Bacon Lolly!!??

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                  Found this when I visited a Stillwater Candy Shop… anyone else think Bacon Trolley should be getting on this somehow?

Fun Finds on a study day

           An afternoon of classmate studying led me to downtown Minneapolis early yesterday, and with it a few interesting finds for myself.

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            First off let me say, this is the first time I’VE ever seen such a turnout of Trucks parked along 2nd. Considering all the new trucks coming down (which is who seemed to fill that street up), this may be a great new, solid aspect to our downtown scene, not to mention less of a concern when it comes to those trucks attempting to vie for various spots.

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            Being hungry as I was, my stomach didn’t want to wait for me to make my decision. Lucky for me, another 2 new trucks (for me at least) sat parked along Marquette. I myself decided to go to both of them. Sadly, reviews of these will have to wait; neither Truck’s menu were ones which I felt confident in getting a complete “feel” of with just one item.

            Amusingly, both Starlight Diner and Brava on Wheels look like pure offshoots of other restaurants. Of course, they aren’t… made for an awkward-feeling moment when I asked…

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            I didn’t stick purely to the new, though. Stopping by a now-favorite, Motley Crew’s, for a bit of conversation and a chance to finally try their signature Funky Philly. With it, a bit of a revelation was given… they actually DO toast their buns! I was shocked! I so couldn’t tell from my first visit, with that giant cascade of cheese and sauce loading the chicken grinder. So, I’ll be quickly updating the actual review for that.

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            As for the Philly, I certainly stand by my original premonition of its quality. Surprisingly, it’s not AS messy and loaded as their Chicken, so I could actually eat it while walking with little issue, but it’s still gooey and tasty and good. So sad, though, their “Ex-husband’s Nuts” were sold out; I was looking forward to those almonds!

            Oh well, I apparently need to come back again to try their new COLD Chicken Sandwich, so I’ll get them whenever that happens.

            Good luck and good eating.

The Waffle Van (L’Etoile du Nord)

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https://twitter.com/TheWaffleVan   

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Waffle-Van/154816037921188?fref=ts  

Main Location: ???

               Long has this elusive van been in business on the streets, and long have I been trying to track it down in my spare time. For the longest time I could not tell if they truly only ever came out once every couple months for specific special events (such as Rock the Cause, Art-a-Whirl, etc), which I always missed or couldn’t go to. OR if they’re out semi-frequently in some out-of-the-way area and just don’t inform anyone about it. If only I was there in their first year of 2011 when they actually seemed to care about it.

            I have a lot I’d like to say about this particular fact, especially concerning the day they wrote to me that they were going to be at a certain all-day jazz fest. Well, not only did they not show up (I was there for 4+ hours too), but they didn’t even post anything saying why… ever… even after I posted asking why. –sigh- Well, again I’d go on, but if I did it’d take up more of the post than is rightfully fair.

            Based out of L’etoile du Nord Café, owner Olivier spent his time roasting coffee for the local Cyclist scene. With his Belgian roots calling, it wasn’t long before he opened up The Waffle Van, pedaling out this Belgian delight to those… ummm, pedaling up the road? (Sounds cheesy enough, I’ll go with it)

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            Well, it seems he does two things and does them well. Which is good, because they’re the only two things on the entire menu (except for French Fries, but as far as I know that might just be for big Fairs/events). One can get Coffee, and one can get a Waffle, and that’s basically it. There are of course toppings, what kind of Belgian Waffle place would it be without it? Sticking PURELY seasonal, one only has one option depending on the time of year. My visit found a mound of Nutella with Bananas and whipped cream, though he admitted that the coming few weeks is likely to find him gathering bunches of Rhubarb for a tasty preserve.

            There is ONE last thing they offer, but it has nothing to do with the Food. Being Belgian, it seems Olivier can’t stand the idea of a lacking drink list. So, instead of the stereotypical cans of generic soda, the window of this truck is lined with various Belgian beers and quality Wine. The selection of course changes upon whim and availability, which, along with the special permits and other hoops he has to jump through just to sell them shows the level of effort and attention they go through just in their drinks.

            Since this blog is about food, however, I think it’s about time I wrap things up and actually GET to that.

 

Food: 9

              With only one product, there’s not too much that needs saying. The waffle is rich and flavorful; not “crispy” on the outside, but not soft, that kind of solid texture one expects from a good waffle. But the inside, ooooooooh, the inside; thick, soft but moist, not really “chewy,” but sort of dense in all the right ways. This isn’t an “airy” little thing, it’s a rich little lattice of Belgian goodness, topped with whatever the season yields. Though I haven’t tried any of his fruit toppings, the fact they’re seasonal and he makes them himself are sure to be tasty.

