Trinh Bahn Mi

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https://www.facebook.com/trinhfoodtruck

http://twitter.com/trinh_foodtruck

Main Location: St. Paul

            A Vietnamese catering experience, Trinh serves up Bahn Mis and specialty drinks. Sticking to traditional sandwich offerings, all proteins are simple and dressed with the basic Bahn Mi garnishes of pickled vegetable, jalapeno, cilantro and cucumber. All of this is then stuffed along the standard Bahn Mi rice flour baguette.

            Along with a sandwich, one can also purchase a very well known and popular Asian drink: Boba Tea. For those who haven’t heard of it yet, or others who still aren’t sure exactly what it is, here’s a fun little lesson.

            First off, Boba can involve any real non-alcoholic drink, though most popular are smoothies, fruit juice and tea. These are then filled with large, cooked, black tapioca pearls. The top of the cup is covered in a plastic film, which is done to order with a special machine, and then stabbed through the middle with a large, wide plastic straw. As one drinks, the pearls are sucked through the straw alongside the drinks to be chewed and enjoyed.

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            The pearls have a unique, special kind of chewy texture, similar to a marshmallow or, for those familiar with them, mochi (Japanese rice cakes). The very center is a little firmer though, providing an almost al dente bite. Trinh focuses on smoothies, providing a few fruit and simple asian-style flavors. I had green tea.

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Food: 8

             Very properly done. The baguette has the right crisp and soft textures, vegetables are fresh and flavorful. The meat is tender and flavorful. When I went, I had the hot pork, which was a very enjoyable bahn mi experience. It’s not the best bahn mi as far as Food Trucks go, but there is no “poorly made” part about it. Simply lacks any extraordinary properties.

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             Boba drinks are very refreshing and tasty; the flavors come out well, and the Tapioca is a fun thing to chew. Great on a cool day as a little treat.

Holdability: 10

            Bahn mi’s are one of the perfect street foods for a reason, holding with one hand being key. One can easily buy both a sandwich and boba, then walk and enjoy at the same time.

Price: 7

            Average prices, nothing too outstanding in any regard.

Speed: 7

          Handled decently. Boba teas can take a while to make, as they have to blend it by scratch on every order AND they only seem to have one blender… an odd choice. Sandwiches are quicker.

The TOE: 5

         Doing street food well, the Boba Tea acts in a very similar manner as Toe Rings, though not as much. Other than that, the place feels less like a Food Truck and more like an Asian Deli. In fact, I might suggest they try different ways of displaying the menu besides a whiteboard and brightly colored paper. It doesn’t really beckon people from afar to want to investigate.

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Service: -2.5

         Remember my score subtraction on the Rusty Taco? Same basic thing happened when I visited Trinh and they had a long line. What’s worse is that it was at the Canterbury Food Truck Event, so they should have known more employees would be needed.

                        Tally: 34.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Great for when looking at a quality, easy-to-hold item, and/or if you’re craving some cold drink or treat to enjoy. If there are other Bahn Mi selling Trucks around, best to ignore Trinh and go for the better. But if not, these are still a GOOD option.

            Flavors are very basic, so it’s literally whatever meat you best enjoy. I personally prefer the pork with Bahn Mi’s; they have hot and cold, go for hot.

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Marie Antoinette Crepes

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marie-Antoinette-Crepes/165457686860205

https://twitter.com/thatcrepetruck

Main Location: Markets, Events, Etc

            Offering options along both the Savory and Sweet lines, Marie Antoinette’s has become a staple among many as an early morning Crepe stop. Crepe fillings are simple, with sweets pairing sliced fruit alongside chocolate-caramel-peanut butter sauces; nutella of course. Savory stay along the traditional lines of Ham n Cheese, Tomato-Basil, etc. Every once in a while there’s an interesting addition, such as Feta with the Tomatoes, or an herb-flavored sweet crepe.

            Folded into a large triangle and served in a paper basket with a fork, one can sit on an open curb and dig in (it’s what I did).

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Food: 4

           The crepe itself isn’t too bad; a little eggier than the proper traditional, but it’s got a decent fluff to it and gives with the fork. Works well on either side of the Savory-sweet line.

           Fillings are unimaginative and given little real effort in preparation and cooking. Chocolate and other dessert sauces taste pre-made and from a bottle… then again that’s cuz most of them are. Other ingredients are simple, without offering any real extra qualities. This leaves combinations that are simply average in flavor and textures.

