A plant-based food truck just rolled into town and Monica Meier is in the driver’s seat.
Last February, Meier quit her nine-to-five job and bought a small bus. Out went the vinyl-covered bench seats and in came the flat-top grill, stainless steel workstation and a fridge stocked with veggies. By September, Meier embarked on her journey to nourish the Cincinnati-area out of the window of her new banana-colored bus by focusing on wholesome meals and “letting the goodness roll.”
While she developed the concept for Rollin’ Bowls and perfected her plant-based menu, she spent time working in other food trucks, serving everything from empanadas to crepes, to get a feel for the flow of a condensed kitchen on wheels. But before she dedicated her days to chopping veggies, steaming rice and prepping bowls in an old school bus, she helped establish and grow a truck driving program at Gateway Community & Technical College in Florence, Kentucky, where students can earn their commercial driver’s license and advance their employment in the transportation field, even without a high school diploma.
Meier was lovingly referred to as “mother trucker” at Gateway for heading up the CDL program. “I’m still a mother trucker,” she says. “Just now I have a food truck instead.”
She says it was bittersweet to leave a job where she could truly help people improve their lives, but she finds her new digs even more rewarding.
“When someone eats your food and says, ‘This is really good. Thank you for being here.’ Wow, it makes me feel so good,” she says.
Her palate was nurtured by the cuisine her Norwegian parents were accustomed to. Growing up, she had boiled fish and veggies for dinner while the neighbors next door were slopping gravy on pot roast. But just four years ago she made the switch to living a fully plant-based lifestyle.
“I started playing with all these ingredients and my health started changing rapidly,” she says. “Plant-based really does make you feel good.”
She says her energy and muscle tone went up and her cholesterol went down, and that was inspiring enough to convince her to take a sharp left turn in her career path.
“I wanted to share that plant-based food can taste great with people who believe the myth that plant-based food tastes awful,” she says.
She took inspiration from the assembly line-style and veggie-heavy options at Bibibop Asian Grill and integrated a similar concept into her business.
While the menu consistently offers whole, plant-based nutrition, the meals coming out of the bus window change depending on seasonal sourcing availability and the crowd she’s serving. She says it’s unlikely she’d serve salad at a brewery, but she likes experimenting with more “off-the-wall options” where they apply, like at the upcoming Vegan Earth Day meetup in Burnet Woods. Meier will have a chance to let her plant-based cuisine shine by whipping up options that cater more to folks who commit to a vegan lifestyle.
The most popular menu item and Meier’s personal favorite, she says, is the Dynamite Bowl — a crunchy and colorful blend of veggies keeps it refreshing and teriyaki-marinated soy tenders offer meat-free heartiness over a bed of fluffy long-grain rice. It’s finished off with a thick drizzle of vegan yum yum sauce made from scratch.
Homemade is the standard when it comes to sauces. Meier skips the shortcuts and sources local, organic produce from vendors like What Chefs Want!, formerly Creation Gardens, as often as possible and invests in compostable bowls and utensils.
Beyond the bowls, Meier serves quesadillas and tacos, soups and sandwiches, including a plant-based version of the Big Mac, featuring an Impossible Burger, and an open-faced Eggless Salad Sammy. She carries Hen of the Woods kettle chips to offer a complementary crunch with lunch and Grateful Grahams for dessert, Newport’s homegrown vegan graham cracker treats. The menu items coming out of her bus window range from $6 to $12 and portions change whether she’s serving during lunch or dinner hours.
Meier recognizes that not everyone lives a plant-based lifestyle and she strives to make it accessible to everyone, no matter their eating habits.
“I like to vegan-ize comfort foods,” she says. It’s as simple as replacing coconut milk for heavy cream and achieving that creamy texture in soups with an immersion blender rather than a dairy fat-based emulsion.
As food truck season approaches, Meier says her summer schedule is already starting to stack up. She’s booking gigs well into the end of this year, from breweries to workplace parking lots to farmers markets and everything in between.
To find out where Rollin’ Bowls will be parked next, use the Street Food Finder app or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/rollinbowlstruck.