             Fries look basic, similar to what one may find at almost any Fair stand; not that I want them to be anything else, I’m there only for the Waffle.

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Holdability: 8

             With toppings, as one would imagine, handheld once again takes a back step. However, its tenderness makes for very easy eating, the plastic forks cutting right through with little to no actual tugging required. Two hands required, but the capability to walk is still there. Though if you want to eat a plain one, it’ll probably hold better than a Pasty.

Price: 9.5

            With toppings, the waffles come to a solid $5, getting a large palm-sized pastry for your reward, piled with the topping of the day. If wanting it plain, however, the charge comes to $4. For a delicious and specialized item such as this, which one still can’t get in any other truck, this comes to a very fair price and a good deal.

Speed: 9.5

              Cooking them almost continually, fresh waffles are usually ready when one orders, leaving the time spent only to pay and top the Belgian delight (that is if one gets it topped).

The TOE: 7.5

             Fast, highly specialized (as in only offering ONE item), unique concept compared to other trucks, spiffy design, and they have an interesting clientele demographic! (you know, the cyclists…) They hold many of the little feelings and aspects that make the great food trucks.

              Normally, I’d probably give a truck like this a great big 10. However, the past couple years they’ve refused to update their location except for very specific large events, which even THIS year they didn’t even do themselves, with most Truckie hopefuls relying only on the very few posts by those who had the luck to eat there (which of course came either PURE last-minute or the next day when they’re gone). Combine this with the blatant lie and lack of apology/acknowledgement I received concerning the jazz band last year, and I can’t help but feel this entire attitude towards potential customers is nothing but disrespectful and insulting. Thus only letting those “lucky” enough to live near them or just happen by them to get the chance to sample. Whether it’s agreed on by others or not, I find this is an issue that not only needs to be brought up but counted towards them as a Food Truck as a whole.

              As such, points shall be taken off, and I myself now hold no interest in going back until they fix this particular point of themselves (I’ve already eaten there once for blog purposes, that’s all I need), and I would ask those who can to do the same.

                        Tally: 43.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

              Hmmmm, what to get what to get, so many things I could suggest… though I guess if I HAD to settle on JUST ONE thing… it’d probably have to be a Waffle! Load it up while you’re at it, get the full experience. If one requires something more portable, getting it plain is cheaper and still very enjoyable. Actually, it’s probably quite the fun idea to get a plain waffle with a cup of their coffee; a great pastry substitute, it’ll make for good dipping and tasty flavor matches.

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              Ignore the Fries; when people go here it’s for one thing and one thing only. Well, two things; this place stands as one of the pinnacles of the “Beverage Stop” for “Food Truck Days” or outings at a Fair. Not many places have such nice beers on display in a mobile setting, and for only $5, that’s not too damn bad.

            Of course, these words are only to be taken into consideration after they’ve started updating their locations once more. I still hold my main opinion that we hold some form of boycott against this truck until then. If they don’t hold any concern in trying to reach out to new customers, I don’t see why we should show any concern in even going there.

Taco Taxi

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http://tacotaximn.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-Taxi/370993642979178?ref=ts&fref=ts 

Main Location: Minneapolis, Markets, Fairs, etc

              With two big, yellow trucks under their name, one seeming to take consistent residence in their Lake Street Kmart location, Taco Taxi hit the street to much acclaim a couple years ago. Not much has slowed down their quickly growing, intense fan base, despite even a lack of twitter or other location updating.

            Their kitchen filled with traditionally-prepared and flavored cuts of Asada, Pastor, and other meats, the Taxi takes these ubiquitous mixes and slings them on top of the masa tortillas for our Taco consumption. Burrito and Quesadilla versions are also offered, but that’s about it. They stick purely to the tortilla-enveloped fillings, only peddling out basic beverages (though, with a traditional Mexican cart, that also means Jarrito sodas).

 

Food: 9

            Any place that uses Masa tortillas can’t be so bad now can they? (well, maybe Sassy… but that was everything ELSE)

           The fillings are fantastically flavored; SO disappointingly, they did not have any more Cabeza (Beef Cheek) when I visited, which I so wanted to try. Oh well, that proves how good it is. Went for a Pastor (Pork) and Asada (Steak) instead; of course with “onion-tomato-cilantro,” as all Tacos should be gotten with. The meat itself is all tender, all juicy, with a very tasty, semi-spicy glaze. A squirt of lime on top, and one has a very traditional, very delicious taco right in the palm of your hand (or plate).

