Vin’s Italian

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http://www.vinsitalian.com/
https://twitter.com/VinsItalian
Main Location: Minneapolis, Breweries

I think this is the first time I’ve ever had a truck ask me to come visit them without any reaching out on my own part beforehand. Must say it’s a little empowering… like I’m a GOD and you’re all just ants, ANTS begging for praise and attention! Bow to me insects and worship me as the one who makes you! AHHAHAhahahahaha!!!

… what? Hold on, sorry, I’m being told by my cat that I’m acting a little insane and power-hungry at the moment… well she’s probably right about one of those things.

Where were we? Oh yes, I was invited to stop by a truck this week via twitter (oh my god it actually became useful for me!). Of course the truck in question has been open for three months, as have the previous two reviews of trucks which I had only JUST found out about. God I wish I lived in Minneapolis again… I’m getting off on another tangent, stop it me!

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Vin’s Italian, as they’re so called, began their roll in the warm summer and are set to plant it out as the chilly autumn blows through. While the cold sinks, their griddle will be toasting up Italian Sandwiches to warm hands and stomach alike with classic Italian-American bread fillings. Top of the list is, of course, the all-important Meatball Sub, soon followed by options for spicy giardanera-studded Italian and, at times, the Sicilian Beef. These are joined by a hot and juicy Italian Sausage roll stuffed with Peppers, almost like eating on the East Coast streets again; and for the vegetable-lovers (and requirers), the Fried Eggplant Pesto sandwich, stuffed in a soft bun filled with hopes and dreams. Not to mention the occasional seasonal-based offering.

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Now don’t be a guy like me who has to wait for an invitation; go get your fix, have a treat and stuff that gullet with a good hot sandwich. I’d make you an offer you couldn’t refuse but, you know… pretty sure I’m really far away from most of you, don’t know where you live and… yeah. They got mints… those are also nice.

Food: 9.5

                As much as it pains my wallet, I just couldn’t decide between two particular sandwiches, and either way I felt like only having one of them wouldn’t give me a complete picture. Thus I ordered both the Meatball and Fried Eggplant Pesto, with the plan that I would eat the whole of the latter and maybe some of the former for lunch and save the rest for later, you know, to conserve and such… in less than half an hour neither of them stood a damn chance.
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Let’s start with the idealistic Italian sandwich that is the Meatball Sub. Stuffed inside a ginormous package of what they call a ‘bun,’ these four good-sized balls of Beef, Pork, and Lamb retain a properly needed moisture to them, along with a soft texture that thankfully avoids any of the density and chewy properties of not-so-good meatballs. My favorite part of them, though, is how nicely the flavor of the herbs and other seasonings they placed in come through, showcasing the identity that you know they were looking for amongst the tender grind. Sauce is both bright and rich, with an amazing coating over its not-so-hidden delivery, and coated in a layer of melted cheese that works, though I do wish they had notably more to it; I want there to be a gooey mess of dairy amongst my red sauce that truly indicates it as a proper Italian sub. As for the bread, my initial thoughts on seeing were of worry, and I’ll admit it’s definitely a good sized guy to wrap those teeth around with the meatball, but the carbs yield quite easily under tooth, and though there’s a little bit of that gluttoness chew to the texture it’s not enough that your jaw gets sore when finished (like a certain catering truck we know of). Very often you will also have portions to consume that don’t contain any corresponding meat, but I still feel that the actual ratio of bread to filling, the latter being very tightly kept in its upper areas, is actually right on, just need to eat that extra bit more bread to get there.

Technical aspects aside, it is heavy, and rich, and tasty, and sinful, and everything right on a slightly chilled autumn day. I couldn’t stop halfway through this guy no matter how much I tried.

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The Eggplant is also affected by the cheese issue in my opinion, mainly the fact that I just want more of it, have it become a real texture and element of the sandwich all its own! Speaking of which, sad to say the breading around the actual eggplant was almost all soft by the time I got to eating it; to be fair on their part, I think that much of that may be due to the fact that I had to wait about 5 minutes carrying it around in its heated sac before I could sit down and consume it, but I still get the feeling that it wasn’t all perfectly fried crisp the moment I got it anyways. Either way, one should make a note that, if ordering, they should eat this thing immediately while at least some of that textural play can come into the picture.

Those aspects aside, I absolutely loved this sandwich. I love that they use a different bread that’s right for it, I love the fresh lemony notes that come off the herby pesto, I love the little tang of the pickled peppers and I love how all that plays with the rich, almost meaty soft eggplant. This has definitely reached the realm of how to make eggplants tasty, and what’s really cool is how well a vegetable-based dish like this can FILL you. I really wanted more. And I can bet that other sandwiches have reached similar levels of success as these two.

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Holdability: 6

               Much like the old quandary of chewing gum while moving one’s feet at the same time, suffice it to say that these aren’t necessarily sandwiches one wants to eat while walking. Being wrapped in paper, foil, and then slipped in their own well-shaped to-go sleeve, sitting down after transport is best for these behemoths of Italian meat and sauce, especially if one does the chip combo in a bag (which I saw a few people doing). Of course my experience is colored via the fact of getting two sandwiches, cuz one probably CAN eat while mobile, but options like the meatball and Italian are likely to be a bit messy while doing so. Not to mention the adventure of sinking your teeth in big bites. I will say that, minus the falling peppers, the smaller-diameter Eggplant does seem to be a bit more hands-friendly of an option, even being cut in two (which for once doesn’t hinder as one can open the package from a single end); which is good cuz, as I said, one wants to chew down on this guy as soon as possible.

Price: 7.5

                  $8.50 for both of the ground-meat options (Meatball and Sausage+Peppers), a boost to $9.50 for the roast beef-based Italian (and I’m guessing the Sicilian too), and $7.50 for the Eggplant and other seasonal Veggie sammiches.
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Speed: 8.5

                Hard to tell from a good-sized line of tickets in front, but everything seemed to be handle quite well despite the rush, a strong speed to serve through.

The TOE: 9

                Despite a very simplistic design and graphics work, Vin’s comes out with a strong theme and personality to the menu, transforming it from just another Sandwich Truck to a specific destination for your cravings. It’s a joy to be able to go to a place like this, glance at the menu and just “get it” without having to think about things too deeply.

  Service: +0.5

                I haven’t used this is a while, though there may have been cases I probably should have. But the two on shift today kept really calm with great, amiable personalities through what was likely an unexpected push of customers on a somewhat chilly Tuesday. Very talkative still while putting effort to connect with customers while getting orders out, I think they’ve earned at least a little bit of extra pointage.

Tally: 41/50

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Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a “sandwich truck” experience, I would say this is probably one of the best in Minneapolis. Though all options are sure to leave you smiling, I’d say the highlights really are the Meatball and Fried Eggplant Pesto; the former for when you can afford finding a place to sit after ordering, and the latter if one is able and needs to chow down immediately. Do make sure you don’t let it sit in the foil for long so as to retain any texture in the fried crust. If you’ve gone back more than once, which would not surprise me (I get a similar urge to return much like with my trips to Vellee and SCRATCH), checking out the Seasonal option/s would be my next big plan of attack.

Twin City Fritter & Philly

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https://www.facebook.com/TCfritterphilly
https://twitter.com/tcfpmn
Main Location: St. Paul, Breweries, Etc

Food Truck Hunting is an interesting game, especially after your work schedule and various other distractions have increased to severely limit your ability at physical exploration. New trucks fly by under your notice, your own visits are sporadic and few in between, and an even higher percentage of trucks than before tend to elude your grasp, taunting you in a way reminiscent of the ghostly out-of-town vehicle, only this capture is destroyed more from the intervention of others than the prey’s silent evasiveness.

