A Foxy Afternoon

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Getting back into the food-adventure swing of things, I’m really hoping to be able to check off some of the close-by Truck-staurants off my list. And lucky me just the other day I finally got to head down to Foxy Falafel’s little café for lunch!

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I imagined it’d be bigger, but I don’t mind, love that small little café atmosphere; these sorts of deals really do fit the food truck persona the best, plus they’re probably a bit easier to afford than the bigger stuff! And Foxy’s is situated in a little brick shop just up from University and Raymond, in a setup that almost looks like it used to hold antiques or a yarn-spinner’s directory. Hooray for setting up a place with some personality!

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20150330_145425Now, for those reading who still haven’t been there yet (I’m sure I’m the last one, but just in case), the menu is set up in an interesting, fun way. Main entrees are chosen a-la Chipotle, where you pick the ideal protein of choice (3 different falafel flavors, a mix of each, and some actual meat options in style of chicken shwarma, gyro, and lamb), figure out if you want it stuffed in a pita, salad, or ‘platter,’ and which of three delicious sauces you want to top it with. One can then choose to accompany this with one or more of various sides (hummus, beet slaw, baba ganoush, etc), cookies and other dessert.

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These can of course be accompanied with some awesome local draft beer, wine, or other drinks. All of which has been drawing up on two very attractive chalk boards! Sadly I wasn’t in the mood for grabbing a refreshment, though I wish I was; they seem to have a very interesting looking Root Beer in their fridge, that always peaks my tastebud curiosity.

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20150330_144347What I DID start off with was a bowl of cheese curds; not what I planned, but seeing them on the menu intrigued me, and I haven’t had any sense the State Fair as it was. And I’m glad, for one thing cuz they’re my favorite style; lightly battered, still warm and gooey with a BIT of grease (but not overly); of course they used amazing local organic curds for it too. They were tossed in Dill before frying, but truth be told I could barely taste that even when looking; I wish they got some fresh dill on it after frying, really bring that fresh flavor in. But oh god, I’m now indebted to the place, because I’ve discovered the wonder that is fresh cheese curds dipped in honey. I’m gonna have to eat them with that every time now.

 

As for the main, I still gotta order the classic street-foodie pita option (hey, it came with fries); Beet Falafel which I’ve been very much wanting to try since I found out about them a few years back; and the Green Tahini sauce (tahini w/ lemon and herbage). Of course the falafels were good; crunchy outside, VERY tender and soft inside, nice little different flavor with the beets (I’m surprised with how ‘fresh’ it felt, vs the deep earthy flavors I normally attribute), and with the other filling ingredients and sauce it made a nice mouthful.

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That said, I’m very glad I was eating this in the café, because that pita did NOT want to stay together! It ripped and tore, fell apart once, and was a bit of a mess even when trying to keep that paper around it. Though, in this setting, I don’t care about that so much, just thought it should be made of note. The tahini was nice, not as vibrant in flavor as I was hoping, but a pleasantly smooth, lightly lemony-herby paste to moisten things up with. It was great with the fries (which were good for soft-style fries, a shame they don’t go for crispy texture on it though). Overall it was a tasty little sandwich lunch, eaten at a time and place that was great for enjoying the good weather day in, and I’m glad I got to go at it again after so long.

 

Vellee in the Skyway with Burritos

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You know what the sorta funny thing is? There’s at least… what, 5 (likely much more) food truck restaurants and other standing operations that have opened up in the past two years that I STILL have yet to get to in the Twin Cities, and yet I literally only found out on Twitter about Vellee Deli’s Skyway place, located in the Baker Building off 8th and Marquette, on day 2 of their opening and I’m able to make it out there a week later! Well, guess it was the straw that broke this camel’s back, thank god I’ve finally broken down and accepted the need for using Twitter (shudders); I mean, I can’t miss out on my favorite truck’s new operation can I?

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And I’m not the only one apparently; whether it’s die-hard truck fans, other hipster-like foodies glued to twitter, or simply skyway workers really looking forward to the different, delicious fair, the line out the opening was well and long! Let’s hope it stays like that, as it should; if there’s any skyway food business that should stay successful for a long time, I think Vellee deserves it (who cares about the boring fast food companies?).

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An open-air kitchen filled with more than double the number of people that worked in the truck dealt with this line rather fast, serving out the large menu drawn in chalk, the same as on the truck but with a few extra, tasty items. I of course had to try one of these newer items myself, grabbing the Tofu Burritio (made with curry, zingy cream sauce, and some mushrooms and lettuce) and Chips w/ Pineapple Salsa.

