Neato’s Burgers

neatos

www.neatosburgers.com

https://twitter.com/NeatosBurgers

Main Location: St. Paul

             My second stop on what I’m thinking of calling “The Storming River Lunch,” (see Home Street Home)Neato’s is one of a pair of Burger-focused Trucks. The beef is ground by Stasny’s, using locally-sourced meat, then pattied by hand to be grilled for you.

            These fellas are then topped with a variety of fun, unique, pre-designed garnishes by the working chefs. Besides a clichéd deluxe, one can find a jalapeno-popper style with raspberry jam, a peanut butter-pickle with mayo, and a Mexican corn with lime mayo and cotija cheese.

            Here’s the thing: that’s not the draw.

            All these burgers are juicy and tasty, but customers both new and old come around for a whole different reason. This is one of the few places in both cities (restaurants included) that makes fries cooked in rendered duck fat. Served with homemade garlic aioli (fancy word for any flavored mayonnaise), these babies have recently made quite a few local Top Ten Fry lists. They even put them on one of their burgers (along with duck-fried onion).

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            Did I mention you have to order these separately? Not automatic; and allows you to just get fries, yum.

            You combine the fries, burgers, and milkshakes made with small-batch ice cream, and you get that nostalgic, 1950’s diner food; kicked right up to 11 (that’s one higher than 10 you know). It’s even served in the red and white checkerboard paper.

Food: 6.5

Note: changed from a previous score of 8.5

             The burger itself is easily better than the average, though I can’t rightly place it in the top list as a standalone. However, they have an amazing series of burgers with interesting and delicious toppings, which are sure to elevate it to a pretty decent level. I haven’t had a milkshake (No longer true, see my thoughts on it Here), but come on… it’s a milkshake, when have they ever been bad? Or neutral even?

             Now, the duck fat fries… they’ve had some issues with them in the past, but those have been resolved and now yielding to a more consistent deliciousness. They lack complete crispyness (still have a bit with the skins, which is sorta nice), but it’s a good kind of soft, and the fat comes through in a properly subtle way (only a bit, but you don’t actually have to search for it). The aioli they serve with it is absolutely perfect combo, really strong, fresh garlic flavor to stand up and highlight that duck fat cooking.

Holdability: 6.5

             Getting things individually holds less issues, but you don’t order a burger without the fries… fries without the burger maybe. The problem with this, sometimes fry and burger come in separate baskets, as opposed to basket + fry baggy (what I got). Burger itself is the traditional slightly-messy pile, not the most compact eatable item.

Price: 8

              Prices are controlled around the concept that burgers and fries are ordered separately. As such, all burgers are only around $6, with $4 for the simple cheeseburger ($3 for hamburger), while fries cost a few dollars as-is. This makes great cost control for those only going for one or the other, and an affordable-on-the-higher-end when doing the “combo.”

Speed: 8

             As a burger place, can take a bit to cook properly. From the sound of it, potatoes are single-fried as opposed to double (first fry done much earlier at low temp for tenderness, second fry done to order at higher for crisp), which usually takes a little longer to cook through, though I could be wrong here.

The TOE: 10

            Once again, we find a truck that goes nostalgic, this time with pure burger diner, while kicking multiple qualities up to a delicious notch. Not to mention duck fat fries is always a sign of putting in the extra effort to make something fantastic. It’s also a prime example of those small, simple items with just that “something” added to them that magically lifts the entire truck in our minds (I’ve alluded to this idea before, see R.A. Mac Sammy’s)

            Hmmm, I’ve mentioned this twice already, but still don’t know how to describe it simpler. I think I’m going to make up a word for it. Since both times have been in this particular section, think from now on I’ll call them… “Toe Rings.”

                        Tally: 41/50

Final Thoughts

            Unless you’re able and planning to come back one or two more times, go for one of the special burgers. Any of them are good, dependent on taste. HOWEVER, the Mustard Tiger uses Duck Fat Fries as a topping, so you can try both without having to order a whole basket separately.

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           If you’re going to be coming back, then I would start simply with the deluxe; two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion. Burgers like this are always a great way to get a full view on a kitchen; how thick is the burger, how juicy, what ratios of bun-topping-cheese-meat do they use? All this and more can be learned by such burgers (for some reason I imagined old Obi-wan Kenobi’s voice when I read this in my head).

          The duck fat fries are a must get for yourself. Whether you are or aren’t hungry for a burger, when you go by Neato’s for the first time order some fries to snack on. Don’t always get the chance for duck fat fries, so take them while you can and determine your level of love.

         Do I even have to do a shpeal about milkshakes?

R.A. Mac Sammy’s

rms1

ramacsammys.com/

https://twitter.com/RAMacsammys

 

Main Location: St. Paul, Office Buildings, Etc

            Upon opening and debuting a Truck, it ends up very rare that any paper or internet-based publicity will choose to report. This leads to many Food Trucks relying solely on building a reputation and clientele on their own, through word of mouth. A very unique truck it is that can acquire immediate recognition.

            R.A. Mac Sammy’s was one of those trucks, its name and food being exclaimed and written in many a web-based local updates; a paper article or two as well.

