Jellybean & Julia’s

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http://www.jellybeanandjulias.com/  

https://twitter.com/jellybeanjulias  

Main Location: Etc

            With an Anoka-based Deli found in the basement of a building on Main, Jellybean & Julia’s rolled onto the Streets late last year. Though most of us central Food Truck goers may be unaware of this considering how much off the beaten track they usually are. With their main Truck-sites revolving around wide-distance Wineries, and other stops with similarly-far locations, visiting the mobile operation requires a lot of either luck or dedication. I myself only found the chance to try them during an “Anoka Sidewalk Show” (which I am… relatively close to, at least compared to Goose Lake) where they parked out front of their Deli.

            A big black truck with bright pink and electric-blue logos reminiscent of certain artificially-colored candies, the imagery of the van much belies their actual menu. Kept simple for the often un-truck-seeing wineries (I’m guessing), the stark white marker board offers a couple un-complex Burgers (Cheese and Loaded), a Pulled Pork, and two Bacon-centric items (one being a Wrapped Hot Dog, the other a Grilled Cheese). All of which one can get with a side of Fries. From what I garnered from the Chef/Server, this is basically THE set menu, with little to no other changes or additions.

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            Oh, and not to be dissuaded from a lack of detail, they DO sell the Mexican Bottled Coke! I myself didn’t know that with the menu only saying “coke,” so I figured I’d at least help spread the awareness.

Food: 6

            With a limit of only one item for me that day (had a party later, I so didn’t need to eat multiple things beforehand), I limited myself to the Loaded Burger and a side of Fries. About a 1/3lb patty I believe, this little fella is topped with Cheese, Bacon (both a given), Grilled Onions and a Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise.

            Bun is toasted very nicely, and both the burger and toppings offer a moist juiciness to the palette. It ultimately is a good and enjoyable burger, however this comes in a very simple, average fashion; it’s the kind of burger one expects to find in a pub or bar. It’s definitely a good burger, with little real flaws, but again there is nothing in it that makes me really wish to rave and express the quality. Sort of like a Patty Melt… it’s all juicy and tasty and good, but really that doesn’t have too much to do with the actual burger quality.

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             Fries are highly unimpressive; though hand cut, or BECAUSE of it, they’re all soft and highly salted. I can’t tell if they’re fried only once or just not done all that well twice. They are sorta nice dipped into the Bourbon-Apple-BBQ sauce they have in the giant pump outside (though they really need the tart, sweet ketchup); would probably do well on the burger too.

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Holdability: 9

           Gotten without Fries, items seem to be easy enough to handle, sandwiches and dogs wrapped in foil to consume with one hand or two if needed.

Price: 8.5

            $6-8 for the bigger items, and a $4 Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog, the prices here are overall pretty fair and decent for the products; at least no obvious overcharging.

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Speed: 7.5

             Average speed.

The TOE: 3

              Amazingly Underwhelming… that’s just about the only two words I can think of to sum this up. I am so… disappointed in what I finally found, after months of trying to get to them. It’s not even that the menu is so boring, it’s how it compares to their actual Deli. You go to their site, you see all the things they offer from their original brick-n-mortar business; they have Paninis, and Wraps, Cupcakes, and other really delicious, tasty things, like something called the “Heart Attack.” All of these items, so perfect for a Food Truck, so EASY for them to be able to produce in that small area; they’re already doing the prep somewhere else. And how fun and awesome would it to be to finally have a truck that specializes in both sandwiches AND cupcakes?

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             But no… they serve a couple burgers and a grilled cheese, things that aren’t even on their original menu. It baffles me to think of how this decision came to be. Though however it did, this is nonetheless the final result, an odd contrast to the amusing and fun name and Truck design.

             I will say this; I can see it’s a good thing they stick to the outskirt events as opposed to the main downtown Truck venues. I don’t see how they’d survive otherwise.

                         Tally: 34/50

Final Thoughts

            IF one ever finds themselves going here, say if you’re at a winery and hungry, then I would probably say go for the Loaded Burger or Bacon Grilled Cheese. They griddle the bread and things nicely. Other than that, just go to their Deli; it’s a lot more fun and has better items… though it’s only open from 10-2.

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Rally Recap

With a busy weekend and class, it’s been a few days since I was able to get to my posts, so I apologize for the slow update.

 

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            Well, the 1st of what hope to be many MN Food Truck Association Rallies have come and gone, and to quite the success in my opinion!

            The overall day itself wasn’t the best; they claimed beforehand that they’d stick out rain or shine, and it seemed the former decided to put them to the test. I know I speak for all those out on the streets that day in expressing my flustered surprise at the blanket of grey clouds on what was supposed to be a fully dry, sunny day. Luckily it didn’t rain too hard, though the medium drizzles and lighter WERE quite persistently on-and-off wherever I seemed to go.

            But the Trucks got through this easily, much like the happy crowd who was able to come out. This led to the first appreciated surprise of the day; the crowds weren’t actually CROWDS. Despite the plethora of Trucks shoved into one parking lot, the actual lines coming out of them were… well, in many cases inexistent, or at least small; very much unlike the past 2 experiences at the yearly “Food Truck Fair.” That is not to say there was nobody there and eating, just that they weren’t all jammed in front of the iron behemoths.

