Sal’s Place on the Road

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https://www.facebook.com/salsplaceonlinemn
https://twitter.com/salsplaceonroad
Main Location: St Paul

For those like me with the consternation to try and visit every food truck in the main cities area, or at least hit as many as possible when given the chance, one usually ends up going through phases. Often we hit a mix of interesting and non, sometimes we’re lucky enough to get multiple amazing trucks in a row, others can just feel like dragging through some others on the side just to cross them off the list. But despite that grouping of bbq-themed guys earlier in the year, the year of 2015 has been turning up mostly fun and interesting trucks so far.

In particularly, I’ve been aware and receiving notifications for a certain truck for a while now, having only to wait on the right week to hit it. Of course delays happen, my budget not allowing me to drive down for truck lunches as often as I’d like, and having a few occasions where a truck not-so-often seen takes precedence over one which I knew I’d be able to get sooner or later.

Apparently I needed TWO visits, with quite the menu listing of different items. But, I’ve finally gotten a solid experience out of Sal’s Place on the Road, and can now do my long-awaited review on them! They taunted me with Facebook updates on their Italian menu items and desserts, and after seeing the complete menu on my first visit, the vehicle sky-rocketed to my absolutely most anticipated food truck of the year so far (we’ll see if they live up to it later). Wish I could have stopped to get a little interview and learn some more about the family behind the truck while I was there, like I’ve been trying to do lately, but things come up, you know how it goes (mainly the fact I was with the cousin, the street was busy that day, and their generator was loud as hell). From what I do know, and can tell, Sal’s does seem to be a family-run operation, and has been on the streets a few seasons already.

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The Menu itself definitely revolves around Traditional Italian-American Diner-style food, mostly geared towards street fare desirables. This includes a collection of Sliders (like Meatball, Pork, Chicken, and Caprese), a Sausage and Pepper Hoagie (cooked in tomato sauce of course), and Arancini, balls of risotto stuffed with cheese and other goodies before being deep-fried. Though no Italian menu is complete without Pasta, to which they change things up, making different ‘seasonal’ flavors and styles as the whim hits them, sometimes going Ziti while others doing Shells, perhaps even noodles of some sort. The one consistency is that it’s ALWAYS done with handmade egg-based pasta dough, likely rolled in Sal’s giant mitts every week.

They also have dessert! Which includes Zeppoli (small Italian doughnuts covered liberally in powdered sugar) and a Deep-Fried Ravioli, also made from their own pasta of course, stuffed with a hazelnut-chocolate filling. And yes, I got both, so you shall see my opinions below! And no I’m not wasting any more time on that.

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Food: 6

                My first visit actually had me starting with dessert! So, despite every parent’s worst meal-planning nightmare, I feel it only fair to discuss their sweets first, especially as they seem to be the main highlight overall (at least in my opinion). I myself was much surprised that the Chocolate Ravioli were deep-fried, it didn’t say, but it gave a nice crunchy outside. At first though, I wasn’t impressed… the filling didn’t stand out too much; but then, after my third, I realized my first couple pieces were actually rather thin. The REAL raviolis, with a good full tablespoon of hazelnut-chocolate inside… ahh, it’s like taking a bite of… well actually I can’t think of a comparison, but it feels a bit nostalgic. Like the best chocolate sauces and toppings, hot and runny, hitting every point of your chocolate cravings perfectly. It highlighted nicely with the firm crunch of the pasta, but as a whole I really did wish for one more element… after going past to start setting up this unique and interesting dessert, the dish needs SOMETHING else to make a complete and amazing plate, powdered sugar doesn’t do crap for it. Maybe just a drizzle of raspberry sauce or something (cuz it’d look like tomato sauce, right!?), or marshmallow (alfredo anyone?)…
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But I hold no complaints with the Zeppoli. They’re perfect. They may look a bit overdone on the outside, but it’s perfectly crisp, not greasy, with a tender interior that I can only describe as in the realms of the best, idealistic brioche and/or poundcake, probably leading more towards the latter. You bite in, enjoy the texture, the little eggy richness from the dough, the heaven of powdered sugar that takes one to the streets of Louisiana, and then realize there’s an extra little flavor there; a touch of citrus, lemon or orange. Simple and classic, something I normally would actually find boring, but for once thoroughly enjoyed the addition as it rounds out a well-crafted dough to make a uncomplicated doughnut sublime. Wouldn’t change a thing. Now onto savory stuff.

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Arancini comes in with an evenly crisp outer shell and soft, tender rice inside, the risotto mixed with cured meats and cheese, resulting in an end product that wasn’t particularly distinctive and outstanding in flavor, but still enjoyable. Especially when you got a bit of cheese goo that stretches when bit into! Rather num, particularly when dipped into the Tomato Sauce, a simple slightly heavier style but I found no apparent flaws (or at least things I disliked about it, to be more accurate to what we’re really all just writing about in review posts).

It also comes with a Breadstick on the side… which they ‘reheat’ by dropping into the deep fryer. Yeah. That happens. Then covered in clumps of… parmesan? Garlic Powder? A combination? I don’t know. What I DO know is that this breadstick is… unholy in the best of ways. It’s crispy on the outside, but fatty, a touch crunchy yet really soft inside, and gives a flavor that’s hard to describe outside of a feeling reminiscent of certain slightly-over-greasy doughnuts, but savory and actually crave-able. Which makes it even worse when I tried the Garlic Dunker basket (not my choice, my cousin got it because he doesn’t know how to really live food-wise) and none of them tasted as good. They were chewier and didn’t have that same outer layer of unhealthy excellence… and I know why. If you look at the picture, you can clearly see they’re using three SMALLER breadsticks for this, which causes a different effect after the frying (which I’m guessing doesn’t even last as long since they don’t ‘need’ the extra time like bigger ones do, another cause of the effect). I wish they’d just do two of the bigger ones instead (or, I mean, come on, just do all three, breadsticks are cheap as f*$# anyway), I might gladly order them myself.

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What I won’t gladly order again are any of the Sliders. Ultimately, we ended up getting three; the Abruzzo Pork, Chicken, and Meatballs. Now, whereas the fillings of each were all decent; juicy herb and wine-braised pulled pork (though I was rather sad that’s all it was, was hoping they’d either have a flavorful sauce or at least some extra toppings on it, otherwise it tasted like plain pulled pork, though really juicy), grilled chicken with a nice pesto and griddled red pepper (love cooked soft red peppers), and a meatball that was soft, well-seasoned, and with a tasty sauce; the simple decision in buns made the experience absolutely disappointing. First off, the ‘ciabatta’ style slider buns were way too thick for the fillings inside; ended up eating all of the meat before finishing the bread, leaving a big chunk of dry dough to force down the gullet. Secondly, there was NO TOASTING of them at ALL! And THIS was the kind of pre-cooked roll that needed a second run-through (like those take-home baguettes at the grocery store that you need to put in an oven to actually get crispy and soft), which is why they were all completely dry, doughy, and absorbed every drop of sauce. They dearly needed to be coated in oil or butter and put on the griddle for a bit at least, get some texture, form a layer, actually make it edible. And they had ample time to do this with the chicken too. They seriously need either get smaller buns or stuff them with more filling AND have them spend a bit of time on the griddle or in the oven before service.

Let me say if it wasn’t for the quality of the non-sandwiched food, and what I imagine how good the pasta probably is, this would be a much different score.

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Holdability: 8

                 One of the things I was most excited about when I first saw the menu was that my main worry of what was a very Italian-American style of business, typically filled with bowls of dishes filled of pasta and meat and sauce, very much expected to serve most of their usual fair in big to-go containers alongside plastic forks, actually took proper steps to twist and focus their food into a more portable means. As I’ve mentioned already, many main items are in sliders or a long sandwich, or are offered deep-fried as typical finger foods. Obviously the one pasta dish (and any sorta seasonal ones they say they do) still need forks, but everything else should be able to consume with hands easily, though the stuffing of the baskets with a buttload of chips feels like it curtails the portability feeling a bit (not to mention highly cheap and an unnecessary addition). Should I count all the powdered sugar on the Zeppoli and Fried Ravioli, not to mention its gooey chocolate insides, against them? Probably. Will I? Hell no; I mean that’s like complaining about mini-donut cinnamon sugar on your fingers (YOU MONSTER!!!).
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Price: 9.5

                  $4 for each dessert; $7 for any slider including a sampler of two (can get a sampler of 3 different ones for $9) and the Pasta; $6 for Arancini and Garlic Dunkers; and $8 for the sub. Really great range and deals overall, in addition to those massive additions of chips and that bigger fried breadstick on some, but the quality and actual size of those sliders (and unsatisfying bread) makes the lower price of THOSE understandable.
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Speed: 8

Overall, most of the ordered items didn’t take too long to get out; desserts and arancini just needed quick fry, meatball and pork sandwiches cut and scooped into some at-the-moment sliced ciabatta, and breadsticks deep fried. It was only that which needed cooking, like the chicken slider, that took a while… though it did seem quite a while. A bit disappointing considering how much time and opportunity they had to also put the buns on there (no, I am NOT going to stop bitching about those). Can imagine pastas, which are always cooked to order, will be a while. No idea on the sausage sandwich, though I expect it to be similar to the meatball situation. Overall it differs highly, so pick wisely.

The TOE: 7

                  When I first finally got to visit them, saw their menu, and tried the desserts, I was really excited. You know that feeling you have when you go to, or at least think of, one of those old, corner family-run Italian diners/restaurants? Walk in, look at the menu, and you can practically feel some old matriarch or patriarch in the back, just kneading masses of pasta dough by hand, stirring big pots of meat and sauce, following the same recipes and movements that generations of family members did before them. Reading the menu, getting served by the obviously wizened owner behind the window, I FELT that, even before eating the food.

And then I went back and had those sandwiches… and I lost that. Really I shouldn’t technically be having the food quality affect this score too much, but it just makes such a dent in the experience. Not to mention, I never thought I’d say this, but the generator was exceptionally loud on the second visit, seemed like a rather older model, which actually affected the experience a bit. That said, make sure to follow my Final Notes, pick the right menu items, and this hopefully shouldn’t affect you. Fingers crossed.

Oh, a last thought, something I’m really not able to say often anymore, but of the few items I DID really like I found what may indeed be the emergence of a Toe Ring. Those deep fried Chocolate Raviolis certainly hit that unique-yet-familiar note, sinfully delicious aspect, not how I expected but almost complete success. Big props for that.