So is it that some of the more interesting events can unfold when one DOES go out hunting again. As it was when finally I thought I had cornered a coffee-infused rabbit of a prey after most of a year’s waiting and weak attempts at grabbing. A Food Truck Rally in the Fall, Harriet Brewery’s now annual event, in which the truck was listed, thus MUST be in attendance…  I nary had time to enjoy the full event for the smorgasbord of prey-set-to-music and drink it was, but I still had the chance to run in and spear my target before heading to work. Finally did I then arrive, stalking around the habitat of the ‘parking lot’ for my goal, only to find… it wasn’t there. Of course. EVERY time I almost have it they choose not to show. It’s like the Waffle Van Jazz Fest fiasco of 2013 all over again.

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Only this time I didn’t leave unrewarded. For where my original prey had disappeared, two new animals had taken its place. The just-reviewed Fro Yo Soul, giving a very quick kill with barely any waste to my resources, and the intriguing label of a deer named Twin City Fritter and Philly (hey look, it rhymes!). They weren’t the prize I wanted, but two surprising gifts instead of one isn’t that bad.

Thanks to the trip, I was able to finally discover both of these businesses. Fritter has been on the streets since June, apparently, a Family-run truck serving up their namesake sandwich and fried ball of dough. Only instead of serving a full, two-handed cheesy bread-box as usual, they focus on what they call ‘Fun Size’ sandwiches, offering both traditional Philly (with the grilled onions, peppers, and melted provolone) and Italian (simply covering the beef with spicy giardanera) in what looks like a thick bratwurst bun made out of Sourdough. These automatically come with a side of their trademark Fritters, cornmeal creations of cilantro and spices usually, though they also play with different flavors now and then (mine was a sweet creation studded with Mango and drizzled with icing).

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The menu, as I’ve found through research, isn’t always as indicative of what was shown during my rally visit. In the past, they’ve also offered Fries (or had them automatically on the side with the Fritters only available through separate purchase), big and small side baskets of fritters, a Fritter Dog (their own corn dog). But of particular interest to me, past menus have shown a secondary side with Whistler Soda! Love trying good, small brands, num.

Whatever one’s options during your individual visits to them, it’s like to turn out like mine, a little adventure.

Food: 8

                Considering the name, and menu’s lacking of some of the other options that have been offered at least in the past (wish I coulda tried some of those sodas, mm-mmmm I love exploring new, good quality carbonated sugar drink), of course I had to try the Philly. It’s too bad they weren’t doing their usual fritters on the day-of, but at least this way I got to see how well they transform it to other flavors.
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I’ll start off by saying that if you’re looking for a true, down-home, soul-filling replica of a proper PHILLY, this doesn’t really hit that mark; it’s not that loaded with the gooey cheese (and no option for whiz), not to mention it doesn’t have that little kick of heat many Phillies do. Also, I forget if they do pop the buns on the griddle in Philadelphia, but I know that Fritter doesn’t. THAT said, it is still a GOOD Beef sandwich. The meat is juicy, some of the jus sorta soaking into the soft sourdough bun, the onions and peppers are soft and piled on top… it’s satisfying, and a shame they don’t offer really large versions of it. Not to mention a bit of that mess factor as half the vegetables fall off when you try forcing some of that good stuff into your mouth. As a sandwich, I do feel they need a bit of sauce on it to add one more aspect to the flavors; either that or make sure they load more cheese and/or just, maybe crack some black pepper over the top before serving.

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Concerning the fritters, I’ve come to find in my travels that there are those who make their savory and sweet fried balls from a certain kind of batter, as opposed to a dough, that creates this particularly firm and crusty outside while the inside retains not a smooth, even doughnut-reminiscent result but something mealy. In particular I once had this thing that was labeled a beignet but was instead an over-fried ball of greasy, thick crust and  mealy and dense interior… not sure how the hell they ended up serving that, let alone labeling it a beignet. Rant aside, this particular style is seen particularly in cornmeal fritters, dough to how they integrate, and they rarely if ever impress me as something I’d desire over other fritter styles.

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Fritter’n’Philly, however, has done it pretty damn well. The crust is the right thickness, crunchy, and not greasy, while the inside is almost fluffy and soft, though one can still tell it’s cornmeal based, with just a tad bit of mealiness for texture. The mango came through surprisingly nicely, and the icing drizzle was interestingly welcomed; when eaten with the sandwich, it almost reminded me of having that Donut Burger at Eli’s. At the end of the day, if I had a fritter of different style yet equal level of execution I would probably prefer it better, but the fact they reached this pinnacle with their cornmeal batter is something that I feel should be noted. Such a shame I wasn’t able to try their original, fully-savory cilantro-based version.

Holdability: 7.5

               A little messy, sticky frosting and juicy, overflowing sandwich, but still easy to eat with fingers even while walking; one may simply want a napkin.
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Price: 8(?)

                There’s an interesting divergence in menu style from the time I visited compared to a photo they took of it a month or so ago. Besides, of course, the lack of Fries and Fritter Dog during my recon (which could have simply been due to the day, having hit it during Harriet’s Fall Rally), which both clock in at $6, the Sandwich and Fritters plate was listed at $8, compared to its earlier price of $7, which is what I think I was ACTUALLY charged… they probably forgot they changed the price, haha. Interestingly enough, the $8 instance only came with 2 Fritters, while the earlier $7 had 3… but then again, the original cilantro fried dough balls could be smaller. Of a final note, though one could get a thing of fritters on their own for $2 (or $6, also seen on an early menu, though I’m guessing that was a bigger bowl instead of a side of 2-3), one does not have the option for buying a Philly or Italian on its own for less money. I’m quite disappointed that that isn’t offered, nor the option to have one BIG sandwich, at least if one were to ask, as it seems like a common sense service.
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Speed: 8.5

 

Food came up relatively quickly, about a minute after ordering.

The TOE: 7

                There’s a certain ‘steak sandwich shop’ atmospheric feel to this place that reminds me of a visit to the Steak and Shake or other meat-sandwich-Kiosks. The automatic pairing of the sandwich with this unlikely side creates a psychoactive intrigue at the little uniqueness that the place offers. Overall it’s somewhat tantalizing and curious during the visit, with a notable personality, though somewhat even-toned.

Tally: 39/50

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Final Thoughts

When you’re not in the mood for a physically large lunch but still need some weight in flavor (as opposed to a light salad), grabbing the combo of fritters with half-sandwich seems to fit the bill quite well. Everyone usually has their preference between Italian and Philly styles, but if you’re not sure then of course start off with the Philly’s. On a secondary note, ordering the side of Fritters is a fun option when in need of a snack, either between trucks or whatever the situation is. The question is whether they’re only offering the particularly-cheap side of 2 fritters, great for one person, or a $6 basket, which I suggest sharing with friends. They seem to do both sweet and savory styles well, so no need to wait for specific flavors. And if you’re on the look for something unique and nostalgic the Fritter Dog may be a fun replacement for your favorite corn dog. I’m curious to try it myself, may even reach Toe Ring status.

Fro Yo Soul

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http://www.fro-yo-soul.com/
https://twitter.com/FroYoSoul
Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul

Much like food trucks, the frozen yogurt, or ‘fro yo,’ shop craze has been blooming at a rather steady rate over the past decade. Being the live-in social outcast who’s never on the right web pages for staying up-to-date on these kind of things, I myself didn’t even discover these pump-yourself (oh god that sounds so wrong, but we know it’s so right) until a trip to San Francisco a few years back. For obvious reasons I jumped on the bandwagon and fell in love immediately, especially with some of the very special bevy of toppings to choose from, only to fly back to Minnesota, where though we have shops they are much farther away from my location than I’d like.

