Finished at Last!

            FINALLY I have caught up with all the Food Trucks I’ve eaten!! After two long months of writing 4-5 reviews each day, waiting for them to get edited (which I would like to thank my mother and sister for very much in taking the time out of their busy days to do), correcting and going through the slow process of posting (well, slow for me… still not that much of a computer guy).

            And now I’m here! 38 trucks recorded, and I can take a breather to relax before the spring season. Will certainly be a bit easier to only do one review at a time, and I’m sure those following my blog will enjoy not having to put up with the random onslaughts of the Group Posting.

             So for now, my focus can turn once more to schooling, work, and the occasional rant (of which there shall be many until the Truck Season hits… and then possibly even more). Look out for my soon to come out “Top Ten” list for all the Trucks up until the end of 2012’s season. I’m getting excited for what can be to come, and for once it’s not in the creepy way.

           Have a lovely rest of your days and weeks my random readers.

            Until next time, I shall end this message in the words of a Chef Manager of mine when our restaurant was featured on the local news.

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            Stay Classy Minnesota

Cajun 2 Geaux

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cajun2geaux.com/  

http://twitter.com/cajun2geauxTim

Main Location: St. Paul

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            Another winter day, another Food Truck, another visit to a local Tap Room; all of which have seemed to combine in a new Symbiotic relationship to our benefit. This snowy night’s pairing du jour came up with Cajun 2 Geaux outside of the Harriet Brewery.

            Looking like a big, lime green, truck-shaped alligator, Cajun 2 Geaux serves up traditional Creole and Cajun Food… TO GO!! (Oh my god a pun!! It’s just so funny!!) From Po Boys to Gumbo, Hush Puppies to Jambalaya, one can find almost any New Orleans staple on their visit. They even served up Crawfish Etouffee to celebrate the Superbowl; though by the time we got there they had run out.

            This wasn’t the only item that disappeared. I really wanted to try their Beignets, but a certain somebody in our group took an extra hour to meet up with us. It just so happens that they ran out of the beignets… HALF an hour before we arrived (I am so holding this over this person’s head for a long time… nobody messes with me and fried dough, especially when it’s covered in a pile of sugar).

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            Either way, we grabbed our available items, headed inside and enjoyed alongside a few of Harriet’s fantastic pulls. Warm light, bright orange walls covered in various local artist paintings and photographs, and a lively man sitting on a corner stage with a harmonica and blues guitar.  Slowly sucking down my Elevator Doppelbock, my foot tapping to the beat as I enjoyed the night, basking in that wondrous blend of food, drink, music, and company. Cajun Truck or no, I certainly suggest one keep their eyes out for Harriet’s various Truck rendezvous.

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Food: 5

             When one takes it upon themselves to review and study traditional New Orleans cuisine, there is a certain additional extra quality that must be taken into account: Soul. Though one can say the same of all regional cuisines, the particular Love and Soul within Cajun cooking stands apart in its unique qualities. Whether this is due to the spices, obsession with roux, or just the depth of their unique ingredients cooked over long time. Cajun and Creole Cuisine has stood noticeably apart from the rest of  its Southern neighbors ever since its conception. It is probably THE most pivotal point in question that makes the food of New Orleans so good and special.

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             And it’s this exact thing that Cajun 2 Geaux lacks, to my utter disappointment. The Red Beans and Rice, as pictured, has little to no of the actual “gravy/sauce” which it typically sits in, and way too much rice. Once mixed, it basically ends up a dry mix of rice, beans, and sausage; of which, though good, is quite unimpressive as far as Andouille is concerned. Jambalaya tastes completely different than it should, using a bland tomato-based stock with no trace of the flavor derived from the fantastic Fond at the bottom of the cooking pan. The only connection to the New Orleans base is the slightly complex Cajun spice in the flavor, which could easily be just from the Andouille. There’s no “richness,” no “depth” of the true Cajun Soul that these rice and stew dishes require.