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Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

Given my experience with the sliders, it’s plain to see that this is not a truck I would suggest for your everyday lunch needs, especially with other options available. However, parked in a food truck fair/rally setting, or on those days when those like me enjoy popping from truck to truck in gathering a ‘meal’ from separate little bites while keeping an easy hand on the wallet, Sal’s Place has a few items that excel.

The Arancini fit the same categorical need as Gogi’s Kimchi Rice Balls, only better, crispier and with that added element of gooey cheese. After getting that as a snack, finish off your day with the Fried Chocolate Ravioli or Zeppoli; it’s very hard for me to choose between the two, but if I really had to I’d probably pick the latter just for perfection’s sake. These guys definitely make a ‘food truck meal/day’ complete.

If still one wants to come by with the absolute intention for a sandwich or otherwise fuller meal from Sal’s, I cannot provide a 100% solid solution. That said, I do still hold some higher expectations for the Sausage and Pepper Sub; like the meatball it IS handmade, bigger, and there’s a chance the bun used might hold up better than those ciabatta sliders; plus, more portable. But if there’s any entrée they should do well with, it’s their Pasta, whatever seasonal thing they have on that day (Ziti, Mostaccioli, et). They make the egg pasta themselves, not to mention their tasty sauces, so it should offer a proper menu highlight. But those are the only two.

Filius Blue

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https://www.facebook.com/Filiusblue
https://twitter.com/filiusblue
Main Location: St Paul, Wineries, Etc

Some trucks are always more of a challenge and wait to find the opportunity for me to visit, believe me there are quite a few popped up that have mocked me with their distance (just gonna have to face the fact that certain trucks in Duluth and Bemidji will likely never find their way into one of my review save for freak strokes of luck), so it’s always a welcome pleasure when I can head out of my house before to fully explore one of these usually out-of-reach businesses.

Thus I was led to Filius Blue on a trip to St Paul, where-as the South American and Caribbean-influenced truck was sat in the bright sun, the uniquely designed sides in clear view to roam over as one waits for food. It’s only their second season, so I can safely say that I haven’t delayed too fantastically long compared to a couple OTHER trucks that I’ve hit in the past!

A couple fun facts, the truck itself is named after the filius blue pepper; a tiny little purple pepper that actually gets MILDER as it ages (apparently the only pepper that does that). This particular point hints at another key element to their menu, that being the use of Heat and Peppers in what seems to be their real specialty, Handmade Sauces. From one using the filius blue of-name to habanero, jalapeno, even horseradish, the food (which I’ll break down more in a bit) finds its central focus on which of these latin-american-inspired sauces coats their top.

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Besides that, the truck itself, while focusing on St Paul over Minneapolis, mostly finds itself booked in Waconia over the weekends, along with parking at various wineries and breweries, so look for them at one of those if able. And when you do, take the chance to look along the sides; a friend of the owner’s made all the original artwork, from cutting out patterns in linoleum to make all the animals and pattern stamps along the top and bottom to a Mermaid based on an original artwork the owner had in his basement. And based on the size of those hips, seems she’s quite fond of their food herself…

There are two sections to the menu, Sandwiches and Tacos, both of which basically have the same options for fillings; at least protein wise, all of which are Slow Cooked and/or Grilled, no frying in the truck at all (they seem quite adamant about they, either that or just couldn’t afford a friar). Pork, Grilled Chicken, and Grilled Tilapia are slathered in pre-determined sauces for sandwiches, whereas one gets their choices on the Tacos, like a creamy not-hot Avocado-Buttermilk to the classic Filius Blue, and others depending on season (apparently there’s a Puerto/Costa Rican that is to die for). Tacos did also have two different filling options, a Beef and a Beans for the red meat or veggie minded.

Well I’m all set to dive in, you?

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Food: 9

                We start off with what is basically their ‘signature item’ the Jezebel Pork Sandwich. Slow roasted with garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, big chunks of this come out soft, juicy and fatty, it’s like thick dices of delicious beef brisket in pig form, perhaps from the same cut. Safe to say it came as a happy surprise, as if anything one usually expects the ‘pulled’ variety of oinker… and let us not, oh dear god let us NOT, forget this sauce. Apricot jam, horseradish, and who knows what else, all I care about is that it was sweet, savory, filled with lovely horseradish (enough to taste it and provide that signature nose tingle when eaten fast enough, but not enough to turn anyone but the most sensitive off, ideal level in my opinion), and dripping off that meat and onto your fingers. It does NOT hold together in that bun the best, but that just gives one the excuse to pick it up with the chips or just eat the pork straight off your own fingers. The only word I can think of is Delectable. Bun got a happy butter a toastage on it too.
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After that I moved onto a Taco, Grilled Tilapia since it seemed appropriate, and of course I had to try it with the Filius Blue Pepper sauce. The fish itself was cooked well, had some of that nice grill flavor to it and texture, and they actually toasted one side of the tortilla on the grill! Like only using one tortilla for an enchilada and just turning it into a taco, I’m realizing how sad it is that no one I’ve seen has done this yet; sure they warm it up or get SOME grill marks on it, but never take it to the point of having that crispy texture and browning all throughout. Such a good element, it’s a shame that it was partly ruined by the toppings. I mean we end up having some fish in the bottom, but at least half of the taco is composed of shredded lettuce, not-the-best cheddar, and some pico. Basically something reminiscent of what I can get at Taco Bell, though at least fresher; I was sadly hoping for something a bit more unique and complimentary. The pepper sauce itself wasn’t what I was hoping it’d be either, having this little creamy-chunkiness and not much heat at all. Still good in its ways mind you, but after that sandwich I was hoping it’d stand out more, which the taco overall does not outside of the tortilla.

Final note, Salsa was tasty, well-made, with a consistent texture and just a TOUCH of heat for a nice accent, maybe not spectacular (but to be fair, how often do we find a salsa that really is?) but an enjoyable side nonetheless.

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Holdability: 6

                 As I said, that sandwich was quite the monster! Pieces falling out, sauce getting all over your fingers… delectable, but still something that needs some sitting down and napkins for best results. I expect other sandwiches are similar, though likely less messy. Tacos at least increase portability, but loaded with that much lettuce/etc and using only a single shell leaves for fallout (non-messy fallout, but nonetheless).

Price: 8

                  Sandwiches at $8-9, the awesome pork at $8(yay), Tacos at $7-9, dependent on filling and automatically coming with a side, good prices though a little more range would be nice (or, as often is my wishes even if I don’t say it every time, the option to get something on its own for a little less money), but that point is always just a hair splitter when comparing to the ‘perfectly affordable/cheap’ menus.
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Speed: 7.5

Seemed to be an average wait time for grilling and assembly.

The TOE: 8.5

                  Besides the Latin-Caribbean flair, the added ‘theme’ of hot peppers as a focus certainly tickles my intrigue bone… or maybe the capsaicin is screwing with some weird nerve. Either way, it’s certainly the first time I’ve heard of a truck with this sort of edge, and I definitely appreciate it. The truck itself is attractive, maybe not so interesting from a distance but once up close to see the details and personality of the staff and wrap, one finds a truck worth going back to.

Tally: 39/50

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Final Thoughts

With a menu full of things slathered in cravingly pungent handmade sauces, this is not necessarily the food to get when one needs to keep their fingers clean, but also not suited to cart back to an office or other location… since you’ll be too intent on eating it then and there. So definitely a truck to stop by when you have the time to sit and savor.

The best strategy truly is to stick with the sandwiches, you get more impact from the meat and, come on, that Jezebel Pork is just to die for, and should be gotten on everyone’s first visit. But if you want to try something else, or just went back for a second or third time, I’d say the Jerk Chicken and Grilled Tilapia seem to be quite money… though that Gravy Pork piques my curiosity… maybe grab that and ask for one of their other sauces on the side to compliment. Since you’re sticking away from Tacos (you ARE sticking away from tacos), you’ll have to request them on the side to mix into other sandwiches, which I always find fun, sort of like when blending different veggie stews and curries into rice when I go for Indian. Red Pepper Jalapeno and, when they have it, the Puerto Rican (or Costa Rican, can’t remember) are the ones to experience.

A Peace of Cake

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http://www.apeaceofcakemn.com/home.html
https://twitter.com/APeaceofCakeMN
Main Location: St Paul

As we wander the streets in search of food truck meals, sooner or later we’re hit with that familiar urge… the need for sweet. Sometimes just having a taco or sandwich won’t do it, but instead that need to finish a period of eating properly with some crave-ending dessert becomes all that’s important. But what options for this in the Twin Cities do we have? There are those Cupcake Trucks that are sometimes out, a few select purveyors of Frozen Treats, even a new Crepe vendor that’s hit our streets. Yet we’ve already seen these, the same old kinds of food we’re used to, with none of that true ‘edge’ which I myself always seek out from my ideal food trucks. If we’re lucky a savory truck might offer an intriguing little twist on some kind of dessert, but who knows which one and when they’ll decide to do it?

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Enter A Peace of Cake, already a dependably consistent St Paul native truck rolled out just over a month ago, offering something quite unique… well, actually, quite classic to the streets, but served in a way we’re definitely not used to (try to find another place that’s publicly known for doing this, I dare you). Despite the name’s assumption, Mini Donuts are the name of the game as a result of the owner absolutely abhorring the idea of throwing away food at the end of the day (I feel ya sister, much pain there), so instead they went for a medium that they could stop making whenever they wanted/needed and didn’t have to worry about produce, fruit, batter, or other things spoiling over a slower week.

Looking to recreate herself, owner Dana decided, like many food truck owners do at one point or another, that she wanted to work for herself. Thus the truck was started, along with their message (which can be clearly seen in the triple-logo) of Anarchy, Peace, and Mini Donuts, for “In Society, how can we be all upset if we find a little bit of peace and a little bit of happiness with some sugar on top.”

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Gotten in the classic little white paper to-go bag, these fried pastries can be dusted in Sugar, Cinnamon, Cardamom, or other Seasonal flavors. Or, in one of their “Boats/Barges” (really it’s just a basket, but let’s not rescind their right to amusing labels). Though it’s not that they’re served in these containers… but that, when in here, they are then completely doused in a variety of sweet (and sometimes savory) sauces and toppings of choice, like a big pile of deep-fried, O-shaped, buttery pancakes eaten in only the most sinful ways (screw berries, chocolate and caramel and nuts all the way!).

