“Le Bouvier”. It’s French for “The Cowboy”. And it’s also the name of one of the best-kept secrets in Bentonville right now: the Le Bouvier food truck.
Located at 3307 SW 14th Street (about two miles from the Walmart home office and two lights down from Centerton), the food truck is the offering of Chef Jeff Wetzel, a recent Houston transplant.
It’s easy to pick out Chef Wetzel when you pull up to Le Bouvier, he’s the guy darting around in the red chef jacket and cowboy hat. But, don’t let the cowboy hat, boots and charming Texas smile fool you, this cowboy chef is not dishing out chili and cornbread from that food truck. Hint number one: “Le Bouvier”. Remember, it’s French.
Along with his Texas cowboy roots, what Chef Wetzel brings to the table at Le Bouvier are his classically French trained culinary chops. After graduating from culinary school at the Art Institute of Houston, he spent years making his mark on Houston’s fine dining scene before moving to Bentonville this past summer in search of a place that had a small town vibe, but with big city taste buds. Check and check!
So the food you’re going to get when you stop by the Le Bouvier food truck is food with the big, bold flavors you’d expect from a cowboy chef, but with the sophistication, refinement and attention to detail you’d get at any fine dining establishment.
“What I’m trying to do out of this truck,” Wetzel told me, “is bring the flavors and profiles of fine dining into approachable and affordable dishes.”
Case in point: his “Bloody Mary BLT”. Served on fresh-baked rosemary bread (all breads at Le Bouvier are baked in-house, pretty much just a few hours before you take your first bite), which is grilled to bring out the flavor of the herbs, this sandwich is layered with apple wood bacon, arugula (for a peppery flare), tomatoes that have been marinated in vodka and a chive creme fraiche, all topped off with a dash of balsamic syrup for a sweet and tangy endnote.
“I like my food to hit all of your different taste buds,” Wetzel says. “For example, I don’t want something to taste all smoke or all sweet…I want your taste buds to go, “whoa, whoa, whoa!”
Which is basically the reaction mine had when I sat down to lunch. It was Friday afternoon and I was hungry—cowboy hungry—so (no judgment please) I ordered two sandwiches—the “Prime Rib Philly” and the “Shawarma”.
The “Prime Rib Philly” was served on a homemade flattop roll that was at once delicate in its fresh-baked goodness, and sturdy enough to support the contents of this hearty sandwich. The prime rib’s buttery texture was balanced perfectly with thick, crispy onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. All was topped off with smoked provolone and a smattering of horseradish aioli. My plan had been to bring the second half of both sandwiches home to the husband, but he nearly lost out on this one because once I started eating it, I didn’t want to let it go, like ever.
After devouring my half (and then some) I tucked into the Shawarma. Like the “Prime Rib Philly,” the “Shawarma” is a staple on the Le Bouvier menu (other menu items rotate to keep up with the chef and his team’s creative juices), and after one bite it was easy to see why. The base of the sandwich, which is served on a fresh-baked pita roll, is a 15-spice rubbed pork loin. When I took my first bite, a flavor firecracker exploded. Lettuce dressed with a drizzle of roasted shallot vinaigrette and a creamy garlic aioli were there to douse the flames. Whoa!
And then there were the donuts. As some of you know, for the past year, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect Northwest Arkansas donuts. Found ‘em. They are: Le Bouvier’s “Ricotta Donut Holes”: three donut holes covered with (just the right amount of) cinnamon sugar served a top a strawberry gastrique sauce. What makes them “perfect”. They’re light, springy (no greasy, oily mouth feel), yet rich in flavor. The hint of ricotta that comes through couples beautifully with the zesty strawberry gastrique sauce. The best way to describe them is “otherworldly”. The husband didn’t get a one.
As already mentioned, to keep up with Chef Wetzel’s creative chef brain, the menu changes regularly at Le Bouvier. Besides the “Prime Rib Philly” and “Shawarma,” the day I visited, a “Chicken and Biscuit,” a cheddar rosemary biscuit with pulled BBQ chicken, toasted coriander, jalapeño BBQ sauce, pickled red onions and bacon jam was on the menu along with a “Chicken Quesadilla” served with a grilled corn and black bean relish, cilantro crème and homemade tortilla chips. Another regular on the menu is the “Dirty Bird,” a blackened turkey sandwich layered with arugula, tomato, smoked provolone and cheddar. It’s prepared like a grilled cheese so grab a few napkins before sitting down with this one.
Right now, Le Bouvier is at its starter location out in a lovely field (if you see the Tuff Coat Truck Accessories Store, you’re in the right place) with plenty of room for the kiddos and pups to roam and play, but will likely be relocating in the future (we’ll keep you posted). There are plenty of tables set up out front to eat on-site. Wetzel, who has also launched an up-and-coming catering business, says ultimately, he’d like to build up a following that would allow him to be mobile, alerting folks to his whereabouts via social media. And its open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner (if you get there by 7 p.m. you can catch a bite for dinner). Plus, weekly pop-up-dinners are in the pipeline. A recent “Sweet Tea Fried Chicken” dinner Wetzel hosted for charity was a hit with more than 70 folks partaking.