70 Carleton St
Cambridge, MA 02142
Welcome to a new food blog on Cambridge.com! This is Food Truck Fridays, where each week I’ll pick a Cambridge food truck to spotlight. I recently visited the Kendall/MIT area to check out a little truck with an interesting name: Momogoose.
What in the world does this mean? “Momo” is a shortened version for “more eating, more sharing,” and “goose” is simply a name the creators borrowed from an older restaurant, Poppa & Goose.
(Looking for more? Click here for this cool book I found on Food Truck recipes. The messier, the better!)
Momogoose is a bright red truck that you can find parked along Carleton Street, usually ahead of several others. On it are the words “Asian Bistro” and “Dessert Bar.” The Momogoose logo occupies a humble space on the driver’s door.
One may be wondering how a food truck acquires business if parked on such a seemingly quiet street. After all, as the saying goes, location is everything. The creators of Momogoose know this.
Not far from the truck is a train entrance to Kendall Station. Passing trains mean one thing: waves of people exiting the station, and when the clock strikes 12, they’re usually hungry. Momogoose is already there and waiting for them.
The MIT area is generally a great place to attract customers who are already familiar with the deliciousness of Asian cuisine.
MIT is home to a sizable number of Asian American students, among other ethnicities. Momogoose does not only aim to provide for those familiar with Asian cuisine, but acquaint newcomers with it as well. There’s something for everyone here.
Momogoose: Then and Now
The manager of the Momogoose truck, Eliza, gave me a little bit of background info about this restaurant on wheels. With a hint of pride in her voice, she said that Momogoose is one of the first food trucks to appear in Boston.
Founded by MIT alumni, it has made its rounds in a number of neighborhoods for over 20 years and remains extremely popular to this day. The secret must lie, not only in the quality of food, but the variety. Asian cuisine is extremely diverse, after all.
Eliza told me, “We serve Thai food, Chinese, Vietnamese, and a little bit of Indian food, too. We make meals with meat, while others are completely vegan. There is always something for our customers to enjoy.”
The menu proves this, taking up half of the space on the truck and continuing on several small chalkboards at the order counter. Below the counter are several coolers filled with ice and water, lemonade, and soda.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking [wheelless] restaurants are the only eateries that get slammed with hungry patrons. According to Eliza, Momogoose has regular periods of heavy traffic.
When I arrived, the chefs were hard at work. All four of them wore plastic gloves and sported caps or bandanas to cover their hair. It was impressive to watch them move about so swiftly in such a tiny truck.
As I watched them fill multiple bowls with fresh greens and shredded carrot, Eliza explained to me their need to rush: “From about 12 to 1:30, we get many, many customers. Nonstop.”
She extended her arm towards the inbound train station entrance about 30 yards away.
“The line has gone that far sometimes,” she said. It was 11 AM at the time; the staff had less than an hour to prep.
Momogoose: Getting to know your customers
When you park a food truck along the same street nearly every day, you’ll most likely come to recognize your patrons.
During our conversation, Eliza nodded at a string of passing men in suits and told me, “Oh, they work at the bank.” She was probably referring to the Cambridge Trust Company, which is not far from of where the truck was parked.
I admired the matter-of-fact way she said this. In fact, watching Eliza occasionally pause our discussion to wave to passersby (who returned the gesture) or inquire about their wellbeing gave me a better idea of Momogoose’s business philosophy: the customer matters most.
This sentiment manifests itself in other ways as well, like on one of the chalkboard signs at the order window.
Titled “Love It or Leave It,” this brief message encourages dissatisfied customers to return their meal to the window so that it can either be remade or exchanged for something tastier.
At one point, a gentleman stopped by and tried to order an item not on that day’s menu. Immediately after breaking the news to him, Eliza asked if he enjoyed spicy food and, from there, convinced him to try one of their curry dishes instead.
Momogoose never wants to disappoint, and should this ever happen, it would like a second chance.
My meal at Momogoose
After watching the chefs prep the fresh ingredients in the kitchen and discussing Momogoose’s success with Eliza, I couldn’t wait to sample something from the menu. I was given so many options that it took a few minutes for me to reach a decision.
Momogoose offers a build-your-bowl for just $5. For this special, customers choose their preferred base (rice, noodles, greens, etc.), a protein (spicy pork, Korean BBQ, etc.), and a “make it special” option of extra veggies, grain, or protein.
Other meal options include soup, pan-seared dumplings, vegetarian rolls, and more. As for me, I saw the words “fresh baguette” scrawled on one of the menu chalkboards along with “grilled pork” and knew I had to order a sandwich.
In minutes, the chefs cranked out a crispy baguette sandwich containing sliced grilled pork, fresh greens, shredded carrot, and a spicy orange sauce.
Eliza sweetly offered me a bottle of lemonade, whose brand is Saté Grill, a sister company of Momogoose.
I sat at a nearby bench and tore into my sandwich. The pork was moist and I could hear the greens crunching in my mouth. The crispness of the ingredients was balanced out beautifully by the spicy orange sauce, which turned out to be mayo mixed with sriracha.
And what better way to wash down a spicy lunch than with a cold beverage? The lemonade was both sweet and refreshing.
If you’re ever in the MIT area and are looking for some inexpensive Asian cuisine to chow down on, take a brief walk down Carleton Street and pay Momogoose a visit.
Just look for the little red truck with the interesting name!
-Jeannine Hennawi, Contributing Writer