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The offerings themselves come in a variety of pre-made combos utilizing some form of Chocolate, Caramel, or ‘Vanilla’ sauce (though one can just get a basket drizzled with one of those), often along with other toppings like nuts, sprinkles, candy, etc. The Peanut Buster, containing chocolate+caramel+peanuts, is popular, as is the Oreo with the classic cookie and vanilla. Though there are also options like “Hot Cakes” w/ maple and powdered sugar, a Sriacha-Honey number, even a Strawberry-Coconut thing (among others, even Nerds), all depending on what’s on for the day one gets there.

And no need to fret the difficulty of hard decisions, as they offer the amazing option to split baskets in half with two options of one’s choice. Eaten with an environmentall-friendly, degradable ‘wooden’ fork, and this can certainly combine into a match made in sweet tooth heaven. Let’s see if it actually does.

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Food: 7

We have to start at the heart of things; the donuts. First off, let me just say how refreshing it is to finally be able to have a mini donut that doesn’t have every bit of it covered in sugar or something. I never knew how much I was missing out on this crispy, perfectly fried dough outside, encasing the buttery soft interior perfectly. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a bucket of these, otherwise I would be deadest on getting them all shoved into my or stranger’s stomachs before turning cold. They’re like the donut version of Sweet Martha’s Cookies.

So you could say it’s a good thing that they were covered in those sauces… because they did not make me want to eat more of it. As excited as I was, as delightfully sinful as it looks, and as much as I love dessert and sweet things… there was just too much sugar here. Seriously. I know I know, hey, I’ve watched plenty of food competition shows and yelled at the judges for bitching that “oh this dessert is sweet, and I don’t like sweet desserts,” because you know that if anything it’s just a tad more sweet focused than having that sweet+savory+whatever-the-hell-else balance that doesn’t even taste like a true dessert anyway. But I know there are also times when something really is just TOO sweet, I’ve experienced it many times, like those cheap cakes that are just filled with frosting that just feels like sugar turned into paste and rubbed across the teeth. There really is such a thing as too much, usually that point when the expression ‘tooth numbing’ comes into our head.

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And that’s what some of the main sauces tend to do here. Taking advantage of the duo basket to try the two most appealing things on the menu and in pictures, I went for the Oreo and Peanut Buster flavorings. To keep it short (maybe), the ‘vanilla’ sauce used in the oreo is nothing more than royal icing, the purest form of sugary frosting ever, closest to what’s normally used to frost donuts, but that’s in a thin layer. This is poured on in a thick glob of white, accompanied by the classic chocolate cookies, the flavor of which sadly doesn’t even stand out much. I was hoping to get that amazing ‘cookies and cream’ experience, but all I got was sugar and some cocoa-crunchy stuff.

The chocolate sauce they use for other things is quite obviously milk chocolate based, and tastes very much like a Hershey’s bar. It’s definitely a thick, sort of cloying chocolate, decent on the first bite with some caramel and peanut, but making you hate yourself a bit in the not-so-fun/ironic way we usually do with the idealized ‘sinful’ foods. I just… wish they did dark chocolate, not because ‘oooh it’s fancy and I’m grown up so dark chocolate is what I’m supposed to like,’ but because it actually has that proper balance of sweetness, not to mention the AMAZING deeper, chocolate flavor that we really want in these dishes.

If only a couple of these sauces were improved, some sort of marshmallowy-cream thing for the oreo and dark chocolate, probably a better caramel (wasn’t easy to taste, but I imagine it feels just as confected), or at the least feature more of  (or purely focus on) the other unique flavors/toppings their online menu suggests they have from time to time, then it’d be just perfect. Because I really hated the fact that I had to bitch like this here for this truck. Really I did. Luckily the donuts were good enough that, knowing there are other non-sauce options, I can keep the score for them at a decent point.

Holdability: 9

Either you’re getting a bag with the classic carry-around ability of regular mini-donut adventures or a basket covered in sauce, which may seem daunting at first in this line (if you use your fingers, yes it’s messy), but using a fork eliminates EVERY bit of this. I know I normally encourage eating with fingers, especially for something like donuts, but here it just feels proper to use their special forks to very easily lift each bite-size (put it all in your mouth at once, DO IT!!!) topping-covered dough ball at a time. They thus transform into the easiest and cleanest kind of basket food to eat on the street.

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Price: 9.5

Doughnuts really are quite the price-efficient food items, with a basket of 6 coming in at $4, doubling it for a total of $6, the value of which increases even further to the simple fact that you don’t have to buy separate baskets to try a couple different toppings. I’ll admit I didn’t pay attention to what the classic sacs of mini-donuts cost, but I think it’s the same for 10-12 are, but I think it was $4, or also $6 at the most.

Speed: 9.5

They’re not fried purely to order (but as one can tell from previous, that definitely doesn’t affect the quality of what you get), with batches ready and needing only a drizzle, sprinkle, or whatever one has on top for order.

The TOE: 10

Look, I love cupcakes, and crepes, and ice cream, and all that stuff, but we have needed a full-dessert truck like this for the longest time, one with that ‘food truck twist.’ The design is fun, the name is cool, their whole view on things is funky and a little different, which clearly comes through both with their image and the food served. They’ve taken something we’re all familiar with and love and just served it up notably different than what we’re used to, like making a dessert version of chili cheese fries or something; that’s sort of cool right? And the regular sugar/spice sprinkled options can still come in unique flavors if one so desires. This really is exactly what I’ve been looking for in terms of having our own special dessert-focused food truck. In essence, the whole menu is a giant collection of Toe Rings, some of the toppings just need tweaking… well, more than tweaking. But at the end of the day, the whole idea, uniqueness, and fun behind it launches top points for the experience category.

Tally: 45/50

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Final Thoughts

For anyone developing a sweet tooth while walking the streets, this is the truck to take advantage of. But if you’re not sharing a basket with a few friends, make sure to be quite wary which flavoring options one chooses.

Despite my own love of the concept, especially considering the chance to finally experience the raw crispy-butter edges of these donuts without being covered in a layer of sugar/icing, I would imagine the truly best option is going for the Cardamom-dusted donuts in the classic white travel bag for a fun twist on traditional mini-donuts that doesn’t numb our teeth in excess sugar. For the basket options, I would haphazard the Hot Cakes/Breakfast of Maple Syrup and Powdered Sugar would come together rather well; a bit more naturally sweet vs the artificial chocolate and icing. Though the Caramel on its own might work better than my experiences, so perhaps a simple drizzle of that.

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There ARE other menu items that weren’t featured that day-of which I imagine would work amazingly in the mouth. Sriacha-cha (using sriacha honey), Sweet Chili (chili sauce, peanuts, powdered sugar), and Strawberry Shortcake (strawberry sauce and coconut cream, yum) should all form some fantastic oral experiences at much better and more controlled, or at least contrasted, sweetness levels. If you HAVE to have something chocolate, and have a friend or two to share, attack the S’mores (we’re used to that Hershey Bar sweetness for those anyway) or Walnut Walkover (apparently that one has the walnuts mixed INTO the caramel, should highlight it more).

And please, PLEASE, until they change the topping, avoid the Oreo and other options using the ‘Vanilla’ sauce. I know it’s attractive and seems like a proper signature, but it’s just pure sugar royal icing that doesn’t contribute anything besides cavities. Look at the other options, I beg you.

Cranky’s Ice Cream + Geno’s Gelato (Dual Review!)

http://crankysicecream.com/
https://twitter.com/crankysicecream
http://www.genosgelato.com/
https://twitter.com/genosgelato
Main Location: Events/Markets, Uptown Mpls Streets, Etc

Summer is never complete without multiple ice cream stops, I should know; I basically try to hit all the good ones when I get the chance (when most of your meals are rather boring, or you’re spending much of your time controlling the diet and running on a treadmill, what can I say? You just end up craving sundaes, or whatever ice cream you can find covered in hot chocolate and crunchy things). And this year gave me the opportunity and personal drive to hit our main two mobile frozen-dairy businesses, both of which popped up last year and focus on hand-crafted, smaller batch products made with good local ingredients when they can find them. But instead of tackling separately (and having to debate whether they should be full or quasi reviews), I decided on something new, fun, and different! Which is why, for the first time, I’m writing a DUAL review on our two belters of churned sugar-milk ecstasy! Let’s see how it goes!

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Having opened in September of last year, Cranky’s Ice Cream has been setting up their cart at various markets, street fairs, and other events in the Twin Cities. Focusing purely on the classic American-style Ice Cream, these are the true Sugar+Cream (or some mix of milk and cream) bases that have been churned in some of our favorite classic soda shops for decades. No eggs here. Flavors themselves are also kept rather traditional, finding things like Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate, Coffee, Cookies n Cream, etc, while their more ‘fun’ and ‘experimental’ offerings still keep in line with these base desires. Doughnut, Chocolate-Orange, XXX Chocolate (no clue, but I want), Peanut Butter n Jelly, ‘Whiskey Sour,’ even one made with Porter. They also have tried a couple Strawberry things with Margarita and Jalapeno. These can all be placed in a basket, cone, or even a pint glass!? (gotta love that merchandise)

I was lucky enough, after quite a few disappointing misses, to hit Geno’s Gelato on their 1-year Anniversary! How awesome is that? Contrary to Cranky, these guys belt out pure Italian treats, offering churned Ices (basically Sorbetto), proper Gelato (a mix of Milk, Eggs, and Sugar), and apparently even Cannoli, though I haven’t heard about that offered on the cart until now. Produced from ages of the Gioielli family’s traditions and love for food and brought to life by chef Bethany Nelson’s creations, family member Brian takes these chilled delicacies and carts them all over the Uptown area on his bike-cart. Finding them can be an adventure, or one can simply give them a call/message and have Brian ‘deliver’ himself to a particular location in the area for your needs!

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Flavors are also rather changing, with classic and some twisted mixes based on the style. Some of the ‘ices’ can include Lemon, Mojito, Margarita, Strawberry-Lemon or, most popular, Mango Mint. Whereas the gelato consists of traditional Vanilla, Amarena, Nutella (okay not ‘classic,’ but simple), and Pistachio. These bases can then be seen highlighted with swirls of Salted Caramel, Cherries, or found as offerings like Blueberry Basil, Peanut Butter Pretzel, and Strawberry Champagne. All of it pre-scooped and handed out in their own pretty, attractive packages.