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Yeah yeah, the guy who complains about the logic of ordering chips and guac from a truck got some here. Well it’s a sit-down restaurant so I have the right! And it was quite tasty… was a bit surprised seeing the tomato base, figured it’d be more ike the typical Caribbean, all-pineapple with some mix-in salsas, was very much worried about the flavors being too muddy/mixed… but it actually tasted really good. Fresh, tart and lightly sweet, tangy, not thick and very crunchable on the chips.

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Then there’s the burrito, I mean who can complain about their burritos? It’s practically an indulgent sin, but vegetarian… and after just coming out of a month of vegetarianism, I’ve found new appreciation for the product that is Tofu, along with other non-meat-based thingies. Safe to say, scrumptious and nummy, the only reason it took me 10 minutes to eat being because I had an 8-minute phone call after I started! Plus I can’t say no to a good dish of curry and rice… I’ll admit my nerves waned slightly at the notable inclusion of simple lettuce, but it fully heightened the experience (I need to stop doubting lettuce… I blame taco bell).

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Well, it’s no different than my other ravings on Vellee’s offerings. As always, I wish them luck and good fortune in all their ventures, and hope those reading get the chance to try their Minneapolis Skyway location sometime soon. Just remember it’s only open 10-3, like all the other locations up there (think they’ll start complaining about losing business to food trucks now? Haha). Now, what truck restaurant to visit next…

 

Oh, gotta love a fully stocked quality soda bottle section while you’re at it, no matter where you go.

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Eastlake Craft and Taco Cat Quasi Review

tchttp://www.tacocatmn.com/
https://twitter.com/tacocats

Sad to say, the past winter, in combination with the full-time job I’ve acquisitioned into, has bulldozed my daily schedules and habits to one which has fully kept me from my beloved food truck explorations for the longest of times. I worry that I won’t be able to make it out to try some of the new entrepreneurs, let alone catch up with ones I still have yet to reach after last year’s premier.

But this spring feels so revitalizing! Just recently finishing up a month-long vegetarian diet project (which I’m now regretting not featuring in my Other Blog), getting used to the new hours, my wallet not feeling as dry and stingy as before, and with the weather taking a noted turn for the better, that flexible sense of adventure and exploration finally re-set itself in my soul and fingers. Restrictions no longer seem to cling to me anymore, leaving my wandering tastes excited for the new possibilities as I make my plans to get back into the food scene of my much loved Twin Cities.

20150315_163237And with my first full day off of work after this amazing weather hit, I just had to go to a taproom, so I headed down to the Midtown Global Market to visit the newly-opened Eastlake Craft Brewery, a fun venture started 3 months ago that focuses on some Belgian, IPA, and unique styles, including a fully Vietnamese-flavored and styled beer called “Eye of the Tiger.” Besides beer, the place offers Dean’s Kombucha on tap, tasty on its own but even better when utilized in a “One Two Punch,” whereas they’ll do a half-and-half mix of your chosen beer and flavored kombucha (I tried the Tiger with some Blackberry, subtly spicy sassy sour super sipper, num). But that’s a review for another time, which I’ll probably hand over to Eat.Drink.Dish, what we really need to talk about is the food!

20150315_155139The reason I chose Eastlake, in the center of uptown as it is, was to finally achieve an experience I, and many other Minnesotans, have been telling myself I’d do for over a year without actually making a proper attempt: Taco Cat delivery. Yes, those gurus of the stuffed tortilla that started in the southern area of Minneapolis, solely relying on a bike delivery services and sarcasm. Despite being based out of a kitchen in the Global Market, TC still has no ‘proper’ pickup, requiring you to stand outside of the building to then have your tacos delivered by bike. Despite the simple requirement of having to be anywhere in uptown, the cliché of everyone talking and raving about Taco Cat without having actually tried it yet has still stood strong in our cities (well, at least I’m no longer part of those statistics).

I wanted to take a picture for the feature, but my guy wasn’t wearing his jersey today (the bearded bastard!!), and I couldn’t find any good ones online of their delivery guys wearing anything besides winter coats, so here’s a picture of a cat in a taco costume!

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D’awwwwww

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It certainly is yet another great taproom food, the guys offering a few basic and unique topping-laden tacos, along with options for Nachos and Burritos filled with choice meats. Going for two items today, I chose the Ruckus, a mint-chimichuri and pickled radish-topped steak, and the Outlaw, slow-cooked pork with kimchi and typical salsas. Each order comes with Three decent-sized tacos, great for sharing or just stuffing your face (and, of course I checked, no we cannot do mix-and-match orders… thus why I ended up having to buy 6 tacos just to try two menu items… at least my next home lunches aren’t gonna suck). Of which, both of these certainly displayed how Taco Cat has gotten its reputation for scrumptious street food.