            Though whether this was due to the actual plans and strategies of the Association or if the rain simply segued attendance enough so the crowd-issue didn’t appear, either way the result of the day was a much calmer, easier, actually ENJOYABLE event for us to take advantage of. Success is finally here for the large Truck Gatherings, and it wasn’t purely from chance.

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            Despite the relatively small space, as opposed to the blocks that Food Truck Fair uses, the overall lot still boasted a decent square footage, enough for them to actually plant tables and a tent in the middle. This allowed people to not only escape from the rain but actually sit DOWN with their Beer and Food; that is, when they weren’t heading back to the actual tap room area to sit and listen to music. The actual strategy here marks the first success in reducing those annoying lines; by giving multiple places for people to actually move to and spend time, we don’t have EVERYONE just hopping from one Truck Line to another, creating those crowds which garner the psychological need to get in there as soon as possible (even with food one just purchased somewhere else) to eat before closing.

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            Which is another thing; this was a nice, lengthy 10-hour event, double the time of the 5-hour Fairs of past. Though I didn’t stick around the whole time, or even arrive when opened, I’m quite sure there were many who came and went throughout the prescribed times. I’m sure the whole list of different bands helped with this as well, along with their sweet sweet siren music of course.

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            As for the Trucks themselves, having more is always better; even with my worry of the number in this enclosed space, one can’t help but argue that a number of trucks allows lines to divide and shorten for the customers which go; which once again have been much reduced in a minute-to-minute factor from the previous two discussed reasons.

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            Though we didn’t exactly have as many as wanted… which leads to my only annoyance of the event. It seems 4 of the Trucks decided to cancel either last-minute or the day beforehand, including that one at the top of my current Hunting List A La Plancha (the other 3 to cancel were Moral, Bloomy’s, and House of Hunger). The reason, supposedly, is that all or most of them decided that they weren’t capable of handling a 10-hour event like this, whether it was due to amount of product they had or simply the labor effort of staying out that long. Which leads me to 2 very important things I would like to say in response: first off, if you’re going to cancel on an event like this, THEN TELL US! Not a single one of these trucks actually updated Facebook or Twitter on the fact that they WEREN’T coming to the Rally they said they would. And that’s another thing; all of these Trucks officially said they would do this at least 1-2 weeks in advance (otherwise the Association, which they are PART of, wouldn’t have put them on the list of 12 trucks I’m sure); you should KNOW ahead of time exactly what kind of event it’s going to be, as well as what your general schedule is like (look at a Taproom’s truck schedule, it’s usually filled at least a month in advance). If your truck is unable to handle that sort of event, then you shouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place; and if you DO agree, then suck it up and go; if you run out you run out, if you have to end early then you do, at least you went and tried. Of course, special circumstances that force one unable to get on the streets is understandable, but that seemingly wasn’t the case here, so a rant is where I go.

            I should probably apologize a bit, I’m sure part of why I’m a touch more annoyed than usual is due to a last-minute cancelling of Tollefson Family’s Cart at Fulton, which I had drove to earlier to finally try and get them. And now my hunt for them continues…

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            As for the Trucks that did make it, we of course had AZ Canteen, R.A. Mac Sammies, Midnord Empanada, Potter’s Pasties, Lulu’s Street Food, Gogi Bros., Brava on Wheels, and Hot Indian Foods, all lined up around the edge like a delicious cage. I myself got the chance to try Gogi’s Tiger Balls!

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            Damn those are big balls… sticky too (I need to stop…). I thought they were quite yummy and tasty, with a nice, rich spice to them from the sauce, and of course a crispy crust and soft, tender inside. I only wish there was more Kimchi though… I’m sure they probably got a lot of the “flavor” of it in, but if you say “kimchi rice balls” then I sort of expect a lot of those actual fermented veggies just stuffing the mixture. Not that I’m gonna complain about the gooey pepperjack center and pork studding it, but the kimchi (from a visual perspective) seems not just an afterthought, but nonexistent. Still delicious though.

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            Oh, and they got the decal on their van! Wooh!

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            Where to go next was actually a tough decision for me, but I settled on Hot Indian; not only haven’t I actually HAD a full burrito yet, I still hadn’t tried the Spinach Paneer… so I took care of both of those! And wow, I thought the Roti was just for the tacos; they make big ones for the burritos too, awesome! Yeah, these guys are still total Food Truck personified. And of course it’s delicious; I think I actually enjoyed it more than their meat-based stews, which isn’t surprising, Veggie-based Indian dishes are always so good.

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            No beer for me that day, sadly; maybe if I was able to stick around longer, but the person I was meeting that day had to cancel and I had to get somewhere afterwards. Speaking of which, I didn’t actually see any specific items listed to pair well with the beers… maybe you had to ask about it, but oh well, I myself didn’t mind that too much. Though I saw the band play for a bit and took a look at the fun menu they had. Speaking of which, snapped a couple picks of some truck menus that did a little changy and update since last I saw them.

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            Whether they dodged a bullet due to bad weather or enjoyed success from actual planning, the MN Food Truck Association kicked off their first Rally in a noticeably positive way, and I myself can’t wait for the next one. Whether the weather is the same or better (or worse), I’m sure they shall be there, as shall I to report their attempts at these odds-defying gatherings.

            Until then, Good Luck and Good Eating to all, I hope those who went enjoyed the Rally as much as I did!

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            Also, for a separate and also well-done report on the event, see Here.

SFC: The Great E”scape” to Frying!