Food: 8/6

Making frozen custard without eggs (and I mean naturally, no damn chemical stabilizers and powders to cover up your mistakes you lazy corporate bastards!) can be a challenge, but when done right can lead to that delightfully creamy, simply slippery and sweet delight from our childhood. For the most part, Cranky’s does it well, creating frozen spoonables that I find little complaint in taking down; the texture and consistency isn’t able to get to that fully sinful height which the best custards can get to (I think it’s a roundness thing, not to mention that extra flavor depth that eggs and dairy can create), but good for the style.

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I grabbed the sampler, which for the day included Mint-Chocolate-Chip, Chocolate-Orange, they’re sorta-famous Doughnut, and Porter. The first two tasted just like one expects them to; the doughnut was rather awesome, it got the flavor and those little pieces of that classic cakey ballpark doughnut (the perfect kind for their style and cream flavors), I appreciated the fact that, mixed in, one could tell the doughnut improved the texture of the cream (sort of like those cake batter ice creams from you-know-who). The Porter, on the other hand… well, I love the idea, and it’s cool how they do it. They actually make their own porter beer base; dark malts, cooked with water for an hour or so along with hops, only not fermented into the beer and I’m pretty sure kept at its more concentrated, very sweet and malty-flavorful stage. This is then added to the ice cream, which makes it taste AWESOME, just like a simple malty porter, mission accomplished… until we talk about the texture. Which is icy. Because they added a liquid and didn’t find a way to get it back to a balance that would have left it churning smooth again; perhaps if they got it even MORE concentrated and syrupy to add beforehand. Oh well, it’s a single low point, the rest is nice.

Geno’s Gelatos, on the other hand… were all icy. I only got the chance to try two of their creations, both gelatos, but the structure of each ended up a little firm, sort of icy, not smooth at all. I should say though the flavor was AMAZING; I would imagine their Italian Ices are fantastic, fruity, and something where I don’t mind this not-so-smooth texture. We had the Blueberry-Basil and Cherry-Amaretto, the fruit of which is mixed in at the end (I think the cherries were dried) as opposed to pureed to flavor the cream like I thought it might have been. And I’m glad for this, really being able to get each of the berries, I think the cherries were dried, and the amaretto and basil flavors infused into the custard came out so nicely.

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But I still find disappointment when left with a custard known for its soft, fluffy texture come out so icy. And I know why it’s like this, ultimately a bad combination of unfavorable factors. Firstly, true gelato (which I know this is) is, as mentioned, a mix of egg, milk, and sugar, often with little to no cream. Even with lots of egg yolks, this can leave for a thinner custard, getting that ideal more difficult; then, Geno’s decided that, instead of keeping these in big buckets to scoop for service, they pre-scooped and transferred individual servings to small, portable containers for quick service. This is cute and fun, a cool little idea, but the time it had to spend out of the freezer to do this, even if brief, often makes ice cream icier (won’t go into detail why). Finally, these are kept in a simple box stuffed with ice to keep frozen as opposed to a temperature-controlled bin, which is VERY important to gelato shops, as true gelato is actually kept at just a little bit warmer than the ice cream we’re used to. This is a factor which helps to keep this milky custard smooth, whereas an even colder cart like this would just firm it up even further.

… sorry, I had to get that rant off my chest, been nagging at me that I couldn’t bitch out all the technical stuff (I may not be able to make the best ice cream at home, but I still know the important stuff about it!).

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Holdability: 9.5/9

Cranky’s Ice cream can come in a basket, or as I mentioned a pint glass, needing a spoon but super-easy to walk around with, and an absolute requirement when getting a sampler (the only way to do it in my opinion). But you CAN get the cone… not the fun cookie or waffles one, that wafer thingy, bleh… but instant one-handed eating, perhaps with some dripping depending on temperature and how long you take to eat it, somewhat likely. So advantage there.

Whereas Geno’s has everything in its own cute, adorable little to-go container for awesome fast portability to eat there, elsewhere, or on the go. Can’t go one-handed with it really, but extra points for its own tight, condensed little bowl which gives no mess whatsoever.

20150517_133532Price: 10/10

$4 for your ice cream of choice, or one can get a full sampling of all four flavors they have on that day for just $6, prices always come reasonable and one can get a decent deal for more. (can also spend $10 for a sampler AND logo-studded pint glass)

Geno’s differs with what one gets, $4 for each pack of gelato, $3 for an Italian ice, and $2 for a cannoli (if they have any). I feel like you’re getting a little less product with them, but the price option range dips even lower so money score rates about the same in my opinion.

Speed: 9.5/10

One needs only the minimal time to scoop the ice cream at Cranky’s, but the complete pre-packaged, personal containers for Geno’s truly makes this the best grab-and-go frozen custard out there.

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The TOE: 7/8.5

Ice cream always makes for an attractive and fun experience whenever you go somewhere, especially when it’s pedaled by such bright personalities as these. The whole concept of Geno’s, attached on a bike and reveling in the area and culture that is Uptown, really stands out and hits strongly, especially when one finally finds and flags them down off the street; though the act of hunting them down can at times be a bit of a struggle. Though the little personal packages are also a fun addition to this ‘atmosphere’ and identity, I do almost wish that I could see them scooping the gelato from some big tubs (especially since it’d probably be better for the gelato’s texture vs the container transference and other things). As for the one that DOES do it, a nice set up as well, not quite as colorful, seemingly closer to that older-school basic ice-cream-shop vibe, which has that nice appeal to it. Though I wish they either went more retro and ‘soda-shoppy’ or just refined and amped up their presentation/selection some more, as part of it feels just a tad ‘lacking,’ like they’re right in the middle between the rather basic/boring places that sell ice cream and the modern shops we often so love today (Izzy’s, Sebastian Joe’s, etc). Some sort of extra push towards retro or today’s modern would round things out perfectly; perhaps some options for toppings?

Tally: 44+43.5/50

Final Thoughts

20150517_133233Cranky’s brings a nice stop during events for those looking for something reminiscent of the ice cream we enjoyed growing up on, and is definitely one of those great places where one doesn’t have to settle on just ONE flavor. Though if you’re inclined towards that direction, and don’t just go towards the classics (I won’t judge, but I still think it’s more fun to have a flavor you haven’t likely already tasted 50 times before in your life), there are some notes to keep in mind. Anything flavored with something already thick/starchy/custardy, like Chocolate, Peanut Butter, or just involve a simple mix-in, and won’t affect the structure in any way except, perchance, to make it SMOOTHER, go for. The Doughnut is amazing for this, and I really enjoyed their Chocolate-Orange (anything chocolate or peanut butter is good I’d imagine). Avoid anything that will involve the addition of some other liquid, such as the Porter, Whiskey-Sour, and perhaps those Strawberries; they sadly don’t adjust it back too well.

Geno’s comes through as the perfect quick grab-and-go frozen treat, an ideal stop for street fairs with multiple food stops, especially for the price conscious. As one can assume by my reaction earlier, skip the Gelato, but head straight to one of the refreshing Italian Ices, where the texture is not just accepted but revels in the style. Mango-Mint is the real standout, but anything seasonal or alcohol-reminiscent should be just as fun. Though, now that I think about it, there is a chance the Nutella and Peanut Butter-based ones might turn out at least decent texture-wise.

Either way, both of these carts still make for a happy little frozen and flavorful treat on a sunny day. Do stop at one if you get the chance!

Sassy Spoon Cafe Visit

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As many have been made aware of by now, in a rather loud fashion, Sassy Spoon (for those unaware, read my review to get an idea of their theme and what my opinion of them has been so far) got themselves a little café in South Minneapolis! I finally had the opportunity to visit on a recent Sunday with the folks, and for Brunch time which seems to fit their theme and atmosphere oh so well, and check yet another local truck-staurant off my list!

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Let me start off by saying that I am very happy for them, or maybe it’s more accurate to say in REACTION to them, based on two different things. Firstly, though I really cannot comprehend how they got the popularity and capital to start up a brick-and-mortar (oh well, my opinions aren’t everyone’s, I accept that… still think there are at least other trucks that should have gotten to this point sooner), we finally have an environment that fits their food style! No more do I have to bitch about their very non-street food going on the streets, this stuff was really made to be served up on plates and eaten in a diner or café of some type, and now we can do that!

Secondly, I’m not sure when they did it (I know it wasn’t in the beginning at all), but they’ve shed their main advertising face of general “healthy and nutritious food” focus and openly narrowed their culinary focus to a “Gluten Free” façade. Now, that’s something I can get on board with! It fits, it makes sense, there’s nothing in the food to non-corroborate it, and I would bet if they used this excuse/marketing strategy since the beginning I would not have complained so much. I mean really, when you’re only offering piles of meat with either slaw, sweet potatoes, and creamy cauliflower, it’s not the kind of food that REALLY screams nutrition is it? Say what you will, no one really cares about the Atkins diet anymore… but gluten free, in a café, and the menu gels, my urges to contradict and bitch gone (well, sort of, I still have those memories…).

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Oh well, I’m shutting up now about that and getting onto the actual café! You can tell it was designed by the truck owners, the inside is just as bright, appealing, sorta-modern and welcoming as the big pink truck used to be. There’s a little wrap-around bar to the side of the order ‘window’ and dessert/drink display case. Which has some not-so-bad looking sweets in there, would be very interested in trying the Beet Cake myself one day… (gluten-free cookies scare me though)

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First up, of course, is drinks. Besides the classic morning coffees, juice and tea, one can of course find some trendy Kombucha, specialty soda, Organic Milk, and a few interesting shop coffees. This includes something called a “Maple Cream Cold Press” and a “Spiced Butter Coffee,” which my mom picked up, and I swear it smells like biscoff cookies! But sort of tangy, makes me wonder if it’s a nicely acidic coffee bean or something else added; really good and tasty, I can see the appeal of this new ‘butter in coffee’ craze, kept in control of course.

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I leaned more towards the booze of course, they having a nice little selection of wines but, more importantly, Local Beer, Cider, and Mead (which I’m only noticing now after looking through pictures, damn if only I knew before!). I myself got to try the Loon Juice; yay, another Minnesota Cider besides Sociable that I get to say I’ve had!