Two quality, soft layered masa tortillas stuffed with juicy, tender meat, I mean come on. The pulled pork was easily one of the best, juiciest that I’ve had in the street food game so far, and a great base to build a taco with. Steak was nice and typical of most but, on the other hand, when I hear grilled steak, I want something… more. Give me some crust, texture, something more than cooked beef cubes (they’re good cooked beef cubes mind you). But my mouth was overall quite happy with what I put in it.

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Oh, and can’t forget the salsas! A green salsa verde with the steak, a chipotle-based number for the pork, both of them so devilishly good… especially the latter, so smoky and rich and indulgent, I just want to slather it all over the pork and just stick with that.

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They may not be an actual food truck, thus my choice to delegate them to the Quasi-review circuit, but they’re fully delved into the core of street food in our cities, and I’ve been wanting to try them anyway, so there.

                 Food: 8 – What I’ve already mentioned, I also found that the fun toppings I was so excited for, such as the kimchi and mint chimichurri, barely came out. When having it plain (no salsa), I was able to get a subtle mint on the steak, but that was the biggest personality inclusion. I really wish they stood out with a ‘POW’ like they should. Can assume similar meat and flavor qualities across options.

20150315_151142              Holdability: 8 – Tightly bundled tacos, easily transportable in their aluminum wrap (and doggy delivery bag)

Price: 5 – Certainly higher than typical taco trucks, even for the simpler offerings, and forcing us to buy 3 of the same at a time keeps bills higher, especially when sampling multiple items.

Speed: 4 – Great for bike delivery I’m sure, but even when ordering outside the kitchen makes a 10-minute wait. So, compared to food trucks, not the best.

Toe: 10 – What? I like the name… and it’s funny reading their website’s Q&A section

I don’t remember if I usually have a ‘final suggestion’ section in these Quasis anymore, but I certainly wanna say that, if you ever have the chance to hang in uptown and place an order, do this: Order as a Group, so you can try a few different meats, split the costs, and have a smorgasbord of fun to try. Don’t go for the ‘special’ tacos with the different toppings; instead, just get the plain (pork or chicken ideal) and smother in those amazing salsas… I mean seriously. I bet the nachos and burritos are pretty gangsta too (yes I just said that); and safe to say, these are best enjoyed at breweries, coffee shops, or other fun outdoorsy sit-downs in uptown.

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Well, that’s about it for now, I’m gearing up for some more brewery visits and other upcoming fun! Enjoy this amazing season all of you (unless for some reason you’re reading this in winter… in that case, so sorry… maybe build a snowman and watch Frozen?)!

Waiting for a Rocking June at Motley’s

SAMSUNGPlenty online local papers and blog spots have already reported and written about this who knows how many times by now, but I wanted to still get in my congrats and shout-out to one of my fav’s, Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill, and their upcoming restaurant project! That’s right, the brew-centered food truck is getting themselves a stand-alone serving space on June 1st, and I sincerely hope I’ll have the opportunity in my schedule to stop down as soon as possible once it opens!

The new digs will be located on Holyoke Ave in Lakeville, with an interesting twist to the operations, which I was very glad to hear about. Cuz though I do love this truck so much, it is a bit difficult to imagine themselves transferring to a restaurant idea… plenty of other trucks one can see no problem, but simple messy sandwiches and bar snacks, hmm. Could certainly picture some café or one of those quick-service places like the classic Philly Joints in their hometown, but we’re talking an actual full restaurant here. And then I find out that half of the space will be shared by a local craft brewery (which one is still unknown), thus keeping that perfect pairing we all love so much.

That’s about all there is to say about this upcoming venture. I wish the best of luck to these guys in their next step, and can’t wait to stop on by for some awesome brewery-centric faire!

(Here’s a couple other articles on the topic)

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2015/02/17/motley-crews-food-truck-will-get-a-permanent.html

http://minneapolis.eater.com/2015/2/17/8052245/motley-crews-heavy-metal-grill-from-food-truck-to-lakeville-restaurant

Top 20 Food Trucks, 2014

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Thought I’d change up my “Top” post this year, since it’s become so difficult for new trucks to push into the ever-higher scores of the best 10, and with all the great trucks out there, I thought I’d offer a quick feature of the top 20 food trucks in the Twin Cities. This is again based purely off of the ratings developed through my reviews, and I admit that perception of the ‘best’ is very different for each person. Not to mention, sadly, there’ve been a few trucks that came later on in the season I never got a chance to get to, so who knows what it’ll look like when I get to them (hopefully we’ll find out next year!).

So, here they are!