             Luckily, there is one section of the menu guaranteed to make them worth a visit: the Po’Boys. Bread is nice and soft, sauce and vegetables are tangy, textures crisp, all of it working well with whatever meat they decide to shove inside. We tried the Fried Shrimp, which was nice, good-sized pieces, but lost some of the crispiness among the toppings. All of it mixed into that great, simple sandwich sensation of contrasting parts one looks in a Po’Boy.

             I haven’t had the chance to try them yet, but the beignets do look like they were made well, keeping the traditional fried lightness, and completely covered in powdered sugar as is tradition.          

Holdability: 4

            Somewhat opposite in expectations, the stews and rice dishes are easy to carry while the sandwiches… not so much. Placing in small, plastic deli containers, one can travel and eat with little to no actually effort. On the down side, the one menu item that SHOULD be transportable, and is actually worth buying, requires sitting down. Large, messy, and sliced in two, the Po’Boys have a tendency to spill their numerous contents if not held tightly.

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           Beignets come in a bag, and only offer issue if ordering with something else; which is probably what you’ll end up doing anyways.

Price: 5

          Main price ranges from $6-$9, with a special $12 Oyster Po’Boy called “The Peacemaker.” Certain items are offered in smaller “side” sizes as well, making for some pretty good deals in price. I would score higher, but I certainly don’t feel the quality of many of their dishes match some of the higher prices. Not to mention the fact they are the ONLY Truck out that actually adds tax to the list price after ordering. Sort of disappointing, considering none of the other Trucks need to do it (at least not seemingly, adding it before listing prices and adjusting so one pays a simple flat rate).

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Speed: 8

         Average and reasonable wait.

The TOE: 5

         Going to the site and looking at their menu, one can tell that they aren’t really catering for the concept of “Street Food.” Though they make it portable, stews and rice dishes are still stews and rice dishes. The sandwiches simply lack portability, completely taking down any real feeling of a Food Truck. They stand out on the uniqueness of their cuisine style, but then again many of the actual foods dependant on it doesn’t deliver.

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         Beignets offer a scrumptious saving grace, acting as an almost perfect Toe Ring, standing out as a main focus upon every visit.

                        Tally: 27/50

Final Thoughts

         Certainly a great truck to hit when parked outside a brewery, or in any other event where one can sit down. Avoid any stews and rice dishes, they simply aren’t worth the time or money. Beignets are a must on every visit, and at only $2 it’s a deal.

         Po’Boys should be your main focus, all of them being particularly tasty. If I were to suggest one to try, it would be The Peacemaker: a fried oyster with cheese and bacon. It costs a couple bucks more than the others, but I would be shocked if it wasn’t worth it.

Tiki Tim’s

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https://www.facebook.com/TikiTimsMN

https://twitter.com/TikiTims_MN

Main Location: St. Paul, Etc

            Yay! The first post where I’ve been able to take and use my own pictures! I feel so happy and thrilled, no more reliance on Google Images for picture-perfect, news article-used images! Out-of-focus, weird-angled, purely amateurish shots are now the only ones good enough for this Blog! Just take a look at this one!

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            And that one.

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            And this one!

            AND THAT ONE!!

            … I just realized I didn’t actually take enough pictures to really fit that amusing “point and look” exercise I just tried to accomplish. Should probably just get rid of it all-together… but I do like being lazy…

            Anyway, back to the truck.

            My first exploit of the year into Trucks I haven’t yet tried, I took a drive South of St. Paul to the Summit Brewery Taproom. A fun note for Food Truck seekers, every Friday they open the taproom and have a Truck parked outside. The schedule is posted up ahead of time on their site. One gets their order, sits down inside and grab a pint or flight of beer. A fun little activity for a small group to enjoy.

            Tiki Tim’s is a big, steel-blue (or is it electric blue?) tiny mobile home-turned Island-based food depository. The menu is held up by three main items: Fish Tacos; Island-style Pulled Pork with Pineapple Coleslaw; and “Tiki Cakes,” crab cakes with shrimp, veggies, and jalapeno.