             So my sister has recently started doing the weekly Co-op delivery thingy where she gets a giant bag of whatever produce is in season; I’m so proud, it’s such a great thing for her! Well, except for the fact that she just passes off the entire bag to me every single week from her lack of time and will to actually do anything with them… which is great for me!

            Though there is the challenge of trying to get through the entire bag each week… so many things I have to consider how to cook for the family. And then there’s the garlic scapes… so many garlic scapes… every single week.

            Oh, for those who aren’t aware, I should probably explain. When growing, garlic has these long, curly green tops; when cut off, they look like this!

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            Weird, long, curly green snake thingies that are a little bitch to cut… but they taste so good, raw at least. As-is, they basically taste like a Ramp, which tastes like a LITERAL cross of garlic and onion (not the “supposed” cross that shallots are), strong and pungent in the best ways, but mild enough to consume. Either way, I’ve been tossing it in to soups, sautés, salads, frittatas, whatever I can find… cuz I keep getting the damn things! They won’t go away!

            But either way. Been thinking of what to do with my last batch, and realized I haven’t made anything for the blog recently. And with the many fried items monopolizing the classic Street Food items, like the recent popularity of Beer-Battered Asparagus in various Trucks and Restaurants, like Starlight, deep-frying just seemed the way to go.

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            First step was, obviously, cutting these fellas down to size… it may be fun to see an entire thing fried, especially in a restaurant, but I don’t exactly have an industrial-sized pan for frying. Got the main stems and the curlies cut in two. Note: should cut off the long string/cone attached to the “bulb” at the end; there’s no real flesh or anything to it, just string and fiber.

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            Second, we need a batter; I love Tempura, but I didn’t have any club soda… and it’s not real street food if we don’t use some beer! Not to mention I have this giant batch of home-brewed Ginger (flavored) Beer that I haven’t found much use for…

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            See that G? It stands for “God Damn that’s a lot of F@%#in’ carbonation!” Well, that and Ginger… but really the former has held more true. Not exactly my best homebrew, but it works really well for things like this!

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            So, no specific recipe tonight, this batter was a wing-it. Flour, a bit of cornstarch (tempura-tradition), some salt and pepper seasoning as always. Pop the bottle and slowly add in the beer, or other carbonated beverage, until one gets the desired consistency; if too thick, add more, if too thin, get some more flour in there (what I had to do). Dip and fry.

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            Now, I sorta went for a “375F” degree for my frying temperature. Though if working with a small pot-fryer like me, which will easily drop 30-50 degrees (minimum) once adding in a bunch of things, I might suggest starting nearer to 400. Cook until batter gets that nice golden color to it. Transfer to paper towel-covered plate, sprinkle with some more salt and any other seasonings you desire.

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            And here we go, Beer-Battered Garlic Scapes! Now, as you can see, there can be quite a few sections where the batter just slides right off; normally I would say something like “just toss in flour before battering” or whatever to try and fix it, but these scape guy’s “skin” is just SMOOTH and slick, I doubt any flour would want to stick to it.

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            As for the result… taste is good, though MUCH milder than raw (the flavor tends to decrease a lot when one cooks this; which is why frying is sorta perfect, being so quick and minimal). They do tend to be very… I don’t want to say “stringy,” but something sorta similar… so it can be sorta odd trying to eat some of them. I would suggest 1 of 2 things; either blanch them beforehand, try to soften a bit. Or, even better (since I doubt that would really do anything), just cut the damn things smaller than I did. When not having a long piece to try and rip through with teeth, the unique texture is actually sorta fun and interesting.

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            Well, whether one wants to fry or do some garlic scape cookery, hopefully this post can help at least start on one’s path towards delicious! Good luck and good eating! Oh, and if anyone has any interesting Garlic Scape Experiences, do tell!

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            Look! It’s a Garlic Scape Funnel Cake!

1st Annual Great MN Food Truck Rally!

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http://mnfoodtruckassociation.org/events/

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/07/1st_annual_mn_food_truck_rally.php

http://www.harrietbrewing.com/event/the-1st-annual-great-minnesota-food-truck-rally/  

            We’ve all felt it at least once in the past two years; that aching sense of disappointment garnered by the poorly planned, clusterf@#% of the giant Food Truck events. Though it seems some of us have finally had just about enough of sitting around being sad and moved to actually stand up and show what these events could be!

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            That’s right, I’m talking about the very first event of the Great MN Food Truck Rally, set up and organized by our own MN Food Truck Association as a new annual phenomena. Though of course it’s not just annually; described as a “series” of Food Truck Rallies throughout the Twin Cities Metro, it sounds like we can expect more than just the one special gathering in the coming month… you know, so long as they aren’t just putting us on (like that one girl in my chemistry class… -cough-).

            The First and only-listed actual event will be held exactly 7 days from now (… July 27th… a Saturday) from Noon to 10pm (with some/all Trucks supposedly starting service at 2? At least that’s what it says on Harriet’s site) over with their friends and partners at Harriet Brewing! Really turning this into a dual event, this beginning rally will really stand as a showcase to that amazing symbiotic relationship our Trucks and Breweries have created and expanded upon. With food serving, beer pouring and music blasting (oh yes, there SHALL be bands… I mean it’s Harriet after all), each Truck has then set out to highlight/create one special dish to specifically pair well with one of Harriet’s Brews! So if you’re having trouble deciding what to eat, or drink, just see which option/s match your Food or Beer (whichever you grabbed first).