           And since I’m guessing they use the same fillings for their Burritos and Quesadilla, this particular bliss on the taste buds is sure to transfer over to them as well.

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Holdability: 6.5

            Well, they load the tacos up pretty well with the fillings, thus overflow is more than just a possibility. They DO practice the “two tortilla” rule, which is fantastic, only… it’s not quite as successful here. For whatever reason, the tortillas stick together a bit, so when one attempts to separate it just ends up tearing, forcing us to use both at the same time. Add this to serving the tacos on a cheap paper plate, and the idea of travelling continues to reduce further in comparison to other Taco Trucks.

           Burritos and Quesadillas should provide better options for walking and containment.

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Price: 9.5

            An amazing price for tacos, setting at $2 per taco; and with Burritos and Quesadillas at $8, one could spend the same amount for 4 separate, differently-filled tacos. Considering how much they fill these suckers up, it creates quite the deal, as to be expected by the traditional Mexican background.

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Speed: 9

            Though not as “instantaneous” as other trucks, the wait was noticeably quicker with the simple manufacturing. Not sure how this would translate exactly with Burritos and Enchiladas, though I expect the wait would still be anything but lengthy. When done ordering from the Tiny Window slit, they can move over to the OTHER tiny window slit, just a foot away, for Pickup.

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The TOE: 9.5

           A very traditional, well-known Food Truck formula; I always find it hard to even think about this separate little world without picturing a small group of guys like these, just handing out plates of simple, delicious tacos out of some tiny van. The Taco Taxi easily brings up the same feelings as one might experience walking down the Street of an old Mexican villa, a taco stand providing lunch for the day. All wrapped up in a shiny yellow Taxi décor. I’m not sure what else more I can contribute to this, it simply is what it is: a Food Truck.

                      Tally: 43.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            When one can find it, definitely an ideal Truck for all situations; Foodies, those needing something filling, taking back to office (Quesadilla), low on cash or taking part in a “Food Truck Day” (multiple stops, always fun! Make a complete meal out of it all!), etc. I can definitely see why Taxi has garnered such a wide reputation already, and am looking forward to how this may grow in the near future.

            Tacos are of course a must, especially since they allow one to try the various proteins. If looking to spend $8, I would certainly suggest just getting 4 different tacos from here for a really fun and filling lunch. If needing something more portable for a walk-n-munch, though, definitely NEED to get a Burrito; tacos usually need to some sitting. Not sure how the Quesadilla is, but with these fillings, I’d say it’s one of the better in the cities.

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            As far as the fillings go, there really is very little factors to differentiate quality between the various meats. It’s mostly based on personal preference. However, I still hold my opinion, and I think everyone who goes here HAS to get the Cabeza Cheek Meat! Cheek is ALWAYS an amazing and flavorful cut, and so rarely seen in most places. Though I’m not quite sure what differentiates the Cabeza “Beef” and Cabeza “Cheek”… maybe it’s just a way to trick those who don’t pay attention to the Spanish name, haha.  

Ruhland’s Strudel Haus

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http://www.thestrudelhaus.com/

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruhlands-Strudel-Haus/140150702705441

Main Location: Markets, Fairs, etc

           Inspired to try and make it big at the State Fair, Tom Ruhland, who had been working with pastry at the time, first started to make apple strudel. Though his original plans at the yearly artery-clogger festival fell through, that didn’t stop him in getting behind the wheel to spread the caramelly delight. Now, after picking up a concession trailer in 2002, they can be found trucking around to various events and fairs throughout MN.

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          As one can tell, Ruhland’s Strudel Haus specializes in, well, Strudal. Evolving from the original Caramel Apple, they now offer both Sweet and Savory versions, the latter including items such as Spinach-Artichoke, Chicken Marinara, and Brat n Saurkraut. Much like any other Fair-like Trailer, there’s also the generic selection of lemonade, floats, and other drinks.

          Ever growing, Ruhland’s has added various Farmer’s Markets to their venues; instead of the Truck, however, they bring a freezer filled with pre-formed, frozen logs of their various selections to bring home and cook yourself. This makes a fun opportunity for the customer, however it can be difficult differentiate it from the Truck when figuring out their schedule. When looking at their schedule via website, best to stick with the “Concession” for better luck.

         I also hear they have plans to get their Strudels into stores (think they already have a few).

