Anatomy of Mei Mei’s Cheesy Frito Pie
Last year, Anthony Bourdain found himself in hot water after he insulted Santa Fe’s Five & Dime General Store’s Frito Pie on an episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown, calling the bagged snack a “colostomy pie.” He later apologized (sort of) with the backhanded compliment:
“Contrary to the impression left by some reports of the show, I, in fact, very much enjoyed my Frito pie in spite of its disturbing weight in the hand. It may have felt like (expletive) but was shockingly tasty.”
For those yet unacquainted with Frito Pie, it’s simply a bag of Fritos that’s been ripped open and topped with chili, white onions, and cheese. For decades, New Mexico and Texas have both laid claims over the sovereignty of the dish, which is a staple of the Texas State Fair, rodeos, and quaint lunch counters everywhere. Like other Southern delicacies that have been popping up more often north of the Mason-Dixon line, the humble Frito Pie can now be seen infiltrating menus such as Lulu’s Allston and Loretta’s Last Call.
Now, Mei Mei Street Kitchen has introduced their own version, which is being served at the SoWa Market and festivals such as the recent Drink Craft Beer Fest. Variations on regular (often canned) chili have included a vegan Thai green curry; a slow-roasted beef chili with masa, bourbon, and red wine; and a vegetarian Kung Pao. Originally inspired by their friend Amanda Escamilla from Tex-Mex Eats, Mei Mei’s latest creation combines Jacob’s Cattle Beans from Green Thumb Farms in Maine, cream cheese, Cabot cheddar cheese, curry paste, and manager Peter Schantz’s top secret vegetarian Kung Pao sauce.
“Frito Pie is very conducive to walking around and just eating with a spoon,” says co-owner Andrew Li. “It also generates this buzz because everyone inevitably wonders why people are walking around eating Fritos with a spoon. It’s a festival food, as opposed to something people would probably get during our regular lunch service when they have to go back to the office. It pairs well with alcohol obviously, so we’ll always serve it festivals like SoWa and any other special events. People are drinking beer anyway, so we feel OK about serving this and having people reaching out to their less healthy side, if you will.”
Besides the three recipes they’ve already introduced, Li is testing other variations as he preps for Mei Mei’s upcoming late night menu. Set to debut this fall, the menu will go heavy on upscale bar snacks that will pair well with their new beer and wine lists. Late night service will be on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights after 10 p.m.
Pro Tip for SoWa regulars: Mei Mei suggests combining their Kung Pao Frito Pie with Roxy’s Grilled Cheese’s Grilled Muenster Melt. “It might be the greatest thing to ever hit your face,” they tweeted over the weekend.
506 Park Dr., Boston; 857-250-4959 or meimeiboston.com.