            The reason? R.A. Mac Sammy’s peddles out that ubiquitous mix from a box loved by both kids and adults alike throughout the entirety of the Nation. Of course I’m talking Mac n Cheese, that warm, gooey mess of noodles and dairy. Served countless number of ways from stirred on the pot to baked in a restaurant with who knows what added to it, this dish always tends to draw its crowd of fans wherever plated. Yet if there were to be any region within the U.S. to appreciate it more, that cold-winded, comfort-food loving Midwest we all call dear would stand tallest.

            Mac’s takes advantage of this deep-seated nostalgia wonderfully, offering a simple-yet-flexible set of options for your choosing. One can have the seasonal Macaroni, a special mix of chosen ingredients to that month, or the simple Mac… built with any other ingredient you want, from hot dogs to jalapenos to broccoli to bacon (is there any doubt they wouldn’t have bacon?). These are offered in large or medium/small orders, dependent on your craving.

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            With only a 4-burner stove and small griddle to cook your order from, Mac’s has developed of genius way for customization while turning out a high order volume. Cooking the entirety of noodles with the creamy, tangy cheese sauce in 1-2 large pans, all added ingredients are then grilled on the flat-top. Piled on top at the end, along with a sprinkling of pre-toasted breadcrumbs for that familiar crunch of the home-made baked noodles. One can dig and mix as you please.

            Besides the Mac n Cheese, they also offer Smoked Bratwurst and two griddled sandwiches; a Grilled 4-Cheese, and Meat and Cheese of some sort. Homemade brownies available occasionally, great for office workers looking for lunch and dessert.

Food: 9

            The noodles are tender without being too soft, the cheese of the white and creamy variety, a small amount of tang; the toasted breadcrumbs offer a good texture. Sandwiches I have not tried yet, but from their chef-born inspirations, I would be shocked if they’re anything less than cheesy goodness.

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            Though griddling the additional ingredients on the side is a very smart and necessary protocol for them to do, the sad truth is that no doubt loses a small amount of that beautiful effect achieved from slowly cooking everything together in that bubbly cheese sauce. Delicious as it is, they are unable to reach the peak of Mac n’ Cheese-dom that many restaurants have shown.

Holdability: 6

             Mac n’ Cheese is mac n’ cheese, can’t really do anything besides holding in some box or bowl. Now, as far as other similar street food items go, this one is a little easier to eat from the box with a fork. The cheese IS nice and gooey, with little to no mess.

            For the walkability-concious, the sandwiches should offer less problem, grilled cheese especially. Yet even they are served in a basket with chips; both hands will be needed. I can’t bout for the holdability of the Grilled Meat, Cheese, etc sandwiches.

            It certainly does make one think; how much greater their menu would be if they offered a Fried-Mac-on-a-Stick of some sort. Maybe wrapped around a hot dog or brat beforehand… I say we start petitioning and suggesting, see if we can get them to add it!

Price: 9.5

            $8 for the Special and $7 for the classic, with a charge of only $4 for the “mini mac”.  50cents per addition, cost can build up enough for consideration if you’re getting a large (which I rarely find need of). Less of an issue for those only getting 1-2 things, but for the foodies like me who crave abundance, it’s something to think about.

            On the lighter side, both the Brat and Grilled Cheese stand at $5, keeping for different options.

Speed: 7

             Still fast for a Mac n Cheese, but when you have a small line of orders in front of you, it can take a while to get to the group of tickets with your order. I was quite time-conscious when I ordered, and ended up standing there for longer than I wanted. Best ordered when there are still only very few people in line at the time of purchase.

The TOE: 9

             Very unique and well executed Truck that pulls at the strings of comfort we all keep in our stomach. The only thing that’s noticeably missing is that ONE unique-yet-simple, pure-street-food related item that you can’t find anywhere. That kind of menu item is always a special occurrence, and you shall see me allude to it every now and then. For sometimes, somehow, it is only that one small item that magically lifts an entire restaurant or truck to an entirely different level in our minds and hearts.

             Despite that one thing missing, and believe me they aren’t the only truck without it, R.A. Mac Sammy’s has been welcomed to our City with open arms. The truck is now here to stay, to the happiness of all our cravings.

                      Tally: 40.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Warm and comforting, the Mac n Cheese is that perfect street food when you’re out in the cold Fall and Winter (one of the few trucks that stays out most of the year). Of course, any season I would suggest jumping on the rich noodles; custom order on your first visit, get the seasonal on the second (if you like how it sounds). After that go for the sandwiches.

            No matter what the situation, I would not suggest your first visit be anything but the actual Macaroni. If you’re looking for a more portable item between bread, go somewhere else until you’ve had the true heart of R.A. Mac Sammy’s. 

            Oh, and get the half-order; the full is a LOT.