 

Food: 6

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           Let’s start with what I got; to me and my cousin’s extreme disappointment, the Caramel Apple was sold out at the time (you could see Tom working on a whole group of them in the background). So instead we got one of the seasonal specials, a “Triple Berry Cream-Cheese” for our sweet and a Bratwurst-Sauerkraut for the savory test. Let me just start off saying that the fillings were pretty darn tasty and satisfying, just like a good homemade pie.

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           The pastry used was good; a bit disappointingly, they use the same kind for both sweet and savory, would have been nice to see an extra element of specialized dough. They also don’t actually make it themselves, but have it specially prepared by “Best Brands” to their specification; which is smart, considering the volume they need (these strudels are pretty big before cutting, and they do have farmers markets to sell to as well) and the difficulty any decent pastry dough can be.

           Despite its craft and tastiness, though, it isn’t real strudel dough; strudel dough is a special, delicate thing stretched over an entire table and carefully rolled into a single, almost braid-like bundle. The pastry here is cut into large rectangles, stuffed, and rolled over simply. I understand this is a difficult, delicate art, which is why I understand and don’t mind if restaurants get away with it; but when one has any business based purely around Strudel, think they may have to rethink their strategy.

           Now… there’s something in particular I REALLY want to say about the food, or at least about a certain item we got. Before I continue, as you can see from this picture, the edge of the order shelf is filled with fun, framed pictures of their menu items. I myself sorta like this, it allows one to see what they’re in store for without wondering if the display is tacky or not. Well, getting on with it, here’s the picture they use for the Brat n Krat:

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           It comes time when they are about to garnish it, and ask me if I want the mustard on top or side. Of course, I love any good German flavors (why I ordered in first place), especially with a little Dijon or other stoneground mustard, which this picture quite clearly displays. So, of course I want it right on top, my lips already wet from my tongue in anticipation, and what do I get?

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           A big, wet drizzle of cheap, generic, mass-produced yellow crap. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, I don’t mind yellow mustard really, it’s nice in the right situations. But when you have a picture that clearly shows the use of a certain kind of product, then one either uses that, something better, or apologize and serve with nothing at all. Not the most generic thing one can find; which, sadly, doesn’t seem to just ring true for the Brat dish, following this with a big dollop of pasty hummus on top of their Artichoke-Spinach. Not even home-made, I think it was Saba… or some other generic. Ice cream, as one would expect of a truck that feels like it belongs at the Fair, is of similar quality, though at least it’s always good with warm chunks of pastry and pie filling.

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Holdability: 6

           Cut into a notable square and placed in a basket with whatever toppings match, this is already not a handheld food option. Add that up to a wrap of pastry that, though flaking nice on top, has a bottom layer that is quite plastic fork-resistant, making for a bit of an annoying struggle. Other than that, it’s not too difficult to walk around with it and stay clean.

Price: 7

            Like this score, all strudels are $7 even; various drinks and such reminiscent also reminiscent to the Fair in price too!

Speed: 3

            This point is, simply and purely, very frustrating. Before I continue, let me say that the wait isn’t actually any longer than the usual wait one finds at a regular truck, such as Vellee or MO. However, considering the fact that ALL they have to do is cut off a piece of the strudel, all the available ones of which are ready to go and kept warm, and then simply top it with whatever (a drizzle of mustard, dollops of hummus or marinara, scoop of ice cream, etc), the few minutes spent just leisurely and casually going about this is unacceptable. Especially when there was a line forming behind me, and no one took another order the entire time, that is until there was trouble with my credit card and the front person passed it onto Tom in the back (finally freeing her hands). And no, this experience wasn’t just limited to me; I had to spend a few minutes behind two women myself, and I think that was midway through the whole thing.

           It’s just unacceptable.

The TOE: 5

           It feels like what it is: a stand that tried out for the State Fair but ended up working the streets. At the very least they retain that fun feeling of specialty, that one goes here for one thing and one thing only (and possibly something to drink), and it’s not something one naturally finds everywhere, increasing the specialty. However, with the design, menu, intent, etc, one wonders if they can’t just go to the fair this year and find some easy substitute.

          Maybe if they fixed the false advertising issue of their pictures and actually work on not taking their sweet time on the order, the other stuff might not matter so much.

                      Tally: 27/50

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Final Thoughts

            If you want a strudel, find them at a market where you can just buy a big frozen one to bring home. Don’t have to wait in line annoyingly, can get a lot more for what’s probably a better price, and can top it with whatever you want (like really GOOD ice cream).

