The Nammi food truck officially got rolling (poor pun intended) last week to much Internet fanfare. Social media was abuzz for the traveling Vietnamese food truck specializing in banh mi and Asian-influenced tacos. I was able to check out the colorful vehicle last Thursday and walked away with a bag of mixed feelings to go along with my subs and tacos.
As gas prices continue to be ridiculous, I'd be dishonest in saying I wasn't personally excited with the prospect of a Vietnamese food truck constantly circling nearby. No more gas-guzzling long drives to Garland or Arlington for a banh mi fix. Then I arrived at the truck and saw the prices.
Seven bucks for a banh mi is steep, no? That was my opinion, but it might not be a problem for everyone. Tacos, however, are a good size and filled with a fair amount of meat for the $3 price tag. My only little gripe about the tacos is the sweet potato. As a sweet potato whore, it pains me to say it, but I didn't see a purpose for them in the taco. They were kind of mushy, adding a strange texture and distracting from the meat and pleasing crunchiness of the cabbage slaw.
Sandwiches and tacos come in barbecued pork, grilled pork, lemongrass chicken, lemongrass beef, and Vietnamese tofu. There is also a deli-style banh mi for the purists out there. For virgin Nammi expedition, I opted for the barbecued pork sandwich, a grilled pork sandwich and a grilled pork taco. All three were fine, but they weren't memorable. The meats were moist enough (considering they were being served from a truck), but they could have both used a more intensive marinating and a deeper flavor profile. The highlights of the sandwiches were in the little details. The pickled carrot and daikon and the deft touch of soy sauce were great. The baguette Nammi uses is nice and thin, but I wish they could have been a little less stale and a bit crunchier.
It was day one for the business, though, and there was a long line, so I find it very difficult to be too harsh. The Texas heat is reason enough to be sympathetic to Nammi. On the day of my visit, there was only one person taking orders at the window and one person in the back assembling tacos and sandwiches for a line of 10-15 strong. I almost wanted to put on an apron and go back there to help.
Along with the main menu items, there also are the assortments of soft drinks and chips. I was glad to see Zapp's and Calbee Shrimp Chips being heavily represented in the snacks department. I'm still not too keen on paying $7 for a banh mi, but I'm still anxious to try the lemongrass beef taco.
So, what are the alternatives?
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The drive to either Garland or Arlington for a banh mi may be taxing on your car and wallet, but once you get there, the $2-3 you spend on a sandwich is a nice reward for your tenacity. For me, what makes the drive worth it is knowing what I'm getting for that $2-$3. No doubt fans of Vietnamese sandwiches have their own allegiances. I'm no different. For example, Quoc Bao in Garland is its own bakery, so I know that the bread will always be fantastic and fresh. Also, I'd love for good Vietnamese food to be accessible to me on a daily basis, but it just isn't at this point. Banh mi isn't something that I can eat every day, so when it's time for me to kill that craving, wouldn't I want it to blow my freaking mind?
I've raved about Lumi's comparable-to-Nammi's price banh mi thit in the past, but that's because it was very, very good. Of the several times I had it, the meat was marinated to perfection, ingredients of high quality and the bread was crisp and delectable in its own right. So far I've tried Nammi only the one time, and I plan on going back, but Lumi, on the first try, rocked. Paired with a nice heaping bowl of wonton soup for lunch, the $10 for the combo doesn't seem all too bad. I don't mind paying for "really good."
I love the Nammi concept and the entrepreneurial spirit behind it. I hope the truck does well because it continues in spreading the word out on the awesomeness that is Vietnamese food. In the meantime, I don't think your favorite banh mi shop will be losing too much sleep over business.