Bon Me Oh My!


IMG_2189One of my regrets upon leaving Vietnam last year was that I never tried a Vietnamese coffee. I heard a rumor the night before we caught our flight that Vietnamese coffee was an artistic creation of strong brewed coffee with a layer of condensed milk that was more of an experience than a coffee.

When I heard Bon Me was coming to Providence, I cognitively caught the play on words related to the Vietnamese Bánh Mì sandwich, but I did not consider until I was face-to-face with the bright yellow food truck, staring at the menu, that this Asian influenced cuisine would also serve Vietnamese iced coffee. Eureka! This was just one of the many perks I discovered at Bon Me’s soft opening at Brown University, a preview of their soon-to-be Monday, Wednesday, Friday appearances on Waterman Street in the heart of College Hill.

Bon Me is a Boston-based truck that was founded in 2011 by two Boston natives, Ali Fong and Patrick Lynch, who first created the concept for a Food Truck Contest — just on a whim — and won. Now, seven years after their debut, Bon Me is driving south to Providence to add to our culinary-minded city a new touch of diversity and delicious offerings.

IMG_2187I must admit, when I first saw the “Bold, Fresh, and Fun Asian Cuisine” label, my mind went straight to noodles and rice bowls — and while Bon Me does have those options, their signature dish is a sandwich, inspired by (although not identical to) its  bánh mì namesake.

There are several creative ways to build this sandwich, which consists of a large toasted baguette, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, cilantro, red onion, housemade spicy mayo and housemade pork pâté (an important side note: they are very conscious of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets, so recipes can be modified accordingly. For example, there’s a vegetarian spread that can be used in lieu of the pâté) — and for spicy food lovers, jalapeños are available upon request. Inside the sandwich, you can choose your protein: Chinese BBQ pork, miso-braised pulled pork, GF spice rubbed chicken, and the vegetarian/vegan options of roasted soy and paprika tofu or spicy sesame chickpeas.

IMG_2185My friend Morgan went with the traditional Chinese BBQ pork, both sweet and savory, and I went with the newest option, the spicy sesame chickpeas. While we waited, we sipped spicy ginger lemonade (“This is absolutely my new favorite drink,” she said) and Vietnamese iced coffee — what a twist on iced coffee! It’s unlike any other iced coffee I’ve had, and “an experience” is probably the most accurate way to describe it. They’re also offering a Dirty Chai, a collaboration between Bon Me and New Harvest that blends New Harvest’s iced coffee with a touch of spices and condensed milk. It’s a great hybrid between New England Iced Coffee and the Vietnamese version.

IMG_2188We also couldn’t resist the lure of the deviled tea egg as a side order, complete with spicy mayo, cayenne and scallions. A word of caution: you may become addicted to the spicy mayo, one of their in-house recipes. “If we can make it from scratch, we will,” they told us.

The sandwiches themselves were deceptively huge, and even after I planned to save half for later, I devoured the entire thing. The flakey fresh bread, the fiery chickpeas, the combination of flavors and textures was a perfect storm leading to mass consumption. Morgan and I sat in the warmth of her car, silently nodding our approval with our mouths full. “I’m definitely returning here,” she concluded.

IMG_2186This food truck is a welcome addition to our community, not only for its particular food niche, but also because Bon Me wants to become a part of the community. During their grand opening in Kennedy Plaza on March 27, they are charging “pay as you want” donations, and all proceeds will go to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. They’ve already lined up other events to benefit the local food pantry and hope to create a sense of community. As for the folks on College Hill, Bon Me’s March 14 grand opening will include free half samples of their signature Bon Me Sandwich — and believe me, a half portion is a filling meal.

Adventurous eaters and restricted eaters, all are welcome to this yellow truck brightening our streets. Surprise your taste buds. You may just find yourself leaving, not with a meal, but with an experience.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Waterman Street, on Brown Campus

Tuesday, Thursday (beginning March 27th), Kennedy Plaza, PVD


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