Now, taking this idea and turning it into a food truck isn’t that new either; special truck builders have been making these unique self-serve mobile fro yo creations for various entrepreneurs throughout the US for a few years. But sadly, we in the Twin Cities had yet to find one on our streets (much like the grilled cheese issue –shakes head-)… until now.

Fro Yo Soul entered the twin city street food race in late June of 2014 (of course I don’t notice until three months later… at this point I don’t know how much is my fault and how much is lack of others reporting), and so far has premiered with much acclaim. Much like the shops, Soul offers a set of frozen yogurt churners which one can pull from to have as much or as little of whatever flavor you desire. 6 of these machines are installed into the side, set into three pairs, each of which can be ‘twisted’ together if that’s one’s preference.

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The first pair of Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate is set to be a constant every day, but the other four machines are highly seasonal and changing often. They usually contain a pair of yogurt fruit-based options, like Pomegranate and the classic ‘Tart’ (plain yogurt) freezes, as well as a pair of Vegan Frozen Yogurts which really show the seasonality. On my visit these last two were Chai Tea and Pumpkin flavored, it being October. All of the frozen yogurt is completely Organic, and enhanced with vitamins and other good-body-ingredients (like they add at jamba juice or wherever).

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And of course, at the end of the line exists a variety of toppings; fresh Fruit, Cereal, classic Sprinkles and Candy options.  After pulling out as much of the frozen cream into your cup as you want and loading with toppings, the chilled concoction is weighed and priced accordingly, and we thus leave with a spoon in hand to enjoy the soft serve goodness.

Food: 8.5

                Best thing about going to one of these trucks for reviewing is I can sample multiple flavors without having to worry about exponentially large wallet removals. As such, I was able to grab the Dutch Chocolate, a twist of Pomegranate and Tart Yogurt, and their Vegan Pumpkin fro yo.
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As someone obsessed with ice cream, I can’t say that this reached the absolute pinnacle of sinful joy (well I guess it’s supposed to be good for you so that shouldn’t apply), but the yogurt concoctions were smooth, a little rich, without any undesired ‘milky’ flavor/textures (like Dairy Queen…). I did quite enjoy their chocolate, would definitely not mind a big bowl of that with some well-paired toppings. The fruit/yogurt options are somewhat interesting; it reminded me of all the Gogurts I was obsessed with as a kid. It really is the flavor and texture one would expect when they originally hear ‘frozen yogurt,’ whether that’s a good thing or bad in your desires. As such I will say that it wasn’t how I ideally want to experience the fruit flavor, almost felt confected/mass produced, but then again that’s pomegranate, where they probably had to use the pure juice, which CAN have that aspect to it when mixing with certain things. Perhaps other fruit flavors may come off better.

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And finally, the Vegan Fro Yo… actually came out better than what I was dreading. Texturally one could tell the difference between that and the original, but not in an inferior way. A little sharper, lighter in style vs the denser and creamier vanilla-chocolate, and the pumpkin flavor was handled pretty well I’d think. Lighter, retaining a bit of its sweetness and desired qualities. Very likely came from the can, it’s not as deep or complex of flavors that good, high quality ice cream places might make it, but it’s still quite good.

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When it comes to toppings, sad to say there’s not THAT much to choose from, at least not if you’re used to a lot of the other fro yo shops. A few cereals, fruit, and basic chocolate and gummy candies make up most of it; though I did find some interesting options in sprinkle cups of chia seeds, wasabi powder, and an option of sunflower seeds. I opted for the last, some granola (which was a nice version, not that crunchy though), and coconut. They don’t have any sauces (maybe on other days?), and I’m absolutely disheartened not to see the typical ‘pop pearls’ or, my absolute favorite, diced Mochi. Either way I really wish they amped up the number of offerings here; more fro yo options would be nice too, but I can understand the limited special requirements for that.

Holdability: 9

               Two hands required, but it’s pretty clean-going and unmessy.
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Price: 10

                At 58c per ounce, one really isn’t paying much for their selection of tasty frozen treats. With just over 5 ounces, my selection of three different options came to a bit over $3, and even if one really ‘loaded up’ to a heavy cupful I doubt they’d breach the $10 mark anytime soon. One can really see here how these shops got so popular.

Speed: 9.5

 

You make it yourself, time is taken up only by choosing your own options and weighing.

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The TOE: 7

                This style of truck and business is always fun and unique-looking for a reason, thus creating an enjoyable experience whenever one goes. On a down note, the act of doing everything yourself, though raising points in this category, also decreases due to a bit of disconnect from those running the business and experience in the first place. Also, I just gotta take a couple points off for having a topping selection that’s notably lacking compared to what I’ve seen in other fro yo shops (seriously, I want Mochi).

Tally: 44/50

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Final Thoughts

There’s not really much I can say here in terms of ‘suggestions;’ pick a flavor and put as much of it as you want on it, the place is as simple as that. Final options are all highly dependent on your own personal tastes, whether one enjoys fruity over chocolate or other flavors. All I can say here is that it’s a great place to get a treat on the cheap, so for anyone wanting SOME sort of Fun food truck experience with little money to spend it’s ideal. Not to mention a fantastic Dessert stop for Vegans (or anyone really).

Starting to think I should have just done a Quasi-review for these guys… oh well.

Tru Pizza

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http://www.trupizzatruck.com/
https://www.facebook.com/trupizza
Main Location: Minneapolis

Coming in with the other anticipated mid-season group of trucks mentioned in a previous review, Tru Pizza has hit the downtown Minneapolis streets to solid acclaim. It seems the business has quickly integrated itself quite well into the lineup, at least for this year, and is poised to become the first supporting column in our mobile pizza needs (true, there is another pizzeria on wheels in Minnesota’s list, but they rarely hit the streets outside of events and rare brewery visits).

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They peaked my own curiosity quite a bit too; seeing it was based out of a completely enclosed truck, as opposed to many mobile pizza places using a trailer with noted attachment on the end for their brick-oven, I very much wanted to know what appliance and system they used for their pie cookery. What an intriguing shock I got, then, when I noticed the front half of their already-small working space was crammed with yet a giant domed pizza oven, typical in style to the traditional brick oven. “How they get it in there?” my first thought read… only to be solved on my realization it is NOT a brick oven, but made of pure steel, so disassembly must be possible; I do believe it is still wood fired though, leaving a great and hot cooking source for the Neapolitan fare.

As for the fair itself, I guess I don’t need to state that Pizza is indeed the specialty; in particular, crust and toppings keep more to the Mediterranean trends favored nowadays, with crusty raised dough. Leaning towards light red and white sauces, delicate use of toppings, and ingredients like Buratta and Fennel Sausage, Tru is reminiscent of some of our favorite quality pizza places that have come into focus the past decade.

As for options, they of course start off with a classic Margherita (for those still unaware, simple pizza of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil), regular or a Wet option that uses Buratta (basically mozzarella cheese that is wrapped in a ball around very moist and wet curd, super delicious and delicate). Pre-set pizzas include something called “Killer” that uses pepperoni and crimini mushrooms, as well as a Highway Man that has the same meat, fennel sausage, basil and pepperocini peppers. White Pizza’s (using simply olive oil and basil) focus on ingredients like Prosciutto, Arugula, Kalamata Olives, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatos, Kale, and fresh Garlic. One of course has customization options.

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There is of course  no good pizza place without an option for bread on the side, Tru taking this to offer a more affordable ‘Flatbread’ option. On my visit it was listed as ‘Lardo,’ a special guy that’s brushed with rendered pork fat with herbs and pecorino. Whether this is to be a constant option or they change it is unsure, but it sounds nummy to me.