            Besides these, one can also find a couple interesting sides, such as the now bar-staple Fried Pickles. Sweet-potato Miso Soup will keep you warm in the cold winter, standing opposite to their cold macaroni-potato salad.

            I gratefully grabbed my order, a “combo plate” of Taco and Cake with a side of the mayonnaise-based salad, grabbed a Saga IPA, sat down and enjoyed. No reason to try and pick apart the Summit, they always make a pretty good beer. For those looking to enjoy, hoppy styles such as the IPA certainly proved themselves great with the slightly spicy foods of the island. Certainly can’t wait to visit again; seems Cajun 2 Geaux will be visiting in about a month…

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Food: 9

            I’m going to start my high point on something that’s usually a low. Tacos here are wrapped in Flour Tortillas, not masa, and only given a single tortilla per. Normally, this would emit a lower score for Taco trucks, but this TRULY shows no connection to any real Latin twists or flavors. It is exactly how they might form a taco on an island. Plus, on an even tastier note, the tortillas are grilled to slight crispiness before wrapping. A nice way of getting in that extra dimension of experience.

           The white fish used is very flavorful, as is the crunchy batter they used to fry it. I am happy to say that, after my first experience of OVERWHELMING Cabbage and Veggies to tiny Fish, they have subsequently fixed the ratio to a properly-proportioned Taco. With the tangy flavored cream sauce, crunchy fish, and zippy slaw, this easily comes in as one of the best Tacos in our Truck Lineup.

           When getting the little patty of crab and shrimp, I was first reminded of the panko crust of an eggplant that I had deep fried for way too long, and left myself to anticipate the worst.

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           My thoughts were happily disproven.

           The inside is so refreshingly moist, fresh, and flavorful. Vegetables and herbs adding great notes of island aroma. Despite its appearance, the crust is thin, light, and offers that perfect texture in contrast to the soft inside. Best part, of course, to this and any other crab cake, is the lack of “filler” flavors, such as supplied by breadcrumbs.

           Sauces are all very creamy and flavorful, with a nice zippyness from any garlic or spices used. This is just as true in the Mayonnaise dressing for their cold salad. Let me just say, for those still holding doubts based on old deli-style potato or pasta salads, this is one you should try. The macaroni and potatoes are toothsome but soft, peppers and veggies add a nice little texture without any harsh flavors (for once they don’t just cram the entire thing with raw onions, uck). The dressing brings in that nice little refined creaminess that makes a GOOD potato/pasta salad.

           Spice delivered via dressings is more of the “Gentle warmth,” building a little bit over time without taking over the palette. These are not the aggressive, spiking shoots of pure burning that the pain seekers seem to enjoy.

Holdability: 6

          Tacos, as mentioned are pretty well stuffed, and only use a single taco,. The many vegetables actually stay in pretty well. It thus is less of an “overflow” dish and more of a simple “messiness,” with the thick garlic cream wanting to ooze out the most. Pork Sandwich is a two-handed thing, and sides come in their own, making any order of Main + side (which is hard not to get) drawing one to a sit-down situation of some sort.

         Tiki Cakes are just presented as crab-cakes, no bun for holding, so one is given a fork. I just ate it with my hands anyway, they actually hold up very well. Though, I still think they need to make some sort of “mini-burger” out of them, would it not just be a fantastic Street Menu Item? I’d almost consider it a Toe Ring of some sort.

Price: 7.5

         $7, $8, and $10 respectively for different menu items, with two of the sides costing $4. The side of Salad is only $2, and automatically comes with an order of Tiki Cakes (probably why they charge $10 for it).

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         They offer a really great deal for Foodies though; a “Combo Plate” that holds one Taco and Cake allows one to have a taste of two main items while only spending $8. Sides can of course increase this.

Speed: 8

         Average, simple.

The TOE: 7

        Carrying a fun name and Truck design, Tiki really brings that feeling of the unique, specific food category of their choosing. Though I would not extend that to the food; very tasty, I do feel that their STYLE is… “reserved,” not exactly hitting the true island feel that they are trying to develop. I would say it’s similar to going to a Tex-Mex restaurant on the border; very good food, carries those flavors, but not actually at Mexican.