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Food is mainly comprised of the truck classics, the Sweet Potato Hash w/ Egg, Turkey Meatballs, Miso Pork/Tacos, and a Salad, with some notable extra options, especially during brunch. Goat Cheese-stuffed Dates, “Yucca Patties” w/ Olives and Jalapeno dipping sauce (I’ve been intrigued by this one), Wild Rice Black Bean Salad, and some eggy breakfast dishes in Omelet, Scramble, and Basic structure come together. Of course sides based off of these, breakfast, and apparently the option to buy cups of $4 broth is also available.

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A group of plates for our little party had us trying the Sassy Scramble, Yucca Flatbread, and Buckwheat Pancakes; the last being the definite highlight, just being super fluffy and flavorful, stuffed with delightful blueberries with a tasty citrusy syrup, one of those ideal modern brunch offerings we seek out nowadays after being exposed to places like Pizza Luce and Hola Arepa. Mixed with goat cheese and spinach (and onion), the scramble in comparison certainly TASTES really good, nice and healthy, but I myself have never really appreciated scrambled eggs that have gotten brown from the pan. Maybe it’s me, I know some professionals still consider the perfect omelet acceptable with some brown on it, but the texture in scrambles like that just end up too firm, not the light/fluffy or moist/silky expressions that actually show a sign of quality. And considering they’re probably using really good quality organic eggs here (they seem to stick to the local farm product theme for whatever they can), I end up feeling somewhat sad for what these proper eggs were probably turned into.

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My focus was the Flatbread, curious as to what the crust was actually like. First off, let me just start off by saying come on, let’s just call this what it is: a Pizza. I know the flatbread and pizza label are rather interchangeable these days, but we all have some impression of a flatbread, usually thick grilled or some artisan crisp dough topped with some unique sauce and/or cheese and/or garnish, really embodying a perfect appetizer for sharing. Just one look at this guy, red sauce and mozzarella with that apparent golden brown painting across the top from the hot oven, and clearly it’s nothing other than pizza; tell me that does not remind you of the frozen pizzas you bake at home (visually speaking, not quality wise, I’m not THAT much of a douche or imbecile). Why don’t we just call it pizza and get it over with?

As for flavor, as a pizza I did enjoy it in that similar manner; firm crunchy edges, a softer but still-holding and fully-cooked dough bottom, tasting red sauce and stretchy cheese. I added the pepper mix on mine, which for the price additions seems to be the only thing worth it, and was quite happy. As a gluten free pizza, the crust did a great job substituting; I’m wondering if they used something like yucca flour for it, but considering they have it elsewhere on the menu, my guess is more on the lines of mashing and using in a ‘potato flatbread’ manner. It’s not the best flatbread or pizza in the city, by far, but it fits a certain style and craving well enough.

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One big complaint and note we all had was the pricing, a lot of the items are rather pricey considering what we’re getting, which seems to be a common thing with most ‘healthy/organic/gluten-free’ based businesses. With luck the place actually delivers or provides something that IS totally awesome along with the healthy stuff and we don’t care, but in a café like this it seems to stand out even more. I mean, a BASIC breakfast on their menu is $11.50; that’s supposed to be one of the simpler, affordable options on a menu, not one of the most expensive (unless it’s one of those modern ‘deconstructed’ things, which are usually downright awesome). Not to mention a side of Bacon, which the mother got to add to the pancakes, cost $4, for TWO measly strips. We wouldn’t even normally care, you know, if we got two nice, thick-ish pieces. But even if it is from a local farm, we ended up with a barely cooked, thin, sorta fatty couple pieces that just aren’t worth it; feels a bit insulting actually. Same with the pizza topping add-ons; $0.75 for the veggies, okay, but $2 for each meat (which they only have two kinds to begin with)? It’s already $11 for just cheese and sauce man!

All that said, I’m not necessarily saying one shouldn’t go; it’s a fun and different place for the gluten-free required to find a meal in a welcoming environment! Or to grab yourself a local drink or butter coffee with a meal. Just make sure to pick the right items, I definitely suggest the buckwheat pancakes; not only have they likely been the best things I’ve had from Sassy in my trips, but they’re the best price too (Mom still says $8.50 for only two café/diner pancakes is larceny, but for special, delicious, and gluten-free affairs in a place like this, I don’t mind it). And the service and staff ARE absolutely great, nice, and fantastic and all that. I myself just won’t be going there again. Ever.

Outlaw Grill

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https://www.facebook.com/outlawgrilltruck
http://www.twitter.com/outlawgrill
Main Location: St Paul, Outer Cities

Most are going into the food vending/service industry for the first time with their trucks, while others use it as an extension of their restaurant, and still others are based off some working Chefs who want to move onto their own business. The combination of factors and ways in which people get into the kitchen, stationary or mobile, has always made for interesting stories and comparisons. As I’ve found in my recent visit, hitting a truck with a little more interesting start-up conversation than usual.

Having spent 4 years working in their ‘little yellow trailer,’ the guys at Outlaw Grill spent most of their career frequenting not Minnesota but the Midway/State Fairs in a concession stand. As regulars at these events, they decided to take one of the more unique and creatively challenging strategies; instead of, like so many other established booths, focusing on a set food style wherever they went, they instead changed the food they served at every single location. From fried-bacon-wrapped hot dogs to lobster rolls to gyros (not to mention a deep fried ‘caramel apple ring’ that one Best Dessert at one fair in particular), their food ended up a success wherever they went, and proving they certainly could know a thing or two about slinging street food for the masses.

After heading to our own home state, the boys (and girls) set about building their truck… by themselves. Yeah, apparently they basically built it from scratch, or at least team member Darren did with ‘Lots of Coors Light, some cuss words, a 100lb LP tank with a sunflower heater, a million hours on eBay&Amazon, and a shot of ingenuity.’ God I need to get more long ass twitter conversations going with truck owners before doing these article out, amazing what you learn!

Like the fact that, much like their dear friends Motley Crews, they went to Creative Color to get their amazingly colorful, detailed and vibrant wrap job done. Considering the two guys I know for sure have received their work, and a good idea on what other trucks have likely received their service, I can say they crank out some fantastic and amazing designs for those able to hire them out. Speaking of the paint job, and Motleys, if one looks closely and carefully they’ll even see a little tribute plastered on one of the doors in honor of our deceased brethren.

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Now, onto the truck itself! A hootin’ tootin’ attitude with a motto of ‘Eat it Like you Stole it!’ These down home country boys serve up a heaping pile of… Pita Wraps. That’s right you heard me, every item is served in a pita wrap, congealing into a distinctive menu theme notably different than what one imagines beforehand. But considering their past work with gyros and such, perhaps not so surprising. They then stuff these with grilled chicken and beef fillings, topped with hearty piles of cheese, sauce, veggies and other things. The main contender to face is the Outlaw, beef topped with bacon, grilled onions, cheese sauce and their ‘outlaw sauce.’ This is accompanied by a ‘Chicken/Pepperoni Parm’ with classic fixings, their version of a Philly called ‘Doc’s Holiday,’ and two other Chicken offerings in the Buffalo and Ceasar(served warm with melted cheese, not a cold salad), both topped with romaine, their classic cheeses, and a sauce. Of course they bring in some specialty and seasonal wraps every now and then, such as an Asian Glazed Shrimp with broccoli slaw that premiered a couple weeks before I released this article.

They don’t offer anything special in sides besides a nice brand of potato chips, not that I even feel the need for anything other than one of these puppies! Now we’ll see if I want to stop back after my first visit.

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Food: 9

It’s certainly not fair to get a sense of these guys without getting the Outlaw, and it was certainly worth a visit. Simple soft pita bread enfolding a tasty, flavorful mass of shredded grilled beef reminiscent of that classic philly and Italian style we see used so often off the grill. The highlight definitely comes in the lightly caramelized, flavorful chunks of grilled onion, distinctive piece of bacon (nowadays one really has to love bacon that actually holds its place in a dish, rounding out those meaty, grilled umami-like flavors), that creamy cheese sauce to meld into the realm of craving delights, and finally cut through with their ‘outlaw sauce.’ Different in itself, that flavor comes along the line of many ‘house sauces’ in its use of Thousand-Island-Dressing like base flavors/style, a bit of that BBQ twang along with the ketchup/tomato component, but most importantly… that horseradish undertone, OH I love a good horseradish undertone, not overpowering at all, just perfect to go with some beef and cream. A practical and basic combination of flavors, done well, and in a pita of all things.

Moving on, my second item focused on the Chicken and Pepperoni Parm which, I should say, going in was a bit disappointed that the protein wasn’t breaded and fried like a classic ‘Parm’ style, as expected… but after dismissing the language, I didn’t care too much. Good chunks of moist, chickeny chicken, paired with that garlicky-spicy pepperoni, all moistened by a big glob of definitely robust tomato sauce, one reminiscent of those thicker pastes on certain delivered pizzas. My eyes were saddened that the mozzarella was not fully melted, adding to an overall flavor combination that seemed rather pedestrian, in fact reminding me of so many toasted meatball sandwiches I’d gotten at Subway… but a couple bites in and, again, I didn’t care. A certain craving runs through, that mingling of flavors that blatantly aren’t ‘high class’ but celebrate in a guilty late night mess of Italian ingredients that you eat straight from the fridge in shame yet can’t stop until they’re all gone, or if you have any sense reheat in the microwave for something better. Maybe the pita provides enough of a difference, and that fully soft texture that pushes you past caring for looking at contrasting aspects, to make one revel in the satisfactory experience. Would still like it if more of that cheese got melted and gooey though.

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Holdability: 9

They may come in a basket, but ditch that and these guys are almost perfect for walking around. Like any good gyro, folded tight and wrapped with that foil, one could potentially walk and eat with one hand, though needing a bit of extra coordination with the second hand to peel back the wrapping every now and then. Some bulging stuffing and leaking sauce out the back does affect this final action though, so fully one-handed isn’t truly possible, but it’s easily one of the most portable truck items I’ve had in a while (so many new ones either adding in sides or having something that needs two hands or a basket). Good show.

Price: 8

$8 or $9 for the wraps, the lower prices doled out to the really simple Chicken Caesar and Buffalo, which mainly just consist of the meat, cheese, lettuce, and dressing/sauce. More unique and signatory options, with that added oomph, go for the latter price.