Food: 9

                Trying to find a single pizza that would allow me to get a full experience of their style and the quality of various toppings used, I ordered the MRE, coming with a mix of Fennel Sausage, Crimini, Wood-roasted Onions, and Fresh Basil. I also substituted to the Buratta Mozzarella to see how it comes out.

Which, sadly, didn’t shine as much as I wanted what with the other flavors coming into play, especially with little was on the pie; that said, it still offered a very fresh, clean, great cheese on the tomato sauce, still way better than factory shredded crap, I just doubt one could differentiate it from the fresh Mozzarella that much. As for the other main components, the sauce was bright and fresh, good tomato flavor without that heaviness derived from thick paste and overly stewing. Dough was nicely thin, great charring from the oven, with a good chew texture for most of it, though I felt the slightly thicker ends a bit chewier than my taste. But to be fair Punch Pizza’s is a bit tougher still, so overall they seem to have a good and acceptable recipe.

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I love the fennel sausage, the charred and soft onions, and some nicely roasted mushrooms. The ingredients have a good level of quality and creation, and come together with the other base factors to create one of the typically ideal wood oven cooked pizzas. The one thing that stands out for me, and this somewhat ties into price, is the amount of these toppings seem a bit scant, even for the style. I wish there was a bit more on there.

Holdability: 5

               Well, it is pizza, though it’s at a small enough size with light toppings that it could allow for easy consuming without having to find stable seating. However, the dough wasn’t cut through all that cleanly, requiring effort to separate the hot pieces without a mess taking place; basically, it became a much harder experience to eat while walking.
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Price: 8

                The three most affordable pizzas are $7, $8,and $9, with the rest hanging between $10 and $11; note these are all good sized lunches, but not the ‘sharing is probably best’ behemoths from a certain other pizza truck. There are options for additions and burrata cheese switch-outs at charge, but I rarely see a particular need to do any of them. Of final and particular note, the Lardo Flatbread comes in at a very cost-effective $5, a tempting offer for future visits in my book.

Speed: 7

A little longer than average, though that’s somewhat expected considering what’s being cooked (though if I remember correctly, certain proper brick oven can cook a pizza pretty damn fast when done right).

The TOE: 8.5

                I’m gonna give them a couple extra points here than I did Little G’s, since they have the same qualities at this point, but I feel a bit more cohesion and identity, plus lack of boring cliché of just having brownie and cookie options on the side; menu and food feels somewhat similar to actual brick-oven pizza restaurants I’ve been to. Not to mention bonus on the use of pork fat in the flatbread (aka breadstick substitute); I am debating whether or not it might actually reach TOE Ring status, but I’d need to try it first (damn my skinny wallet nowadays).

Tally: 37.5/50

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Final Thoughts

If you enjoy and/or desire pizza in the style of Black Sheep and Punch, but don’t feel like going through the whole restaurant thing for lunch in Minneapolis, then Tru Pizza is an ideal stop. Also a strong possibility when looking for a filling yet delicious option at very low prices, the Lardo Flatbread is great for those who don’t mind a carb-loaded meal.

Those options I feel worth going after, at least on your first visit, are highly limited; they only put a bare amount of extra toppings on in my opinion, and then the charge for extra meat starts adding up. As such, I say grab one of the Margherita’s to enjoy the pure and simple fresh, juicy qualities of the basic pizza ingredients. If one HAS to have meat, I might suggest ignoring some of the other options and just add Fennel Sausage to the basic margherita; it’s easily gonna be a better experience than the pepperoni, and costs the same as the Killer. Speaking of which, I would also completely ignore any thoughts of substituting the Buratta; it’ll only really shine well on the Margherita, other toppings easily covering up the subtle qualities that make it amazing.

Something then tells me that the White Sauce based options probably don’t share the highlight, but the Santorini and Health menu items draw my eyes for those who desire a full, vegetarian-friendly lunch without doing the ‘boring’ tomato-mozzarella option (I’m sure there are some who may be sick of it by now). It’ll just cost more.

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The Curious Goat

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https://www.facebook.com/TheCuriousGoatMN
https://twitter.com/CuriousGoatMN
Main Location: Breweries, Etc

The Farm to Table movement has been pretty huge in the past decade and so years, and though many area trucks apply the practice of getting most or some of their product from local farms, it’s much fewer that use the practice as their focal point and theme like many restaurants have. Enter in The Curious Goat, a big orange catering trailer that came onto the scene of Fall 2014.

Curious myself to try it, this feeling of interest only grew as I found their facebook and twitter page lacking in detail on their particular menu choices (at first, it is of course possible more info has been updated after writing this). All I could gleam at the time was a connection to a dairy farm, as well as a picture of the owner holding the most adorable kid (baby goat) ever, likely his own. Rarely out on the street, Goat has also stated that they mainly stick with a few certain breweries to cater at, leaving me to find the right weekend for a beer and lunch. Lo and behold, a wild Sunday opportunity appeared at Sociable Cider Werks, bringing me back to try and sampler and habanero-infused apple booze to pair with the new food discovery.

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My thoughts confirmed, Goat truly focuses on simple foods highlighting local Farm ingredients, working with multiple nearby growers and raisers. Menu is likely to change VERY often, using dishes that highlight a couple ingredients, like their vegetable dishes consisting of just a Cabbage Salad or Brussel Sprouts and Peppers. They usually carry at least a few Vegan-friendly fairs, as I found with the Caramel Apple, though of course protein will always be available. As with their namesake, they currently offer Goat in two forms: a Taco, and a grilled Crostini paired with fresh, local Chevre (probably the only item one can guarantee seeing year-round).

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Goat seems to practice the use of finding multiple forms of delivering these organic products to our mouth, from basket-based piles to different carb-wrapped hand grippers. Besides the taco, my visit also found bun-based Sloppy Joes and a Cauliflower Pita available. The limit of what kinds of food they may feature throughout the year is constrained only by which foods they can get their hands on and what they feel like making.

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Food: 9

                I was lucky enough to be able to try a few things on my first trip round, and here they are!

Considering the name, I just had to focus on goat-themed items, first up being the Chevre Crostini from Freewheeler farms; and let me start off saying I really have no complaints with this dish whatsoever. The baguettes were grilled beautifully, nice and crunchy and flavorful, and the cheese was able to shine its delicious and creamy freshness just as it was meant to. Garnished with fresh apple slices and lightly pickled onions, it made for a tasty, refreshing bite on a fine summer’s day.

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Following this with a warm Goat Taco isn’t a bad move, and as tacos go this one is very well put together. Good masa tortilla (not double layered, which at first I was upset about but there was literally no spillage besides 1-2 drops of juice, so it’s alright this time) and fresh herbs and veggies compliment a lightly-spiced, juicy shredded meat. I’d like to say how impressed I am at what first looked to be too much vegetation topping (a la Tiki Tim’s fish tacos in the early periods) actually contributed a much lighter element at good balance to the protein. The protein itself, which carried a good flavor through marinade and/or sauce, I found disappointment in lack of its OWN flavor. Or, put simply, there wasn’t much there in the palette that told it was GOAT as opposed to pork or some cuts of shredded beef. Wish that grassy quality was able to come through.

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After what was originally going to be my only two options, I couldn’t help but go back and try something that just seemed too fun not to get: the Caramel Apple, made completely Vegan (since caramel usually needs cream and/or butter to complete itself). Sadly not on a stick, the local fruit is cut into wedges and served alongside a container of cooked sugar thus mixed with coconut cream and other vegan substitutes, along with a few choice spices (not the regular cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice thing). When all is set and done, and the apple dipped, the dish thankfully avoids the feeling of an ‘inferior version to the originally,’ which many vegan recipes can do if not made well. The coconut added a tasty fusion to the flavor, the sauce’s texture was smooth, and the spices light and floral, overall tasting really nice with the apple; I’d love to have this sauce on top of some pie or ice cream!