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           Of course, one can never really complain when it comes to Nutella.

Holdability: 5.5

          Though easy to carry and walk around with, picking the crepe up with a hand is quite difficult to do easily. This due to heat, limpness, and the habit of fillings trying to fall out. As one is also only given a plastic fork that gives trouble in attempting to use when standing, this traditional French Street Food is best eaten while sitting. Quite the disappointment from the usual standards.

Price: 7

           Costs are okay, but with the quality of the food supporting it I don’t feel like it’s that much of a “deal.”

Speed: 8

           Crepe’s are a really fun street item in that, despite cooking from scratch, they don’t take that long to make. Plus, it’s always a fun show to watch them get spread, cooked and folded.

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The TOE: 7.5

          Despite certain lacks in quality and effort, crepe stands emit that wonderful warm, homey feeling of that special visit to the French Storefront. The sight of the person standing behind the counter, swirling the batter around the hot stone, offering the unique smells and experience that only a creperie can create. I only wish that their ingredients could match the expectations of this long French tradition

                        Tally: 32/50

Final Thoughts

            Still a fun experience, and if you’re at a Farmer’s Market where they happen to be, it wouldn’t be too bad of a stop for lunch or a snack.

            Avoid the simpler items, the only one of any worth being Nutella (if you haven’t had a Nutella crepe, it’s like the French Chocolate Chip Cookie). Anything with special ingredients, in particular the Tomato-Feta could be worth a grab.

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Rusty Taco

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www.rustytacomn.com/

https://twitter.com/rustytacomn 

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Another Food Truck extension of a local restaurant, much to my surprise; I didn’t even realize until seeing the Truck in a parking lot, then realizing the business’ name was the same as their own!

            Rusty offers a list of 12 different tacos to suit whatever taste you have. From Steak to Fried Fish, Brisket to Shrimp, Beans to Pork, each taco is then topped with its own proper condiments. Pico de Gallo, Red Cabbage Slaw, Cilantro, Cotija are used often, but they aren’t on every taco. Many have their own sauce, special vegetable, or other item unique to itself or one other.

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            With so many items, it is quite difficult to try and go through the many combinations (especially since I’m now getting a craving for the leftover Mexican food in the fridge right now). I’d say it’s best and most fun to view the menu itself when you visit, though I’ll be sure to mention a couple combinations below.

            Something to mention about the Restaurant, just in case the Truck does this when I’m not looking, is that it also offers 4 breakfast tacos. I doubt the Truck actually offers these in the earlier mornings, but if so it would be another aspect to consider.

Food: 8.5

            I’m really happy with the Tacos being made here. The tempura-fried Fish Tacos with Chipotle crema is crunchy and flavorful. Brisket is simply topped to allow the slow-cooked, spiced Beef to take Main Stage. Fried Chicken is brined for juicyness, topped with Jalapeno Ranch and Lime Coleslaw, pure comfort food turned Taco with great success.

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            There are two main down points for me. The tortillas, which thank god are delicious Masa, don’t have the traditional double-stack, which is a bit surprising for an all-taco Truck. Secondly, the signature Rusty Taco, Pork-based is topped with Pineapple. I love pineapple, I understand the flavor with pork, but I still haven’t experienced a burger or taco that uses it well; still tastes weird.

             Now, if the pineapple was grilled with salt n pepper, then applied with a light hand, I think it would really act as a standpoint for all other places to use as an example of proper pineapple usage.

Holdability: 8.5

            Usually getting two tacos in a basket, two hands required. Thankfully, despite the lack of extra tortilla to catch, fillings stay in pretty easily, though fall-out should still be expected.

Price: 10

            I LOVE how Rusty does their selling. It’s about $7 for two tacos, a simple and reasonable price; though one I normally wouldn’t rate a 10 for. What Rusty does, however, with an order of any amount of tacos, is choose whatever menu items you want for either taco. This means you can get a Fish and Brisket, or just two Fish, or go into buying more tacos for even more diverse combinations.

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            Also, though I would not suggest doing this often, they even allowed me to only buy a single taco, despite that not being an official menu option. They gratefully charged accordingly, so it allows a good option for those who want to sample only one item.

Speed: 10

            I am amazed every time I go here… with only two people in the kitchen, the Chefs are able to put these tacos together so fast that one doesn’t barely even have to wait. Instantaneous it is not, but compared to other preparation-based trucks it might as well be.