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Speed: 8.5

With a menu and kitchen built for speed, they’re able to crank out your wrap in only a couple minutes, mainly requiring the time to heat the chicken and sear that beef or other meats on the griddle. Though, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t mind a little EXTRA time to get that cheese fully melted and gooey (or broiler-ized for bubbly golden goodness if possible), but extra points here go for getting things out smoothly.

The TOE: 10

A vibrant and kickass truck wrap, wild attitude, menu focused on a singular and unique item (and a pleasantly surprising one at that), all overall converged to create a sum lifted higher than the individual parts. I really can’t think of anything to knock them for here, they’ve really hit the nail to make an exciting and strong thrum of air about them, all that’s missing is an amazing Toe Ring. And I’ll admit, I really didn’t expect to find an outcome like this when I first heard about them; pretty sure it’s been all those BBQ trucks I’ve been hitting, made me expect some general, boring grilled-meat-in-a-bun place with a ‘oooooh look we have personality’ attempt around them. Thankfully I was wrong, and instead found a truck highly reminiscent of that Kingpin of the Twin Cities streets, Motley Crews. Hopefully we can see their truck restored to its rightful state of affairs soon after the restaurant opens and see these two businesses riding together in a blaze of grilled meat sandwich glory.

Tally: 44.5/50

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Final Thoughts

When you’re definitely looking for some hot food on the go, and without the normal wait, Outlaw will fit the bill. They even offer some of those saucy, savory diner-mess satisfactions that should fit into a brewery if they ever park outside one. Sad to say they don’t offer any of those cheap, fun grab-and-go snacks that have made friend Motley’s so perfect for that scene, but they’re certainly in the same lane for the rest (and help to fit the empty hole that needs filling while the truck is gone).

Ultimately, despite my enjoyment of the chicken, I’d say the beef-based options of the Outlaw and Doc’s Holiday make the best experience; either that or one of the fun Specials they have going on during the day. One should also be warned not to look at their Chicken Ceasar like a ‘mobile healthy salad;’ I mean it sorta is, but overall it’s offered hot, melted parmesan on top, and big chunks of romaine, it really reads more like a hot sandwich with a lot more lettuce (I almost got a picture of one, but as usual the orderee just beelined straight down the street after getting the thing, no luck…). Still good, just be aware of what you’re getting into. Overall I’m quite eager to see what they do from here.

Classic Yum

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https://www.facebook.com/classicyum
https://twitter.com/ClassicYum
Main Location: Minneapolis, St Paul, Etc

The second truck on my State Capital lunch visit in May of 2015, Classic Yum Food Truck, mostly appeared on the scene in the same year. I had actually planned to hit them earlier during Harriet Brewery’s Spring Truck Rally, but of course I get the call from work RIGHT as I’m leaving. Grrrrr… damn you daily life, ruining my mobile adventures!

Oh well, at least I could get back to visit this big yellow behemoth (and now I’m thinking about the Magic Schoolbus)! The focus of which seems to be the use of Chinese and Southern Asian flavors and cooking techniques into basic truck food. Specific menu items themselves tend to change and switch around rather often; in fact, every time they park at a brewery they focus almost purely on selling simple snack-based, easy eating pub-style offerings (I sadly don’t know what kind specifically, but you can get an idea based on style they serve).

Items themselves can range from a highly classic and simple Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, over rice and such, to a ‘Chinese’ Pulled Pork Sandwich (I assume the moniker is due to flavors cooked WITH the pork, and not just because it’s served with an ‘Asian Slaw,’ though who knows). Some rather consistent options include Turkey Eggrolls (which I so wanna get), ‘Dragon Fries’ (will explain later), Thai Red Curry Chicken Wrap, and a Vietnamese Fried Fish Sandwich. Many of which come with a bag of chips (Lays, which my boss was happy with. Don’t look at me like that, I had enough food in me that day, I did NOT need those empty calories, no matter how crispy they are).

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Food: 7

                That Fish Sandwich was calling out to me, and was singularly unique compared to most menus I’ve seen, so I just had to feature it. The basic composition was, of course, a white fish filet, given a light batter and fried. This placed between a buttered, toasted bun (nicely toasted bun, yum) with a spread of ‘Shrimp Pate,’ cooked shrimp turned into a paste which offered a refreshingly cool sweet seafood flavor in contrast to the warmth and flaky light richness of the fish. That is then topped with pickled red onions, FRIED onions, and an ‘Asian tartar sauce,’ which all in all come together like a classic fried walleye sandwich with a twist of South-Eastern Asian freshness. The particularly tart pickled onions and flavored sauce stand out nicely with the fish, which isn’t at that perfectly thick and crunchy fried batter that one can expect from, say, a proper fish and chips, but it stood up with everything else just fine, helped out in flavor and texture from the fried onions. That said, I think they had way too many pickled onions on top; I had like half of mine fall out, and it still felt on the edge of just shoving their presence in your face, and I LIKE pickled onions (they’re good too). Just, pull back on them a bit will ya?

The fried Shrimp, on the other hand, didn’t quite thrill me that much. An order of Dragon Fries gets you a basket of shoestring French fries accompanied by 2-3 (okay it’s been a week since I’ve had this, and my picture’s not so clear, so I forgot) shrimp, sliced in half and fried in batter. Fries are typical, nothing exciting or particularly craveable, and though the shrimp has the nice flavor you expect, it was also a touch greasy in flavor, and the batter came out rather thick and soft in spots, almost moist. Basically they’re fried in a typical ‘sweet and sour’ style, flavor being better than the generic restaurants but texture about the same.

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Being of that style, though, it did come with a thing of Homemade Sweet-Sour Sauce, which… was definitely better than the stuff from the packet. Similar flavor points, but smoothed out, not thick, and mellow, a very happy dipper for both my shrimp and the potato strips they came with. I should finish by saying that I overall don’t have any issue with the dish idea, fried shrimp on fried potatoes seems lazy but I can understand its place, but there are some execution points and choices that I wish were improved.

Holdability: 8.5

                 Dragon Fries are like eating a… well, a basket of fries, we can imagine how easy that is, only need to consider dipping. The Fish sandwich fillings did have a habit of sliding around (as I mentioned earlier, quite a bit of the onions fell out), but to be fair I think much of that mess was my own fault for not taking full advantage of that foil wrapping around it. If I actually used that instead of trying to go full-hand, it probably would have kept in tight and clean like wrapped sandwiches do and not been so much tartar and pickle stuff on my fingers. And I expect the other sandwiches and wraps to be as clean, the teriyaki coming with a fork, and everything being able to consume without much extra attention while roaming. Just two hands required.
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Price: 7.5

                  Main sandwiches come out at $10, the Wrap being a buck less, Teriyaki bowl one further at $8. The Dragon Fries settles down to $6, which feels fair and about right for a mound of fries with shrimp, which usually comes in pricier even for just a few, though I do wish the quality was further up to match it. Still very sad to say I didn’t try the egg rolls, so not sure how well they fit their $5 moniker, but if they’re anything like Vellee’s in quality (being turkey based they certainly sound unique enough) and of a decent size or quantity, I’d say it’s a safe bet. As for sandwiches, I agree with price for the Fish (even as-is), but the pulled pork and wrap need to be a bit fantastic to garner that, cuz I don’t think a bag of chips is enough of a side to qualify the extra dollar or two I’m unwittingly paying vs having the truck food on its own. Would rather get those fries or something else (preferably something else).

Speed: 7.5

Took about five minutes, average wait for three things that need frying (shrimp, potatoes, and fish) plus assembly.

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The TOE: 8

                  There’s something about the food and menu that doesn’t quite excite me as the personality of the truck’s name and design does when hearing and seeking it out on social media, or seeing from a distance. I think part of it has to do with the actual sorta tacky food pictures in the window along with the whiteboard menu, which is an annoying juxtaposition as (as a customer/reviewer) I do appreciate being able to see what to expect for each item ahead of time. There’s a feel to it when visiting that reminds me of some typical/generic newer Chinese/Pan-Asian food court or cart (like that Golden Tummy that was hanging around Minneapolis a couple years back), which is unfair to them because I can tell they’re offering some interesting and more unique options and packaging of their food, what with getting turkey in the eggrolls, (hopefully) flavoring a pulled pork sandwich with Chinese spices, and other things I’m sure they’ll come up with. Definitely giving them a few extra points for changing the menu to fit their locations, like when they offer more pub-style/snack-ish foods at breweries. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe a result of the food’s impression on me afterward. Hopefully I can change my mind at a future visit.

Tally: 38.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Classic Yum seeks to fill the need for Chinese and Southern Asian flavors presented in a not-so-typical way, and for the most part they have had a strong start towards success in this, needing only some tweaking and further twisting from a few too simplistic dishes (I’m looking at you Teriyaki and Dragon Fries) to fully achieve something amazing. For now they are definitely the spot to go when seeking Asian flavors packed between two buns, or wrapped in a tortilla. They also offer a decent possibility in the quick-snack option during Truck touring/meals or when visiting a brewery, mainly in the form of Turkey Eggrolls and other changing/seasonal items I have yet to experience.

From what I’ve witnessed in their regular on-the-street lineup, I think the most exciting option for the hungry traveler would be the Red Curry Chicken Wrap, from its high portability to tasty flavors (plenty of places now have proven curried stuff crammed into a burrito is delicious), and at a buck less than the other sandwiches, even more of a deal. That said the Fish Sandwich is quite the experience, especially from trucks; with a lineup that mostly looks to burgers, pulled pork (and other bbq), bacon, fried chicken, grilled/fried shrimp, tofu stuff, and other things meat or vegetarian related, it’s not often you get to actually get to try anything fish related. And they did do it well, I simply suggest taking off half of the pickled onions before digging in. Then you’ll be happy.

Wacky Wing Wagon

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wacky-Wing-Wagon/162312700602724?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/wackywingwagon
Main Location: St Paul, Outside Events, Etc

I’ve sadly had yet to get the right day or chance to actually head down to the capital for one of the food truck lunches held there, though hearing about it as a new regular and popular hotspot for it starting last year (if I’m correct it used to be timed for a few rallies/events, and now just any ol’ pretty day). Indicative of that, there was yet another truck that I was becoming quite worried in being able to hit, having found difficulty staying in touch with their social media updates and the fact that most of the ones I DID see were at some of the more random and not-so-familiar places (aka, an event or out-of-area business). Thus I can say I was quite thrilled on one of my now very-open mornings/early afternoons before work, which had some beautifully sunny but mild weather, that I saw there were a few trucks out in front of the big white building. So I took the opportunity to go down and hit not just one but TWO new trucks on my radar (the other review should be coming soon), and here we are!