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Holdability: 7.5

               Pretty variable among options, but nonetheless the intention behind these food creations is to have them enjoyed at the table of a local brewery, thus quite a few are designed to be much more comfortable eaten sitting down. That said, the tacos, pitas, and potentially sloppy joe eat a little more mobile, and the other items are still presented very clean, with little to no risk of mess. I will say I was hoping the ‘caramel apple’ would have come on a stick somehow, but the sauce was indeed very loose…
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Price: 6

                Very static; on my particular visit, the highest item was a spicy Fried Chicken at $12 while the cheapest was a $5 cabbage salad and the $4 caramel apple. The mobile protein entrees were $9 and $10, with other veggies hanging around $7-8. This is all of course BEFORE tax.
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There is something else I’d like to bring up. Apparently, on the particular day of my experience, there seemed to be some issue with the coin change; either they couldn’t get to it, or didn’t have any, or whatever it was, despite tacking on an additional 30-80 cents to orders due to tax. As a result, one was handed back purely all of the paper change and nothing else; in a sense, all menu items cost a dollar more than what was listed unless you paid with a credit card. Now, of course, I don’t expect or assume this is a constant problem, but I’m a bit upset at how they chose to handle it; in a situation like this, customer service would dictate it much more favorable and kinder to simply give out an extra dollar in change instead of unknowingly forcing people to pay more. It’s not much, but it’s one of the many little things in the business that helps to keep the experience for a customer, like a simple smile when taking orders.

Speed: 6

I felt like I had to wait a bit longer for the tacos and chevre than what it should have taken, especially with only one order in front (and that was out soon after I placed my own). I mean all the chevre required was toasted the baguette, everything else is pre-made; and one can clearly see the goat is shredded, thus pre-cooked, and would only need warming while the tortilla toasted. With a brewery experience, this probably works well though; you make your order, go and grab the beer selection, and then head to a table for them to bring out to you (they even give you those little number cards for delivery! Fun).

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The TOE: 9.5

                Focusing a menu and truck purely on Farm-to-Table and good, local products is always a great idea, but it’s not always expressive in the mobile game; which is why I absolutely love Goat’s ability to really make me ‘feel’ like I’m eating these ingredients through their menu of simple, produce-based dishes. Of course the name and display is quite interesting and unique and helps facilitate this along, next to its good-tasting food.

As the wave of excitement and ambiance leads me through, though, it makes me feel even the worse for not hitting that absolute peak which I wish they could get to. The menu and food has a noted feeling and soul to it, but it just doesn’t come together perfectly for a food truck; I’d say it’s missing something TRULY central and eye-catching, a focal point besides goat cheese crostinis… it needs a TOE Ring. My hope was that this would be the caramel apple dish, but cut up fruit with sauce on the side, no matter how good, won’t cut it; I wish they actually had taken a really small apple (and it was a small apple they used), or like a section of it (maybe gouge out little balls) and actually make caramel-coated local apples on a stick/skewer, and with those added spices they had it’d make a perfect fit, so long as they could get the coating set. Or something… it really FEELS like they could make something worthy of TOE Ring quality or something similar, and that’s why I’m missing it a bit more than usual (nonetheless, what they did accomplish here was still really good, so I think they deserve a very high score).

Tally: 38/50

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Final Thoughts

Truly one of the ideal mobile kitchens to order from at a brewery, on a beautiful blue sky day with outside seating and your favorite glass of local draught. Not to mention Goat also provides some of the better, tastier street options for Vegans (shame on you, SHAME!).

Though if you’re more protein-inclined, they include some great Minnesota-raised animals to chew. Sadly, though the Chevre Crostinis are a certain positive experience, the other goat-based item of tacos doesn’t feel too worth a visit. The Sloppy Joe and Fried Chicken, on the other hand, should offer fun options for those willing to pay more than usual.

I expect most any vegetable dish to be prepare well and proper, and put high suggestion on those like the Cauliflower Pita. As for the Caramel Apple and other desserts they may put out, not a bad experience if one has the urge for a little sweet in their day, but one shouldn’t be too upset if they decide not to get it.

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Peep’s Hotbox

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https://twitter.com/PeepsHotbox

https://www.facebook.com/peepshotbox

Main Location: Areas throughout Twin Cities (except main downtown hub)

Another summer is slowly coming to a close, the days still sunny and warm but with interjecting weeks of chilled mornings, and thankfully the trucks are still on the streets in abundant number… in fact, they’re increasing. For as I was made abruptly aware one lazy afternoon, following a couple threads on my usual brewery-calendar-checking, thinking that I was close to finished with this year’s new-truck-explorations with only a certain mobile pizza business to go… and finding out I still have at least 5 more trucks to get through.

One of these trucks in my frantic year-end bucket list, and the only one I was able to plan a day for (gotta cross fingers on downtown trips), is Peep’s Hotbox. Showing up to its venues in a midnight colored van supporting a mural of rainbow-colored avians in flight, Peep’s brings an interesting site to the venues it vends from. And though it doesn’t contain any of the Easter-based candies (don’t you think it should around the holidays though? How fun would that be!?), the menu brings an interesting moment of ponder to our day.

I can’t actually figure out an official category or simple description for their offerings; there really is no common thread. If you read their Facebook page, it actually reads, under ‘Food Styles’: American, Breakfast, Japanese, Latin American, Mexican, Sandwiches, Vegetarian, Vietnamese… and there’s probably more they haven’t included, not to mention new items they might bring in the future. The one thing we can say is that every item is intriguing and has a feel of… scrumptiousness when reading.

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As for what’s on right now, the seeming forerunner (in my eyes) is a unique Mexican dish called Huaraches, offered using vegetarian Black Bean centerpiece or Pollo. After that is a Pork Chop Sandwich, offered in a long, tight-clenched hoagie/bahn mi bun. Other items offered, on and off, is a chicken thigh Yakitori, cups of Chili, Asian Noodle Salad, and an open-faced BLT with heirloom tomatoes in the good farmer market days.

Chug this down with a can of refreshing Coconut Juice, San Pellegrino, or whatever brewery offering you happen to be at, and see for yourself what this truck entails. Though, for those that have yet to visit, here’s the reaction from my visit, also accomplished during my first trip to the recently-opened Bauhaus Brewery!

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Food: 10

Well, let me start off by saying that if I had a category for Presentation then Peeps would have aced it! Man their food looks pretty, especially coming out of a truck.

My premier visit led me to what I’d have to say is THE menu focus, being the most interesting and unique item up for option, and not seen anywhere else: the Huarache (of course, I got Pollo). To describe what this is simply, one considers the basic anatomy of the best taco fillings, with ALL the meat, queso blanco, salsa, crisp veggie and some avocado, and pile it on a long, boat-shaped Arepa (similar to the masa cake style that Café Racer uses). And oh, it was good, the ideal and pinnacle of masa-topped/filled deliciousness. Tender meat, a sauce that was lightly spicy and deeper in flavor, some fresh radish and lettuce to counterpoint, and creamy sauce and queso to cool things down. A great mouthful of interplay. Now, if only it was easy to eat (see following score)…

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Sadly have not had the chance, yet, to try the Pork Chop Sandwich, but considering the results of the food here, other options and their seemingly high focus on palate-tantalizing fare, I bet it’s pretty darn good too. I’d actually want to try the yakitori too; I feel like they might actually do it justice, especially using only the flavorful, juicy dark chicken thighs.