           It’s possible, though, this may be due to the fact that when I visited, they only had to work on one order at a time (read Service below to understand).

The TOE: 9.5

          Overall a really good Taco truck, Rusty does the idea of “large variety” in the proper way. Wrapping everything the same way and still placing high enough attention on every menu item to create easily debatable personal favorites. They actually remind me of the end of “5 Year Engagement” when the Jason Segal’s character, a Chef, opens his own Taco Truck… only theirs isn’t ambulance themed.

Service: 1

         The speed of the Chefs is very impressive, but on my first visit there the speed of the person taking orders… was exactly the opposite. The line moved incredibly slowly, and as I got closer I found the reason for it. This being that EVERY single time the girl finished punching in an order and taking the money, she would step away from the register and start doing something, leaving the next person in line to stand and wait for her to get back.

         Generally this was putting tortillas and nachos together for people, but there were other times that the person didn’t order any and she would still step away for… I don’t even know, looked like nothing. At the end of the day, this is one of things that certain Food Trucks need to learn; if you have so much business that your Cashier has to do things and take attention from the anxious people waiting in line (and it was a LONG line), then you need to bring in another person to do things. What that cashier was doing, no matter if it needed to be done or not, was simply plain rude to the customers.

          Now, that was when they just started, so it’s possible by now that things aren’t as bad when the line is longer. Plus, the Chef I ordered from on my second visit DID allow me to buy only one taco, so I’m not taking as much points off as I normally would.

                      Tally: 45/50

Final Thoughts

            A fantastic place if you need to get something fast (long line notwithstanding) and want to try a little menu variety. Every menu item is good, so the only difficulty may come in picking your favorite.

            Probably avoid the Rusty Taco, think the other combinations end up better. My personal favorites are the Fried Chicken and Fish, but they do good classic Beefs and Porks as well.

Anchor Fish and Chips

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http://www.theanchorfishandchips.com/food-truck1.html

https://twitter.com/AnchorFoodTruck

Main Location: Breweries, Events, Etc

              A subset of their successful British-based restaurant, Anchor Fish and Chips launched their Truck of same menu around 2011. Offering traditional British Street Foods, Anchor serves, as you’d guess it, Fish and Chips. Alongside these, one can also purchase a couple Pasties, Battered Sausage, traditional Sides, and a couple sauces.

            Somewhat flexible, all Main items can come with or without Chips, which on their own can come plain or topped with Gravy or Curry (See Potter’s Pasties for a review of Britain and Curries). Eaten with a beer at whatever Brewery they park next to; one can find that almost-traditional British experience right in the city.

            And without having to go to a restaurant.

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Food: 6

            The Fish is HUGE, you definitely get the bang for your buck on that. Batter is crispy, thick, and flavorful, covering the still-juicy meat completely, resulting in a very well done fried fish. Drip some of that Vinegar right over the top, you get that salty-tart heavenly goodness, and that’s without the Tartar Sauce. I haven’t had the Sausage or Pasties, but I imagine they’re both almost as good as the fish. Though, I would somewhat doubt their pasties’ overall flavor to be better than Potter’s.

            These are where the Highlights end.

            For a place where Chips/French Fries embodies half of their name, I find the potatoes sorely disappointing. Unevenly cut in a noticeable way, they are also unevenly cooked, any crispiness from the friar is lost after a few seconds. Bigger, “steak fry” sized cuts are the norm, resulting in that soft, potato-y flavor to them; but not the good kind. Worst of all, they have a habit of absorbing that strong, not-so-pleasant flavor of used oil. Not so bad at first, but as you’re working your way through them it starts to grow and become noticeable.

            Ultimately, mediocre chips at best, nothing to really proclaim about. Makes me wonder and doubt what their other sides are like.

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            I find the curry a bit unsuitable for the menu as well. A Yellow variety, it certainly has a nice flavor to it, though I do think the spices are used a little lighter than they should be. It should really have a much stronger, richer curry to handle the potatoes which they go with. My main issue is consistency; when I saw “Curry Chips” on the menu, I imagined it made more like a thickened sauce, Gravy-like if you would. But really it is more along the lines of a clinging chunky soup. Can’t really “dip” the chips in with that much success, and I don’t think I’d want it poured over either.