            As far as strudels to choose, definitely go for the Caramel Apple; we weren’t able to try it, but it’s the oldest and has the most practice and reputation in it, so I’m positive it’s good. Plus, a fun little substitute for apple pie at home. Though, all of the sweet strudels are of similar deliciousness, them using quality local ingredients in their fillings. As for the savory, the only one that seems worthy is the Brat n Kraut; the other two are probably decent too, but in a generic fashion. At least the Brat really brings in all that rich, sour German flavors that go so well with the pastry dough (like a good meat pie… which reminds me, all meat pies need sauerkraut from now on).

            If one feels they have to visit the stand, all right; I suggest doing it when there’s not too much of a line (unless they fix their speed issue). Though, if you’re lucky, there’s probably better and more suitable dessert trucks around.

Sun, Food, and Artwork

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           This weekend in NE saw quite the flood of bands, people, and food as the Minnesota Art-a-Whirl kicked off. With specific goals in sight, I headed down early Saturday, taking full advantage of the unexpected hours of sunlight (all day warnings for rain, and we don’t get a lick of it after the morning). With me to spend time roaming around and chowing on food was of course my awesome cousin Kyle.

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            That’s him making another goofy face when I asked him to pose.

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            First stop was of course Casket Arts, hosting Franconia Sculpture Park and Guerilla Furniture Designs, but more importantly it was the site of the two trucks at the very top of my “Most Wanted” hunting list: Taco Taxi and Waffle Van/L’etoile du Nord.

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            To my oh-so-happy surprise, these weren’t the ONLY Trucks on my hunting list I got to visit. Parked in the lot just in front of Casket was Ruhland’s Strudel Haus, that State Fair-looking white behemoth that’s oh-so difficult to figure out when they’re not appearing as the “Farmer’s Market Stand” (where they just sell frozen, whole streudals from a big ice box).

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            Suffice it to say reviews of all three shall be coming in down the week.

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            Of course it’s not a big, area-wide event without various bands in marked-off, wrist-band-required areas. Indeed, 612, and Anchor Fish and Chips all had hosting duties, along with at least one food truck for their hungry guests (612 had both Melch AND MO, quite the combo). Anchor obviously hosted itself, with Indeed bringing in a Beer Truck alongside Gastro.

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            Then of course there was the art. I would love to attempt to recall and put into words the various things places I stopped at, but there are many people who are much more qualified and skilled at doing that for events such as this. I’ll just stick to my Food Trucks, and for now here’s a few other pictures I took of cool things (Like a old jazz band traveling the sidewalk!).

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            Sadly, I did not have the chance to visit my beloved glass blowers, they were just too far away from the main NE area to walk, which I would have had to do as I took advantage of the Free Bus Ride system vs driving. Oh well, maybe next year.

Emconada

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https://www.facebook.com/emconada.cateringroom?fref=ts   

Main Location: Minneapolis

             One of the best things about Street Food cultures; whether it be Bazaars, Food Trucks, or the various State Fair set-ups; is innovation. Only in these situations does one see people create weird, unique, tasty little things that would probably never even be considered to grace the menu of a restaurant, purely as it has no use outside of the streets. Whether it be on a stick, in a cone, or sandwiched between two donuts, it’s hard to argue that some of the greatest, and sometimes just plain bizarre, food creations have happened on the road.

            Sad to say, though, these particular offerings don’t come out too often within the regular Food Truck lineup (though they do seem to hold 50% of the State Fair culinary backbone). But after much a wait, Emconada Catering has hit the street, filling one of the Marquette line-ups with their “Empanadas in a Cone” (as their mantra goes).

            As one can imagine, I was quite curious as to what form this might take during my original spotting of them. And I think I can safely say I find no disappointment in how they’ve chosen to transform this Latin staple. Instead of the original stuff-n-fry (ugh, sounds like a really lame sex move), the traditional dough is shaped and fried into a familiar cone. Once done, the packages are held for service, ready to be filled with either Chicken or Seafood mixes and served with a Salad and/or Spanish rice.

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             Serving out of their big orange trailer box, various pictures of menu items festooned across the menu, Em certainly makes themselves known on Marquette. Not least of all with half of their backdoor completely wide open, making for a really great and fun view of the entire kitchen as they work, and also offering a smart way to cool down on a hot day (if you haven’t guessed already, those trucks can get HOT on a good day).

            Overall, not too bad a visit for a place I was literally running down the street after a little over a week ago.

