Sushi Fix

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www.sushifix.net/

https://twitter.com/SushiFix

Main Location: Minneapolis

             If one were to pose the question “what dishes come to your mind when you hear ‘street food’” to a group of Minnesotans, I’d bet good money not a single list would have the word “sushi” on it. And yet, what else comes slamming across my field of vision one day as I walk down the street but a new white truck with the word SUSHI blazed across its entire side.

            That’s right. For those still unaware, there is a Food Truck in the cities that serves sushi. The moment I realized this, I think my mind and heart stopped working for a second or two… then I ran to the truck screaming to find out more.

            Sushi Fix, created by experienced sushi chefs of course, offers a variety of Maki (rolls), Nigiri (slices of sushi on thumbs of rice), Sashimi (sliced raw fish), and Salads (… little leafy things with dressing); a few of the salads containing popular sushi ingredients. While keeping multiple familiar items on the menu, Fix’s main goal is a focus on providing slightly upscale, unique options.

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            One of their signatures, the 2-14 Maki, is a perfect example of this. “Rolled” and shaped in a way the cuts form triangles (instead of circles), Fix then wraps this in Soy Paper. Best way to think of it is almost like tofu, but reeeeeaaaallllyyyy thin; and it’s not the only roll they use it for.

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            Right now, there are probably a lot of people reading this, and many more Truck-goers already familiar with Fix, expressing thoughts similar as such: “A truck selling Sushi, raw fish, while parked on a Hot street during the Summer? Eeeeeewwwwwww, I don’t think that’s gonna be good….”

            And to those people, I say SHUSH(I); they have a proper refrigeration and chilling unit, all ingredients are being kept safe and fresh. These people are CHEFS. They know what they’re doing, and safety is their number one priority, ESPECIALLY with a truck like this. Believe me, if something ever happened to the cooling unit, they wouldn’t even come out and attempt to sell cooked eel.

            Then again, they don’t sell Unagi (eel) anyway. Sushi Fix focuses on only using seafood that is sustainable and hasn’t been over farmed. It’s a good thing to know about a place, especially when it can be difficult for us to always keep track on what’s “good” to order and what isn’t.

Food: 9.5

             I’ve tried both a roll and a salad. Both of them taste exactly what you would expect from a proper restaurant. For those who understand the love and draw of sushi, there’s nothing really to say; it’s just plain delicious and good. Seafood is fresh, rice is proper, wasabi isn’t too strong. The sauces are rich, everything is balanced just about right. Oh, and the Soy Paper thing is really fun and interesting.

            I had the Seaweed Salad, and that was actually really good; crisp and flavorful, the sauce made it sort of feel like Japanese comfort food.

Holdability: 3.5

            This is where you know that, ultimately, this truck has been made mainly for office workers to bring back to their desk and eat (that and the prices). Each roll goes into this giant, long plastic contraption thingy, served with chopsticks. Laid nice and beautiful with everything looking perfect. That’s great for walking with as-is, but sucks when you try to eat out of it. Believe me, I actually tried to walk and eat; I mean, I succeeded, but it was very awkward…

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           The salads are served in the familiar Asian take-out boxes, and are much easier to go at two-handed, even with chopsticks. I expect the Nigiri and sashimi, if gotten in SMALL orders, are about at the same level as the salads too.

            I’m actually very disappointed about how the truck handles this category; not that they can really do any better with what they have now, but because in the world of Sushi, there is a type of roll that is absolutely PERFECT for eating on the street, and with ONE HAND.

            It’s called “Temaki,” and it’s basically a cone made with the rice and seaweed, with the sushi filling stuffed on top and down the center. Basically looks like an ice cream cone… but completely sushi. I’m going to leave that as-is for now, because I have a lot more to say about this in the TOE.

Price: 5.5

             The fact is it’s a sushi place, there are a lot of high prices. To give them credit, they DO offer affordable options for the wallet-minded person. Three of the rolls are $6, a couple being 8, and there’s two salads of similar price. All Nigiri is $5; when getting a whole set for lunch, it adds up. For those only sampling one item to get a feel for the cart it ends up a pretty decent deal.

Speed: 8.5

             You can tell they’re trained; the sushi doesn’t take too long to put together, especially the simpler and smaller styles. I do believe the wait felt a bit on my first order, but that was almost literally opening day, and it was a special. Plus, so far the line is rarely long for this truck, so little worry about orders ahead of you.