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            Oh, and of course it’s Free to Attend (just need to verify age for a Drinking-wristband); though the Food and Beer are a different story. So don’t be afraid to spend extra money on amazingly delicious drink and dishes, especially since part of the proceeds will be Donated to the Second Harvest Heartland charity.

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            The attending 12 trucks will be: AZ Canteen, R.A. Mac Sammies (god, I haven’t seen them in a while), Midnord Empanada, Potter’s Pasties, Bloomy’s Roast Beef, Lulu’s Street Food, House of Hunger, Gogi Bros., Brava on Wheels, Moral Omnivore, Hot Indian Foods, and A La Plancha (who I am VERY much looking forward to visiting for a review!). A very large and very impressive lineup, one can’t help but feel a bit excited just in seeing who’s there!

            However, this does lead me to my one worry about the event. Anyone who’s familiar with both past-truck-fair experiences and/or the brewery seen has probably caught onto it already, but… Harriet’s not that big of a place. Sure it’s not a small brewery by any means, they even got their own little patio thing set up, but as far as Events go they still come a little under Indeed and 612 as far as space goes. With most of the Trucks, I’m assuming, lining the Street NEXT to Harriet, they may be able to better spread things out, leaving any of the “cluster” for the actual brewery… but there’s still much potential for bad shit going down.

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            And don’t get me started on traffic and parking! I think I heard something about a second lot available for use, but even then I’m still scared to think about how I’ll have to get down there and park…

            But either way, I’ll be there! I’ve got a Truck to review, and I missed the last Fair, so I’m obligated to at least report on this one! And of course I shall do my best to try and keep updated on any of the other upcoming Rallies for us all.

            Until then, Good Luck, Good Eating, and I’ll see you at the Rally!

Sayo Foods and Co.

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http://sayofoods.com/foodtruck.html   

https://twitter.com/sayofoods   

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            It’s been over a year since I’ve last spotted, let alone heard from, Sayo Foods and Co. In fact, my very first (and at the time only) visit was during the premier of our now-annual Food Truck Fair in the summer of 2012. Since that time, the vibrant green truck seemed to have fallen off the map; I was recently just wondering if they had simply stopped, or possibly were taking residence in areas much outside my normal routes of travel and research.

            Then what do I see this Monday on my way to class, with no plans or expectations for mobile eating, but a distinguishingly different pattern in the typical ménage of the Truck Side Quilt. With most of a year of delay from giving birth and figuring out career path, the owner of Sayo has now returned to the streets!

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            Though notable changes have taken place since the long delay, the main staples still revolve around Filipino cuisine. This mainly takes the form of Pulled Pork Asado and Pulled Chicken Adobo items, either sandwiches or, as seen a year ago, Tacos. Though one is quite likely to see other “influences,” such as various Latin items, Greek Gyros, even a Philly, and who knows what else. One major, and somewhat disappointing change, is their disclusion of the “side items;” my first experience seeing a trio of fried calamari, crab balls, and eggrolls. Though the Eggrolls have plans to come back, other cuts have been made; though what other additions and separations are to be made from here are a mystery.

            But for now, here’s wishing them luck in a new, full year in business on the Street!

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Food: 8

             A year ago, I grabbed an order of the Pulled Chicken Adobo Tacos and one of those baskets of Crab Balls; however, despite my desire to attempt to relate them to you, I find the noted time difference and change in menu a little worrisome to review… not to mention they’re no longer there. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to settle for a delicious Pulled Pork (Asado) Sandwich.

             Piled on another one of the overly-popular pretzel buns, which from what I could tell did not get ANY toasting or criping up, sadly. The pork itself has quickly shot up to one of my favorites in its moisture retention and flavor, somewhat near where Racer’s Pork is at. Unlike others, which tend to suffer from the odd phenomenon of a “dry-ish” texture after all the pulling and piling together, Sayo’s meat shows little to no effect to give a nice sandwich base.

             Though of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t still top it with loads of sauce. And they do have quite the selection, seen here:

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             From Left to Right: a simple, tangy BBQ sauce (I think they make it, but it tastes commercial… either way); … ketchup; what looks to be a very dangerous bottle of extra-spicy chili oil, or sauce, or whatever… either way, I suggest you run far away from it; Sirachi; homemade Phillipine Chili sauce; and mustard.   Definitely don’t need much to moisten and flavor up this fella, though I won’t stop you… definitely have to use that Chili sauce, because it is GOOD! Tangy and kitsy (another fake word, yes, but I don’t know what word to use to describe this) and rich, maybe zesty… mmm, get that and some of the BBQ on, found yourself an interesting new version of the Pulled Pork (or Chicken, I’m sure they’re both good).

Holdability: 6.5

            May depend on item, but I’d deposit to say that most sandwiches (the mains) will really need both hands to hold, thus sitting down; particularly the pulled meats. Though future Eggrolls, possible re-appearing Tacos, and current Gyro are likely to not be such an issue.

Price: 8

             All $8! Though I do remember the Tacos were originally offered as less than the sandwiches, so if they return it may be a better deal. Plus I doubt the eggrolls will cost so much, haha.