Foxy Falafel

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foxyfalafel.com/

https://twitter.com/FoxyFalafel

 

 Main Location: Minneapolis, Markets, Etc

            Located at a variety of set scheduled locations during the warmer seasons, Foxy Falafel has quickly become one of the cities’ favorite stands. Quickly evident as Citypage recently named them the best Falafel in MN

            A student of holistic health and lover of falafels (street foods too), Erica Strait sprouts her own chickpeas for the middle-eastern delight (currently I am doubting it is used for every single falafel, especially after the restaurant opened, but still). These little balls of ground chickpeas and spices are then fried crispy and place in a hollowed out half-pita, ready to be topped with her homemade sauces and pickles.

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            Besides the regular falafel, they also serve up ones flavored with Curry and Beets; though they aren’t always in rotation. I didn’t see them the day I was finally able to make the trip. Hummus and pita chips are served as-is or as a combo platter with the falafel, not surprisingly.

            The ingredients are fresh, the food is spicy and flavorful, and the textures are that fun blend between crisp and fluffy. Foxy Falafel is a sure can’t-miss team in the world of street food.

Food: 8.5

            They use good pita bread, which is then filled with exactly the sort of thing one wants for a falafel. On the front of the truck are three different sauces paired alongside a few seasonal pickles. I suggest you dab a little sauce on a finger and try it out to determine which one you want. Oh, and just put every single pickle you can find on there; which are always sooooo good no matter what food truck does them.

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            I haven’t had the beet or curry, but the beet falafels have such a deep, inviting color to them; I can’t imagine that they’re screwing them up.

           My one concern is that, for whatever reason, when I got mine they sort of “shoved” the falafels, smushing them together into mostly one form. It really deserved the name “Falafel Burger” that was written on the blackboard. It still tasted fantastic, but ended up taking away a decent amount of that great crispiness factor that a good falafel is known for, which there already wasn’t much of anyway (despite taking so long to fry for some reason).

Holdability: 8.5

           An iconic street food, falafels in pita bread has great transportative capabilities. With the pita’s width and the sauces, not to mention the paper lining which covers it almost entirely, you’ll probably wind up needing both hands for some of it. However, still an easy and enjoyable experience it is.

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Price: 8.5

           $7 is the price for each of their falafels, hummus and pita are less, and the combo of course comes at more. All in all, a pretty good deal for such a quality product.

Speed: 5

            I actually find myself very perplexed at this score myself. For whatever reason,  the day I visited, despite being the only one in line, it took quite a while to make my very simple falafel. I would expect, with how many they have to make, that it wouldn’t really need that long to fry (if they form it in balls to order, that experience in doing it quickly is assumed). My guess is that it was a random thing, however my score must still be affected by it; especially since after all that wait my falafels had barely any real crispiness to them.

             If you find most of your experiences are much different than mine, please inform me and I will gladly change this rating.

The TOE: 9.5

            Not only is Foxy Falafel selling a ubiquitous street food that no other truck has even touched, they are doing it WELL. The simple act of having such a large, colorful and well known falafel stand, offering up different flavors, embodies many core attributes of what makes many successful and loved Food Trucks. Proof of this simple fact is shown in their ability and NEED to open up a restaurant based on the same foods, getting the culture following to fill it up.

            Foxy Falafel is another true pinnacle in MN’s Food Truck scene. It stands alongside so many others as an example of what great people can do.

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                        Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

            If they’re nearby, it is absolutely worth the trip to drive down in the summer, order a falafel and snack on its deliciousness while enjoying the open market sun. Definitely try the Beet or Curry versions if they have them. I’m not much of a pita and hummus person when it comes to restaurants. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, the combo platter is a good COMPLETE meal.

            Ignore the lemon-basil water unless it’s really hot and you need/want a drink with your food. It is probably quite tasty, but otherwise I don’t see a need to actually order it.

Dandelion Kitchen

dk2

dandelionkitchen.com/

https://twitter.com/dandelionktchn

 

 

Main Location: Minneapolis

            The second of Nicolette Mall’s mainstay catering “trucks,” Dandelion Kitchen offers fresh-produce sandwiches with a high focus on local and organic. Next to that, they also make their very own Sodas, with flavors from Basil Lime to Rosemary Grapefruit. Due to the true pickiness of quality organic ingredients, their menu will shift and change throughout the season.

            At least, they say it does… personally whenever I walk by I keep seeing the same things; it’s probably only one or two items that change. Since their start 3 years ago, the menu has slightly expanded with more options (and two more sodas). Keeping the original Grilled Ham and Brie, BLT w/ Avocado, and Roast Chicken, Dandelion has added Charcuterie to their arsenal, offering a Copa and Duck Confit now.

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            A note to consider, Dandelion often tends to be one of the first stands to call it a day with even the slightest of weather changes. They rarely, if ever, are out during rain, cold, or sometimes just grey clouds. Obviously one can say this about a lot of trucks, but even those will often stay and consider things for a bit before leaving. I literally once read a twitter from Dandelion saying that they had traveled all the way down to Nicolette, set themselves up, were getting ready when it started to rain. They then, without a second thought, immediately packed things up and left; despite all the time and effort it takes for a truck to set up for a day, and without even seeing if their might be SOME people early on who would have wanted food.