I will say that the parking and driving situation near the capital was annoying… but that’s not what these posts are about (doesn’t seem to stop my bitching on other things though does it?). We’re talking food trucks, and today I got to hit one of MY most anticipated new businesses on the street, Wacky Wing Wagon.

What else do I need to say that their name already doesn’t? They sell Wings, their design is Wacky, and they’re a Wag… well, okay they’re a Truck, so you can ignore that part, but two out of three is still good right? And I like the truck, it’s interesting… and I’m not just talking about the wrap job done on it, with the whole ‘chicken wings instead of flames’ dealy. Not sure how well you can see, but the window set-up and placement is quite unique, very  ‘non-standard’ compared to practically every other kind of truck/trailer found on the street, what with the glass-covered display window and the little sliding eye-level hatch in the middle for taking and delivering orders. Which I just HAD to ask them about, it get me curious as to whether this used to be a different kind of truck that was re-fitted for food service, or if it was all custom.

20150519_130159Apparently it’s custom, made in Arizona I think he said (or Atlanta), which… apparently requires that all trucks be made with a bullet-proof glass window. So that explains THAT part of it, haha.

But back to the food, WWW specializes in, what else, Fried Chicken Wings (or Boneless, which I always loved as a kid with KFC’s Honey-BBQ. Mmmmm empty calories…), which one can get covered in classic Buffalo Hot Sauce, BBQ, or Jerk (Caribbean flavor mon). Besides these, one also has the option of a Chicken Sandwich, with the same sauce possibilities for flavoring, or Burger with a variety of toppings/styles (like the Pretzel Bun and Bacon Jam, not sure if it’s seasonal or not). There are of course Fries for side options.

And that’s about it. I’ve got nothing else to say and feeling too lazy to try to think up anything deeper, so onto the food and stuff! (I feel like I end a lot of these intro parts similarly, is it getting boring and annoying?)

Food: 8

                As tempting as it was, I REALLY wanted to try that bacon jam, the burgers were skipped, because gosh darnit this is a chicken truck and we need to go for chicken! I don’t understand why so many of them keep adding a burger options (I know, I know, ‘cuz people buy them, which is their own fault). It did look rather decent though, so for repeat customers to WWW who wanna try a burger, go for it. Also, though I didn’t have the chance to try them (if I was only doing one truck that day, I might have), but the fries actually looked very appealing to me. Thicker cut, golden, skins, crispy outside look, those seem to be the nice craveable kind that hits the spot.
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But let’s talk about what I DID have. Since I was able to get the same sauce options for both, I went ahead and grabbed both a Wing basket (bone-in of course, gotta set the standard) and a Chicken Sanwich. Hot from the friar, the wing skin kept that fried crunch we look for, even when thoroughly doused in the sauce of choice. The meat inside was moist and tender, as desired, and what’s best is it wasn’t greasy. Now I can’t really say I’m that great at telling the difference in quality between different fried chickens, either wings or other, so I can’t properly judge. In hindsight, though, I am wondering IF some more seasoning on the wings beforehand would have helped? The sauce could have maybe used some extra (I’ll talk about those in a bit though).

Chicken sandwich… grilled delight. Oh, I still love a good toasted bun, and this one was done nice, with a nice char on the chicken breast (a positive aspect, giving one the option for healthy white meat vs, well, fried skin and some protein), which still contained a juicy and tasty interior. It’s a great option for those who crave the burger flavors but want/need to go a little healthier, with all that nice grill flavor around it. That, the bun, and the sauce contributed the main positive points, as the other generic toppings only added the typical support bases, so don’t look or expect for too much ELSE special about it. As a very simple grilled chicken sandwich, it definitely gets my thumbs up.

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Finally, the sauces. I got to try the BBQ (on the wings) and the Classic Buffalo (sandwich). Both of which were nice, typically decent, and obviously handmade, having more of those natural flavors vs the highly generic/mass-produced go-tos. But though the sauce overall meets approval for structure and execution, I find little to truly be excited about, nothing ‘special;’ these are really only just a little better than what one normally would think of for BBQ and hot sauce. Maybe if they had more options I would not mind so much, but if it’s just these two plus Jerk I would hope for something fantastic.

Holdability: 6

                 Well it’s chicken wings covered in sauce, you can imagine their factor for this! Overall very walkable, but messy (unless one got plain wings, in which case WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!!???), napkins heavily required. Basket-based, the sandwich was an easy one to eat with a free hand, minus maybe a tomato slice falling out (though that may have been a different sandwich I had that day).

Price: 9

                  8-piece wing basket, every one, is only $7, and $6 for any of the burgers and chicken sandwich, overall it’s a rather damn good deal. The food is pretty simple to back this up, and fries come in at an obvious $2 extra (about average, I’ve seen places charge more, especially for ‘special’ kinds), and again they seem rather decent for the upcharge.
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Speed: 6.5

Generally average waiting time for wings to fry and buns/meat to grill on the flattop.

They CURRENTLY only have one friar (or two small ones, can’t remember), which can easily push back wait time once there are multiple orders in the window, having to wait for different batches of wings and fries to finish cooking before another one starts. Wishing them luck on being able to get an extra one soon to help with business!

The TOE: 8.5

                  Distinctive, vibrantly themed with a fun name and, I mean come on those graphics! It’s got those great combination of factors which made me quite excited search them out, then of course sadness at not being able to do so for so long. Though I would say that a distinctive drawback to this occurs upon arriving, likely a combination of that super simple white-board menu and the rather… ‘lacking’ menu. I mean ultimately there’s Burgers, Chicken Sandwich, and the Wings, which is usually more than enough except there are only FOUR types of wings, two of which being Hot Sauce and BBQ (the most generic flavors) and a third just Plain. A big part of me was really hoping to revel in the wings more, have a few more interesting sauce options (you have that Bacon Jam for the burger, why not mix that with something to toss the wings in?) to try for that cult-corner EXPERIENCE of going there? Or something like that… just want that menu to excite me more ya know, get my palette dripping, the first stage of presentation before seeing the actual food. But overall still awesome and fun.

Service: +1.5

                First off, I feel like I want to openly say that I KNOW, I’m aware, that this added bonus or minus section is mostly situational. A lot of the people handling the window are always great, friendly and fantastic, it’s just some situations and people (or seeing repeat business) that it shines more. But I started off with having this section as an official way to reward or critique the trucks who, in my visits, I felt deserved it at that time, and I want to keep honoring that part of myself and this blog.

Which is why I thought it was quite nice that, during the little service lull as our food was being cooked and there was no one else waiting in line, the owner at the window walked out and started chatting, explaining the friar situation and apologizing for it between discussions of weather, food, etc. Even taking the effort to check my sandwich, which had a suspicious string of something which we then realized was just a super-thin onion, haha. It added nicely to the visit for me.

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Tally: 39.5/50

Final Thoughts

Wings may not be the handiest and cleanest of street food, but if you’re looking for a fun and unique joint to check out then Wacky Wing is the place to go, especially when looking for the lower-priced options. Also great options for food-truck-days/coursed meals as an appetizer visit, or a snack to share with friends between other things.

Any first or single visit simply should constitute an excuse to go for the Wings, Bone-in preferably but I will not judge. Other items should be saved for repeat visits, though I will say that IF one is in the mood for Fries (as-is or to accompany some other truck item), and there isn’t another fry-specialty business nearby a-la Neato’s, this seems to be a strong contender to get them from. As for the wings themselves, go for Jerk; I may not have tried it but I can feel, after having the other two, that it’d easily be the most exciting sauce of the lot, get that full experience.

Chameleon Concessions, the Minnesota Truck Builder

Having been doing much writing on the side for other food and food truck websites such as Food Truck Empire, a national publication dedicated purely on articles and projects designed to help guide new owners in business and starting up (I definitely suggest anyone getting into the industry to take a look at it), my awareness for many of the truck industry’s aspects, as well as what it means to run a business, has most surely been expanded. It’s been and continues to be a unique experience that challenges me to think about and write about subjects I normally avoid (I seriously had to write something about Taxes… boy was that taxing –bad-um tish-. Though if you wanna take a look at that article, it’s Here), as well as ones I didn’t realize were so big.

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One of these has been the presence, practically the fleet, of Food Truck and Concession Trailer/Stand/Cart Builders throughout the country. A couple years back I had a conversation with Luis from Café Racer where he mentioned how few of them there were in the country, which was bounced off the fact that he works in a shop that has built Food Trucks, though now I’m guessing that was meant in regards of certain KINDS of shops like his (which I still aren’t sure which one it is, having yet to hear back from that question haha).

 

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MRTrailersInc-1346951774_140But in reality there’s tens, dozens, almost if not over a hundred of these builders throughout the country, if you also count vending cart, fair stand, sno cone machine, and other vending crafters and putter-togethers. Some go from scratch, some focus on getting custom and unique interiors while others set their expertise to the truck surrounding it. Those like M&R Trailers, a certified custom builder in Florida, have grown to cater for businesses in multiple states based on the amazing reputations and quality work that they’ve shown and developed.

So I thought it’d be fun to look into our own builder for a little after-Memorial Feature, a thank you for providing some of our local mobile business owners an awesome way to get around and present their ideas!

So far (again, besides the potentially different shop Café Racer came from), we only have one, Chameleon Concessions. These are the guys that have designed and created some of the most vibrant, attractive, and cool-looking trucks on our streets: Melch’s Meat Wagon, Hibachi Daruma, A Cupcake Social, the Taste of Target Field (that’s a cool design really, great TV installation and other things), all that stuff. When Andrew Zimmern went for his Food Truck, Chameleon was the builder that took the job, and AZ Canteen was born. So it’s safe to say they do some serious work.

chameleon-concessions

Besides that, the guys have also done with work Trailers, Carts (from hot dogs to sno cones to doughnuts), Fair Stands, basically every major manor of vending machine has been tackled at least once. Their Gallery is a fun page to roll through; especially for myself after seeing pages of builders who talk about custom work but basically just make the same kind of truck over and over (so the inside is custom, the actual frame not so much).