 

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Food: 7.5

              A fun surprise was found in the chicken filling for my emconada; my expectations were somewhat low on what seemed a pile of cooked and shredded meat. Happily, I was found wrong, with the chicken being of a good texture and having notable seasoning from lime and probably some other flavors. However, I still find just a pile of shredded chicken, even flavorful, feels lacking, and wish they had mixed in some extra elements, like a rich stewed vegetable mix or relish or whatever. As for the Seafood mix, which I didn’t have the chance to have, it’s a mix of Clam, Shrimp (I think), and something else I couldn’t make out; but it’s Mom’s recipe apparently, and it looks and sounds really good.

             Empanada dough is decent, not bad at all, though overall it doesn’t stand out. This is mainly due to the cooking process, where the dough is for once fried from both inside and out, so the interplay of crisp out to softer in is much lessened. This also leads to a consistency that is more likely to crumble, which is actually sort of fun at the end, cuz you get to mix the leftover meat, dough, salsa, and rice all together.

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            Speaking of which, the rice is a clearly better side than salad, even in their pictures it looks limp; but that doesn’t mean it’s all much to think about. Sort of sticky, not too much flavor to it, sort of the Spanish version of generic fried rice.

            A word on the Salsa/Hot Sauce – don’t be afraid to get Hot, the Medium is pretty mild even for me (believe me, that’s saying something).

Holdability: 7

              The potential that they hold in this category is extraordinary; history upon history of ice cream service has proven the wonderful abilities of the cone (not to mention Japanese Tamake… which Sushi Fix STILL hasn’t added to their menu!!! AHH!!!). However, this potential gets tossed over the shoulder as not a single one of their menu choices allows for buying the product as-is. Every single option requires at least one side of rice or salad, thus subjugating this possibly perfect and fun item into a basket.

             I don’t have too much against the basket itself, it’s not a difficult one to eat from, especially since one can eat the cone with hand. Plus, with the particular way they make the cone, one does benefit with the basket; I found a noticeable amount of my chicken ended up falling from the rim, with the shell crumbling near the end. Plus, if they sold the pair of emconadas as-is, then one would need to battle with holding two separate cones at the same time.

            So how do we solve this issue? Quite simple, both of them are a result of the size made for these cones; it’s not big enough that the filling required to make it tasty all stays in, nor for them to create a viable option of only selling one. As such, I think there’s a fantastic opportunity to create, on the side (not saying they should get rid of these smaller cones, I’m assuming they’re the easiest size for them to create), some larger sized cones which they can sell one at a time. Thus would create an easy, clean, fun (and as we’ll see below, affordable) little handheld addition to our Street Food lineup. Just need to have the hot sauce in squirt bottles next to the window for ease of addition.

           Final note, other menu options of just filling mixtures and salads are, obviously, purely basket-fork affairs, but at least not as messy as other basket-focused items which I’ve seen in other trucks.

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Price: 6.5

           Various combo dishes which range from $7.50-$9.50, ultimately staying in the sorta high area of Food Truck prices without offering any lower deal items. Much like my issue with holdability, I don’t quite understand why they don’t offer the choice to only buy the emconada. In this example, it would offer a better deal for those only looking to sample, form a more complete menu, and ultimately create a better feeling to the customers upon reading over the selection.

Speed: 9.5

            An ice-cream cone filled with meat, Em has created a fantastic product for quick-service needs in those long lines (you know, assuming there aren’t any of those inconsiderate groups of inconsiderate talking businessworkers in front who just stand there when it’s obviously their turn in line). Just requiring the action of filling the cone with pre-made mix, adding the side, it makes for a short wait.

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The TOE: 8

             There’s a REALLY great feeling that you get when going here, just centered around the fun and wonder of trying this new, mysterious little orange box. It was so refreshing being able to go somewhere that I can DISCOVER something again; not to knock Trucks that make familiar(ish) and traditional(ish) foods, they have their own amazing qualities, just on a different end of the spectrum.

              Now, all they need to do is get rid of the all-combo-basket idea and introduce options for just the cone, maybe get a couple more fillings (which I’m sure they will in time), and they can finally get RIGHT to that perfect point so many others have successfully reached.

                       Tally: 38.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Definitely a truck for Foodies and those starting to explore the Food Truck scene; also a viable option for those needing their lunch quick.

            Currently not too many options to pick and choose from, making choices easier. The salads don’t even count in my opinion; I still pity those people who go all the way out to a Food Truck JUST to get a salad (I mean really, people? That’s not a Food Truck experience; if you need something healthy or vegetarian there are quite a few options that still stick to it).

            Seafood seems to be the more interesting of the two fillings so far, and is definitely what one should try first! If they still don’t adjust the menu so one can just buy the cone, which is the only option I would ever suggest for customers, then grab the Spanish Rice, the mixed greens don’t look good at all, even in their pictures.

