me of Easter. Perhaps because, amongst the creaminess, it also had that sweet, lemony kick I probably recognize from various candies my mom used to buy for the holiday.
I do hope to return to Bon Me in the near future to sample the BBQ pork again (nope, the protein is not changing, ever) but over white rice this time around. I had forgotten this was an option until after I’d ordered.
It’s all good, though—just another reason to come back!