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The TOE: 3

            They are a really cool truck, and the fact that they a unique item like sushi gets them points and wow factor in my opinion. At the end of the day, this isn’t street food. Unless you can spend so much money on lunch every day without blinking, the chances of one coming back often is little to none. This is why: they are fast, precise, focused on offering good and fresh food, and when you go up to order it still feels like a RESTAURANT. The only difference is where it’s located. There is a certain feeling of cold, robotic precision that sushi places and chefs have earned, a feeling that is to restaurants as all the other TOE feelings I talk about is to food trucks, and it is VERY hard to change enough and get past.

            The thing that frustrates me is that they COULD get past it; they could keep doing things exactly how they’re doing it right now, and all of it wouldn’t matter because they would have that one element that would change it all. They have a fantastic opportunity at the PERFECT Toe Ring that fits into the Sushi Street Food concept like a long-lost glove; the Temaki.

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            It is held perfectly in one hand, cheaper than Maki, carries every single element of a sushi dish, and is UNIQUE and FUN in how it looks and eats. They need to start making these. And no, I don’t mean “Oh, I think they should make this, I want them to,” they NEED to make these, then advertise and let people know about them. I would lead the charge myself to convince people how great of an option it is.

                      Tally: 30/50

Final Thoughts

            Personally, until they start selling Temaki, I myself am never going to go back there.

            If you want and HAVE to sample them, though, to scratch it off the list, then here are the main options I suggest:

  • Nigiri/Sashimi: grab one order of 2/3 pieces for $5, I might go for the Scallop
  • Spicy Tuna, $6: a staple for any sushi place, seeing how well they do THIS is a good sign of how they do other Maki
  • Seaweed/Squid Salad: $7/$8, it’s a good lunch to have if you do come back for a second menu item. Also, if for whatever reason you’re one of those people that gets salads for lunch, these are good ones to go for.

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SCRATCH

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www.scratchfoodtruck.com/

https://twitter.com/scratchfoodtrk

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Located Downtown, Scratch focuses on Asian-Pacific Island sandwiches made with sustainable and local ingredients. Friendly for carnivores and vegetarians alike, the menu consists of dishes such as a Shrimp-Pork Patty, Fried Chicken, and Spicy-Garlic Mock Duck, all shoved inside a crispy-toasted bread and topped with their own crunchy slaw. The longer rolls remind you of a bahn mi at times, except better.

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            I wish I had a fun story to tell, a rant I could go on, react to some minor detail nobody cares about, or just give a lot more insight on the truck design. But, I’m drawing a blank today, and that happens. Some truck summaries are just kept simple, and many times those can be the best ones… sometimes not, but luckily this isn’t one of those.

            Oooooh wait, I just thought of a quick lesson. For those unfamiliar with Mock Duck, just think of it as a special meaty, slightly gamey vegan alternative with a much crispier texture after cooking. Truly doesn’t taste like duck, but I guess that’s the closest idea the creators could think of; doesn’t mean it still isn’t delicious.

Food: 10

            This place has quickly become one of my new favorites; every single item which I have had there has been absolutely delicious. The glazes are pungent and delicious, meat tender, slaw perfectly crisp, your head rolls around in delight at just the fillings.

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            And the BREAD!! If you remember my little rant on Dandelion Kitchen’s sad offerings, then you know how important PROPER bread is to me, and should be to you. This bread… this is the kind Dandelion should use, and how they should prepare it. Super soft and easy to bite through, yet flavorful. Scratch cuts it in half, spreads butter or oil and then either puts it on the grill or through a toaster thingy. It comes out sooooooooo good, that nostalgic crumbly crostini crust along its inside. The bottom soaks up any juices, while still keeping texture to add with the crunchy top piece.

            Combine these two, and you have the perfect sandwich to sit down and be happy with.

            Oh, and did I mention they fry their own potato chips to go on the side? Yeah, and they’re the slightly thicker, super-crunchy kind. Not to mention they have a Toe Ring, but as is usual I’ll get to that later.

Holdability: 7.5

            Served in a basket with chips, two hands are required. The bread is cut completely through, no connecting hinge, so it’s usually best to find a place to stop and set down while eating. This is especially true since many of the chopped fillings don’t always want to stay; juices absorb nice though. However, a couple of their hamburger-bun-like sandwiches, Shrimp-Pork Patty and Sesame Steak, are easier to hold one-handed in this regard. Not to mention the fried chicken is one big piece, so slaw is only real worry.

