CAMBRIDGE - Allison Fong loves bahn mi. So to make up for the region's scarcity of that Vietnamese sandwich staple, she started a business named Bon Me.
"I really liked eating bahn mi sandwiches and I felt that Boston didn't have enough of them," she said. "We entered a food truck contest sponsored by the City of Boston. They were looking for food truck concepts that were exciting and healthy, and we were one of the three winners."
Flash forward four years, and what started as an idea has become a booming business with six food trucks, and multiple quick service restaurants with locations in Chestnut Hill, Fort Point and two in Cambridge. Once you try their food, it's hard to eat anywhere else.
"People say that our food is addictive. We have people that come almost five days a week and they just wait outside in the hot sun, in the snow, in the rain."
Ordering at Bon Me is Simple.
"Our menu is really, really easy to navigate," Allison explained. "It's sort of a modular menu. So first you pick either a rice bowl, a sandwich, a noodle salad or a salad and then you get to pick a filling that goes with it. Then lastly there are a lot of these add-ons. We have these fun deviled tea eggs, edamame, as sides. We have desserts. We also have lots of house made drinks."
The must order menu item and inspiration for the restaurant's name is the bahn mi sandwich.
"Bahn mi sandwiches are actually a fusion food between Vietnamese and French cuisine. So you've got French baguette, the pate, the mayo stuffed with a lot of things that were Vietnamese. It's sort of like the best of two cultures put into a sandwich," Allison described.
"Our sandwich has a few twists on it. Almost all of our sandwiches come with a pork liver pate. We also put red onions in there and our mayo is a house made, spicy mayo, so we put a little twist on the classic sandwich."
You can have your sandwich stuffed with a mouthwatering Scallion and Ginger Chicken, or order Allison's go-to and fill it with the Miso Braised Pulled Pork for an explosion of flavor.
"You get some of the richness of the pate. You get a little kick from the spicy mayo, and then the miso pork. It's rich and salty and just yummy all together," she said.
While the fillings are fabulous, the key to this sandwich is definitely the bread.
"Our baguette is fairly light and crisp, but can hold everything together. So it's really important to have a bread that matches the filling, so when you bite into the sandwich you get a little bit of everything."
Equally as tasty are Bon Me's Rice Bowls.
"I love our rice bowls," Allison declared. "You get a choice of either brown or white rice and it comes with our signature sweet and sour pickles, a little bit of cilantro, a little bit of mesclun, plus you top it with a filling so you get a really filling and hearty meal, but you also get a lot of textures and flavors going on."
The perfect protein to add to your rice bowl has to be Bon Me's Chinese Barbecue Pork.
"Chinese barbecue pork is our take on traditional Chinese char siu pork. It's a little bit sweet, a little bit savory and there are chunks of sliced pork."
Both Soba and Rice noodle bowls come loaded up with mixed greens, carrots, onions and your choice of meat, like Spice Rubbed Chicken.
"Our spice rubbed chicken is chunks of chicken that we hand slice and it's been marinated and rubbed with a house made blend of spices," Allison explained. "It's not spicy, but it has a nice warm spice flavor to it."
Beyond sandwiches and bowls, Bon Me offers a stable of Asian inspired sides, like Fried Chicken flavored with lemongrass, and fries made with Japanese Sweet Potatoes.
"Japanese sweet potatoes that we use for our fries are not quite as sweet. We serve it with a spicy mayo and so I think the combination of the really crunchy exterior and sweet, but not super sweet, and spicy mayo go really well together."
For something deliciously different, Allison suggests ordering the Deviled Tea Egg.
"It is a hardboiled egg that's been soaked for two days in a soy and smoky tea mixture. We slice it in half and top it with our house made spicy mayo, a hint of cayenne and a little bit of scallion. It's a twist on an American deviled egg. When you bite into our deviled tea eggs, a lot of people are surprised because there's a lot of flavor. It almost tastes like bacon. It's something that you absolutely have to try."
After you've devoured all of that tasty Asian fare, finish your meal off with a dessert like the Chocolate Rice Pudding or Lime Panna Cotta. Since everything on the menu is so light and refreshing, you won't feel the guilt.
"That's the great thing about our concept," said Allison "is that you can have a really satisfying lunch that's also healthy."
With everything on the menu coming in at under $8, your wallet will feel healthy too when you take a bite of Bon Me. You can find Bon Me online at bonmetruck.com.
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