Holdability: 7

HIGHLY variable, it really depends on what item one gets. On one end, the pork sandwich is extremely carriable, one could probably only need one hand; while on the other, the huaraches… the idea of an oblong arepa base is fun, and could be holdable in a sense, but the whole dish is a big mess. Seriously, you need a knife and fork if you want to eat it properly, it just can’t be picked up without spillage and getting your fingers messy (which does have some appeal); not a bad dish for a brewery lunch. Then there’s a cup of soup, skewered chicken which may be coming in a basket, a thai noodle salad at one point… at the very least, one has their pick of items depending on their needs.

Price: 7

  $8 each for the main two entrees and $7 for the chili and yakitori; great prices overall, though I wonder if $7 is a bit much for these notably smaller items.

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Speed: 6.5

A little longer than normal, not surprising considering all the little things they have to do for the sandwich and huaraches, but I don’t think I’d wanna be in a line with a few of those orders ahead of me. That said, wouldn’t be surprised if the chili and yakitori took quicker.

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The TOE: 8

A strong, distinctive personality showing, intriguing artwork, and a set of delicious food that doesn’t really show a common thread amongst themselves. Pretty much sums it up, I’d like to be creative and offer another one of my long, eloquently off-again-on-again ramblings to delve into other things affecting the score, but I can’t think of much for this one. Maybe it’s just a lazy day?

Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

A Truck where one can find options to fit multiple needs, it’s a solid option for when one doesn’t know which mobile vendor nearby is suitable for their situation. Or, if going to a brewery or other locale where it’s the only food option, one can go resting assured it’s a good limited menu to be stuck with. One simply has to know which menu items to get for their needs.

For the extreme travel-minded, the Pork Chop Sandwich is really the only, and best anyways, route to go. Though the Huaraches are much too messy, for now (here’s hoping they’ll fix it), they fit great in a brewery atmosphere or in any situation one wants and is able to sit down and focus on eating. When the day is cold, grab a warm cup of Chili, or a bright Noodle Salad when it’s hot. And when looking for something refreshing, an open-faced BLT or other item featured Heirloom Tomatoes is key.

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It’s not a place I would stop to represent and be ‘indicative’ of our street food scene, but if you just want some good food (street or otherwise) then it’s a keeper; I doubt there are any disappointing offerings.

Harriet Battle Roy-ally

2014-09-03 13_11_42-Youth Link Food Truck Battle & Rally _ Harriet Brewing - Internet Explorer

http://www.youthlinkmn.org/food-truck-battle/

So apparently Harriet Brewing is hosting a full-on Food Truck Battle on the Saturday of September 13th… and I’m gonna be working during it! Ohhhhhh the humanities!

For those like me who haven’t heard about it yet, Youthlink’s First Ever (indicating possibly more events year to year) ‘Gilded Spatula’, with a portion of the profit going to help homeless youth. The battle itself start at Noon and goes ’til Three, with each of the 8 trucks making a completely New Entrée dish, never seen before, to be judged by a panel. Entry fee during this time frame is $45, which not only allows one to watch the proceedings but to also sample each and every contestants’ food yourself along with two, count them, two of Harriet’s Beers to keep yourself amused while waiting.

Of course, if you don’t mind not being there when the judgment is called, not being able to sample the creations, or waiting a little longer in the day to start, these mobile contestants will be sticking around the parking lot until 7pm for a Free-to-Enter Rally after the show. Bands and music will of course be playing all day as-is Harriet’s custom, and beer will now need to be purchased, but it’s all gonna be a grand ole’ time like usual.

Competing Trucks will be: Cupcake Social, Big Brother Almighty BBQ, Brava on Wheels, Cave Café, GastroTruck, Gogi Brothers, Scratch Food (I’m laying my bets on them, GOOO Scratch! -holds up foam finger-), and Tru Pizza.

Tickets can be purchased Here, along with extra donations if you’re able.

Big Brother Almighty BBQ

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http://www.bigbrotheralmightysmokedbbq.com/

https://twitter.com/BBAlmightyBBQ

Main Location: Minneapolis

It’s always interesting when new batches of Food Trucks come in each year; the discover of which, usually, coming through various waves and instances as the 10+(usually a lot of +) come in unannounced throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. 2014 has stood out as somewhat interesting, though, in how many articles and reports and postings I’ve seen come out, grandstanding around THE new group of mobile vendors coming out this year. This always being the same group of 5-8 Trucks being anticipated for by bloggers and media alike, setting themselves squarely into their own little ‘Rat Pack Street Food Style’ of the 2014 Generation. Though of course one or two of the trucks aren’t always consistent list to list, certain new businesses being more unique or informationally available for each article owner, there are a certain few that consistently stand out at the top of the list.

Of these, Big Brother Almighty BBQ seems to shine as the most intriguing of newcomers (well, next to Butcher Salt, but they came out much earlier), calling those denizens of the street forth in curiosity as the unique, Zeus-embellished logo. As for their story, it seems the business is originally based out of the bbq-joint-of-the-same-name, located on Hoover St in Minneapolis.

Like all BBQ businesses, there is no such thing as ‘menu specialization;’ no matter what their best and worst items are, they shell out everything. Ribs, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Rib TIPS, even Chicken Wings, one can get all the classics, every which one of them being smoked for flavor. Of the sides we have those mainly typical of a lower key place, or perhaps a picnic, with Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Mac n Cheese, Potato Salad, and French Fries (sad to say no bacon/ham and collard greens made the list). Besides the Pork and a Polish Sausage, all smoked items come in Full and Half orders, reminiscent of making the aching decision of whether or not you can handle double the ribs in your local lodge house.

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And did I mention every meat comes with a free slice of White Bread? Now that’s classic barbecue. Sadly, they don’t make their own sauce to accompany this or your meat, maybe a wet marinade for some items, but they carry a few classic options to choose from and distribute on your own desires.

Food: 5.5

                It’s a very, very difficult thing to get a grasp of any BBQ joint’s food and style when only having one or their items; whereas the ribs from one place are divine, that same business’ pulled pork may be abysmal (or at least just okay), or vice versa. Many places have noted strong and weak items, some may be strong across the board, but we can’t know the full situation with only experiencing one meat. Thus my exploring of this mobile shack had to be relegated in my schedule twice.

Thankfully for me, my very first visit provided a stroke of luck, walking up to the counter right as they were inspecting a slab of Rib Tip. Cutting off an end, the cook asked my opinion on its level of preparation; it did need more time, as it was still notably chewy, but the juiciness of that meat fully coated my mouth and fingers, accompanied by a lightly piquant red marinade that made me very hopeful for my meals to come.

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But that stopped soon afterwards, for though the side of Beans I acquired provided a nice flavor compared to the generic puddles of goo one is loathe to remember, still a touch chalky in texture but definitely a good basic experience, my regular Ribs left my feelings neutral. Not that there was anything wrong with the ribs; my teeth can bite through, one can taste a little smoke, the pork flavor is nice; but there’s nothing really ‘right’ either. They’re not bad, but they aren’t great, and ribs are one of those foods where any time you eat it the flavor should be GREAT and excite you. But they just felt decent, ‘alright,’ it was cooked well enough nothing was wrong with them but there was no special quality.

The Brisket sunk me even lower, finding something that made me disappointed. I love brisket, absolutely love it, but this just ended up tasting like roast beef, with barely any smoke flavor and none of the pink flesh from that heated carbon-curing. It was gray and brown with no bark (literal and figurative), and really pointed out the sadness that they don’t make their own sauce to slather over the finished meat. Because worst, worst of all, it was dry; and no, not as in the sandy, chewing on leather dry, but that texture right in the back tells you immediately there will be no juicy reward in this food, with just a hint of flesh scraping, which may be nothing for other meat but for a brisket is DRY. Oh, and did I mention I had a piece with a chunk of fat/gristle that I, of all people, COULDN’T eat? And I love chowing down on delicious animal fat with steaks and whatnot.