            Part of this little blog that I’m doing revolves around all the little things within this food truck world that I react to, then sharing it with everyone who reads this so that I’m not the only one aware. These are things that, I believe, should be known by the reader and searcher. Even if at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything.

Food: 5.5

            I really hate putting a score like this; the ingredients are so fresh, such good quality, and taste so good individually. Their sandwich ideas are pretty good too, and have a great potential for being that great, refreshing lunch to have in the middle of summer. However, both times that I went there, I just ended up being immensely DISAPPOINTED.

           Here is why: the bread. It is a very good quality peasant bread, I won’t deny that, but it is just not good for sandwiches (least off all the delicate, fresh kind that Dandelion makes). The bread is literally so tough and chewy, my jaw started feeling sore at the end of each session. Sadly, that’s not all of it either; the combination of ingredients in the sandwich has great potential for something fantastic… but it has always fallen short.

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          There has always been “one little thing” that skewed the end result in such a way that you want to collapse in sadness… cuz it was so close. The BLT had way too thick avocado slices which overwhelmed the delicate heirlooms and farmer’s bacon, and the mustard on the Chicken Sandwich did the same. Dialed back a little bit, each of those sandwiches would have been amazing (minus the bread); but they didn’t, and they weren’t, so you got what you got.

           Normally I would have scored lower, but there is one very bright point in this place: the sodas. They are so refreshing, so flavorful and perfectly crafted; it is worth a trip and small wait in line just to get one on its own.

Holdability: 7.5

            Despite some disappointments, the sandwiches are still perfect street food. Slid into a Dandelion-colored paper sheath, it is not that difficult to walk around and eat; sandwich in one hand, soda in the other. Due to the nature of them, however, the ingredients may fall out a little easier than others (sandwiches are split completely from side to side, not connected on one side like a hot dog bun; the general style that most street food does for longer rolls). Not to mention that one may often have to grip with both hands just to bite through the thick, chewy bread.

Price: 9

            Around $6.50 for most menu items, which were made with good organic ingredients, is ultimately a pretty good deal. The range stays pretty close from what I remember as well, so at least it doesn’t stretch the wallet.

Speed: 7

            On their site I see reviews and hear mention of how they get your order out “fast and quick,” however considering the kind of line I see most times I walk by, and the kinds of sandwiches which need to be assembled, I am highly doubting that. Fast for them maybe, and possibly quick for their type of food served, but there are certainly quicker alternatives.

The TOE: 8

             Disappointments in the food aside, Dandelion uses fresh, local ingredients to make a variety of street-easy sandwiches. They have started playing with delicious charcuterie, and seriously they MAKE THEIR OWN SODA; which I believe is held in some kind of pony keg too. You really get the “feeling” of a healthy, natural sandwich shop when you go there. For that they excel, for a good many food truck is nothing if you don’t feel like you have been transported somewhere else.

             Oh, and their truck is a big, noticeable bright yellow.

                         Tally: 37/50

Final Thoughts

            When I do a “food truck day,” I always love to stop by here as my official “drink truck.” If the line is short enough, get one of their specialty sodas to sip on a hot day or to enjoy with another Truck’s food (get the food first, otherwise the soda will be gone by the time you get to it).

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            Until there is confirmation by them or somebody who has eaten there that they have officially switched to a much more suitable sandwich bread (for either some or all), I would avoid the food entirely. The soup would probably be good for a cold, rainy day… if they’re still out.

Time for War

foodtrucks

For those who haven’t already been made aware, it seems that the “Downtown Food Committee,” basically a group formed from the various Skyway Restaurant/Food Court business owners, has now officially moved past the point of “complaining about their new competition” to “Actually trying to change the Laws” so that the Food Trucks don’t affect their businesses as much. Yesterday they all got together to discuss the particular oridnances with the City, and see if any changes can and “need” to be made.

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Currently quite a few articles have been posted already, a few good ones are:

http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/blog/stewart-woodman/food-truck-wars-come-downtown-minneapolis 

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/morning_roundup/2013/01/skyway-restaurants-ask-do-food.html 

http://mobile-cuisine.com/off-the-wire/minneapolis-food-committee-to-meet-and-discuss-food-trucks/ 

I have a very strong opinion about this, which I would normally love to rant about on here. However, there have been a few comments and replies to these articles already, two of which are my own, and I really believe that they all form a very good collective insight and idea for my own feelings. I truly beseech anyone reading this Post of mine to read at least one or two of the articles I have linked, as well as the replies at the end of each, becuase the truly embody the ridiculousness that this “Committee” has set its complaints as.

There is one very big, positive take away from this entire event. A Mr. John Levy, Manager (or something similar) of the AZCanteen Truck, also took part in the meeting to voice his thoughts on the subject. Not only that, word is that Levy is now looking into the idea of forming our very own Food Truck Association for the City. If this can come to pass, not only would we have yet another function to really unite and build our new, growing Food Truck Culture, but the Association would form a more concrete basis for which the various Truck Businesses can help defend eachother from attacks such as this.

I myself really look forward to this, and hope to find ways to know and connect with this Association whenever it is formed.

