In this great city of ours, you could eat a different sandwich everyday. But what is it that sets apart the good from the bad? You know, that element that really takes the sandwich to a whole new level of mouthwatering, sliced and layered goodness? I’m no sandwich authority but I’m sure that many of you would agree that it’s all about the bread. And for a food truck whose menu is primarily dominated by a selection of deliciously intricate sandwiches, like that of the The Dining Car, bread becomes the object of perfection.
The bread, a crisp swath of foccacia sliced laterally, always steals the show here. Baked on the truck, continuously throughout the day, The Dining Car’s focaccia bread has become what the truck is most well-known for.
“That caprese sandwich comes on our own house-made foccacia bread,” says Dining Car co-owner David Harnik. “We’re the only truck I know of that is baking bread directly on their truck. The first time we tried doing it we did it in big sheets, it was great but it had a lot of difficulties – planning out perfect portions, trying to finagle the big sheets in the small capacity of the truck. So I came up with another way of doing the sandwich; pre-portions, individual breads. We’ve had a number of people interested in helping us sell this bread separately and in markets.”
The bread’s subtle hint of rosemary and select herbs make The Dining Car’s take on such a simple sandwich, something of sophistication. Normally I wouldn’t sing the praises of a caprese sandwich, the standard option most upscale sandwich joints throw on the menu to satisfy vegetarians, but trust me when I say that The Dining Car’s combination of fresh mozarella cheese and thick slices of perfectly ripened tomatoes abed the freshly baked focaccia is impeccably fresh, handmade, and reeks of wholesomeness. Among the local mozzarella topped with vine-ripened tomatoes and basil pesto on their notorious house-made, truck-baked rosemary and garlic focaccia, The Dining Car takes some liberty with this classic sando, serving as is, but more importantly with thinly sliced Genoa Salami and slightly spicy Sopressata Calabrese.
Those little glistening flakes of sea salt make this bread. It’s the first thing you taste when biting into the thin layers encasing the sanwiches innards. The peppery flavor of the olive oil hits you next. And once you get to the tomato and cheese, you’ve got one excellent sandwich going on.
It’s no doubt that Harnik and co-owner, Naomi Klein continue to come up with creative ways to incorporate distinct flavors and make intricate sandwiches in an efficient way suitable for a food truck.
“We both love to cook. Naomi went to culinary school in New York at Natural Gourmet,” says Harnik. “She loves local, healthy, natural foods. But overall the two of us love cuisine. I love figuring out where a dish comes from; what context it came from. Once you know, you can combine and play.”
The pair has no problem creating a menu inspired by traditional dishes, but that have their own unique spin. Take the truck’s Asian pulled pork slider. The well-priced sandwich ($5) is based on Bulgogi beef, but Bulgogi is typically grilled. Logistically, you can’t do fresh pork, grilled to order, when you have a line ten people deep (although they tried to man this feat their first year in business). So in true inventive fashion Harnik and Klein took all of those grilled flavors and put it in the sauce. What was originally a marinade for the grilled pork , is now a sauce that encapsulates that same Bulgogi grilled flavor with it’s grilled onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and Asian pears.
“There’s a lot of creativity that goes into this business. It’s not just, “Let your heart fly and cook,” it’s, “Let you’re heart fly and cook, but now how do you do that on a truck,” says Harnik.
Be sure to catch The Dining Car’s semi-seasonal menu three times a week at Boston University (across the street from Blandford St. T stop) or on Sundays at SoWa Open Market.