Correction to This Article
A previous version of this review of the Rebel Heroes food truck misspelled the name of a co-owner. He is Rob Ochsendorf, not Achsendorf. The error has been corrected below.

Good to Go: Rebel Heroes food truck in Arlington

Rebel Heroes entrepreneur Tan Nguyen, with a banh mi and iced Vietnamese coffee.
Rebel Heroes entrepreneur Tan Nguyen, with a banh mi and iced Vietnamese coffee. (Michael Temchine for The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tan Nguyen was living in New York and watching the food truck phenomenon flourish around her when she decided it was time to get in the game. The idea of a traveling operation seemed to fit the former graphic designer's free-spirited personality. Her concept would be focused and simple: Offer fresh, homemade sandwiches based on her mother's Vietnamese recipes, add a twist and have a blast to boot.

Rebel Heroes hit the streets of Arlington on April 12, and so far, Nguyen is batting a thousand. The meat in her signature Roast Pork Banh Mi ($5) is thinly sliced and moist, nestled in an airy baguette with bright cilantro, jalapeño slices, pickled carrots and daikon radish. It's one of five sandwiches listed under the menu's "The Old Guard" heading, which also includes the crisp Pressed Cubano ($5.50), packed with pickles and slicked with tangy mustard. Among the five sandwiches under "The Rebels" heading are the habit-forming, spicy-sweet Macho Meatball; the Righteous Roast Pork; and Eggs de Resistance, a breakfast sandwich of scrambled eggs, pickles, cilantro and jalapeño slices on French bread, served all day (all $5.50).

With the exception of the Pressed Cubano, the "Old Guard" selections are all variations on the banh mi. The "Rebels" are Nguyen's take on classic subs; each is dressed with Swiss cheese and her sriracha-laced Rebel Mayo. The heat-averse can opt for a lime or chipotle spread instead.

Why Arlington and not New York? "Because that's where my mom is, and I need her," says Nguyen, who co-owns Rebel Heroes with her mother, Ninh Ta, and brother-in-law, Rob Ochsendorf. Mom and daughter cook small batches of food from scratch in a rented space at Open Kitchen in Falls Church, and in the morning Nguyen loads up the funky-looking truck, posts the day's location on Twitter and heads out to set up shop (her mother has made a couple of cameos, but she stays behind the scenes for the most part).

Every sandwich is prepared to order; some items sell out fast. By the time we arrived, around 1:15, Nguyen was out of chicken for sandwiches and Vietnamese coffee ($3), so have a backup plan just in case. An interesting array of Jarritos Mexican sodas ($2) is available, as are bags of imported shrimp chips ($2), a fun alternative to potato chips.

This is the first foray into the culinary business world for the 36-year-old Nguyen, who is a self-described "professional foodie." She's also gregarious and spunky and clearly loves her family. "Mom is the inspiration behind everything," she says. "And my dad likes to tell me, 'You were always a rebel without a cause, and now you've got one!' "

-- Catherine Barker

Rebel Heroes Food Truck various locations in Arlington; 703-679-RBL1 (7251). http://www.rebelheroes.com. Follow the truck on Twitter @rebelheroes. Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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