        I really wish that they would turn the Tiki Cakes into a sandwich!! They have such potential to stand out as a popular Street Food in the city; all it needs is bread and some light slaw.

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                      Tally: 37.5/50

Final Thoughts

         Better for those who can take their times to enjoy a more complete Lunch/meal from a Truck, with some place to rest down and enjoy. Though walkers can still get a plate of just Fish Tacos for roaming the city and be happy. I DEFINITELY suggest first timers go straight for the Combo Plate as a way to try two dishes. Potato-Mac Salad is a must get on the side, simply due to the very few times one can actually find a quality cold, mayonnaise-based salad such as this.

         Don’t get the Pulled Pork until they’ve made some improvements (see my experience of it Here). I, myself, don’t see any reason to get the fried pickles, as they can be found so often these days. The soup would be a good quick-buy when out on a cold day, needing something to warm you up without spending too much.

AZ Canteen

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azcanteen.com/

https://twitter.com/AZCanteen

Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul… Other States (Winter Travel)

             Words truly cannot detail just how excited I became upon finding out about this New Creation. My pace quickened, chest tightened, a little drool escaped my lips, and I think my eyes probably dilated like a pig walking into Famous Dave’s.

            There is truly only one way I can express why this had such an effect on me. If you were to have one, only ONE, well-known Chef across the entirety of the U.S. to own and direct a Food Truck, it is Andrew Zimmern. Very few Chefs have been able to engrain themselves into food cultures and Street Food across the entire World as much as Zimmern has. With such a wide experience of enjoying the most abstract and, okay I’ll say it, “Bizarre” foods. Working among the many dishes of the street, there is no one more qualified to understand and offer that pure Cultural feeling and experience that a True Food Truck can create.

Truly he proves this here, creating a menu of unique yet familiar, nostalgic items perfect just for the street. Hamburgers and Grinders are made from specially-found Cabrito Sausage (for those unaware, Cabrito is Goat), Sliders are made from Veal Tongue, and Gumbo is filled with Kramarczuk’s Andouille, Oysters and Crab. For dessert they grabbed Izzy’s own Ice Cream Sandwiches; but the real star of the entire Truck is a special “Dulce de Leche Shaved Ice,” with pound cake.

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            Drinks and Potato Chips are all bought from handmade, artisanal, local and other such sources. Much like every other product they buy for the Truck.

            Currently taking residence in Florida for the winter, AZ really sets themselves onto the Serious Path and Habits that reminisces the Food Truck World. I only hope that they do come back to take up Minnesota Residence once again whence Summer arrives(I’ve come back from the future to write this… and they do, yay!).

            I hear there are plans to make multiple Trucks in the AZCanteen name, so I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Food: 9.5

           Fun, delicious, a very pivotal experience for the Minnesota Foodie. Cabrito is cooked perfectly, bread for the sandwiches are grilled and crispy; and the local ingredients really shine. The Dulce de Leche Ice is a very unique experience, and perfect for the hot summer day. For my review on the Burger, follow This Link.

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           The only counterpoint I can make is I wish the Gumbo had more sense of the Oysters that it’s highlighting, but a good Gumbo it still is.

Holdability: 7.5

           Individually each item is made for easy Street Eating. However, I find any real experience here is almost impossible to make without getting a cup of Gumbo or Shaved ice alongside one of the sandwiches, leading to fuller hands. On a recent visit, I found the burger to also be a sit-down preferred item.

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Price: 8.5

          Keeping many good, affordable prices, along with a range for the smaller, lower costing items (small soup and shaved ice being an example). The locally sourced, higher quality items and service techniques do show, raising them another dollar or two above other trucks. But nowhere near ridiculous levels.

Speed: 7.5

         Average and expected, while many popular items like the soup and ice come in quicker due to efficiency. The Cabrito Burger DOES take a while to cook on its own, but one can wait it our with Gumbo or Shaved Ice.

