Peep’s Hotbox

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https://twitter.com/PeepsHotbox

https://www.facebook.com/peepshotbox

Main Location: Areas throughout Twin Cities (except main downtown hub)

Another summer is slowly coming to a close, the days still sunny and warm but with interjecting weeks of chilled mornings, and thankfully the trucks are still on the streets in abundant number… in fact, they’re increasing. For as I was made abruptly aware one lazy afternoon, following a couple threads on my usual brewery-calendar-checking, thinking that I was close to finished with this year’s new-truck-explorations with only a certain mobile pizza business to go… and finding out I still have at least 5 more trucks to get through.

One of these trucks in my frantic year-end bucket list, and the only one I was able to plan a day for (gotta cross fingers on downtown trips), is Peep’s Hotbox. Showing up to its venues in a midnight colored van supporting a mural of rainbow-colored avians in flight, Peep’s brings an interesting site to the venues it vends from. And though it doesn’t contain any of the Easter-based candies (don’t you think it should around the holidays though? How fun would that be!?), the menu brings an interesting moment of ponder to our day.

I can’t actually figure out an official category or simple description for their offerings; there really is no common thread. If you read their Facebook page, it actually reads, under ‘Food Styles’: American, Breakfast, Japanese, Latin American, Mexican, Sandwiches, Vegetarian, Vietnamese… and there’s probably more they haven’t included, not to mention new items they might bring in the future. The one thing we can say is that every item is intriguing and has a feel of… scrumptiousness when reading.

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As for what’s on right now, the seeming forerunner (in my eyes) is a unique Mexican dish called Huaraches, offered using vegetarian Black Bean centerpiece or Pollo. After that is a Pork Chop Sandwich, offered in a long, tight-clenched hoagie/bahn mi bun. Other items offered, on and off, is a chicken thigh Yakitori, cups of Chili, Asian Noodle Salad, and an open-faced BLT with heirloom tomatoes in the good farmer market days.

Chug this down with a can of refreshing Coconut Juice, San Pellegrino, or whatever brewery offering you happen to be at, and see for yourself what this truck entails. Though, for those that have yet to visit, here’s the reaction from my visit, also accomplished during my first trip to the recently-opened Bauhaus Brewery!

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Food: 10

Well, let me start off by saying that if I had a category for Presentation then Peeps would have aced it! Man their food looks pretty, especially coming out of a truck.

My premier visit led me to what I’d have to say is THE menu focus, being the most interesting and unique item up for option, and not seen anywhere else: the Huarache (of course, I got Pollo). To describe what this is simply, one considers the basic anatomy of the best taco fillings, with ALL the meat, queso blanco, salsa, crisp veggie and some avocado, and pile it on a long, boat-shaped Arepa (similar to the masa cake style that Café Racer uses). And oh, it was good, the ideal and pinnacle of masa-topped/filled deliciousness. Tender meat, a sauce that was lightly spicy and deeper in flavor, some fresh radish and lettuce to counterpoint, and creamy sauce and queso to cool things down. A great mouthful of interplay. Now, if only it was easy to eat (see following score)…

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Sadly have not had the chance, yet, to try the Pork Chop Sandwich, but considering the results of the food here, other options and their seemingly high focus on palate-tantalizing fare, I bet it’s pretty darn good too. I’d actually want to try the yakitori too; I feel like they might actually do it justice, especially using only the flavorful, juicy dark chicken thighs.

Holdability: 7

HIGHLY variable, it really depends on what item one gets. On one end, the pork sandwich is extremely carriable, one could probably only need one hand; while on the other, the huaraches… the idea of an oblong arepa base is fun, and could be holdable in a sense, but the whole dish is a big mess. Seriously, you need a knife and fork if you want to eat it properly, it just can’t be picked up without spillage and getting your fingers messy (which does have some appeal); not a bad dish for a brewery lunch. Then there’s a cup of soup, skewered chicken which may be coming in a basket, a thai noodle salad at one point… at the very least, one has their pick of items depending on their needs.

Price: 7

  $8 each for the main two entrees and $7 for the chili and yakitori; great prices overall, though I wonder if $7 is a bit much for these notably smaller items.

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Speed: 6.5

A little longer than normal, not surprising considering all the little things they have to do for the sandwich and huaraches, but I don’t think I’d wanna be in a line with a few of those orders ahead of me. That said, wouldn’t be surprised if the chili and yakitori took quicker.

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The TOE: 8

A strong, distinctive personality showing, intriguing artwork, and a set of delicious food that doesn’t really show a common thread amongst themselves. Pretty much sums it up, I’d like to be creative and offer another one of my long, eloquently off-again-on-again ramblings to delve into other things affecting the score, but I can’t think of much for this one. Maybe it’s just a lazy day?

Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

A Truck where one can find options to fit multiple needs, it’s a solid option for when one doesn’t know which mobile vendor nearby is suitable for their situation. Or, if going to a brewery or other locale where it’s the only food option, one can go resting assured it’s a good limited menu to be stuck with. One simply has to know which menu items to get for their needs.

For the extreme travel-minded, the Pork Chop Sandwich is really the only, and best anyways, route to go. Though the Huaraches are much too messy, for now (here’s hoping they’ll fix it), they fit great in a brewery atmosphere or in any situation one wants and is able to sit down and focus on eating. When the day is cold, grab a warm cup of Chili, or a bright Noodle Salad when it’s hot. And when looking for something refreshing, an open-faced BLT or other item featured Heirloom Tomatoes is key.

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It’s not a place I would stop to represent and be ‘indicative’ of our street food scene, but if you just want some good food (street or otherwise) then it’s a keeper; I doubt there are any disappointing offerings.

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St. Paul Art Crawl – Fall 2013

                With summer fading away, the wet, chilly autumn starts baring its fangs. Though the weather rakes in a time studded with a monotony of well-celebrated holidays, it also stands as the official ending point for the vibrant, flooded Food Truck season we all adore (well, that and the warm, sunny weather). Of course they aren’t gone; the years of forming various relationships with local businesses and fellow breweries providing them with a firm base of business during the cold months.

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                Hoping to share an effect in this is the St Paul Art Crawl, following the Nordeast’s summer foray with its own fall-season event. Taking place from October 4th to the 6th in various hours (6pm-10, 12-8, and 12-5 respectively), the artist’s gathering studs the entirety of the Downtown area, along with a few places south of 94, with studios, galleries, performances, probably some bands (at least the local restaurants may hire), even a few different runs and marathons.

                And of course, Food Trucks. The organizers of this Fall’s shindig have begun a focus and foray into the Truck territory, sending out emails and notifications and whatnot to bring as many of the mobile ops out to the Crawl as they can. From last I heard of a representative, they only had 7 signed up, but they expect to bring in a BUNDLE more (they said “think State Fair”) to provide fun and nourishment along the visual city tour. I don’t really know who they are, though, as no listing has been provided (guess it’s a surprise!)

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                I would so love and look forward to the chance to go down, if anything just to compare it to the last Crawl, but also to see what Trucks decided to come down. Especially since, despite a full listing of galleries and map, there’s not too much info for me to report on before-the-fact. Sadly, though, my out-of-town schedule finds it impossible… if anyone would like to go and report in my place it would be highly welcome! Haha.

                For those who can make it, hopefully this offers a proper mobile respite before the ever-so-long distraction of the cold Minnesotan seasons to come. The weather should be sunny, days nice, and food a great accompaniment to enjoy our Local Art Scene. With that, I leave each to their own devices yet again; Good Luck and Good Eating to all.

http://www.stpaulartcrawl.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Stpaulartcrawl

Doggy Art

            The Uptown Art Fair was this weekend, doing its part to display all our local talents while clogging up the streets as best it can! Being I never went there before, I decided to stop by with a friend to view the various events; though most of the time we just ended up drinking in a bar (better that than the over-priced, cheap stuff at the “Beer Garden.”)

            Normally I might do a little report on the proceedings, but I didn’t really take much pictures and it had nothing to do with Street Food, so I don’t really care.

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            Plus there’s that… thing. Ugh, it’s creepy. Worst part is I was eating some Paella when I saw it, did NOT help the situation.

            Though I did get a brief view of the Culinary Competition outside Kitchen Window when I got there. It’s too bad they didn’t have a good way to actually view what the chefs were doing, like a camera… everything was hidden by the booths. Still fun though.

            There was ONE Truck there of course, the good ‘ol nationally-known Zimmern truck AZ. My acquaintance decided to buy their AZ Dog for lunch, so lucky me I finally got a chance to take a picture and try it out!

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            And as hot dogs go it is a tasty one, good pickles and slaw on top, all that nice stuff, but once again definitely not worth a whole $8 (wasn’t it $7 just a bit ago?). Still best to look at other places for hot dog cravings.

            Well that’s it… small post for me, but that’s how it goes. Good Luck and Good Eating.

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.

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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Cajun 2 Geaux

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cajun2geaux.com/  

http://twitter.com/cajun2geauxTim

Main Location: St. Paul

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

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

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

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

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Food: 5

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

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

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

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

Holdability: 4

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

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

Price: 5

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

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Speed: 8

         Average and reasonable wait.

