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The Double Awesome has company.
Mei Mei, a Chinese-American restaurant that originated as a food truck in 2012, introduced a new menu and scratched its dinner service in favor of a fast-casual setup on Tuesday.
The new menu centers around scallion pancake sandwiches, like Mei Mei’s already well-known and well-regarded Double Awesome, which has two runny eggs, Vermont cheddar cheese, and pesto. New scallion pancake sandwich menu additions include the beef and brocc, stuffed with griddled beef, veggie hash, broccoli, pepper jelly, and smoky aioli; and a vegan version of the sandwich, called the Gabby, that’s filled with maple roasted squash, black bean hummus, pickled slaw, and greens. All sandwiches are also available as salads with carrot-ginger dressing.
“All of our guests will be coming up to the counter to order and taking their food up to the counter when they’re done,” said Irene Li, the restaurant’s head of operations, as well as a 2018 James Beard semifinalist who received ‘30 Under 30’ nods from both Zagat and Forbes last year. “Other than that, a lot of aspects we’re hoping to maintain.”
Mei Mei is positioned near swarms of college students, by the Boston University campus and on the edge of Brookline, making it a spot for a miscellany of diners. With the new menu, Li said she hopes to accommodate a wider range of customers in terms of price point, allergies, and restrictions.
“We have paleo guests; we have meat-and-potatoes guests; we have guests who just want to eat salad,” she said. “If you wanted something that’s more tapas style, we can offer that. If you want a sandwich, we can offer that. If you want a bowl, a Sweetgreen-style thing, we can offer that.”
In addition to sandwiches and salads, customers can find new smaller plates and sides. And if guests want to taste what the woman in charge recommends, Li said to start with the “surprisingly good” parsnip fries, which her team developed in-house.
“I’d never had parsnip fries before. They were just amazing. I will take no credit, but everyone should try them,” Li said. “Even if you don’t like parsnips.”
She also suggested guests order the bluefish fritters, which are served with local veggies and a smoked paprika aioli.
“They’re a delicious, smoky treat, essentially,” she said. “The serving size is just three fritters, so you can order it and not feel like you’ve had a lot of fried food.”
The new menu and switch to counter service are part of an even larger shift for Mei Mei, which took its food trucks off the road just over a week ago.
“We’ve had the restaurant for almost five years,” Li said. “There were a lot of things we did because they made sense at the time, but they didn’t make sense anymore.”
Mei Mei will also change its catering menu starting Tuesday to be more in line with its restaurant offerings.
“The catering is a great example of unplanned growth,” Li said. “When we first wrote our business plan, we weren’t thinking of catering at all.”
Looking forward, Li said the restaurant will continue to develop the menu and change up some operational practices. She said this is the first full year of Mei Mei’s open book management and profit sharing program for all employees, which includes letting staff members in on the restaurant’s financial workings and hosting classes on making organizational decisions.
“We just feel so grateful to be part of this city and food community,” Li said. “People accept that businesses grow and change.”
Mei Mei, 506 Park Drive; meimeiboston.com