The TOE: 10

         AZCanteen may not score the highest within the Trucks that I rate, but believe me when I say that I can’t think of many trucks that Truly embody what it means to be a Food Truck any more than AZ. Andrew Zimmern has taken his wide travels through the world and Translated his love for the Street Food Culture into what we see today.

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         I look forward to going back in the future. Though I do not think they need to change their menu at all, there is a subconscious hope to see them play around with more new, unique things.

Service: +3

         The Chefs behind the register have REALLY good energy and drive behind them, and are extremely willing and able to chat up new customers. Even on my first visit they made everything feel familiar, warm and exciting all at once.

                         Tally: 46/50

Final Thoughts

            Go here, go here now (or at least, soon as Summer comes back). There are two things you absolutely MUST get on the first visit.

            First, either the Cabrito Burger or Grinder; it’s their main, specialty item, and very well done. Second, to go with this, either a small cup of the Gumbo or the Shaved Ice for dessert. Or hey, get both, do a 3-course Street Lunch thingy (only Truck I know where it’s a real possibility and I would also suggest it). If able to, I might suggest getting the cup of Gumbo while waiting for the Cabrito to cook. It makes the wait tasty and fun, and is one less thing to worry about for carrying.

            The one item I would avoid is the Venison Tongue Sliders. Don’t get me wrong, they taste really good, but they’re a little higher in cost and you do NOT get much; only two thin slices per slider. If you have the extra money to spend, definitely give them a try one day.

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            One very rare thing for me to suggest, the side items: I was disappointed to find they don’t make their own. However, the chips they buy come in a plethora of flavors, including Bacon. So if you’re looking for those little pre-made things, AZCanteen has a very good selection, same with their Sodas(but they make their own Hibiscus, so get that).

            Enjoy yourselves fully!

Smack Shack

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smackshack.com/ 

https://twitter.com/Smack_Shack

Main Location: Minneapolis

             The white truck with the giant lobster on its hood, Smack Shack skyrocketed to the very top of local Magazine’s Food Truck Lists before the end of their first year. High-end seafood and lobster is their game, serving up a couple Po-Boys, Lobster Salad, and, the true draw, their Lobster Roll.

            The Roll comes in both regular and “King Size,” served on griddled Milk Bread. Nationally recognized, it has listed in the U.S. Top Ten Lobster Rolls for the last few years, and is likely to remain there for quite some time.

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           One does not have to go on the Street just to find them, however. Working out of the 1029 Bar, Smack Shack serves its ENTIRE menu (not just the 5 items served in the truck).

Food: 10

            Gotta admit, it’s Nationally recognized and there is a reason for that. Each slice of the Milk Bread is 1, 1½ thick, and once griddled is buttery and creamy, soft… like the ultimate brioche. The Lobster is tender, sweet and flavorful, and encompasses what makes this Roll so good. Unlike others, it’s not shredded; they leave it in whole, giant chunks; whole and half claws, bare chopping of the tail. It just acts as this guilty pleasure of enjoying so much of this “special meal” item in such gluttonous excess, and for a sandwich no less.

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           Mixed with a very light, clean mayonnaise and tarragon, one of my favorite herbs, it combines into one of the best sandwiches in the entire city.

           I’d talk about the other menu items, but the fact is that those are very rarely purchased in comparison to their Lobster, so for a rating system they’re practically of no consequence at all. Though assuming they are anything but delicious versions of the regular would be unwise; the Chef and owner was a Teacher of mine, and I know his dedication to quality and flavor, not to mention the many techniques they use to speed and quality.

Holdability: 6.5

           Though sandwiches are their focus, placement is within those awkward cardboard to-go-box thingies, along with chips. Po-Boys are probably the easiest to hold, but the Roll feels a little bulky. They aren’t quite as simple to hold-n-eat as they immediately look.

           Overall, individually not that difficult to hold, but combined with the serving box and one is the wiser to look for a place to sit; becomes a bit odd when walking.