All this comes as no surprise when one reads on their homepage that the owner himself, a ‘Professional Cook,’ has been working only as a Prep cook he was 20 and ‘has even taken a course in BBQ from Jack’s Old South BBQ Cooking School in Unadilla, Georgia.’ Ooooh, a whole course?

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I now sadly doubt if the rib tips, though delicious when fresh, would actually come to customers near that level after having been sliced and kept ready to serve like these previous items. Could very well be wrong though, they may just keep that idealistic perfection, with a texture my teeth can actually cut through on their own. Finishing off, I did get a look at their Mac and Cheese, and for the typical thick, gooey yellow style one usually sees from BBQ and Sandwich trucks (like Bloomy’s), it looked to be of the tastier variation.

Holdability: 5.5

                 Though sides, when ordered solo, are placed in small, easy-to transport containers, any entrée choice immediately requires the characteristic giant styrafoam box, no matter how small the whole order is. Though options like ribs and chicken wings, when not heavily sauced by yourself, can allow for ease of consumption (despite the obtrusive packaging), brisket and pulled pork offer much cumbersome mess. Picking up the white bread that’s supposed to act as their sandwich bread base only ends in part of it ripping in half, saucy meat falling, and you turning around to grab napkins as you plan a better navigation plan. Put simply, these items are meant for shipping to an eat-focused-location.

Price: 3.5

                  The cheapest one will pay here, not counting only getting some sides or ordering the $7 Polish Sausage, is $9 for their ‘small/half’ orders. This applies to only 3 slices of brisket, 4 small ribs, 4oz of rib tips, or just 6 chicken wings (not sure how much pulled pork you get, but I don’t expect I’d be wowed). Oh and did I mention this is before the tax kicks in? So it’s almost $10. To actually get a decent sized order, one will pay around $14 for double the amount, $12 in the case of chicken wings (which isn’t actually getting a full double anyways), before tax again. And sides are $3-4 each.

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Very typical and not so surprising price listing when heading into some BBQ restaurants, but completely unacceptable from a food truck perspective; we either need some more affordable options or, at the very least, substantial quantities (and qualities) of food to match the higher-end price listing in the street vendor line-up.

Speed: 9

A relatively quick recovery of pre-finished product into your container, or spooned into Tupperware.

The TOE: 4.5

                  Big Brother seeks to apply the same feeling and experience of eating at their restaurant or bbq catering table, I presume, without making any consideration changes towards Street Food culture. Nothing is made purely to eat mobile, the price system mirrors brick and mortar expectancies, and portion size for even the most affordable options are laughable. They do carry an ambiance and a unique enough design and attitude which initially draws us in quite well, but it never carries through unless one is tunnel-visioned enough about the idea of a barbecue stop that they simply don’t care (which I admit, and have for many of my reviews, that these may simply be the opinions of a self-obsessed ranting lunatic, but nonetheless…).

Tally: 28/50

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Final Thoughts

Unless one really has a craving for a BBQ lunch, and are dependent on getting it from a Food Truck, I would ultimately suggest finding somewhere else for lunch. That said, if one WERE to visit here, I have two main ideas for a decent experience.

1: for the BBQ-focused, I would bet the Pulled Pork probably allows for the better eating options, and you may get more for the money (pork used for pulling generally being cheaper, and since they only have one option for I would assume that means it’s not a half/dinky order. Then again, it could just be charging for a single, small sandwich). Then again, if the Rib Tips ever tender up once cooked, it should be pretty good, just one of the pricier street options. Though considering they’re the main two items they seem to push on the website, it’s not so surprising.

2: skip the BBQ all-together, get yourself 2-3 sides, some Mac and Cheese and Baked Beans. They open themselves up as a possible choice when creating a full-course food truck day plan. Though don’t get the fries, they’re pre-cut frozen things I can tell.

BF Sausage Cart

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https://twitter.com/BachelorFarmer

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/08/the_bachelor_farmer_opens_sausage_cart_a_house-made_twist_on_the_hot_dog_stand.php

Main Location: 200 N First St, outside of Bachelor Farmer

Despite the fact that Marvel Bar is indeed my absolute favorite place to grab a cocktail in the cities, I have in fact been there on multiple occasions (which I can rarely say for other alcohol establishments besides a bare few), my visits to their restaurant connection and origin Bachelor Farmer has been an absolute zero. Which is a shame, considering their dedication to organic, local produce turned into fully hand-made items, not to mention their very Germanic/Austrian inspirations (which I always love).

Well, now we can all enjoy a taste of BF’s handiwork, since they announced the early August opening of their new Sausage Cart. Parked right around the corner from their main restaurant is the traditional style hot-dog cart, shelling out a very non-traditional encased meat product.

Sausage, and I do mean that in a very singular sense; there’s only one thing you get when you go, and that’s their hand ground, spiced from scratch pork link stuffed in a Wullot Bakery Bun (the only thing they don’t make themselves; I think it’s Hawaiian style). From what I’ve seen, though, it seems that the specific sausage style doesn’t remain the same day-to-day; the meat source and maybe the spices do, but I’ve seen pictures of a typical weiner-shaped dog, longer and skinny footlongs, and thicker wurst styles.

You can top whichever meat tube of the day you get with a bevy of purely scratch made toppings: Mustard, Ketchup, Sauerkraut mix, or Spiced Peppers (and I’m sure they’ll have other things in the future). This automatically comes with a bag of their own slice-and-fried Potato Chips, with the option for a giant Dill Pickle. All of which can be washed down, if desired, with some Virgil’s Rootbeer. That’s basically it, but who cares about a lack of menu options when one has a single idea done right?

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So far they plan to remain quite stationary with this little side vendor, participating only in events that happen right outside or with the restaurant itself. Whether or not far future tendencies may have them becoming more mobile in location is still up in the air (as of the time I am writing this).

Food: 9.5

No reason to say what I did or didn’t get, considering the singular option.

That said, everything was pretty darn good. Potato Chips were deliciously crispy with those addictive potato flavors and textures, as a good fried item should have. The Pickle’s flavor was still kept in the same style as the typical large, kosher pickle one usually gets on their stereotypical sandwich plate, but kept refined, fresh and tasty, with a little hint of another flavor that I can’t quite name. Great for the traditional pickle lovers out there.

Sausage is… well, it’s what a sausage should be; the one I had today ended up as a thicker wurst shape as opposed to the classic dog. Juicy, meaty, nicely spicy and complexly flavored (for a sausage), and with that great snapping texture that all dog-lusters crave. As for the garnishes, both sauces are sweet and spicy, crunchy vegetables, a great fermented kraut and pickled peppers, getting any or all together coming to a favorable flavor addition that stands out but no way impedes the flavor of the sausage. They both stand strong and taste good together. Oh, and the bun is super soft (but keeps its structure), with a tasty little sweet and egginess, one of the few non-toasted buns I find perfect in its application.

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Holdability: 8.5

An order automatically comes in a basket with a side of fries, automatically making it two-handed, but still easy to consume while walking. I love that they serve the potato chips in their own cute, dinky little bag, brings an old fun to it plus it allows for its own separate stow-away carrying if needed. Getting a pickle increases the basket’s size and can create for more handling considerations, especially considering how much pickle juice leaks out while eating. That’s not even considering whether or not one chooses to get a root beer.

