Main Location: St. Paul
Started by Minnesotan Phil Gaffney, a 4-year veteran in of NY food trucks, MidNord serves traditional Empanadas. Various offerings changing daily, Phil offers both traditional Ecuadorian and Minnesotan fillings. On any given visit, one can find Tucuman Beef, Cuban Pork, Juicy Luicy, or Mac and Cheese, and that’s not even half of it. They also offer Tostones, a Central/South American side involving smashing pieces of Plantains (really savory, starchy bananas) and frying them.
MidNord doesn’t just stop at savory though, the menu also contains a seasonal dessert-filled empanada. Examples of these include Apple Pie, Pumpkin, and Nutella-Banana. All served, much like the savory, with their own accompanying dipping sauce.
My first experience of MidNord luckily happened to be on their debut day during the 2012 Canterbury Food Truck Event. Since then they have settled their days of business with St. Paul’s Downtown, adding themselves to the already impressive lineup.
Okay, they are REALLY good. Fried to order, Tucuman-style Empanadas are rich, flavorful, a little complex with the spices, and just plain juicy. The Mac and Cheese is HOMEMADE, and not just generic “Cheese+Noodles=It’ll work.” This is a creamy white cheese mac, mixed with chives, perfectly cooked noodles… you want to have it as is, and they shoved it inside a dough of deep fried, savory goodness. I do believe they change the mix seasonally, though, so you make get a richer Cheddar-based one in the Winter. They then served both of them with respectful sauces; a flavorful chile broth for the beef… I forgot what for the Mac, but it was good.
Apple pie made sense to me, but then I got it, and saw that “Hey, this is made in the same really savory dough as the others… it’s not even rolled in cinnamon-sugar or anything…” I was put back quite a bit, it didn’t seem like it would work.
Then I had it.
It worked. Don’t ask me how, but it worked. It was delicious, the filling wasn’t the gooey apple, just tender and spicy and rich. Dipped in the spiced caramel, it was the perfect self-indulgent, guilty street food dessert.
Nice and crunchy, the empanada has that nice fried-dough crust, a little thin and soft on the inside to perfectly hold the insides. The little pressed edge is nice and big, too, giving you that extra piece of crispy dough with the rich filling.
As for the Tostones, they’re flat and crispy, but sort of just taste like regular potatoes; used to be a worse. I like the fact that they now include one with each Empanada order. I guess I like a different kind of plantain though, for having as-is.
A little surprising, not to mention disappointing, considering the traditional hand-held design of a proper Empanada. However, they end up served two in a basket, very hot inside from the friar, on the side of which is a little plastic cup with the dipping sauce. The lid is already snapped on tight, and you have to maneuver to take it off, keep it steady, try to dip and eat it without spilling any. Considering they use very flavorful broths for many “dips,” it can be quite tricky.
At the least, the empanadas themselves hold up very well when basket-separated.
The empanadas are very well priced at a good deal, offering two each with an order. Though it is very tempting to grab a Mac and Cheese and/or a Dessert along with your main choice, which will easily add to costs.
Have to wait for them to fry, but that doesn’t take too long.
The TOE: 10
Empanadas are a great focus for a Food Truck. Phil really takes the chance and potential to stuff them with a good variety of very creative, flavorful fillings. It succeeds in so many of the same ways that Potter’s does, besides their smaller size and basket serving. My favorite aspect of this truck is that the Mac and Cheese and Dessert-based options BOTH act as individual Toe Rings. They give that experience of going up to the menu, taking a quick look and stopping as you see them, your thoughts filled with nothing but “Ohhhhhh I have GOT to try those.”
I am very happy and thrilled to have these guys as a part of our Food Truck family, and hope you get the chance to experience them soon.
Normally baskets come with two empanadas. On my second visit, though, I wanted to try both Mac and Apple, but didn’t want to buy 4 whole empanadas, not to mention pay for all of that. Considering that, the Chef gladly made me a basket (well, two separate to help me tell) of one each, and priced it for a regular basket cost. It’s a great Service quality, and I think they deserve an extra couple points because.
Can still be used on the go if only grabbing one item (orders of more can be wrapped individually and put in a bag), they’re really great when you can stop and sit on a bench, rest on a post, etc.
Though I love the Mac and Cheese, I would suggest starting with a different item, probably one of the Tucuman’s. If you can and want to, grab an Apple Pie or whatever dessert they have at the time to. Save the Mac for its own special showcase later.
Skip the Tostones, they’re not really good enough to buy a whole basket on their own.