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Lunch, Anyone? Mei Mei

Food truck expands to a restaurant, just steps from campus

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A note to all you BU foodies who feel like your sophisticated palates have to take a backseat to the time constraints set by exams, labs, and part-time jobs. The popular food truck Mei Mei has recently expanded to a brick-and-mortar restaurant of the same name, not 10 minutes from Mugar Memorial Library. Tucked away in a small space at the corner of Park Drive and Buswell Street, it serves the same contemporary Asian-American food with big flavor that has had fans flocking to its food truck.

Mei Mei’s fare is a blend of trendy farm-to-table locavore items and Asian comfort food classics. Many of the ingredients—from cornmeal to produce to cheese—are grown and produced locally.

We arrived at noon on a recent Friday to a line of patrons nearly spilling out the door. We discovered that guests can either order food to go or seat themselves in Mei Mei’s sleek oak and pine dining space, which accommodates about 40 people. There’s no table service at lunch, so either way, customers join the same line to order from one of the friendly cashiers. The place resembles a classy cafeteria—once your name is called, you pick up your order on a tray at the counter. Lunchers are also expected to bus their table when done.

The lunchtime crowd at Mei Mei is noticeably young—tables were studded with hip 20-somethings clutching chopsticks in one hand and smartphones in the other. The air was filled with lively chatter, laughter, and the sound of plates and knives clanking in the busy open kitchen.

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One of Mei Mei’s fresh takes on a sandwich, the Double Awesome features cheddar cheese, pesto made from local greens, and poached-then-fried eggs, all wrapped in a scallion pancake.

We chose what to have from the giant chalkboard menu on one of the walls. Our selections ran the gamut from savory to sweet. First up was the Gabby ($8), a creative sandwich with winter squash coated in garlic hummus and peppered with honey-feta, crunchy peanuts, crispy fried shallots, and tender local greens, all wrapped in a delicious scallion pancake. The sandwich’s individual flavors and textures combined to produce a brilliant dish.

The Gabby paired well with our next dish, the Charred Cabbage Salad ($5 for a side, $8 for main dish), an exceptionally tasty mix of tart apple slices, creamy feta cheese, garlic panko breadcrumbs, and a tangy black bean vinaigrette that elevated the main ingredient, the frequently overlooked cabbage. One taste should convert even the staunchest cabbage skeptic.

Despite reservations about ordering dumplings (often greasy, we’ve found), we took a chance and ordered Sweet Potato and Sage Dumplings ($7.50). Not only were they not greasy, their crispy exterior pleasantly offset the sweet potato, sage, brown butter, and feta cheese filling. The plate’s real prizewinner, however, turned out to be the scoop of Sriracha-infused fried rice and the pile of house-pickled carrots accompanying the dumplings. A sprig of cilantro offered an interesting flourish.

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Sweet Potato Sage Dumplings (from left), the Gabby, and the Charred Cabbage Salad are some of many tasty vegetarian options.

Equally memorable was another scallion pancake sandwich, the Double Awesome ($7). This is the meal for anyone who loves all-day breakfasts. Sharp Vermont cheddar cheese and flavor-bolstering pesto made from local greens enveloped two perfectly poached-then-fried eggs. For an extra $2, you can add house made deli ham or bacon.

Rounding out our meal was Mei Mei’s homemade granola ($5). Fresh, crunchy, and creamy, this sweet concoction mixed oats, rye, toasted squash seeds, and a sweet local berry compote with thick and tangy Rhode Island yogurt. A good palate cleanser, it also makes a pick-me-up snack between study sessions.

Mei Mei recently applied for—and was denied—a liquor license. But its refreshing drinks ($2.50 to $3) include Spindrift soda, made with fresh juices and grapefruit, orange mango or lemon seltzer, and Haymaker’s Punch—apple cider vinegar, local honey, and fruit bitters.

Overall, our experience at Mei Mei was dynamite. This youthful restaurant’s food is uniquely flavorful and affordable, and it’s served up quickly—all in all a mealtime spot not to be missed.

Mei Mei Restaurant, 506 Park Drive, Boston, is open daily; hours: for lunch (counter-service), from 11 a.m. to  5 p.m., and dinner (table-service), from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; phone: 857-250-4959. By public transportation take an MBTA Green Line C trolley to Saint Mary’s Street, walk east along Beacon Street, and take a left on Park Drive to Buswell Street. Mei Mei’s food truck schedule can be found online here.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below. Check out our list of lunchtime tips on Foursquare.

Sascha Garrey can be reached at sgarrey@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @saschagarrey.

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