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Let us hope that the results of this meeting have not born any negative Fruits, and that us loyal Foodies can band together to support and fight alongside our Local Trucks in this particular time of annoyance. If those reading this now can do anything to help spread this message of Union and Spirit as far as possible, then hopefully we can block and defuse any future attempts of this sort.

For now, a silent prayer for our Food Truck Brethren, and a shake of my head in sadness and disappointment towards the actions of the Downtown Food Committee.

Hola Arepa

HolaArepa

holaarepa.com/

https://twitter.com/holaarepa

 

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Easily in the top 5 of recognizeability, Hola Arepa quickly shot up near the top of the city’s popularity. Chef-driven (I actually used to work with a couple of their cooks… sadly not in the truck though), they focus on traditional Mexican-style flavors and fillings, stuffed in a unique, perfect little package.

            Now, this is the point in the show where we detour to an old-timey, scratchy black and white video explaining a ubiquitous term (I don’t care if that’s not the right use of the word “ubiquitous,” it sounds confusing and I like it). For those who have yet to be fully explained on what an Arepa is, then here you go.

            Those who know true tortillas know that they’re made from a special Mexican corn flour called “masa.” An “arepa” is when they take this same flour and turn it into something that’s a mix between an English Muffin, Pancake, Tortilla, and Hamburger Bun. They then slice it mostly in half (again, best way to cut buns for Street Food consumption), scoop out some of the fluffy inside, and fill with whatever fancies.

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            You know, it’s sorta like a Taco and a Hamburger Patty smoked crack, had sex and got pregnant (don’t ask which one, I don’t want to get into those kind of food politics).

            Hola Arepa serves on average five different sammiches; almost always the same, but just recently I saw a new item, so don’t quote me on that. A VERY important thing to do, lift the top bun to get a look at your filling; in the early days I always had to add more sauce after getting through the first few bites. I hear this isn’t the same nowadays, but you can never be too safe.

            Sauces themselves are a few different housemade salsas, set on the front shelf with a selection of house pickles (always a good sign). Tortillas and guac are quite popular with their clientele, so there has to be something behind it.

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Food: 9

            Once completely topped with one of their fantastic sauces, the fillings easily rival some of the best taco trucks’ in their tastiness. The recent Chorizo-Pepper was scrumptious and fantastic, then you counter the fattiness with their pickles, and it’s all there. The arepa is a very unique and, more importantly, very FLAVORFUL package; flour tortillas and regular burger buns just can’t seem to match that note where you want to eat them on their own. Those who have had a Masa tortilla, though, know that feeling when you just happen to take a bit of it on its own with only a little sauce or lime.

Holdability: 8.5

            Basically the Mexican street food, arepas are made to eat with one hand. These ones in particular tend to be a bit bursting over the top though; one of their newer ones (which is what I had last) is actually very messy in particular. If it’s important to you, avoid the one with Chorizo and Fajita Peppers… though it makes up for it in pure fatty deliciousness.

Price: 9

             Arepa options stick in the $5-7, staying at that great range of price for true street food.

Speed: 8.5

             Much the same speed as making a taco, just differently shaped masa.

The TOE: 9

             The only Truck serving arepas, Hola fits that “unique item” niche perfectly, while offering it with in a fun-colored truck to walk the street with easily. Not to mention, they’re one of the few trucks to do pure-blackboard menu display, and of the other ones this is easily the most cramped for information.

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             If there’s anything that feels “lacking,” not that they even need to consider it, I almost wish they might try a seasonal “creative” arepa now and then. I think it’d be fun, both for customers and the chefs coming up with it.

                        Tally: 44/50

Final Thoughts

            I can’t put much effort into suggestions, every item is good. If you’re willing to shell out the high cost of *Gasp!* 7 dollars, the Cuban is one of my favorites.

            Don’t really understand the draw of the chicken-avocado salad filled arepa, but to each their own (a good reason to go to Hola if you’re more into cold sandwiches, though). Personally, I also don’t see any reason to get chips n guac; as a foodie I go straight for the arepa and move onto the next conquer.

Natedogs

nd1

natedogs.com/

https://twitter.com/Nate_Dogs

Main Location: Minneapolis, Markets, Etc

            What kind of blog focused on Street Food would this be if we didn’t talk about hot dog carts sooner or later? And when we have a certain cart named Natedogs, skirting around the topic becomes blasphemy.

            When I first saw that bright orange cart with the umbrella just sitting randomly on a corner, my legs walking fast as I move myself to the current job, my first thoughts were “hot dog cart… what the hell?” Later I find out it’s an official addition to the rest of our entrepreneur Street Vendors, and my curiosity is peaked; but still not that much. All I could think of was “how good could a hot dog and bratwurst cart be?”

            Ahhhh, how cute, innocent and moronic I was back then.

            Nate Beck has created the epitome of what a Hot Dog Cart can ever be. Every single ingredient and item on the cart is either locally, quality sourced or made by himself, mostly with local ingredients. Pork wieners and brats are made from family farmed, hormone-free pigs. He makes his own Beer Mustards, having quite the passion for mustard and brats, along with any other fantastic and fun condiment (apparently there’s a bacon jam…). Soda is from Spring Grove, and the soft buns are local.