Price: 0.5

          They’re lucky to get any points at all, but I don’t like giving 0 on anything, and they do have ONE $9 item. But unlike Barrio, where you can see the basis for this rant, which sells 3 different tacos for that price, you wanna know what Smack offers?

           A SAUSAGE SANDWICH. That’s it. I’m sure it’s a really good sausage, but for $9, when the rest of the menu is filled with Lobster and Shrimp? That is a bit of a Smack.

          Here’s the Kicker; remember me mentioning the 1029 bar? Well, it just so happens that both the regular and King Lobster Roll on the Food Truck Menu cost MORE than the ones in the Restaurant, despite being exactly the same. So not only are the prices higher than any real Street Food has a right to be, they charge more for getting it on the Road at lunch than if you were sitting down for Dinner. If anything it should be the other way around.

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          As always, what gets me frustrated is the fact that one could easily make the choice to develop a couple menu items at a lower price. Nothing stopping them at all, but then why would they NEED to when there are so many businesspeople able to spend out $15-20 every day for lunch?

Speed: 9.5

         I have to recognize that, among all the Food Trucks offered, Smack Shack has put a lot of effort in streamlining their process. This includes two different lines for cash and credit, a long window for production and waiting, and a well-practiced production line. Instantaneous it is not, but for specialty sandwiches like this, this speed is highly impressive and worthy of a good score.

        Lines are usually still long though.

The TOE: 1

        I am very lucky in the fact that I was able to get a free sandwich during one day of class with my Teacher, because I had absolutely no plans of ever ordering from Smack Shack, ever. My only real hope was going to 1029 for dinner at one point or another.

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        In my consideration, this is not a Food Truck. I find it very frustrating and insulting to all of the other hard-working, quality Trucks in the city whenever I see people putting Smack Shack on the top of their Street Food lists. Their Food may be the best, but they do not embody any Spirit of what True Food Trucks are. They are a Business, a High-end Lunch Café in a different form; they don’t serve people on the street, they serve Businesspeople and Office Workers who can come down for work.

        I’m not exaggerating on that either. Go visit them during a busy lunch. I’ll bet you most, if not almost every person in line is in some form of Casual Formal-wear for work. That’s their target audience, and if they were to set up shop in any other kind of location besides a busy Downtown-area, they would NOT be able to survive like they are now.

        Smack Shack has broken and disregarded the one aspect of Food Trucks that should never be ignored, nor forgiven. I’m not even sure if I’d go back if they ever do decide to add affordable item; though if they do, I hope it’s not something like the regular burger at the 1029.

                        Tally: 27.5/50

Final Thoughts

       Don’t ever go here. Eat at the 1029 for Dinner sometime; you can get the same food plus a few other interesting options (the Lobster Mac is really good), and the Rolls actually cost a little less. Lobster Roll is the obvious Must-Have on your first visit. I’d say just go for the Regular, it’s pretty filling as-is (King might be good as a more affordable way for two people to order the sandwich, just split). It is a much more acceptable feeling to eat this for a fun dinner, and you don’t have to worry about walking around with it.

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Barrio

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http://barriotequila.com/barrio/#!/BarrioTruck

https://twitter.com/Barrio_Truck

Main Location: Minneapolis

            Premiering alongside the same slew of “Original” Minneapolis Trucks in the 2010 year, Barrio sells a higher-end Mexican experience. Originally parked in its own special location a few streets off the normal Truck crowd, Barrio now takes its usual stand among the rest on Marquette, much to the chagrin of the many Skyway Food Court owners (I once listened to the Taco John guy go on and on about them, despite the fact that no one can even see Taco John’s from the street).

            Burritos and Tortas side half of the menu, but the real mainstay is, of course, the Tacos. With fillings like Soft-Shell Crab, Cumin-Fried Chicken, and Lengua (tongue), Barrio shows customers a sense of TRUE Mexican ingredients, treated with proper technique. Each Taco is then filled with its own purely unique salsa, sauce, and other toppings to match the protein of choice.

            One can, of course, still get Pork Carnitas and Beef Barbacoa in taco and burrito form, made from natural and local animals. Drink menu contains Mexican Coke, Jarritos, and a couple other interesting things, but they come at a higher price than other trucks.