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Speed: 8

             About average, touch faster with the simple items

The TOE: 6

             Well, they’re still developing, can still sort of see that; I never felt too “excited” with either of my visits. The menu is small, despite advertising in the Filipino concept they carry items that clearly shouldn’t be joining the others, but they’re still there… it still holds the feel of a beginning “catering truck” vs a full-fledged Food Truck.

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                         Tally: 36.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

             I think I would suggest waiting a bit to let them develop and get back into the groove, readjust menu, all that before one actually visits.

             That said, once visiting, I would certainly go for anything of the Pulled Pork/Chicken Variety; the sandwiches are wholesome, though if they ever bring back Tacos or similar, they’re a more affordable option. Once on the menu, should definitely try the Eggrolls, especially as a small snack for sampling or on Food Truck Days.

            Oh, and I would probably ignore the Gyro, Philly, and other similarly odd-placed items; I’m sure they’re good, but as I’ve stated before I rarely ever suggest a Philly outside of the source, and I’ve found Gyros so difficult to fully differentiate in quality outside minor factors, so might as well get them from a place one knows does them properly and right.

B-52 Slider Squad

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https://www.facebook.com/B52SliderSquad   

https://twitter.com/SliderSquad   

Main Location: St. Paul

            The Brainchild of B-52 Burgers and Brew, B-52 Slider Squad takes the obvious mainstay and miniaturizes it for the hungry crowds. Premiering along with various truck-patriots such as Hot Indian and Kabomelette, B-52 comes in to help fill out St. Paul’s obvious need for further new truck growth along with Hibachi.

            Offerings are almost entirely composed of, you guessed it, Sliders… or, “Sliders” (I’ll explain later), and of course the traditionally-accompanying Fries. One can get these in the Traditional Cheese Slider, a Bavarian (Onion and Mustard), a Veggie, and the New-to-the-Menu, and likely to make an appearance throughout the season as they mentioned, Pesto Slider. Besides these, one can also order a couple skewers of Corn Fritters.

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            To tell the truth, I don’t have too much more to say about them than this. Maybe I’m not feelin’ the “preachy” vibes tonight, or maybe they’re just that straightforward of an operation, or maybe I drank a bit more than I should have in my other writings, haha. Either way, think I’m gonna just get right into it tonight.

 

Food: 8

            Well I can’t go here without getting a Slider now can I? So I decided to go for their Bavarian. Though they label it, and a few other items, under “Burger” on the menu, all patties served ARE“Sliders.” I put it in quote as, unlike most sliders one sees in Trucks, White Castle, etc, the patties here are all ¼lbs of deliciousness. Oh yeah, that’s a big slider; though I’m sure there are many who would immediately disallow it from using the term. What I know, though, is that despite the amount used, they’re still pressed into that square patty and shoved into that soft, square, oh so nostalgic slider-like bun, only it’s a bit bigger. Ultimately, one still gets what is for all intents and purposes a slider, even if it’s a little bigger than usual; and hey, it still doesn’t reach the size most of us consider for a PROPER burger anyways.

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           Now, onto the actual quality. The Bavarian, shoved between a special Pretzel Slider Bun and topped with a white onion and some good European mustard, comes with some nice sharp flavors and textures. The bun is soft, toasted a bit but still soft in the middle like it should be. And the meat used is of nice quality, but cooked all the way to well-done, which I guess it probably should for a true slider. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t contain much real qualities of the “omg heavenly” one finds in the best grilled meats, though that’s not to say it’s poor in quality, because it isn’t.

            It’s not the greatest Burgers from a Truck out there, but you won’t be disappointed.

            As for the Fries, I’ve been thinking of a good way to describe them, and I can’t help but be stuck on this one idea. Think of what would happen if McDonalds didn’t work in low-quality bulk and made their fries bigger; like, actually restaurant-thick. That’s basically what we have here. It’s got that similar light-crisp outside, the soft inside, but more noticeable starchiness from its size. Oh, then they toss it in some seasoning. It’s pretty darn good.

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            And finally the Fritters, skewered Dango-style for our enjoyment. Bonus points for mixing in the fresh corn, jalapenos, and cilantro, so it’s not just one-note. The outside is crispy, though I’m sort of unsure of the actual filling texture; it’s quite noticeably cornmeal filled, though I think that comes with many of its positive and negative qualities. Eating it, I felt like the flavor reminded me of something… and all I can think of that might be close is cornbread; particularly the sorta-overcooked kind. Though I found the actual fritters weren’t really dry, this does clue you into something very important about them; it is VERY hard to get through eating all 8 of them, even with the palette-exciting flavors mixed in.

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Holdability: 9

            They have a fun way of serving the burger and fries, putting them BOTH in the old-fashioned paper bag, as opposed to the random paper baskets we keep seeing. If done right, one could thus require only one hand to eat the burger with; the same could be said for the Fritter Skewers, as long as you moved them into the paper bag they are served on top of. Of course, would need two hands when going for the fries… unless you tipped the bag up to your mouth (YES!).   

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Price: 9.5

           Some really good price points, with all items in the $5-$8 range, only one item being $8. Though all sliders automatically come with Fries, one can order solo sliders for only $1 off.

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Speed: 9

            Pretty damn speedy, I really didn’t have to wait long for either item… I’m guessing the Fritters are fried and skewered ahead of time then. But the burgers are cooked quick too (maybe they grill them half of the way beforehand, I worked in a restaurant that did that for when someone ordered well-dones).