            It is quite the combination for a fun visit.

            Oh, word of advice… don’t EVER mention ketchup when you stop by, not unless Nate decides to make his own.

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Food: 9

                Bratwurst and Wiener heaven, the flavors and toppings tend to reminisce the hometown comforts of peppers, onions, sauerkraut , mustard, and so many others. Toppings are great, but we eat for the meat; the sausage mixes are rich and juicy, with that nice snap from the earlier-grilled skin. Local and organic products always do make for better food, especially when one gets to the simpler pleasures such as these.

Holdability: 10

                It’s a hot dog, ‘nuff said.

Price: 10

                 Certainly higher priced than other bratwurst and hot dog options, but not by much. In the whole scope of quality street food, this still provides a higher affordability while holding the high worth of the product.

Speed: 10

                 No reason to detail, straight from the cart and into the bun, garnish with favorite sauces.

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The TOE: 10

                Hot Dog carts are an iconic symbol of the street; by dressing it up and turning it into a high-quality, local-driven mirror of its former self, Nate has taken the familiar and ramped it to Legendary. Not only is this Street food, this is Good food, one which any brat lover will be going back to anytime they see it standing on that random corner on their way to work.

                        Tally: 49/50

Final Thoughts

            This cart is a must stop; not the least because it is quick, cheap, and one doesn’t have to worry about it filling up when not hungry. There is no real menu item suggestion, both the simple brat-mustard and the unique options have their high points. Just choose to your taste.

            Certainly ideal for days of visiting multiple Trucks for menu sampling.

            Oh, and if I ever get the chance to visit New York, I’m gonna visit as many good hot dog stands I can find just to say “Yeah, sorry, but we have a better guy up in Minnesota.”

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           Cuz that’s pride right there.

Get Sauced

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http://chefdrivencompanies.com/home/get-sauced/ 

https://twitter.com/ChefDrivenCo

 

Main Location: St. Paul, Office Buildings, Etc

            Ask any Lawyer scouting your local Hospital parking lot, there can be nothing more annoying, frustrating, and downright exhausting than “the Chase”. Yet as he and all the rest of us know, there is almost no better feeling of exhilaration and satisfaction when you finally CATCH that frantic target, hold it down with your bare hands and shove your teeth into its thick, hot neck vein, watching its eyes slowly go dark as the life slowly…

          I’m sorry, I was watching National Geographic and got carried away… Back to my point.

          One of the biggest draws to us Food Truck Foodies is the idea of the “chase.” Every single week of “hunting season” is spent looking on sites, reacting to news and gossip, then finding our prey’s main “watering hole/s.” Nowadays, that’s pretty quick and simple, very rarely do we have to experience that “challenge,” that one fleeting truck that we just can’t catch.

          It happens though. For me, that truck was Get Sauced.

          I remember 2011; I was downtown often, going to all the new trucks. I knew every single one. Then one day I was walking, and I see this white truck turn a corner; it was big, white, and had this sick art design on the side. Recognizing the kind of truck was easy, but I had never seen it before.

          Didn’t think about it much, until I saw it again a few weeks later while driving, and then again sometime after that. I was shocked; there was this truck I kept seeing driving but never on the street that I had no way of finding. The little hunter in the back corner of my brain set off; I went about my school life and work like usual, but he didn’t want to rest.

          Then one day I finally see it parked, on the street, with that familiar art design on the side: “Get Sauced.” I literally ran to the other side of Marquette to finally see what it was and place my first order.

          Get Sauced serves pulled meats and tacos with both Mexican and Asian based flavor options. Menu options change upon whim and season, so different visits will often yield different sides and fillings. The format is simple; you decide the pulled meat, then you choose what sandwich or taco style you want.

          Either way one can enjoy a very flavorful and on-point lunch while admiring the truck’s artwork, done by local Peter Hankee.

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Food: 8.5

           You know that feeling when someone asks “if you can describe –blank- in one word, what would it be?” and you just want to strangle them? That does not happen here; in fact, I cannot think of another word that fits Sauced besides “Satisfying.” Sauces are simply rich and thick, meat is juicy, veggies cooked properly, textures proper, and toppings flavorful. The Asian Style taco I had was drenched in a rich ginger-soy reduction and topped with wasabi coleslaw. The resulting flavor was just… craveable; the kind of thing you want to just shove into your mouth at 1am (which, by the way, is what time it is while I’m writing this… god I want a taco).

          Only drawback for me, though using masa tortillas; there’s no double-layer for the tacos; so if things fell out, then things fell out.

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Holdability: 6

          Arriving in baskets is the only relief one gets with their single-shelled taco, which, in their individuality, tend to be quite bursting with garnishes and sauce falling easily. I, myself, needed to stop in a doorway to eat my own, hand and wrist now dripping from the juices (though that was also partially due to it being winter). Can’t vouch anything for the pulled sandwiches, but assume they’re quite similar.

Price: 8.5

         Keeping around $7-8, with lower priced sides, a very reasonable menu this be.