20140501_175614Placing #20, tied at 44pts: Fro Yo Soul, Hot Indian Foods, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites, and Hola Arepa

A veritable cornucopia of styles, two new kids and two veteran’s, one that pumps frozen dessert and another that sizzles masa dough sandwiches, Indian burritos to deep fried goodies a la Psycho Suzie’s. My favorite example of the metaphor that is the Food Truck community.

Sharing #18 with 44.5pts: B52 Slider Squad and Jake’s Street Grille

Two maestros of the mini burgers end up sharing the score, offering juicy, hand-sized meat patties for our cravings.

Three-way hit at #15th place, 45pts: Home Street Home, Rusty Tacos, and Cupcakes on the Go

A couple of my long favorites in dessert and variety along with a veritable army of taco offerings.

20140828_113746#12th place, another three-way (there’s gonna be a few, and yet this is still family friendly!?) at 45.5: O’Cheeze, SCRATCH!, and Bachelor Farmer’s Sausage Cart

Two newbies slide in as we FINALLY get the grilled cheese business that the Twin Cities has desperately needed, not to mention a craft hot dog stand sitting outside one of North Loop’s favorite institutions. But of course SCRATCH still stands strong as it always has and will be with their awesome sandwiches.

#11, one of the few solo spot participants nowadays with 46pts (yes, I should probably stop being so generous with points and give more demerits to spread truck ratings apart better… sue me): AZ Canteen

Though they got bumped out of the top 10 last year, Andrew Zimmern’s amazing mobile station still holds a strong spot, both on the street and in my hear (cue adorably cheesy music).

And for the Top 10! Once again the list belongs to:

csh4#7th Place, 4-way tie at 46.5pts: Chef Shack, MidNord Empanada, Tot Boss, and Café Racer

#4th Place, another 3-way split at 47.5pts (can’t believe I haven’t gotten a 47-pointer yet): Eli’s Donut Burgers, Moral Omnivore, Paulette Bakery

#3rd, 48pts: Vellee Deli

#2nd, 49pts: NateDogs

And as always, #1 at a whopping 50.5: Potter’s Pasties

With luck, this coming year will show some amazing new guys willing and able to shake up the rankings a bit more, and with even better luck I might be able to try them out! Otherwise I might have to simply ignore next year’s rankings.

Thanks for dealing with me as always, hope this year is culinarily amazing for you all! Good Luck and Good Eating!

Food Trucks Giving Back Article

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A recent article on M&R Trailer’s Blog site discusses a few of the food trucks that have taken part in charity work, in honor of the time of year, and I thought it’d be nice to share the link. It features a few trucks located in or near Florida, like Manna From Heaven, a Vietnamese truck who set aside part of their profits for homeless meals. The post also includes interviews with a non-profit bakery called All Things Sweet, an old member of a charity truck group called ‘Food Trucks for Families’ named Sweet City Gelato, a business that seeks out as many charity-benefitting catering jobs they can to offer their HipPOPS to, and American Disaster Relief’s own Tamale Truck.

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It’s always great seeing people take the time to support local causes, certainly hope for all the best luck and support to them that I can.

Savannah Food Truck Issues

sv1So, over the past month or so I’ve been doing some writing on the side for Food Truck Empire and one of their accounts (also just got asked to guest write for Eat.Drink.Dish, you should check the site out!); one of the reasons I sadly haven’t been able to get out to any new food trucks recently! (that and a lot more work hours, haha; the good and the bad ya know?)

But to get straight to my main point, I just finished an article discussing these really bad, annoying issues that the Savannah government has set against the food trucks currently trying to make a business there. I was able to get an amazing interview with someone really involved in the race to get the place liveable and grow the truck scene there, a Ms. Amy Hughes from Hughes Public Affairs. During the process of contact and going through this, I couldn’t help but want to spread this issue to as many media points as I can, to help get the word out and hopefully garner support for this city, and all the others where these new entrepreneurs are being practically forced out of what could be a fantastic boom for them and the city itself (if they’d actually let them survive).

Either way, Here’s the Link, I encourage anyone even mildly interested to read through it, and spread the link to as many sources as one can. Hopefully you at least enjoy skimming through it, as I very much enjoyed putting it together!

Vin’s Italian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food: 9.5

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

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

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

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

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Holdability: 6

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

Price: 7.5

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

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

The TOE: 9

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

  Service: +0.5

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

Tally: 41/50

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Final Thoughts

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

Twin City Fritter & Philly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food: 8

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

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

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

Holdability: 7.5

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

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

 

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

The TOE: 7

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

Tally: 39/50

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Final Thoughts

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

Fro Yo Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food: 8.5

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

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

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

Holdability: 9

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

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

Speed: 9.5

 

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

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The TOE: 7

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

Tally: 44/50

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Final Thoughts

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

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