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The TOE: 9

            FINALLY we have an all-slider Truck in our midst! I’ve been waiting for this day ever since I found out Gastro pussed out and just went to large sandwiches. And they certainly don’t disappoint. It’s a nice menu, a fun trailer design, and the food comes out in that little nostalgic package (and skewers for the fritter), making for an enjoyable experience for those on the grab-n-go.   

                        Tally: 44.5/50

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Final Thoughts

            Definitely one of the highlight Trucks for those looking for cheaper eats on the street, a quick grab, and easier holding while walking. Of course I can’t write a review on this without suggesting a Slider and Fries to order. If one doesn’t want to just do the Traditional, I think the new Pesto may be the Slider I’d lean towards most. I’m not sure how much I would actually suggest the Fritters (they’re interesting), but if you DO want them, then I would require you do one of these two things: either make sure you have 1 or more other people to share it with (again, they’re dense and hard to get through all 8 palette wise), or ask if you can just have one skewer for less.  

            I almost wonder if they should start doing shakes… but then I remember that this is a BAR, not a Diner. We’re just here for rich burgers and fries.

Lulu’s Street Food

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lulus-Street-Food/107004102822952   

https://twitter.com/LulusStreetFood   

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            It’s not often we see Truck’s expand their armada (though getting into restaurants is a whole different story); She Royal has branched to Brava, Potter’s added a second Pastie Truck to hit two cities… but that’s about it. But after only a few months of premiering, Lulu’s Street Food has already moved out another mobile operation, “The Red Pig & Truffle.” Supposedly rolling out later in the month, I of course look forward to giving it a full review when it does.

           This only stands as a sign to their growing reputation and success, exploding onto the scene much like how their design explodes over the eyes. Seriously, first time I saw this thing I thought it was a giant lifesaver… just wanted to lick it. Though I’m not sure if that’s the sign of a good Truck or some unresolved childhood issues…

            Well, getting back to the licking of organic matter, Lulu’s offers, well, “Street Food;” it’s really the best description. Menu items range in package, price, style, and flavors, but there are two things that connect them all. 1: they’re all based around the idea of classic and modern Street Foods, such as Tacos, Sandwiches, Rolls, Slider, etc; and 2: from what I can tell, most if not all menu items contain a Southern or Island/Caribbean base to them.

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            The Menu tends to change a LOT, and with at least 8 items (they have to use 2 blackboards!) usually on it, that says something. From what I can tell, some of the constant (or mostly seen) items include their famous Parmesan Truffle Fries, Cuban Chicken Taco or Sliders, Ahi Tuna Taco, and a Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich. Other items usually seem to contain Pulled/Roast Pork, Key West Fish Taco, and some Lobster based thing (either a Roll or, interestingly, Sliders). Whatever the situation, though, one is sure to find something suiting their particular tastes.

            Oh, and most of these items comes piled in some form of Coleslaw. Either way, let me just say I was very happy when they finally returned back to the Downtown Minneapolis streets after some weeks of outer explorations.

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Food: 9.5

            It took a while to decide, but I finally ended up with their Key West Fish Tacos and the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich.

             Again, when it comes to Island Tacos, I find no issue with the use of Flour Tortillas, which held the package in pretty darn well; though it would have been nice to have at least ONE extra, empty tortilla below the two for any drippage, cuz there is a quite a decent amount of Slaw, Aioli, and Pineapple-Mango Salsa. Which, I might add, is one of the few successful uses of pineapple I’ve found in our Truck lineup. The fish itself, Cod I think, was grilled properly on the grill in a very tasty spiced marinade; it ended up tender, rich, and flavorful.

            Now, something of slight disappointing note, my first taco had a noticeable proportion problem. I will say this, it DEFINITELY didn’t have too much coleslaw; I mean damn, that is a REALLY good, fresh-tasting, yummy slaw.. at that point where it’s so good you don’t care how much there is (plus the flavor wasn’t strong enough to overpower others). But it really didn’t have that much fish; like, one medium chunk and some small fragments. I did find that the OTHER taco had a decent amount more (see the picture below); my guess is that they just accidentally scooped more of the portion into one taco than the other. They don’t cook the fish in long “sticks,” but in this bundle of chopped up, marinated flesh.

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             As for the Fried Chicken Sandwich… Oh, My, God. Crispy, down-home comfort fried chicken, the shell very reminiscent of the style found on chicken tenders but, you know, GOOD, made with quality, so it’s a thick, sorta-chewy but crunchy coating that just holds up firm. Drizzled this with sticky, sweet honey, piled with that awesome coleslaw, and then shoved between and awesome, toasted Pretzel Bun. They have to either make it themselves or get it from a different place than others, as it’s a different texture, size, and shape than other pretzel bun’s I’ve seen. Either way, it works well; I mean it’s not really with the Southern theme, but who cares when it all tastes so awesome. It’s hard to describe how satisfying this guy is.

            Oh, and of course I had to top it with something from the Hot Sauce lineup they have.  