           Besides, one of the best parts of the Mock Duck is scooping up any fallen pieces and sauce with the potato chips.

Price: 9.5

            Along the same lines as Vellee Deli for pricing, while offering a couple more fun things on the lower-priced scale.

Speed: 8.5

            Very good speed, not immediate but no heavy feeling of waiting.

The TOE: 10

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           I have three words for you: Ginger Rice Krispies. Exactly what it sounds like, these are giant blocks of rice krispies folded with crystallized ginger (and probably some powdered as well). They are stretchy, marshmallow, tangy and cheap, and represent a perfect Toe Ring example. I ALWAYS get one whenever I stop by, because they are just so good and fantastic.

           In essence, Scratch reminds me so much of Vellee Deli, because both of them excel in the almost the exact same ways. As they both excel in those ways, so too do they both carry that true feeling of what a Food Truck is and can be. Keep doing just what you’re doing Scratch, we love you for it.

                      Tally: 45.5/50

Final Thoughts

            First off, Ginger Rice Krispy: Get It! No matter what, you have to get that on your first visit. Even if you don’t want to eat it now, you can save for later; it works really well for that too.

            Secondly, as far as sandwiches go, there is no one I would suggest you not get. All of them are great and give you a feeling of the truck. If you do want some guidance towards one vs others, and believe me they don’t actually help you with that (isn’t that the most frustrating thing? “I’m not sure what to get…” “Well everything’s good.”), the Mock Duck is my favorite. If that doesn’t float your boat, either the Fried Chicken or the Shrimp-Pork Patty is a good first sandwich.

Taqueria la Hacienda

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www.taquerialahacienda.com/

https://twitter.com/TaqueriaMobile

Main Location: Minneapolis           

             Anyone who loves eating true, traditional, hand-made Mexican food (not Mexican-style, not Tex-Mex, true and simple Mexican cuisine) knows that, outside of Latin-neighborhood markets, it is hard to find.

            Instead, Taqueria la Hacienda takes their cuisine to YOU, giving easier access to the true flavors for Downtown-Minneapolis stuck residents. Offering the same variety of wrappings (with the Masa tortillas) as their restaurant, and almost as many fillings, Taqueria is a great truck to find at least one thing you are sure to love.

            Big, long and yellow, with many windows, the ice bins behind the glass are filled with Mexican Coke, Jarritos Sodas, and various regular cans and bottles. Every menu item and filling looks exactly like what one expects to find wandering into the Supermercado Central.

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Food: 8.5

             Cooked simply with traditional flavors and spices, Taqueria excels within the heart of the true Mexican comfort food. All the tortillas are Masa-made, tacos are the traditional double-stack to use with any dropped fillings (and they do drop, quite loaded these fellas are). A squeeze of lime over the intense, rich sauce-laden meats, sprig of cilantro to go, and one gets exactly what they’re looking for.

            I haven’t had their beans or rice, so I can’t make a statement about their quality yet.

Holdability: 8

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            Varies depending on the item, all served in baskets though. Burritos and Quesadillas seem compact and easy, and tacos aren’t a problem with their second tortilla. As with any good Mexican café, they do serve quite a lot with certain courses, which can lead to sit-down requirements. Those ones are rarely what one would immediately go for anyways, however, due to price and unfamiliarity.

Price: 9

             Fantastic prices for the money conscious!! While at the same time keeping the quality, they only charge $2 for a single taco, and $2.68 for specialties, leaving it the perfect Food Truck for the samplers just trying to cross off their lists. Then you come back because it’s so good, and you go for an $8 burrito, quesadilla, or other.

            Okay, I have to mention the prices too. 2.68, 8.07, 8.83, 8.18, 2.42, 1.08 (last two are drinks). It doesn’t really mean anything, but it is SO fun to see a place that does something besides all “$X.99c” or flat singles.

Speed: 8.5

            Regular speed, the simplicity of many dishes making them pretty quick to put together.

The TOE: 8

            Up in Minnesota, we rarely get the chance to experience the feeling of a traditional International Food Cart of any sort, much like they do in New York. Taqueria really brings that feeling of the Street back to us, along with multiple other restaurant-focused items for those with different tastes. I was really happy to see a Truck like this that stuck with just the traditional, and can’t wait to get back and try something else.

