The wafting aromas of various cuisines fill the air in the Bon Air parking lot. A few people mingle around the large vehicles selling numerous cultural delicacies. Most of these individuals are workers from the mall and nearby offices, or shoppers dropping by to pick up their favorite meal.
Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m., a variety of specialty food trucks arrive at Bon Air: Banh Mi Zon Vietnamese Gourmet, Mai Thai Kitchen and Cousins Maine Lobster. The trucks are located just a few feet away from Jamba Juice, utilizing a parking lane to sell their food.
These three featured options allow one to choose from mouth-watering seafood to fragrant stir fried noodles to fresh, juicy sandwiches. As I explored the various trucks, I set out to see what $25 would get me at each.
Sporting a dark oak color decorated with images of delicious sandwiches and fresh ingredients, the Banh Mi Zon truck was the most colorful. Customers stood in line deciding what to order from a menu sign board. As I walked up to the window, the cashier greeted me with a friendly smile. Service is quick and once I placed my order, I was able to read a brief history of the Banh Mi sandwich painted on the truck’s side while waiting for my food.
The signature Banh Mi sandwiches are, without a doubt, the main attraction. From the 10 options, I chose the BBQ pork sandwich ($7.50). Wrapped in brown wax paper and delicately sealed with a red sticker, a delectable aroma rose from the contents when I ripped open the package. Inside, a large French baguette sat overflowing with crisp green vegetables.
As I took my first bite into the sandwich, all the ingredients came together perfectly. The bread had a crunchy crust and was nice and fluffy inside. Perfectly seasoned, savory pieces of meat lined the bottom layer of the baguette. Filling the rest of the sandwich, a variety of vegetables provided a cool aftertaste. Warning!—be sure to ask for no jalapeños if you can’t handle spice; I learned the hard way.
Showcasing three rolls with plentiful shrimp and greens, the fresh spring rolls ($7.50) came premade in a clear plastic container. The rolls stuck to my hand, giving me a negative first impression. However, their taste redeemed them. The shrimp were savory, while the mint and vegetables were refreshing. Supplying a cool flavor overall, the rolls may have tasted better with the addition of a dipping sauce.
The vermicelli bowl ($12.00) was ample enough to be a meal itself, as it combined BBQ pork with lightly pickled vegetables and vermicelli noodles. Each piece of pork was rich with flavor, enhanced by the infused marinade of lemon grass, garlic and soy. The vegetables and noodles balanced out the dish, contrasting the meaty taste with a cool one. There was also a light sweet and sour sauce that coated the dish, giving a little bit of a kick.
Mai Thai Kitchen stood out as the most exotic truck, with its bold pink color and a large purple elephant painted on its side. Multiple sign boards covered the wall of the truck displaying menu items in large laminated photos. After the cashier took my order, I could see the cook light the stove and start making my food with fresh ingredients.
Acting as an appetizer, the crispy spring rolls ($6.00) arrived in a portion of three with a sweet and sour sauce. Biting down revealed a crunchy coating, followed by a refreshing taste from a mixture of glass noodles, cabbage and carrots. The sauce was tangy, adding just the right amount of zest. Flavor aside, the only downside was the size of the rolls, which seemed a bit too small.
The flank steak skewers ($8.00) exceeded all expectations. Four skewers laid crowded in a paper food tray, supplying a generous portion of three pieces of beef on each stick. The meat, cooked medium-rare, was juicy and savory, with the perfect amount of seasoning. A peanut dipping sauce also accompanied the dish, which was very light yet saturated the beef with flavor.
The largest of the three dishes, the pad thai with shrimp ($10.00) consisted of plenty of noodles, shrimp and vegetables. All of the ingredients blended well together. The sweet noodles contrasted the savory shrimp and the vegetables refreshed my palate. This being said, the sauce was a bit too tart for me. Digging into the bottom of the dish, the sauce drenched the noodles, making them a little soggy.
Establishing itself as the most famous truck with the owners’ appearance and success on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Cousins Maine Lobster was, by far, the busiest. Groups of people crowded around the menu, briefly deciding what to order before being greeted by the cashier. Service is fast, with each order produced in less than five minutes. Waiting for food, one can admire the multiple news broadcasting networks the owners, who are cousins, have been on, which are all pictured in a neat row on top of the truck.
The Maine lobster roll ($17.00) was, hands down, the most delicious item. Large, succulent pieces of lobster gushed out of the sandwich. The meat was buttery, melting in my mouth, and tasted freshly caught. A layer of mayo coated the bottom, adding a sweet touch. Perfectly toasted bread held together the contents, which showed no signs of sogginess.
Golden brown tater tots ($6.00) arrived in a paper food tray, filling it to the brim. Each tot was pipping hot and appeared to be freshly fried. The potatoes were crispy, with just enough seasoning and salt.
To my surprise, the Cape Cod chips ($2.00) turned out to be regular, supermarket brand chips. This, along with the extravagant price of the lobster roll, were the only downsides to the authentic Maine feel.
Overall, these food trucks were a fun way to try different kinds of cuisine, offering quality food at reasonable prices. My only wish is that they could be available closer to Redwood.