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Holdability: 7.5

              HIGHLY varying depending on item. All of them need at least two hands for eating (basket-based), but whereas the Tacos and some other options are very easy for walking around, certain sandwiches and other items definitely bring the requirement to SIT DOWN and eat it. Prime example, my Fried Chicken Sandwhich, seen here:

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            Look at that PILE of awesome, delicious coleslaw; it may taste great, but try as you might I doubt one can hold that sucker with one hand while walking. Not to mention all that sticky, drizzling honey coating down and to your fingers as you hold it. I swear, even if that aluminum wrapping was all around it like a classic burger, I doubt I’d still suggest eating it while walking… though that’s not to say you still shouldn’t eat it. Mmmm, that was good…

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Price: 6

             Towards the higher end, most items range between $8-$12, the two outsandings being the Lobster Roll at $15, which I have absolutely no idea how it varies in quality and amount vs Smack, and the Truffle Parm Fries at $5. Though what ended up a small basket of fried potatoes sprinkled in Truffle Salt (which isn’t as expensive as people think it is), I’m wondering if this price is a bit high for it. Overall, though, I would have to say that the food is WORTH the higher prices, at least from what I’ve had so far.

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Speed: 8

              Average, if not a touch above.

The TOE: 9

              I’ll admit, the menu is a bit intimidating when you first come up to it, with the difficult choices and somewhat higher prices (at least they have more than one, worthy $8 items), but I very much enjoy going here. It’s vibrant, high energy, and very fun and welcoming, and I’m not just talking about the colors. If I’d posit a guess, the feeling and concepts of the chefs behind the window really come through in the menu and service; sort of like when one goes to Travail or Victory 44, with the Chef Waiter/resses.

                           Tally: 40/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Lulu’s certainly fits the bill for a multitude of customer requirements. Whether you’re looking for a higher-priced item to take back and sit down to eat, or something to walk around the street with, you can probably find a good option here. There are many items to suggest, but here are the ones I’d probably lean to.

            The Ahi Tuna seems quite popular, and I’m guessing there’s a reason for it; with these kind of chefs behind the window, I’d definitely assume they’re making it right. Besides that, other Fish Tacos also bring a delightful experience (assuming they get the proportions right…), particularly for the walk-n-eat scenarios. Cuban items are sure to be done well, so it’s a valid focus. And I DEFINITELY suggest the Fried Chicken Sandwich if you’re able to sit down!

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            Sadly, there’s not too much here for those with a little lighter wallet. The Truffle Fries do offer a good snacking option, especially on Food Truck Days, though I still debate whether they’re truly up for a whole $5; they do seem like really quality-cooked fries though. As for the Lobster Roll, I don’t really see much reason to peddle so much out for an unsurety… if you’re curious, and have a bit of extra cash, maybe try the Lobster Sliders when they come out, get a feel of how it tastes to decide if you wanna have their Roll instead of Smack’s (also ask how the size compares).

128 Cafe (Truck)

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/128-Cafe/115653807931  

https://twitter.com/128cafe  

Main Location: St. Paul

           It’s been a couple years in the making, but finally I am capable of writing a complete review on the St. Paul Restaurant-turned-Truck, 128 Café.

           My first visit to the Café was during the first few weeks of “Lunch by the River;” you know, when it was always on Kellog and Wabasha, and each lunch was basically crammed with Food Truck Fair-reminiscent crowds.  Oh, I wish I had been blogging then… the sort of post I would have created after those events, meeting the Mom and Sis (who worked downtown) to be able to try multiple trucks, then ultimately giving up after only a couple and going to Potter’s in the park. Where of course we would grab 2-3 whole pasties anyway and eat until inebriation-by-pastry-crust.

           But I digress. The point I was trying to make (despite my other personality’s successful attempts at interrupting) was that, sadly, my visit was so long ago and filled with so much other stimulation that, by the time I’ve started my foray into writing, I completely forgot what I even ate, let alone how it tasted. And with a slow return to the 2013 season, I’ve only just received my 2nd chance to explore this white behemoth.

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          128 is certainly… “different” than other trucks in the face that there’s not much underlying theme behind its menu items. All items are based simply along things they do, or would, serve in the sorta-seasonal, variant-menu café. The main feature, as is seemingly the case in the restaurant as well, is of course their Ribs. This is usually followed by a couple sandwiches, Grilled Salmon and a Portobello when I was there, BLT also featured at times, along with a few others I’m sure. These are then followed by some form of Salad (ugh… just not gonna talk about it), and the 2nd menu staple, Ginger-Soy Sirloin Skewers. Lemonade, Iced Tea, and a mix of the two form a drinking backbone.

            So, is it more worth it to go here, or the restaurant?

Food: 9

            Yet another Truck this season where I had to grab two items to feel at ease in judgement.

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             First up are, of course, the BBQ Baby Back Ribs. Covered in a sticky, molasses-based (I’m sure) sauce, these fellas are hot and pull from the bone with the smallest movements… in a particularly familiar fashion. I am actually pretty certain in how they make this; considering the color of the meat, the complete tenderness, and the absolute lackness in any real smoke flavor, I am 100% sure that these are what I call “Restaurant” or “At Home” Style Ribs. Basically meaning that, instead of a smoker, the chefs just cook the ribs in an oven (with some water) or a steamer; if they DO smoke it, it’s for minimal time. Overall, done right like they do, it leads to a very good and very tasty product; however don’t expect it to be the same flavors and experience at a proper BBQ/Smoke House.

            I very much enjoyed the Grilled Salmon Sandwich as well; the fish was moist, wasn’t too “fishy” in flavor (something to consider with salmon and other fatty fish), and the veggie topping plus béarnaise had a nice texture and flavor to go with it. Light toasting on the very simple Ciabatta roll, leading to a soft bun that holds the ingredients very well; there isn’t much texture in the final result, but I can’t find myself to dislike how it eats at all. Ummm… you remember my complains about Tiki’s Pulled Pork Bun? This is the same kind of bread, but due to its reduced size and some further treatment, it’s put in much better use.