                       Tally: 42/50

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Final Thoughts

            Best way to approach is to get one or two tacos, see what you think of their fillings, then come back again later (if you like it) to get whatever style of serving you prefer. Definitely a good place to stop for a Mexican Coke or specialty soda as well to drink with their, or others’, street food.

GastroTruck

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www.gastrotruck.mobi/

https://twitter.com/gastrotruck

Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul          

            Opening a couple years ago in St. Paul, Gastrotruck really brings the upscale and complete Environmentally Responsible attitude to Food Trucks, while still maintaining the Street Food idea. My first taste of them was during a blistering 2011 Summer; my first actual time hauling myself all the way over to St. Paul (didn’t have car access at the time) to get in as many of their Food Trucks as I could. I was so excited when I saw this thing called “Gastrotruck,” then seeing all their fun menu items. Then I practically screamed hallelujah when I saw their line-up of Dry sodas (and that’s the brand name, not just the style)… then again I was also really thirsty and kept thinking about the last time I swam in cold water.

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            Now, from my understanding of things, there has been a little change in menu style along the times. Gastro started off doing mostly sliders, with only a bare few non-slider options, which is what I had on my visit. Last time I visited, and from what I’ve read and seen, their focus has changed onto larger, single sandwiches, with one or two slider and other options.

            Working for twenty years in the industry, in multiple countries and multiple quality restaurants, Chef Stephen Trojan places a high focus on pure kitchen preparation. All meats are butchered and prepped with detail, every scrap of product is used to 100% capability, and every single condiment they make is from scratch (any truck, any restaurant, anyWHERE you can find a handmade ketchup and/or mustard, you go there, and you use them). Anything made by somebody else is local and quality.

            Menu items change often depending on what they can get. As it has been a while since I’ve seen them (and their being in St. Paul, away from my Minneapolis focus), I don’t have a handle on what items remain more constant. I would certainly say, though, that their Pork Belly sandwich is likely to be on most of the time, and thank the god of swine for that.

Food: 9

             The buns on all sandwiches I have had here have been grilled and toasted to crispy goodness. All their fillings are cooked as well as one would expect from such a seasoned, upscale Chef and Kitchen as this. Swordfish was the slider I got, topped with this perfect raw vegetable slaw and Asian sauce. Pork Belly is Pork Belly, only the truly skilled can F&@% it up, and the experienced chef can make it taste like fatty heaven. You will not regret a sandwich like that.

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            I would give this a higher score, but during the visit I shared with my cousin, we got this “Philly Cheesesteak”-spun sandwich that was just… okay. It tasted good, and cheesy, but wasn’t at that proper upscaled-yet-sinful level as other menu items. The cheese just tasted… overproduced, mass-market, like it had velveeta or something in it. So one SHOULD be a touch cautious of different options, though the chance is still high you’ll pick something fantastic.

Holdability: 7.5

             The sandwiches can be a bit messy. I remember even the sliders would have benefitted from two hands; at least, the ones with messy toppings (there are probably some simpler ones out there). Walkability becomes a bit shaky then, but usually not a big issue.

Price: 7

             One always has to sacrifice with quality-done, handmade products done to an extent such as this. Prices usually stay around the uppers of 9, with 7 for smaller dishes like sliders. It is certainly worth it, however, and thankfully they never get even near the obscene Smack Shack and Sushi Fix averages.

Speed: 8

             Good speed, don’t need to wait too much, a sign of experienced chefs in the kitchen. I’ll have to go back and see them again to get a FULL feel, as the last visit was during the gigantic chaos of the new Food Truck Fair.

The TOE: 5

            In my experience of studying and tasting many of these trucks, I have found it is very difficult to focus on the Upscale-Restaurant, created by High-End Chef sort of experience while maintain the many “TOE” essences. Upon discovering Gastrotruck, however, I found that it somehow did exactly that; it felt like a true, dug in Food Truck, just done differently. Maybe it’s the name, maybe it’s the design, or maybe it’s just the experience of the chef, but it has a little something to it, and I am so happy about that.

             … at the end of the day though, as you see, I had to take off points because of a certain something. I wanted this to score higher, I planned on scoring them higher, but there’s something that I just can’t shake.

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            I want them to go back to Sliders.