Food: 10

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             A popular, upscale Mexican restaurant, it shouldn’t be surprising the tacos are made brilliantly. The Soft Shell Crab has that perfect crispy texture, the delicate sweetness peeking through to pair alongside watermelon-tomatillo salsa. Tacos de Lengua are nice and tender, cooked properly and topped with rich Arbol Chile salsa, crispy radishes offering perfect contrast.

            Normally I would go off on that fact that each taco has only one tortilla as opposed to two… but here it just seems to make sense. All ingredients are packed in the taco perfectly so that nothing spills at all… there would be no real use. They’re small, compact, and feel like they came from a top-quality restaurant.

             Note this is a one-time exception that I shall ever allow this as “okay,” so don’t you new Taco Trucks think I’m about to get masa-soft.

Holdability: 7.5

            As mentioned, Tacos are stuffed very well, so they’re quite easy to eat; given two individual tacos, one has a basket from which to eat them from. One cannot say the same ease may be met with the Burrito and Torta. Both are served alongside many condiments and starches, Burrito with rice-beans and Torta with Chips n Guac.

Price: 2.5

            I have said quite a few nice and quality-focused comments on  Barrio Truck so far, but that’s just focused on the quality of the food. Truth is, I don’t like them. I don’t like them at all. And this is why.

           Both Barrio and Smack Shack (as you will soon see) share one very common feature, outside of the fact that they both make really good, upscale “street food.” Whenever it is that I end up talking to people about why it is I do not regard either of them as a true food truck, this is the main statement I use. “If you look at most Food Trucks, the HIGHEST price that they might charge for a menu item is $9. At Barrio and Smack Shack, the LOWEST price they charge is $9.”

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          Now, for reasons you read later, this is even more infuriating with Smack Shack; Barrio at least has 3 different, easy-to-see-quality items with this price. They all taste good, and in the scheme of things I can understand how the food made is worth this price; quality ingredients made with a LOT of focus. But the fact remains that THESE prices are for a RESTAURANT; not a Food Truck, not Street Food.

          It is then difficult to order these, look at how small they are, and not wonder about the other Tacos you could have bought for a few dollars less, which would have had MORE fillings and been just as satisfying. Even if they weren’t “technically perfect” in execution.

          I mean seriously, they even charge more for the same sodas than other Trucks.

Speed: 7

         Takes a little longer to get a taco here than at other trucks.

The TOE: 4

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            For keeping to Tradition, for using well-recognized Latin Street Foods, Barrio is able to make up for some of their obvious disconnect from their Restaurant base. But the fact remains, they are another truck sticking with the same Menu as the original despite moving onto a very different territory. Current prices on specialty tacos should remain the same. They do have to make a profit, but going out without even trying to offer lower, more average-priced items is a sign of pure disregard and elimination for a noticeable percentage of the Lunch Crowd.

                       Tally: 31.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Screw lunch here, get your tacos somewhere else, and go to the Barrio Restaurant for dinner where the prices are more suited. You can at least get yourself a Tequila Shot to enjoy with the food.

            When you do, and want to stick to some of the flavors from the Truck, try to find anything with Soft Shell Crab or Beef Tongue; they’re my personal favorite and will be yours once you work past the “ewwww” thoughts.

Cave Cafe

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cavecafeandcatering.com

https://twitter.com/TheCaveCafe

Main Location: St. Paul

            The joy of the wildly successful trend of mobile food trucks, is that it’s like having a totally different restaurant outside your door each day.” The very first thing written on Cave’s Menu page, it just so happens to be the exact thoughts that cross my mind whenever I think of them.

            An “Afro-Italiano” fusion Truck, Cave offers a selection of both plated and handheld dishes, including Wraps and Steak Sandwiches. Their main offerings centre around Rice dishes, such as Curries, including a certain dish known as “Tibsie.” This dish basically consists of vegetables and (sometimes) meat sautéed and mixed together with rice and seasonings; served with homemade Flatbread. Lamb is the most popular item, and will at times be offered in Special daily items along with Goat.