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            A couple other shout outs food wise. First, I have to say I really enjoy their slaws, veggies toppings, etc; they’re smooth, bright, and nicely simple in their preparation and use. They’re actually one of my highlights. Secondly, it’s very weird to say this, but I also really liked the kettle chips… which I’m sure they don’t make themselves (or maybe they do, the texture seems a touch different…), but I think they toss them with something else before using in service. Sort of a nice, extra little flavorful spice; at the end it reminded me of Sambal… but then again there’s the chance that some sauce might have just fallen on and confused me, haha.

Holdability: 7

             Though I found myself sitting down to enjoy both of my options, I would have to say they’re overall not too bad, individually, for walking and eating. In a basket requires the use of both hands, but the sandwiches hold together well, the Sirloin skewers are easy to hold, and the sides of slaw and such at least seem easy to eat with a fork. With the Ribs being the mainstay, I was originally contemplating on notching this score back a few more, but as I mentioned they ARE quite pull-from-the-bone tender, so it’s easy to eat with your hands. Though, as one would imagine, it’s quite sticky and messy; and it doesn’t help that they don’t give you wet naps to clean up with.

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Price: 4

            Hidden behind a poorly-located planter box, it took a while to see the menu in full on my visit! Haha.

            Noticeably shifted towards the higher end, with items mainly staying in the $9-$12 range, with only one $8 being relegated to a simple salad. As far as things are concerned, each item seems pretty obviously overpriced. One of the $9 was for a cheaper, vegetarian Portobello Sandwich… a big mushroom and some bread; while the other was for this:

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            You can make the argument that it’s Sirloin, but the fact is that is NOT a lot of food right there; what’s the justification, $5-6 for the meat and the rest to cover for the sides?

            Then we get to the Ribs. Before getting the order, I was planning to ask if they offered a half order; I mean $12 for a basket of ribs, I’m sure there’re those who would appreciate a nice deal like that. Then I get it, and realize that IS the half-order… actually, it was only 5 bones, so even less. And as I’ve explained, though these ribs are good, they’re a simple “Restaurant-style” oven preparation; there’s no long, special, quality technique-filled smoking. Again, there’s no real justification for this price; I mean, at the Restaurant sure, but not out on the streets like this.

            Ultimately, it seems they haven’t quite separated themselves from thinking along the lines of a restaurant.

Speed: 8

             Not too bad, especially with a good-sized line.

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The TOE: 6

              Their prices betray the underlying thought process that, despite attempts to transform to a fully-integrated Food Truck, they’re still just a Restaurant serving out of a mobile operation. I certainly applaud the use of skewers and sandwiches, but these forms are simply the easy way out to making Street Food. Okay, it’s probably not really as bad as it sounds like I’m saying, but nonetheless I don’t feel that great “sense” of a Truck when I visit; maybe it has something to do with the overly simple, though sharp and clean, van design…

                           Tally: 34/50

Final Thoughts

            Probably a better, cheaper option than going to the Restaurant, though I’m thinking there’s better overall deals throughout our Truck scene. If you do end up going, the Sandwiches seem the only way to go; from what I can tell, they seem to be the only items somewhat close to the Price-Percieved Quality line; and hey they do taste pretty good. Avoid everything else: the skewers are barely anything, and the Ribs just don’t seem worth it at all, not for 5 small bones that don’t even compete with the quality Smoke-House Ribs.

Wednesday Rally after a break

         First, let me apologize for my absence this past week; with the Independence holiday ALONG with an intense Midterm on Monday I had to spend a week studying for, I haven’t exactly had much mental time to put reviews or things together.

         That said, it’s about time I update and recap on a few things I’ve noticed in my away time! Though I of course can’t give a full count on all the Truck-related events going on during the 4th (way too many, and again was busy).

           I still have yet to see any full review on how the 2nd Food Truck Fair went, though some facebook comments are quite enlightening. It seems despite the hopeful attempts and free admission (or possibly due to it), once again we see long, crowded lines and waiting. Consensus is high that they once again piled all the trucks in too tight an area, and need to either reduce these numbers or, better yet, spread the area out (like a “throughout Uptown” thing). I am thankful I did not have to witness it myself, and hope they’re able to try and improve the event even more the coming year. Oh well, though, at least no one had to waste money on the debacle (well, besides those wanting drink wristbands).

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Gogi’s just added Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps to their Menu! Great idea for them, though they still serve the things in a damn giant styrafoam box…

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          Moral Omnivore has got a fun, snazzy new menu design!

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           And I just popped down to the Wednesday Lunch by the River! For those who haven’t attended it yet, their weekly line-up includes 128 Café, Fork in the Road, Gastro, Vellee, and Simply Steve’s (though they didn’t show on the day I went). All parked on Kellogg and Wabasha, the ORIGINAL Lunch-by-River location! Oh how nostalgic it was by that odd little cement triangle… so conveniently next to Rice Park too (not that there were many trucks there today).

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         That’s about it, how was YOUR Food Truck experiences during the Holiday Week?

          Oh, and reviews for Lulu’s and 128 will be coming soon.