            I want their menu to go back to just doing different fun, quality focused sliders ALL the time (with the one or two different things). It creates that “Focused Theme” idea that helps you decide where you want to eat; they’re almost Toe Ring-like in their nostalgic-specialty.  Right now, they really need to be separated from the “Generic Variety” menus of other Upscale-focused trucks like Fork in the Road and 128.

            Pulling their focus back to quality Sliders can really give them that fun distinction and uniqueness that can once again catapult to the top of the Pillar, as another example of a different kind of Truck. Until they do, I shall be waiting here, very patiently, for the successful return of one of my favorite wheeled restaurants.

                         Tally: 36.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Hard to put a solid suggestion into such a changing truck menu as this. What I can say is they always do sliders well, and those will most likely always be on their cheaper side, so a great first thing to have. Their Pork Belly items are always a standout, you will never regret buying one (unless you’re vegetarian… but then this wouldn’t make any sense).

            Much like my review of Sushi Fix, , I believe for us to make a stand and wait until they start placing their menu focus purely on Sliders once more. They are such an important, integral member of our Food Truck family as is; with the focus on Sliders, Gastrotruck can become one of our most important member to date.

Saucy Burt’s

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saucyburts.com/

https://twitter.com/SaucyBurts

Main Location: Minneapolis           

            My introduction to Saucy Burt’s was a small article in the Vitamn Restaurant section. It was lucky for me that I just so happened to read that week’s issue too, otherwise I doubt I would have ever noticed and found it to this day. Very small and discreet of a cart, Saucy can be missed quite easily if you aren’t looking.

            Located on Nicolette, usually a couple blocks up from Dandelion’s spot, Saucy serves one item and one item only: the Meatball Sub. Spending months of time on research in recipes and bakeries, Sarah Burt combines the three chosen items into one fantastic, thought-out sandwich. 

Though this solo idea may not last for long; Sarah’s thinking of slowly adding items to the menu plans. Next time you visit, you may find your Veal-Beef-Pork Meatball sharing the list with a Chicken Cacciatore.

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Food: 5.5

                  I was very shocked after ordering my sub. Who would have thought that after all the testing and research the Chef had done, the end result would be… disappointing.

                Do not get me wrong; the meatballs are fantastic and tasty, paired with a rich and creamy tomato sauce. The sauce, however, does that thing where it doesn’t actually STICK to the meatballs; all the tiny tomato pieces just slide onto the bun. Talking about the bun, there is noticeably too much of it en ratio with the 3 small meatballs. It just makes that thick, chewy cold bread-flavor in your mouth while you eat. There’s no toast on it either; just sliced from the package and filled. Even if it has to be done long ahead of time, some texture and crunchiness would improve greatly and take down on the ratio issue. That, and using a smaller torpedo roll, or adding 1-2 meatballs.

                If one is going to sell only one menu item, and a very traditional one at that, every single point needs to excel and keep to traditional standards. That means component ratios need to be perfect, and the sauce needs to COAT and surround the meatballs completely. It is still a very tasty sub, but these little off-kilter mistakes can make the mistakes glaring, at least for people like me at least.

Most of the readers probably won’t care, I understand, but this is how I see things, and I think it should be a shared and known viewpoint.

Holdability: 10

                 As it is, the meatball holds up really well; could easily ditch the basket it’s served in. Though I feel this is contrasting to how meatball subs usually should be…

Price: 8

                 Only $7, a very affordable price, though as it’s the only one it leaves little room for variable options. Plus, with the uneven quality of the sub, it only just reaches that full $7 worth.

Speed: 9.5

                 Very quick, especially considering she knows what everyone is ordering, simply requires the layering of meatball and sauce in roll. Though I don’t quite get why she doesn’t keep the meatballs IN the sauce; makes things go a couple seconds quicker, and can always have some non-sauced on the side just in case.

The TOE: 8

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                A single-person operated, small cart selling only one item holds a fun little appeal all too familiar with traditional street foods. Putting one’s all into making a “perfect” item also holds a lot of risk and admiration. Personally, I actually hope they stick with just one item; you lose some of that special appeal when you expand, whether the single item needs cleaning up or not.

                       Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

            I say see if they make changes similar to what I’ve noticed or just don’t go at all. If you do feel the need to scratch it off a list, again it’s not THAT bad of a sub, and only $7 so you aren’t sacrificing much. Plus, if the Cacciatore is added, it would probably be a good option to try.