When a food truck you love goes brick-and-mortar, you worry it’ll lose its magic. That’s how we felt about Mei Mei, which for years was like Boston’s hidden Easter egg, attracting long lines and delivering unexpected lunchtime joy wherever it popped up. When they opened their fast-casual spot in Audubon Circle, we had a hard time imagining it could be as much fun as the original. But Mei Mei has pulled off the feat of building a restaurant that still feels like an oversized food truck, in the best way possible.
In terms of the menu, most of the old favorites from the food truck days are still here, and they’re as good as ever. So if you’re in need of something cheesy and eggy to soak up the remains of last night’s mistakes, you should still be getting the Double Awesome, their famous scallion pancake sandwich. Thankfully, it’s now been joined by a roster of new scallion sandwiches, as well as vegetable-focused small plates with names that seem to have been focus-grouped at cheerleading camp (Beets by Mei, Magical Kale Salad, etc.). There’s a mix of satisfying, heavier food and vegetable-heavy lighter stuff, all adding up to the best option for a quick lunch in the area.
If there’s anything disappointing about Mei Mei, it’s that you wish it would give you even more. Now that you’re sitting in a restaurant instead of on a bench in Copley Square, you might find yourself wanting to try a Mei Mei entree (that isn’t a scallion sandwich). They occasionally serve off-menu specials - we just wish we could get those rib tips or pork belly noodles all the time.
But it’s hard to have any real complaints about a place that makes you this happy. The fast-casual setup helps to keep the place relaxed, its big bright windows make you feel like you’re outside, and there are friendly people working the counter who will give you hotter sauces they’ve stashed behind the cash register. Little touches like that have helped Mei Mei hold onto its soul - even without the truck.
The fresh mint leaves Mei Mei serves with the cucumber with are a great touch here, although your mouth won’t go completely numb and float off into the ether on the wings of a butterfly, like you find with other ma la dishes.
It takes a lot for us to call something awesome, but this definitely qualifies. And we could see how a sandwich named the Single Awesome could be triggering to some people whose online dating isn’t going too well.
While the Double Awesome could be either breakfast or lunch, the Gabby, with maple roasted sweet potatoes, could be either lunch or dessert.
Cranberry makes everything better. Good on Mei Mei for liberating it from Thanksgiving purgatory.
The fillings here are heirloom beans, squash, sweet corn, and pepper jelly sauce. We like our dumplings slightly less healthy.
This is the better dumpling option.
“Magical” is a pretty loaded term. But the add-on of a poached egg to a salad that’s already heavy on panko results in something that’s not only good, but also filling. If you can make kale into a hearty meal, you can call yourself David Copperfield.