Art-a-Whirl 2013!!

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           The 18th annual Art-a-Whirl is this weekend, heralding in an onslaught of open galleries, set-up tents, artwork demonstrations, bands, and, yes you guessed it (I am reporting it after all), Food Trucks.

            Completely taking over the entire Nordeast area of Minneapolis from Friday to Sunday (times listed on websites), this event highlights a wide patchwork of our many local artists and businesses, displaying their lives and work in nearby parks and studios, while at the same time celebrating their many efforts and graces around the bar scene. To make any attempt in even a semi-complete description of what this weekend means, as well as their many scheduled events and studio openings, would only end up as a complete failure and a pure form of insult towards the obvious hard work and long hours put into this huge, complexly varied weekend.

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            As such, for those who are still unaware and/or would like to learn more about this weekend, here are a couple useful sites. Besides event listings, the main website for Art-a-Whirl also contains a detailed area map with highlights on studios, restaurants, information booths, etc. I very much enjoy the Facebook listings, they highlight some really fun events (I am so going to hit those glass-blowing demonstrations they listed!).

http://nemaa.org/art-a-whirl

https://www.facebook.com/ArtAWhirl?directed_target_id=0

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            With such a large, locally advertised event such as this, one can likely expect our gang of Trucks to be out in full force, lining the various streets around these soon-to-be trafficked areas. And, if for some reason this thought holds untrue, the scene downtown should at least be clogged the hours before to catch the Lunch traffic as many get ready to traverse this maze of local exhibits.

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            There is one thing I do know, originally brought me to look into the coming weekend, that being the official parking of two of our more update-quiet mobile operations: The Waffle Van and Taco Taxi. I myself have been searching intently to try both of these trucks for a long time; it almost feels like there’s a little War between me and Waffle. But with both of them parking at Casket Art’s Indoor Gallery(https://www.facebook.com/events/168761189953040/), basing from Franconia Sculpture Park’s City event, us Minnepolis-based Foodies finally get the chance to pounce on both of them at once. For me, the only question now is WHEN they’ll be there… from the facebook post, one would assume all 3 days, full-time. However with my past history of Waffle Van, one can never be too sure if they’ll actually stick to these schedules. Friday is most likely a surety, though I may have to take the risk and attempt the rest of the weekend.

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            Well, I’d go on, but that would just be a bunch (well, a bunch MORE) of random rambling I’m sure none of you want to listen to. So I’ll wrap with this: for the many artists and bands on display, Thank You for all your work, I speak for many when I say we look forward to seeing you this weekend. To the many people able to go down this Weekend, have fun and enjoy yourselves fully. And to everyone, Good Luck, and Good Eating!   

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Falafel King

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(No useful links one can use for updating Truck location)

Main Location: Minneapolis

            With a group of 3 storefronts already under their belt, Foxy Falafel makes its entrance into the Food Truck scene in the season of 2013. Those familiar with the popular café will find no surprise in their Middle Eastern-based cuisine, using many of the same items listed on their non-mobile menu.

            As name suggests, Falafel forms the main grace of the menu, standing next to that other Mid-Eastern favorite in the US, the Gyro. A small plethora of other items fill the rest of the menu, from Hummus dip to Greek Salad, from Shawirma to Philly Cheese Sandwiches, Combo Platters, even two burgers (one Lamb, the other “Falafel”).

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           The menu itself reads much like Holy Land at the State Fair, covered in semi-gaudy pictures of Mediterranean fair with bright blue descriptor boxes hanging below. Lucky for most customers, though, they don’t have to worry about accidentally ingesting lamb testicles at King.

 

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Food: 7

             I myself went for that intriguing Falafel Burger. In terms of the namesake, the outer shell was very nice, crunchy and thick without any sense of burning, with a fluffy inside standing up to it nicely. They make the burger much like how one envisions; one larger, flat patty of the falafel; at first I thought they just fried a few and smushed them all on a burger bun, but that was just the big flakes of crispy shell. The toppings, however, all have this feeling of mediocrity; cheap tomatoes and lettuce, basic flat burger bun… tatziki was decent though. When gotten all together, though, it made for a very nice, tasty mouthful; at least when you CAN get it all together, halfway through most of the toppings went in my stomach (see Holdability).

           On my visit, they also had a sample tray of their hummus, “spicy sauce” (an oil of herbs and spices, which I also had on the burger, which was nice), and the fried pita sticks used for dipping. Hummus was smooth, very pleasant traditional flavors, a nice enjoyable version. With this and the falafel, one can safely assume many of the Middle Eastern-based items are likely to retain the similar level of pleasant quality.