            I’ve actually had the good fortune of eating Indian Curry in Britain, and I will tell you that the sauces they use don’t look at all like Anchor’s.

Holdability: 7

            Depends on what one gets, I have actually found it not too difficult to walk around with the Fish and Chips, even with its size. Only real issue I’ve found is residual heat. The main consideration is if one wants to get a side or sauce to go with; or possibly a beer (I would actually suggest it, as the Fish and Chips really need some drink to cut the Rich Fat and Saltiness). Find a place to sit is then imperative, but no real worry; Anchor usually shows at places with tables and other sitting spots.

            A good idea if you want to get curry or gravy; just get the Curry/Gravy Chips, and then order any fish/pastie/sausage on its own to put on top. They don’t charge any differently than if it was on the side.

Price: 5

            They charge you if you want tartar sauce. I’ll say that again. They CHARGE YOU if you want TARTAR SAUCE, with your FISH AND CHIPS. It’s only 50 cents, and at least it isn’t one of those tiny little cups you can’t even use, but that doesn’t matter. There are only a few singular rules that we as of nation have developed when it comes to how we eat fried fish and potatoes. One of those rules is this: TARTAR SAUCE COMES WITH FREE. Whether you have it with or without the sauce, no extra charge is given.

            This isn’t my only problem with the menu prices. If you want a side of Gravy or Curry, which I think is a great thing for people to try on their first trip, it costs an extra $3. For a menu soup or snack item, that’s cheap. For a little SAUCE on the side, on a Food Truck? It is simply ridiculous. I couldn’t fathom how they could charge more than a dollar for it, then I finally ordered one and understood; they give you an entire soup cup’s worth, maybe even more. WAY more sauce is given then is actually needed, and because of this they deem that they can charge more (despite the fact that the actual COST of what was given is only a few cents more than if they had given you half).

            What’s most annoying is they offer no way of skirting prices through different menu options, combos, etc. Every single combination of food costs the same as if you got all the items individually. So no matter what one does, they end up paying in full whether they agree with a price or not.

            Now, as for the entrée items, they all range between $5 and $7, with an extra $2 added if getting with chips. For how much you get, that separately can come in at a pretty decent price. Just don’t get any sauce.

Speed: 8

             Average speed, mainly just have to wait for Chips and Entrees to Fry, sides and sauces being pre-made.

The TOE: 5

           Bringing a Truck like this is a great idea, offering all the main British Street and Comfort Foods outside of just the restaurant. They have some of that feeling of a Food Truck, and reading the menu almost transports you to a British Stand.

            At the end of the day though, this Truck is based off of a Restaurant, and the way they handle their foods and pricing are reflective as such. There are many factors within a Truck that, even if practically nonexistent, doesn’t affect the feeling you get when you visit; that’s just their style, or they might just need time to improve. But pricing is the one thing I will NOT budge on, as you will see, because THEY are the ones who make the conscious choice of what they put on the menu and what they charge for them.

           True Food Trucks do not practice ways to sneak you out of the extra dollar here and there in such obviously unneeded ways. A True Food Truck is about giving you what they can, having extra sauces and pickles on the ledge to dress your taco however you want, and offering that little special something that makes you want to come back. If you spend an extra $3 dollars whenever you go to a Truck, it’s because you’re buying something that you REALLY LIKE and that actually DESERVES to cost that much, if not more.

          This may be just my opinion, but it is strong, and I do not think little of it, especially when it comes to our Food Trucks. Just because you are based off of a Restaurant, does not mean your Truck should be designed in the Exact Same Way.

                       Tally: 31/50

Final Thoughts

            Really good, enjoyable Truck for the sit-down lunches. I would suggest visiting them on the days that they are next to Fulton or one of the other local Breweries, because it just makes the experience.

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            The Fish is a must-have on your first visit. Sadly, I must say to avoid the Chips, they just aren’t that worth getting; there are a lot better fries throughout the City. Though, if for some reason Anchor and Neato are nearby each other, go buy yourself some Duck Fat Fries and make your own special experience.

            Alright, you’re gonna have to buy the Tartar Sauce; I think it’s stupid myself, but at least it’s only 50 cents, and you should really have some with your first Fish. If you’re looking for a Side, Coleslaw or Heinz Beans (Mush Peas are rarely good even in England).

            After that, maybe try the Sausage or Pastie, see how they relate to Potter’s. But personally I have no real urge to go back here again, price or not.