It's like when you see a band make it big and tell all your friends about when you saw them at some dive back in the day. Some of my favorite food trucks are spawning brick and mortar establishments. Clover already has 3 or 4 falafel-dispensing locations, Mei Mei is planning a spot in Audobon Circle, and tonight, I popped in at Bon Me's soft opening at 1 Kendall Square.
The space seems to have been carved, perhaps literally, out of the lobby of the building that houses The Friendly Toast and West Bridge above the tomb of Think Tank, whose wifi, oddly, was still on. Four tables, eight chairs, two bars with four stools each - definitely more seating than the trucks. Bon Me blue dominates one wall and the rest of the place is chrome, slate and dark wood. The menu - and prices - look just about the same as the trucks' perhaps with an occasional special or dessert.
I got the BBQ pork sandwich because under the benchmark rule, you have to stick with a staple, a classic, or at least something you've had before to properly evaluate a new place. In honor of absent truckonaut B, I had some Thai basil lemonade, and to take back to professor M, some chocolate rice pudding to go.
No surprises, and that's a good thing. Maybe a little service glitch with the ticket printer down, but that's to be expected in the first few days, that's what a soft opening is for, after all. The BBQ pork was zesty, the bread crusty, the carrots crunchy, the pate livery, the mayo spicy, the cilantro uppity, everything in its place and as it should be, dare I say it maybe a tiny bit better than at the truck. This is a $6 sandwich, $8 if you somehow think you need "extra meat," and really, I love this stuff, but I'm pretty sure you do not need extra meat. Same price as at the truck, and you get a roof over your head and music, too.
What of this trend? Will the trucks lose their edge when they go all conventional with seats and stuff? I'm doubtful, at least if they keep their eyes on the prize. A small restaurant with a small menu isn't so different from a truck, and I'm optimistic that great trucks like Bon Me and Mei Mei will be able to stay focused and creative. All that time working out of a truck has kept them close to their customers and solidified their operational discipline, I just hope the cost structure holds up. For once, I'm impressed with a line extension.