Hoangie's Banh Mi on Wheels Food Truck

>> Thursday, March 22, 2012

Date of Dining: 3/22/2012
Price: $7-9 per Banh Mi
Location: Food Truck Weekly Schedule:
Monday - 4000 Ruffin Rd
Tuesday - 8945 Rehco Rd
Wednesday - 5600 Oberlin Dr
Thursday - 9540 Towne Centre Dr
Friday: Greer Dr and Shoreham Pl
website


The Quick Bit:
+ authentic Vietnamese flavors on a food truck
+ fast friendly service
+ large selection of beverages
Δ price could be more reflective of banh mi
Δ protein choices could reflect more authenticity


It has been awhile since I covered food trucks, and I apologize for the lack of coverage for those interested. I can't promise that I will be covering more food trucks, but I do plan to try and try out more of them in the near future.
Hoangie's Food Truck is a truck that specializes in serving Vietnamese Sandwiches otherwise known as banh mi. The concept of selling Banh Mi on a food truck was popularized by the Nom Nom Truck in the first season of The Great Food Truck Race. With the success of the truck and the popularity of the show, I'm actually more surprised that we haven't seen another Banh Mi truck in San Diego even earlier.
Hoangie's is a family owned and run operation. The name of the truck is a pun on the Hoang family's name along with the hoagie roll, which resembles the French roll that banh mi is served in. Upon ordering at the truck, one is greeted by the effusively friendly and positive smile of Jenny Hoang, who takes the order and then calls it out to her brother(s) working the line. By the time Jenny finishes taking an order, the previous order is usually ready to be picked up.
The sandwiches offered by Hoangie's consist of the same basic banh mi fillings - pickled daikon, pickled carrots, jalapeno, cilantro, cucumber, and spicy aioli - along with several different protein choices - free-range chicken, rib eye, pork butt, ground sirloin hamburger, tuna, or panko crusted tofu. It should be noted that while the chicken is free range, none of the other proteins are of abnormal quality.
oink banh mi
I settled on the oink banh mi as it is the most popular sandwich. While I wasn't floored by my first bite, but the end of the first half of the sandwich, the flavors started to win me over. The pork contained the great flavor of pork and was complemented by the sweet pickled flavors of the daikon and carrot. The jalapeno and aioli added a spicy contrast that built up on my palate and had enjoying the flavor contrast. These flavor contrasts demonstrate some of the basic tenants of Vietnamese cuisine. 
While the sandwich won on flavors, it did fall a bit short in some areas. The temperature of the protein was lukewarm, and the bread was cold. I also felt that the inclusion of the spicy aioli was trying a bit too hard to dress up the banh mi - traditional banh mi contain butter and perhaps some pate spread.
vietnamese (pork) egg rolls
I also took the opportunity to order the vietnamese egg rolls. Freshly out of the fryer, these egg rolls were well-made traditional vietnamese egg rolls. Instead of the traditional fish sauce dip, they were instead accompanied by the spicy aoili sauce. While I ate these, I found myself missing the fish sauce dip as well as the lettuce wrap and mint that usually accompany egg rolls.

Conclusion:
If I had been given the food for free and asked to judge whether it had come from a restaurant or food truck, I probably wouldn't be able to differentiate; the food that Hoangie's serves is on par with the better Vietnamese restaurants in San Diego.
Unfortunately I did pay for the food, which brings up my biggest issue with Hoangie's. While the size of the Hoangie's Banh Mi is about 1.5 times larger than other restaurants, the price of the sandwich is about double. Furthermore, at a restaurant the egg rolls usually cost twice as much, but one receives six egg rolls as well as accompanying vegetables. 
At the price point set by Hoangie's, I want a little more differentiation - the ingredients need to be higher quality or there needs to be more innovation in the cuisine. While the chicken is free range and reflective of the higher quality, the other proteins lack any special quality to differentiate them.
Ultimately Hoangie's is making tasty food, but should perhaps consider prices in comparison to both other food trucks and other brick and mortar Vietnamese restaurants.

5 comments:

Michelle Tran March 24, 2012 at 9:44 PM  

Just found out they're at my workplace on Tuesdays. I shall give this $7-$9 banh mi a try...

James March 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM  

@Michelle, please post back and let me know what you think. I kinda wished they had a pate one - maybe as a secret menu item.

Michelle Tran April 3, 2012 at 12:54 PM  

I'm eating their Oink banh mi right now. I don't think it's anything special. The pork is room temperature, flavor is good but nothing spectacular. I like the aioli, but I also miss the pate. There is something about the bread that I don't really like. Don't know if it's the bread itself or if perhaps it's slightly stale. But I also had a banh mi from Cali Baguette Express just this weekend and they have awesome bread so I could be comparing to theirs. If Hoangie's lowered their price, I might eat there out of convenience, but I would not go out of my way for it. Oh yeah, I also ordered their Vietnamese iced coffee. Worst I've ever had :(. It tastes more like iced milk with hint of coffee.

James April 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM  

@Michelle - I agree with you that Cali Baguette Express offers a better product at cheaper price. It is good to get some validation from an expert though :)

Michelle Tran April 3, 2012 at 5:31 PM  

Pfft! You're the food connoisseur here!

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
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