Speed: 9.5

         A Chef-Driven Truck that knows how to streamline, none of my orders have ever felt even close to a wait. Not immediate, but you get your purchases fast and ready to eat NOW.

The TOE: 9

          A funky hand-painted art design, tacos that make you hungry in the middle of the night, and a fun attitude driven by the chefs themselves, this truck was definitely worth the chase. It can feel somewhat generic and “everyday food truck” upon first inspection, but once you go back… you just get it.

                        Tally: 41.5/50

Final Thoughts

           To tell the truth, I wasn’t actually that impressed the first time I saw their menu; it all just looked same-old, same-old. Then I had it, and again, and again just recently. Now that I think about it, I think I could safely say they are one of the best taco trucks in the city (now, do some actual masa tortillas and actually use 2 per taco like you’re SUPPOSED to, and the best spot you shall be).

           If you are ever lucky enough to have the chance, get the Mexican Corn (or however it’s called). The first thing I had, it is simply cooked corn mixed with a sour-creamy dairy sauce, scooped in a bowl and topped with queso blanco, herbs, and spices. It is so surprisingly satisfying and good; you know, it might make good stoner food.

           Other than that, grab a taco in whatever flavor you want, maybe try the pulled pork on the second or third visit.

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Eli’s Donut Burgers

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https://twitter.com/elisDonutBurger

www.facebook.com/elisdonutburgers

Main Location: Events

            A very rare Truck to find, this Luther Vandross-honoring establishment only ever seems to appear during Local Fairs. I, myself, experienced them at the Canterbury Food Truck Day. Anxiousness is not uncommon, then, when one learns about this unique truck ahead of time. But as they very rarely come out, it can make the visit very special.

            Which is probably for the best, since this isn’t exactly the kind of truck one wants to become addicted to; and believe me, you WILL get addicted.

            Eli’s serves two things: Donut Burgers, and Fried Food to go on the side. All the traditional cholesterol-destroying dishes can be found; fried pickles (spears and chips), fried macaroni, fried asparagus, fried potato, really whatever they have for the day.

            The burger is a slightly thick (not huge, but not a wimpy-little fast-food knockoff) patty, topped with cheese and, if you want, bacon (oh… you want the bacon). This is then sandwiched between a housemade donut bun sliced in half. It has to be handmade, the donuts look, feel, and taste completely different than donuts found in the store. At the end, the sticky-sweet white sugar glaze is spooned over the top in a thick drizzle.

            Wrapped up and served from a tiny window, it’s time to enjoy your life-shortening, heart-cloggening, finger-stickening piece of True Americana (Seriously, what other countries would dare make something like this? Use tons of butter, suuuuuuure… but a donut burger, apparently that’s disgusting).

Food: 9

                For those who’ve never had a donut burger, it can sound strange… most may assume any desire to consume one is derived from the simple equation of “fatty + bad for you = people want to eat it.”

                … not that it’s not true, of course.

                However, in reality, the combination of these two foods is just… sinful genius. The thick, meaty fat of the burger and cheese with the saltiness of the bacon both contrast and are cut by that slick, sticky sweetness of the glaze. They made a perfect donut for it as well; it is a little softer than others, somewhat like a cross between a nice bread slice and that well known krispy kreme texture. The bottom slice soaks up all the burger’s juices, and you end up squishing the top slice down to make this compact, concentrated experience of the best, most unhealthy bacon cheeseburger ever.

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                The fried items are all good, but their quality seems on the same level as any random bar’s offerings (I have it on good authority they don’t even make the fried mac n cheese, just buy it pre-made and fry), maybe a little better; the pickle chips WERE good. As for the burger, the only thing I could think to make better would be trying to griddle the donut flats for a bit more texture and flavor.

Holdability: 10

                One its own, the burger holds very well. It’s seemingly small, and despite the perceived mess, the only problem is one’s fingers getting sticky from the glaze. However nothing actually falls out. Fried sides are in baskets, but they’ve always been good finger food.

Price: 9

                Everything on the menu is only $5; I believe if you want bacon and cheese on the burger it’s only 50cents-$1 extra, well worth it. The only thing of note is that, with the temptation to get a couple different fried foods along with your burger, the overall cost can add up QUICKLY. I, myself, would suggest a burger and something else anyways, so an automatic $10 that is.

                Though if you’re doing a fair, one gets into the habit of sharing food often, so an extra $5 for group food is a good deal.

Speed: 9.5

                 Fried foods come out immediately or almost so; most being fried a bit beforehand and kept warm (I know, it sounds a bit horrifying, like a fast-food franchise’s habits… but at least it’s fried food, can handle it). Considering you almost always have a huge line of people and orders in front of you, they get their burgers out pretty quickly.

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The TOE: 10

                Taking a hold of our innermost desires and letting us experience something sinful we would never even think of treating to ourselves, good food trucks once again allow us a way to transport to a different experience. Even the healthiest of daily lifestyles will get put on a bench (it can do the horse betting while we get the food) for that one day just so one can eat at this truck.