Price: 8

As-is, $6 gets you a good-sized sausage (loaded if desired) and a handful of delicious hand-made potato chips, with an extra $2 each for a pickle or soda, which can result in a decent combo meal.

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Speed: 9.5

As fast as putting a hot dog in a bun and loading with toppings… oh wait…

The TOE: 10

There’s something about getting a high quality, completely hand-made version of a simple nostalgic food item, like hot dogs, let alone apply that to all the fixings. It’s one of the reasons Natedogs is so successful and loved, and basing it out of one of Minneapolis’ new cornerstone restaurant movers of recent years brings another aspect of ‘connection’ to the experience. Knowing one is able to grab an affordable option made with the same love and attention is a great way to get the community off. Plus, I must say that being the first Minneapolis street vendor that’s located exclusively in a location that’s NOT on Marquette/Nicolette or the adjoining streets is pretty neat, and hopefully a start for our Trucks to begin spreading their area of influence out like they so sorely need again.

Oh, and dedicating your menu to only one real option, when doing it WELL; bonus points galore (it can be a curse otherwise).

Tally: 45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Ummmm, get it? It’s a great lunch stop if one finds yourself close enough to walk to the North Loop area of downtown (or, you know, drive down from another city just to eat and do a blog post on it) for a stand that’ll always be in the same spot. Obviously this is a place that will not qualify as a small stop on food truck event days.

As for suggestions on order, I would probably say just skip the Pickle, unless you REALLY want a pickle (it’s a good one), and leave your focus purely on the Sausage and Chips. If thirsty, it sounds as if the Root Beer is of a unique and tasty enough selection to warrant an order.

Green + The Grain

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https://www.facebook.com/greenandthegrain/info

https://twitter.com/GreenNtheGrain

Main Location: Minneapolis

By now I’ve made quite a few things known about what will and will not set me off through my various mobile visits. For example, the most puzzling oddity of someone indulging themselves in the street food culture only to get an item that is the most counterproductive I can think of; a Salad. Even more grievous are those places that seem to ruin what would otherwise be one of the perfect Food Truck offerings; my time at a certain vehicle still leaves a bad taste in my mouth from their attempt at Wraps.

So imagine my intrigue during my first visit of Green + The Grain, a very healthful and organic-inspired truck which made its way on the streets in June of this year, when my eyes sweep over a menu filled with nothing but these two different items which have made such an impact on me this past year. Only this time there actually seems to be a proper focus, and it’s actually done WELL.

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As you’ve surmised by now, GtG focuses on Salads and Wraps; or, to be more surprised, has a menu filled with different salads with the option of stuffing those same mixes into wraps (or vice versa). Peaking inside, one can see a whole row of mise en place stretching from one end of the giant order/delivery window to the end, each little container filled purely with greens, veggies, and the rare protein additions.

A seasonal menu, with various mix options supposedly changing at least once a week, future items may reach well beyond those discussed here (as should be considered for all seasonal Trucks I review, though I often fail to include the disclaimer due to laziness), but there seems to be a bit of a pattern so far. Chicken is the often-seen protein, commonly on the menu in Asian (also seen with Beef Tenderloin), Caesar, and Buffalo iterations, though the Berry Natural seems to be a set menu favorite, adding a delightful handful of fresh and dried fruit to the herb roasted poultry. If there’s anything that’s constant, outside of perhaps the Caesar, it’s the shared load of ingredients every single salad is filled with; greens, multiple veggies, croutons, apples, dressing, and who knows what else, the specifics of which morph and adjust depending on the final decision on focus.

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But of course there technically IS one other thing we can enjoy on our visits here; Organic Frozen Yogurt, supplied by Cloud Top and churned by GtG, garnished with whatever fruit and granola one desired. Their site does also make mention of a “signature tart,” though my luck in seeing it on my visit seemed to be quite poor. Ice cream machine wasn’t working either, luckily I wasn’t in the mood… maybe on future visits though…

So, what kind of potential can a downtown mobile Salad-based caterer have? Let’s find out.

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Food: 9.5

                I’ll admit, though my thoughts of it as street food is notably questionable, I still LOVE a GOOD Salad. An even dressing coating, with bright flavors and a range of crunchy texture, maybe some creaminess, just the best of lettuce and accompaniments. This pleasure has always been heightened even more when enjoyed inside a tight, soft tortilla shell.

So being able to have a wrap that properly fulfills these cravings, unlike the sad weak and dry versions seen in convenience stores and certain businesses, was quite the pleasure. All the vegetables were fresh, some apple slices brought the juicy crispness, and the croutons… oh the croutons. When I saw it opened up, I actually worried they may have already gotten soggy; silly me, their crunchiness was glorious as it should be. As for my salad of choice, Buffalo Shrimp, the shellfish was cooked properly with that nice snap, not dry or mealy. It wasn’t actually as “buffalo-y” as I though; the one thing I could say is that the flavor didn’t come through quite as much with everything else going on, but I still got some of that nice little heat here throughout. A good kind of hot sauce marinade, not the cliché traffic-warning-orange-colored stuff some places get in gallon jugs. Their use and manipulation of it allows my assumptions to stay positive in how they handle their other proteins and sauces/marinades.

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Holdability: 7

                 The first hurdle in a truck like this is, of course, their handling and display of the salad; and though one can never change its inability to eat with one hand when served plain, I do like and respect GnG’s packaging for the copious vegetation. A nice, tight, compact bowl that seems easy to carry and likely easy to consume out of. Ironically, it’s where the wraps come into play that issues pop up. It’s such a great way to eat on the go, a nicely tight, folded package around delicious filling, wrapped again in parchment to handle/avoid mess… and then they cut the damn thing in half, completely negating the whole purpose. I mean, I don’t mind having it halved in a restaurant, but now a one-handed ease venture turned into using both hands and trying to figure out how to ease it from its parchment bindings without everything collapsing on itself (I couldn’t quite figure it out, had some spillage). It makes something that should have been simple into an annoying challenge.

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Price: 6.5

                  Besides a $4 Soft Serve Yogurt ($6 for the large) and I’m assuming similarly priced Tart (or fruit cup in today’s case… interesting), every main-menu item is $9. Or, to be more honest, almost $10 with the tax; definitely one of the higher “set costs” on the street, though at the very least they DO give out a good amount of product for it. Tasty ones at that.

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Speed: 8.5

  Somewhat faster than average, it doesn’t take too long to pile and mix the various greens and fillings of these ingredients together and in a bowl or wrap of your choosing, even (or especially) with the decently sized serving.

The TOE: 9

                  Gotta give them credit for taking a style that makes my approach quite cautious and dubious and being able to turn it into a pretty fun and interesting visit. Image is clean and bright, sense of place is strong, and menu options are intriguing enough to create a need to come back (dessert… need…). Now if they only stop cutting our salad burritos in half then they could be a fully-load, strong warrior of the street.

Tally: 40.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Sad as it is to say, despite the Wraps this is still not one of the ideal mobile stops for those wanting to eat their main items while walking; best enjoyed sitting down. That said, whether your cravings lead to a boring salad (boooooooo) or an exciting version wrapped inside a tortilla (Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy… I’m not biased at all am I?), there are some fun ways to go.

There seem to be a few customer favorites, though overall I think the best experiences would lead from ordering the Asian Chicken/Beef, perhaps a Buffalo option, or one of the more interesting Seasonals (we still have yet to see what all they may have yet to do). Outside of this, their Tart looks to be a great small item as the snack-on-the-go, between stops or when one just wants something sweet. Frozen Yogurt is always good, but one can get that at a lot of places, I wouldn’t put it high on one’s list until they’ve tried other things desired.