Boston is very very slowly becoming a food truck-friendly city. And as part of that effort, the city of Boston is hosting a food truck competition, in which six finalists are competing for a spot on City Hall Plaza next spring. On Wednesday, each of the six finalists handed out free tastes of what they have to offer to a few hundred hungry Bostonians. Tasters could then vote for the three trucks they liked best. There was no shortage of people eager to weigh in. Some people waited on line for close to an hour in the chilly shadow of the City Hall building.
I’d say it was more than worth the wait for the food and friendly vendors you got to meet. And the tasting actually started before you even got to the tent, thanks to BBQ Smith, who handed out cups of their warm braised pork shoulder over cannellini beans with rosemary and braised kale with garlic.
The beans were tender and sweet and were flavorful with the taste of rosemary. These and the smokey kale would be a perfect warm and hearty lunch on a chilly day. (Additional kudos to Bon Me and World Eats for also passing out tastes to the hungry crowds on line).
Bon Me took pity on the hungry patrons on line and came out with a bowl of their miso-roasted butternut squash. This dish alone may have sold me on Bon Me. It was sweet and hearty, with a saltiness from the miso. Chopped scallions and black sesame seeds added a nice crunch to the otherwise tender dish.
Bon Me, clearly a play on”bahn mi,” the Vietnamese sandwich, offers Vietnamese-inspired sandwiches, rice bowls and noodle salads. They source as many ingredients locally as possible, including the squash served yesterday. Once inside the tent, Bon Me presented tastes of their noodle salad, as well as a sweet treat.
I absolutely love rice vermicelli, which they served with sliced beef. The noodles were tossed in a tangy dressing and topped with shredded carrot and cilantro. Further down the table, they had Vietnamese coffee blondies served on a stick. I had a Vietnamese coffee blondie one time in NY and I loved it. I realized that, other than ice cream, you don’t often see desserts that are only coffee-flavored. The coffee is usually combined with chocolate or another flavor. Have any of you seen any other non-ice cream desserts that are flavored with just coffee? These definitely tasted unique. They had the nice chewy consistency of a blondie but were less sweet and butter-laden than a traditional brown sugar or butterscotch blondie. Definitely for the dessert-eater who prefers complex flavors and subtle sweetness.
Bon Me rounded out their mini-meal with a cup of hot lemon ginger tea, which had a strong spicy ginger kick to it.
Next down the line was an old favorite, Clover. I was really hoping for some chickpea fritter or a taste of their newest sandwich with roasted turnips. Alas, no sandwiches, but they did have their beet salad with mint, feta, and pumpkin seeds that I tried over the summer at SoWa. Delicious, tender beets, with not too much oil, which was nice, as the beets provide enough moisture, and there is ample flavor from the cheese and herbs.
In addition to the salad, Clover had a thick and creamy pear and parsnip soup,
and mulled cider. I was happy to see Rolando, Clover’s famed chef, there to give tasters the full scoop on the truck and its dishes. He also told me that the much-anticipated Clover restaurant is set to open within the next week to two weeks! I’ll be very excited to have the full Clover menu be much more accessible to me, but at the same time, nothing beats ordering your food from a truck. By the way, Rolando just tweeted this photo of their breakfast sandwich. How amazing does that look?!
Next up was Lefty’s Silver Cart with soup and sandwiches. I first discovered Lefty’s at the Harvard Square farmers’ market last year and they have continued to be at the market this season about every other week. All of the warm soup was much appreciated on Wednesday. Lefty’s was serving up a mellow and slightly chunky Harvest Vegetable soup made with potato, leek, carrot, squash. The soup went beautifully with the tastes of fresh Iggy’s bread and cheese. They had both an olive bread and a French boule, and two cheeses, a gouda from Narraganset Creamery and fresh mozzarealla from Fiore di Nonno in Somerville. What I would do right now for one of their GRANNY-BE-GOOD sandwiches of grilled sour dough from iggy’s with cheddar cheese, granny smith apple, side of dark Taza chocolate.
Momogoose offers vegan and non-vegan Asian bistro fare as well as… cupcakes. They offer healthful dishes infused with South and Southeast Asian flavors. Possibly the coolest part about this truck is that for every meal sold, they donate a meal to a child in need through the United Nations school-feeding initiative. On Wednesday, they had two meat dishes, in addition to chewy brown rice, lightly steamed asparagus, and a sweet and crunchy mango slaw.
Momogoose may have gotten an extra point, or five, with their vegan cupcakes. I have had my fair share of vegan cakes, both good and bad, and I can honestly say this is one of the best I have tasted. If I hadn’t known it was vegan, I would have guessed it was not. The frosting really impressed me. I can usually detect a non butter-based frosting. This one did not taste buttery, but it also didn’t scream fake butter substitute. I’d be very curious to know how they make it.
The last of the trucks was World Eats, which focuses on making healthful dishes that represent a variety of cuisines from around the world that can also be found in Boston. They started by handing out tastes of their avocado mousse to people waiting in line. It was lightly sweet and very thick and creamy. This would be better eaten with a spoon, though, than slurped out of a cup.
Once inside the tent, World Eats had plates that included a mini eggplant parmesan on toast, a mini arepa with chicken, avocado and pickled cabbage, and more avocado mousse. I’m not normally a fan of eggplant parmesan but I found this little bite delightful. It had a slice of fresh tomato and the breading was not overly heavy.
I’d have to say, I would be thrilled with whichever of these trucks wins the competition for a spot on City Hall plaza. I like that most if not all of the trucks prioritize sourcing their ingredients locally. The practice of supporting local markets has come along way just in the past couple of years. I remember back in my first year of college when I wanted to bring more local food to our campus, people looked at me as though I wanted to install moving sidewalks. They thought it was odd and unnecessary. This competition is not the be all and end all of Boston food trucks. I hope that the city continues to become more and more accommodating of mobile food vendors. Especially if their offerings are of the caliber and quality demonstrated by the six finalists.
If you did not get a chance to sample the trucks on Wednesday, many of them can regularly be found throughout the city. Voting will remain open for the next few days. Vote here.