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            They also serve a few breakfast items, though the only one seeming even slightly African is something called “Foule:” fava bean and vegetable puree, topped with garlic and served with French bread. On that same topic of “non-African” items, they also serve a regular Hamburger.

            I don’t really quite understand why they claim to be an “Italian-fusion” either. The only things reminiscent being the fact that one has the option for pesto in wraps and sandwiches. Oh, plus the Chicken Salad has an “Italian dressing.” Salad flavours itself are really more on the Greek side of things.

            Very tempted to say a few sandwiches are less African-inspired as well, but they do use French Bread, a part of their Culture developed from French invasions and travels into the Continent.

Food: 6.5

            I imagine the steak sandwich, wraps, and curry are all very flavorful and tasty within their own right. I, myself, grabbed the Beef Tibsie. Though only had the chance to enjoy half of it cuz it was a “Food Truck Sample Day” and I was getting full.

           The ingredients were all nice separately, and the spiced tomato sauce had a little zing and richness to it. Overall the entire thing tasted like something your parents tried cooking up with leftover vegetables when you were a kid. It all felt random and somewhat muddled together, the only real appeal I found being that “Hmmm, I could probably reheat this easily at home.”

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           My favorite part, actually, was the slices of hot Flatbread they wrapped in foil and served alongside it. So soft, oily and flavorful, I could just eat those with butter and a spread all day; I wish they had given me more.

Holdability: 4.5

           Rice and Breakfast dishes are all served in a giant styrofoam box with plastic utensils and the bread, which is what one is encouraged to use for scooping. Very awkward to eat with on the go, especially since the flatbread is still so hot to handle, one really needs to find a table or bench for full enjoyment.

           They do have sandwiches and wraps, but served in a basket with chips, leading to more dependence on both hands (especially since Steak Sandwiches don’t have the best reputation for holding together easily).

Price: 6.5

           Range of $6-$9, with all Main Rice dishes staying on that higher end, Lamb and Goat specials getting into the double digits.

Speed: 5

          A noticeable wait to have them cook up any meats and vegetables, even when no one else is ordering.

The TOE: 5

          I love and admire the idea of bringing an African Truck to the streets. However, the menu they chose is really not suitable to a Food Truck at all; any items that ARE suitable on it aren’t African OR Italian. When you visit, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to a Truck; more like a Restaurant that you have to stand outside for… I guess that explains their quote.

          There are a lot of little things that I wish they would do to really change themselves into a better Beacon of their Culture. They could make smaller versions of the Tibsie and Curry (they do give you a lot), then shove them inside of a roll with toppings. All these regular sandwiches, wraps, and burgers need to go, replaced with ACTUAL Italian and African-styled fillings. Most of all, they need to make something with that PITA bread they make; it’s SO good, it should have a dish centered around itself. That’s not something I normally say; personally, I rarely even understand Truck dishes like tortillas-n-guac, pita chips-n-hummus. This, however, would work.

           They have a great start with flavors and Tradition, but adjustments need to be made if Street Food is really where they want to go.

                        Tally: 27.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Currently, Cave Café is mostly suited for those looking for a bigger sit-down lunch or something that they can reheat later for dinner. There are possibilities for those looking to walk around and eat, but the ones that seem really worth it and indicative of their “culinary focus” are limited.

            Steak Sandwich and Lamb Gyro Wrap should be one’s main goals for the “Street Food” category. If one still wants to visit and buy a Main dish, I would stick to the Curries; always a good, flavorful option to get for lunch. Also, look on their Specials, little stickers or writings on the side of the Truck of options they might have that day. If you see any Goat or Lamb dishes, inquire; they’re always a good fun option to try if you haven’t had it yet.

            For those still wanting to try Tibsie, Lamb is the only one that still intrigues me. Just know that this, along with any Lamb/Goat specials, are going to be in the low double digits of price. As such, not suited for those conscious of space in their wallet.