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           Other dishes make me highly cautious of not only flavor but their reason for being on the menu: Philly Steak and Chicken, a Lamb Burger which looks like a Mcdonald’s commercial on a bad day, and an oddly unadorned Garlic Chicken. Maybe they’re good, but this sense of odd dubiousness is why, as mentioned in Motley’s review, I rarely if ever suggest grabbing Philly Steak sandwiches from ANYWHERE outside of the actual city.

Holdability: 6

            Highly variable depending on the item. The Falafel Burger I got, even with a solid foil wrap around its base to hold, was quite the messy beast; not to mention I basically consumed all the yogurt and tomatoes in the first half of eating, leaving the latter just falafel, bun, and lettuce. Regular Falafels and Gyros are of course going to be very easy to on-the-go, though it seems they may pack them with sides of sauces and possible other things. Then there are the salads and platters, which are likely to hang in the category of “take it back to the office/park/etc.”Then there are the spreads, set in the side of a to-go box with Pita Sticks to dip, sort of in the middle for walkability. As I believe the real focal point of this long menu centers around the falafels, gyros, and possibly burgers, I’ve made the choice to score them slightly higher than mid-way.

Price: 9.5

            Easily one of, if not THE, best point. Entreee items range from $5-$9, and that’s only due to the $9 combo plates. Most sandwiches stay around the $7/$8 range. An extra dollar can be added for sides of Fries and Rice, though considering the type and quality of place I would highly recommend steering from either (much better fries in other trucks), so I don’t even count it. Two Baklava desserts are also offered at $2.75.

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Speed: 7.5

             Also highly variable and dependant. Gyros are likely to be particularly quick along with salads, spreads, and other pre-made products, while the falafel and burgers can be a while. The Falafel burger took a noted amount of time. 

The TOE: 4

              Though many of the main items fit the “street food” mantra pretty well, it’s difficult to visit here without one feeling that they just walked into the actual Mid-Eastern café. The menu simply has too many items on it, and though pictures of the food could be a nice addition if done right, here it just feels tacky and exponentially grows the “Café” feeling.

            Which is really disappointing, as I actually like the idea of the “Falafel Burger;” unintentionally (one can’t help but feel this was created in the restaurant as another menu item, with little to no thought towards the actual Truck), I believe they have introduced an amazing concept for a unique Food Truck item. A traditional dish molded into the form of another local favorite which has proven to hold a high potential for handheld street eating. Sad to say, though, their version could really use a lot of improvement, and does not illicit near the levels of excitement as the original idea.

            If they were to probably fix this item to a more holdable and flavor-focused (again, it’s still very good, but maybe a few titches in size, spice, and toppings) version, along with scaling down the extensive menu to purely Street Food-Accessible items (seriously, ditch the salads and combo platters… also that philly sandwich, don’t see what that has to do with Mid-Eastern fare), they could quite easily be transformed into one of the better trucks in the city. Not to mention actually pose a chance at actually competing with Foxy Falafel (sorry, had to bring them up at least once in this review, and I wish I could have done it on a more positive note).

                      Tally: 34/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            If in Minneapolis for lunch and craving for that Mid-Eastern style, this is a good Truck to stop by. Any Money-concious foodie would find a lot of delight in the Falafel Burger, so long as they don’t need to eat while walking. The simple, traditional items are the best to focus on outside of this: Falafels, Gyro, and Lamb Burger, even the Hummus and Baba Ghanoush if one wants to walk and dip.

            As for anything else, I wouldn’t even consider it unless one already planned on bringing food back to someplace they can sit down. Even at that point I’m unsure this is the best location (though the Combos offer a good way to try multiple aspects of the menu). Overall, though, after trying the mains, I would suggest not even bothering with the Truck until they take actual steps to improve their Street Food focus.

            Something tells me some readers may not let me leave here alive without doing this, so here it goes: Foxy vs King, Falafel on Falafel, my suggestion. It’s very close (prices are the same), but here are my thoughts: King’s quality of Crunchy Outside and Fluffy In is probably a bit higher than Foxy’s, however Foxy truly delivers the effort in creating 3 separate, very quality flavors. In terms of the basic falafel, Foxy’s stays on the lighter, fresher herb-focused flavors, while the traditional, cumin-based spices come out very noticeably in King. As such, I would point one to King when looking for the pure, simple, traditional flavors and style Falafel, King edges out Foxy’s just a bit. On any other kind of experience, most Foodie’s would agree, Foxy clearly outshines the competition.