                I mention nostalgia every now and then in my TOE reviewals. Well, sometimes that nostalgia isn’t triggered by a familiar food, but by the FEELING that good food can give you. Eli’s Donut Burgers brings back that sweet, sinful feeling when you know you’re eating something that, simply put, is NOT HEALTHY. Not only don’t you care, but you revel in it, you dance around the sugary-meaty bun, and are filled with the resulting happiness. Allowing us that experience, there are no real points I feel I can take off.

                … then again, it could have just been a sugar high.

                       Tally: 47.5/50

Final Thoughts

            The only time you’re going to get this is at a Fair, where you no doubt have so many other food stops ahead of you. In which case, this is yet another reason Eli’s is such a perfect stop. Grab yourself a single, non-filling but so-satisfying burger, WITH bacon and cheese, and head to your next stop.

            If you’re sharing with a group, grab one or two fried side baskets and a couple extra burgers (you won’t be sharing yours… will have to pry from our cold, fat, sticky fingers).

Home Street Home

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homestreethometruck.com/  

Main Location: St. Paul

            It was thundering when I first visited HSH.

            I finally had a day free during the weekly “Lunch by the River” event, and as there were a few I hadn’t seen yet, I decided to head down. As my luck would have it, rain came down in the morning. I checked the weather, but it seemed okay, and they don’t shut down Lunch by the River for that, so I continued down.

            Then it started to rain HARD and thunder… the loud kind; after that I heard a siren, and after that I started running around in circles. But, I was there for a reason, so I grabbed my food and headed for the nearest overhang (the trees weren’t that much help). Luckily the sirens and thunder passed to a simple annoyance, and I got on with the rest of my stops that day.

            HSH offers a variety of different menu items, with flavors and options changing often. Really, one of the very few trucks that seems to have absolutely NO leaning to any kind of style other than stereotypical street food: Burgers, tacos, quesadillas, gyros, sandwiches, you name it. This isn’t the generic, mass-optioned menu one sees at the random corner bar near your house; this is the good stuff.

            Local grass fed beef, homemade ketchups and sauces with good cheese for the burger; four quality cheeses and jalapeno jam on the Grilled Cheese; Pulled Pork roasted in Summit IPA… and these are only three examples.

Food: 9.5

             So far, I have had their blue-cheese stuffed burger (their suggestion) and the corned beef. It is somewhat hard to think of how I want to describe these, so I will just say simply. The attention to quality sourced products and homemade condiments is felt pretty clearly. I would probably give them a perfect score here, but with this kind of menu, it’s hard for even ME to get a good sense with only two items.

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             Oh, but the corned beef? Made like grilled cheese, all gooey with the textured crust, still with the big pile of beef inside.

             Ultimately, a very scrumptious and satisfying experience both times I went; it is very easy to find oneself craving this truck.

Holdability: 6.5

             I really don’t like this category for this truck because there are so many different menu items on here. Some of these lift and handle easily while walking, whereas others require a place to set down and go at it with both hands. The only constants among them all is that A: everything comes in a basket, some with chips, and B: you CAN eat with your hands, though some are a bit messy about it (particularly the burger).

Price: 8.5

             Varied, there are some higher and some lower, and I would definitely say it is worth it.

Speed: 8

              Average good speed for these items; just know the simpler items will take quicker than a burger.

The TOE: 10

              Home Street Home’s Big Toe starts with their name; it’s not something one might think has THAT much bearing on any food establishment. Sometimes though, you go to a place and read the name and it has just that SLIGHT note of warmth and “rightness” to it that, when the food is eaten and done, makes it all complete.

              Normally, I don’t like “variety” menus and trucks; as the practice usually feels like a cheap way to grab different customers without putting much effort into it. But, when a place does it RIGHT, and makes sure every single one is special and unique, you have found a hangout, a place to go back to.

              I love reading their menu. Each item has either some little new addition or focus on fresh and tasty ingredients within their toppings. It shows that certain level of “chef fun” a good food truck can have. At the end of the day, HSH has all of these mixed with that fantastic Unknown Aura that really gives that Food Truck feeling when you’re there.

Service: +2.5

               I feel they deserve an extra point of note for this. When I was standing with my umbrella in the rain and the sirens started, trying to make a call to my dad (and one of the only customers out there at the time), one of the first things an employee did was ask me if I wanted to stand inside. It was a very thoughtful and nice action which I still appreciate. We were able to get into some nice chats as well, and they even offered me the possibility of working there.

              I’d probably give them more, but one has to recognize situational happenings in unique times like that.

                        Tally: 45/50

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Final Thoughts

            Okay, when you are at that point when you have absolutely NO IDEA what truck you want to go to, this is where you want to go. I can basically tell you no matter what your general street food preference, they will have a good, satisfying version of it. If I were to narrow down specifics for the Food Hunters, I guess I could force myself to suggest:

  • Blue Cheese Stuffed Burger (homemade ketchup should never be missed)
  • Corned Beef Sandwich (not easy to find one in street foods, and this is griddled to perfection)
  • Pulled Pork Sandwich (cooked in Summit, seriously, eat it)
  • Grilled Cheese (great when looking for lower prices on Food Truck Scavenger days)