When food trucks made their way into Boston culture, Bon Me was there to kick things off. This Vietnamese (with a twist) truck is all about great food and good vibes. We spoke with Jennifer Ngo of the Bon Me team to get a better idea of why so many people love this truck…including (Bon) me!
ROAMING HUNGER: What inspired you to open a food truck?
JENNIFER NGO: The food truck idea itself was pretty spontaneous. One of the owners, Pat, was looking for a job on the City of Boston website, when he saw the posting about the Food Truck Challenge. He told his wife, Ali — who has a culinary background — about it, and she thought it was a great idea and ran with it. It’s kind of crazy to think about, because nobody realized that the business would be as big and well-known as it is today.
RH: What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you inside a food truck?
JN: There’s a lot of funny stuff that happens, but our favorite food truck story is probably the day we decided to prank the Clover Food Truck. They’re well-known for their vegetarian offerings, and one day we wrote “$1 for our housemade bacon!” on their menu in dry erase marker. It took them a while to figure out, and then they pranked us back by writing something crazy on our menu that we didn’t realize for a while, and it went back and forth like that for days.
RH: What part of food trucking did you think would be popular that ended up not being so?
JN: Sometimes, you win some and you lose some. When we first started out, people were very critical of our menu offerings because of the twists we put on Vietnamese cuisine. The sandwich was a big point of discussion in our early days. A lot of people were off-put by the “lack of authenticity,” and one customer even claimed on Yelp that we were performing “highway robbery” since “real” banh mi is cheaper in Chinatown. However, now that our business is more well known, people understand that we’re not claiming to be authentic, but rather we like to serve up Vietnamese cuisine with a twist. It’s bold, fresh, and fun, just like our customers.
RH: What do you love most about running a food truck?
JN: The customers are great, and it’s awesome to see so many people taking part in the food truck revolution — especially considering the “roach coach” stereotypes that have been lingering around for decades. The cooking part is awesome too — Ali is such an innovative chef, and it’s amazing to see her come up with new twists and turns in her tasty recipes (which normally turn out to be specials on our trucks)!
RH: What sets you apart from other trucks?
JN: Our menu offerings are pretty unique — you can’t get the Bon Me Sandwich anywhere else! We also pride ourselves on making everything housemade that we can, the drinks, desserts, dressings, etc are all made by us.
RH: How would you describe your truck’s behind-the-scenes dynamic?
JN: Things are pretty playful behind the scenes at Bon Me. Our employees are great, fun people. The environment is fast-paced considering how much food we have to prep and the amount of customers we serve, but you’ll always be able to hear our classic 90s playlist jammin’ in the background.
RH: Where is street food culture heading?
JN: We’ve definitely seen an increase in food trucks in Boston within the past year. Like we said before, the “roach coach” mentality is one that’s been established for decades, but we’re hoping that the general public sees that this is changing and views food trucks as more of a gourmet option.
RH: What on your menu MUST I try?
JN: If you’re a meat eater, a BBQ Pork Bon Me Sandwich is something we highly recommend! (it’s a customer favorite!) For Vegetarians, we’ve got you covered with a brown rice bowl, tofu and shiitake mushrooms, drizzled with spicy peanut dressing. Yum.
by Sienna Mintz