As for the company itself, it originally evolved from Palm Brothers Restaurant Equipment, which was founded in 1910. Today they’ve gathered team members with over 27 collective years in the restaurant business, not to mention the cart and vending vehicle operation, to assist and help build one’s ideal Truck or Trailer. Not to mention a whole listing of Certifications to back up their knowledge, so they can come in and help with the design at every step, from conceptualization to equipment to the finished build and wrap job.

Safe to say they’ve been doing a rather bang-up job lately, and I’m quite happy that our local trucks have them as a resource (there are some states that still don’t have any you know? So sad). I can’t wait to see what other interesting designs and graphics they come up with for new trucks going forward!

Z’s Smoking Bonez

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http://zsmokinbonez.com/
https://twitter.com/Zsbonez
Main Location: Markets and Outside Etc Locations

It seriously feels like all the trucks I’m making it to in 2015 are BBQ Trucks so far! I think this is the third one in the past month or so, it feels like I’ve been trapped in a cage of smoke, pork, and bbq sauce. Not that I’m complaining of course, who doesn’t love getting multiple chances at brisket and all other meats that are good with the world? (I’m looking at you Vegans… scoot along with your evil ways)

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At the very least all of them have shown marked differences, and this last one has proven quite interesting in its own way. Having opened up in Maple Grove in 2012, Z’s Smokin’ Bonez is a full-on BBQ Sandwich shop, filling their menu with smoked pork and brisket piled between bread, and of course some classic ribs and cornbread.

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Their restaurant and catering business has obviously done well enough, and recognized an obvious strength in their food, ‘cuz they got a truck outfitted and moved their cuisine out and onto the street! That’s right, starting this year we’ve been able to see Z’s Smokin’ Bonez Food Truck hit some of the lots, farmer’s markets, and events in our Twin Cities’ outskirt areas. With a big white trailer outfitted with a ‘patio’ in back where their old-fashioned barrel smoker is mounted, it’s rather nice to see them able to bring their ideal cooking to the streets.

As for that food, they make some changes from the restaurant to offer unique handheld bbq options (and other things). Of course they have a half rack of Ribs, Classic Sandwiches (big and small) of Pork/Chicken/Or Brisket, including a Bacon Cheeseburger using ground brisket. THEN we get to the fun stuff. Tortilla Wraps stuffed with pulled pork, beans, and slaw (Big Pig) or brisket+pork+mac n cheese+slaw (Whole Hog). Then there’s Deep Fried Rib Tips, the Trailer Trash Burger (piled with all manner of meat, veggies, and a fried egg… my god I need to start trying burgers more), and a ‘Squish-wish.’ I’ll describe that one later. Oh, and a KFC-style bowl of fries, pork, and beans called the Smoke House.

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Of course we get the classic options for sides: Coleslaw, Mac and Cheese, Baked Beans, and Potato Salad, nothing more nothing less (oh and ‘Ziggy Fries,’ that’s an automatic thing usually). And the whole side of the trailer is filled with all their BBQ Sauces, seriously 8 different kinds, from Original to Jalapeno to the classic Texas White Sauce. I tried a few on each item, definitely wasn’t disappointed. Speaking of which, let’s start really getting into that food.

Food: 8

                I guess I should start with talking about the Squish-wish, my first item of the day (I wasn’t going to get more, but then, ya know, I just had to… but that’s for later)! The name certainly suits it, since it is actually squished right on the griddle, a proper pressed sandwich to my delighted surprise! Sadly, it was supposed to be made with a Cuban bread but they ran out; I didn’t mind, the regular bun acted just fine, I can only imagine it’d taste and come together even better. Ultimately it was much different than we’ve come to expect with traditional BBQ sandwiches, aka cheap, soft, and completely un-toasted bread to soak up the meat. I appreciate the additional texture and awesome crunch (yet still soft inside) to go with the filling.
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Which is rather good; Pulled Smoked Pork AND Smoked Brisket, melted Pepperjack, Onions, Pickles, and BBQ Mustard. Both meats were tender and had distinctive smoke flavor, enjoyable in their own fashions, and ultimately ate well as this delicious BBQ twist on the classic Cuban, coming with some added texture from the other fillings. If officially meets approval.

And then there are Ribs… Holy F&$%balling Mother of S#!% there are RIBS! My God look at those sons of b!%&#*$! You actually get a PROPER order of half a rack of ribs, big pieces of smoked pork meat that are actually composed of mostly meat with just a bit of bone for grasping! This is by far the best order of them that I have seen and/or gotten from a truck since I started doing them; and part of that may be due to others using baby back or some other style that costs more, meaning they have to give less for the same price, vs the St Louis Style cut that Z’s uses, but I don’t care about that. As I’ve always said, this is a food truck, not a restaurant, IF you’re going to charge $15 or more for something on the menu, then you better get something GOOD in return, quality and quantity wise.

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And these are good. The meat is still tender, it has that proper toothsome/bite quality to it (not melt-in-your-mouth, which shouldn’t really happen from smoked ribs anyway), though I did find the end pieces a bit more ‘rubbery’ than the rest (not drastically or anything, but you can see they’re not ‘as’ good, though they do have a higher meat ratio to them too…). It’s still covered in grinds of pepper or whatever spice was used in the rub, the flavor of which is distinctive but not overpowering (you know what, was it lemon pepper? I’m thinking there may have been some), and indicative of a certain style. Of course the smoke was nice, and best of all they tasted great with some of the sauce on top. It was a satisfying experience; if I were to list the faults, it’d probably be that the St Louis cuts they use result in a rib that indeed is more ‘meaty/proteiny,’ with less of the fat veins to make it extra tender, but if so it’s minimal, and I think I’m just trying to find a complaint that’s not really there so that I don’t seem like I’m just saying all-positive out of some biased opinion. Guess you’ll have to try for yourself to TRULY know.

Sadly the sides were rather unimpressive; not bad in any way, but the quality doesn’t stand really stand out. In fact the flavor of the Mac and Cheese was nice, a little better than typical from BBQ joints/trucks I’ve found, but with a rather thin sauce, almost like a slightly thickened cheese soup with noodles in it. Which is sad because now I have little to no actual interest intrying the Whole Hog Wrap. The Coleslaw, as I found on the sandwich, was purely basic, standard, couldn’t even taste any of the dressing so I doubt it’s particularly tangy or flavorful. I will say that I DID enjoy the Bacon Potato Salad; it was also rather typical in style, with that tangy sour cream dressing and some onions, thankfully some nice chunks of bacon, but it was done well and the kind of side I can REALLY dig into with a giant spoon from a tub, at least for a while. Nothing special overall.

Holdability: 8

                 I’m definitely giving them some extra points for their heavily sandwich-based BBQ offerings, especially those wraps, which I do still wanna try someday (even if the sides they stuff it with don’t thrill me). And that pressed squish-wish, thank god for Panini-style sandwiches for holding in the hand while walking. I can’t say for how messy the burger and typical pulled pork/brisket sandwiches shall be, I expect the former will need some napkins, but I certainly know the Ribs are a full sit-down item. Though at the end of the day, of course, serving in the classic BBQ to-go styrafoam boxes like this as full meals (doesn’t seem like any sandwich can be bought on its own for less, so it’s an automatic addition of fries or another side) will cut down on that factor I oh-so-cling to, even though no one but me cares haha.

Price: 7

                  Besides a $7 and $9 price for the small/side sandwiches, most are $10, $12, or $13 (the latter two for Brisket and Specialty Sandwiches/Wraps), with $15 for the Ribs. I will repeat, compared to other trucks this is easily the BEST deal for ribs, getting the most bang for your buck, for the money spent. But price points are overall still higher up. Though the $10/$12 sammies, including the burger, do in effect come in as good sandwich+side combos for the price (they’ll sometimes switch out the fries for another side if you mention interest).
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Speed: 8.5

Depends, things like the pressed sandwich take an average wait time to grill up and/or prep up, fry the potato sticks, etc. Some things just need scooping and cutting (helloooo ribs and potato salad) to be served up.

The TOE: 9

                  I feel so bad now, because I have to repeal my recent naming of Baldy’s as my favorite BBQ Truck, for I think Z’s has already dethroned you. Not to say I think they’re the BEST, I think I much prefer Baldy’s for quick grab-and-go sandwiches at a better price, but I really appreciate and respect a lot of what Z is doing EVEN MORE. The big thing here is the Setup, what kind of packages for the BBQ they offer, and they definitely do that in a way that more fits the street, both in the ability to only need your hands to eat most of it (minus bowls and sides, thus a fork comes in handy), but also in the attempts to trying some different and fun/unique forms of the original via wraps and other sandwich combos. And though longer truck menu selections like these can lead to an annoyance in wonder and confusion, or just a wish to focus and specialize in a few things, this is one of the trucks that, because they’ve done it well enough, I myself am somewhat intrigued to want to come back and try more if given the chance (particularly those Deep Fried Rib Tips). I haven’t said that out loud for other trucks, but there have been others where I feel the same.

I’m a bit sad they don’t have any of that Jalapeno Cornbread I’ve read about in the restaurant, that sounds like it woulda been a fantastic addition. Hell, I’ll take a brick of that instead of those French Fries anyday… or used for a sandwich (get on it!! Please?).

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for some true flavors and heart of BBQ food or a truck showing a fun street food twist on something classic, Z’s Smoking Bonez can fill part of your heart. It will be best enjoyed when you have some time sit or pause and enjoy it, leaning against a wall or sitting down with your entrée in question, though there are possibilities for the on-the-go.

Though it’s still not the item I’d ever get purely on my own interests, if you ARE looking to get Ribs from a Food Truck, this is the place to do it. I myself would definitely suggest jumping on the Squish-wish or Trailer Trash Burger for the full, deep down Meat experience with a side. For those of the more portable-minded, the Whole Hog Wrap (though I’m not too interested in it now since I wasn’t impressed with the mac and cheese, though it’s still a sinful addition right?) or the Fried Rib Tips are the way to go. Finally, the Side: Bacon Potato Salad. The others don’t really stand out, I doubt the beans will, and the potato salad actually works really well, the tangy sour cream helping cut through all that rich and fatty pork/beef.

As for those looking on the simple side, debating brisket vs pork vs chicken, that all seems to be up to you, as they seem to be handle at an equal level. Though that’s only a consideration for those who want to visit but are really on a budget and thus looking at the cheaper regular/side sandwiches.

Ultimately, it’s definitely worth a visit, I’m positive you can find an experience here.