The TOE: 5

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

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

                        Tally: 27/50

Final Thoughts

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

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

Get Sauced

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http://chefdrivencompanies.com/home/get-sauced/ 

https://twitter.com/ChefDrivenCo

 

Main Location: St. Paul, Office Buildings, Etc

            Ask any Lawyer scouting your local Hospital parking lot, there can be nothing more annoying, frustrating, and downright exhausting than “the Chase”. Yet as he and all the rest of us know, there is almost no better feeling of exhilaration and satisfaction when you finally CATCH that frantic target, hold it down with your bare hands and shove your teeth into its thick, hot neck vein, watching its eyes slowly go dark as the life slowly…

          I’m sorry, I was watching National Geographic and got carried away… Back to my point.

          One of the biggest draws to us Food Truck Foodies is the idea of the “chase.” Every single week of “hunting season” is spent looking on sites, reacting to news and gossip, then finding our prey’s main “watering hole/s.” Nowadays, that’s pretty quick and simple, very rarely do we have to experience that “challenge,” that one fleeting truck that we just can’t catch.

          It happens though. For me, that truck was Get Sauced.

          I remember 2011; I was downtown often, going to all the new trucks. I knew every single one. Then one day I was walking, and I see this white truck turn a corner; it was big, white, and had this sick art design on the side. Recognizing the kind of truck was easy, but I had never seen it before.

          Didn’t think about it much, until I saw it again a few weeks later while driving, and then again sometime after that. I was shocked; there was this truck I kept seeing driving but never on the street that I had no way of finding. The little hunter in the back corner of my brain set off; I went about my school life and work like usual, but he didn’t want to rest.

          Then one day I finally see it parked, on the street, with that familiar art design on the side: “Get Sauced.” I literally ran to the other side of Marquette to finally see what it was and place my first order.

          Get Sauced serves pulled meats and tacos with both Mexican and Asian based flavor options. Menu options change upon whim and season, so different visits will often yield different sides and fillings. The format is simple; you decide the pulled meat, then you choose what sandwich or taco style you want.

          Either way one can enjoy a very flavorful and on-point lunch while admiring the truck’s artwork, done by local Peter Hankee.

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Food: 8.5

           You know that feeling when someone asks “if you can describe –blank- in one word, what would it be?” and you just want to strangle them? That does not happen here; in fact, I cannot think of another word that fits Sauced besides “Satisfying.” Sauces are simply rich and thick, meat is juicy, veggies cooked properly, textures proper, and toppings flavorful. The Asian Style taco I had was drenched in a rich ginger-soy reduction and topped with wasabi coleslaw. The resulting flavor was just… craveable; the kind of thing you want to just shove into your mouth at 1am (which, by the way, is what time it is while I’m writing this… god I want a taco).

          Only drawback for me, though using masa tortillas; there’s no double-layer for the tacos; so if things fell out, then things fell out.

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Holdability: 6

          Arriving in baskets is the only relief one gets with their single-shelled taco, which, in their individuality, tend to be quite bursting with garnishes and sauce falling easily. I, myself, needed to stop in a doorway to eat my own, hand and wrist now dripping from the juices (though that was also partially due to it being winter). Can’t vouch anything for the pulled sandwiches, but assume they’re quite similar.

Price: 8.5

         Keeping around $7-8, with lower priced sides, a very reasonable menu this be.

Speed: 9.5

         A Chef-Driven Truck that knows how to streamline, none of my orders have ever felt even close to a wait. Not immediate, but you get your purchases fast and ready to eat NOW.

The TOE: 9

          A funky hand-painted art design, tacos that make you hungry in the middle of the night, and a fun attitude driven by the chefs themselves, this truck was definitely worth the chase. It can feel somewhat generic and “everyday food truck” upon first inspection, but once you go back… you just get it.

                        Tally: 41.5/50

Final Thoughts

           To tell the truth, I wasn’t actually that impressed the first time I saw their menu; it all just looked same-old, same-old. Then I had it, and again, and again just recently. Now that I think about it, I think I could safely say they are one of the best taco trucks in the city (now, do some actual masa tortillas and actually use 2 per taco like you’re SUPPOSED to, and the best spot you shall be).

           If you are ever lucky enough to have the chance, get the Mexican Corn (or however it’s called). The first thing I had, it is simply cooked corn mixed with a sour-creamy dairy sauce, scooped in a bowl and topped with queso blanco, herbs, and spices. It is so surprisingly satisfying and good; you know, it might make good stoner food.

           Other than that, grab a taco in whatever flavor you want, maybe try the pulled pork on the second or third visit.

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