Funfare Global Street Eats

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https://twitter.com/funfaregse

http://www.funfare-gse.com/

Main Location: St Paul, Etc

It’s a good thing I did some last-minute twittering, I was seriously about to put up a post saying these guys didn’t have a website! It’s tricky to find via google, but I got their twitter id and it led me straight to ’em! Still didn’t tell me too much else about them that I feel like putting down, but that might be the laziness. I do definitely suggest looking into the website to get a good clue to their personality.

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This truck also comes out as yet another build from local Chameleon Concessions, go lizards! After doing so many articles on the side for a certain southern truck builder, it’s always nice to come back and see the fruits of our own Minnesota-based team out on the street in their wonderful mobile glory.

But to get back to the truck itself, my adventure this day leads me to Funfare, or Funfare Global Street Eats, depending on how one prefers calling them that day. As the longer version suggests, along with the very postcardy décor on the side of their big red behemoth, they focus on providing a variety of classic International street foods from various world regions.

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And boy do they really accomplish this. For the past few weeks the menu has hold fast to offering the choices to grab a Cubano (from Cuba throughout Central America), Shrimp Po’Boy (Louisiana), Filipino BBQ Skewers (do I need to say this one?), Pork Steam Buns (Japan), Baja Fish Tacos (Mexico), Chicago Jumbo Dog, Cheese Curds (go Midwest!), Hush Puppies (more Southern Love), and Baklava (Middle East) for dessert. I hear they plan on changing the menu up soon, but I expect at least a few of these will either stay on or see frequent resurgence from time to time, so a good starter.

By the way, they sell Kool-Aid as a drink option… actual vibrant blue Kool-Aid. I’ll just leave it at that and get on with things.

Food: 9

                Suddenly I find myself loading up with FOUR of their menu items, two bigger and two snack-ish. So I’m gonna see if I can actually go through each briefly for once…
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First off, best Hush Puppies that I myself have ever experienced. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, like your favorite corn dog, but not dry in the slightest on the inside, still ‘moist,’ in sort of a touch spongey/doughey sense, hard to quite express. I was very happy to find a version of these fried cornmeal balls I enjoyed, with that notably soft onion-chive-y addition of flavor; a shame there’s NO sauce to dunk them in, some pepper aioli on the side would have catapulted these to perfection.

The best part of the Pork Steamed Buns is the first bite; it’s just that total pork bun flavor, with moist pig, perfect ratio of springy/chewy/tender steam bun texture (it’s so unique and distinctive), a bit of that slaw, and that marinade! For those who’ve had a pork steam bun, there’s that specific sauce flavor that’s unique purely to them, a sweet-tangy Japanese bbq sauce of sorts, and it is up front and center in the best way in combination with that pillowy dough bag. And of course I have to make mention of the interesting little form for these guys, like a Japanese bun taco. Which is cool, but whereas the first bite from the ‘top’ was perfect, the second ends up notably lacking filling, which is understandable and fine, the real issue is that this section of bun, folded over and almost double-layered, ends up notably… not drier, maybe ‘denser’ is the better word? Clearly inferior to the ideal, not uniform like the classic round buns would be.

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So I was going to go for the Po’Boy, just to be different, but then I saw someone else with one… and I’m sure it’s good, great looking veggies and toppings, but come on, that guy just needs more shrimp, it looks sparse. Those BBQ Skewers though… damn that glaze and char, reminded me of the Korean grilled pig in my favorite banh mi.

Then I saw a couple Cubanos come out and was like “Oh yeah, THAT’S what I’m getting.” Full press, flat and crispy top, melted cheese that strings properly when pulled, pickled which are THERE but don’t screw with the sandwich structure, mustard is present, and PIG. Ham and pulled, they got it… inane mention I know, but I’m still reeling from a recent cubano disappointment. This ultimately ate, tight and crispy but not hard crunchy, like I expect a Cubano to, with all the flavors. They nailed it, I was satisfied and happy, though I found there was no single item that really brought it to that AMAZING level, which any sandwich that everyone knows really needs to be in order to get that top class mark. Either a big mass of super gooey-melty cheese, this one was still simple and thin, or just bigger mass of extremely flavorful pulled pork, as again the meat was still rather standard but done well.

20150803_175101And finally, since I was at a bee-focused event, had to get that honey-soaked Baklava. I was hoping that finally, after so long, I would get a baklava from a stand that would be moist and tender and delicious, and they did not disappoint. Seriously, so used to having to choose between small squares of baklava, which are good but tiny, or big triangles which are just dry layers of phillo dough. And this was just a full mass of distinctly moist, sweet honeyed flavor and texture, not soggy at all and with a top layer that is JUST a little crispy-dry, combining with that soft and nutty paste of walnuts/almonds in the typical way. It was just refreshing and happy; if I really looked deeper, and had more experience with good homemade baklava, I’m pretty sure I could make certain points to the soaking syrup and nuts used. But when you really don’t care about thinking about it, this little dessert can just make your day, especially for the day.

 

At the end of the day, the food has a great start and is headed in the right direction to what it should be, but because they’re so close to perfection, and sticky very purely to the traditional compositions, it’s ever clearer to see that they are STILL not quite there yet. If they can make just a couple tweaks here and there, really complete each item, then Funfare is golden.

Holdability: 8.5

               Despite the variety, each of the options are consistent in that everything needs two hands, being eaten from a basket, and is all surprisingly clean consumption. Even the Baklava, though a touch sticky, again isn’t soggy or anything, so it only needs a few delightful finger licks following complete eating. It’s only the BBQ skewers that come with rice, something that requires a fork, but besides those the only issue for walking+eating becomes what ELSE you might get. Though I guess sides and dessert can just be dumped in the same basket as your big guy; not like any sauces are coming over to mix and mingle.

Price: 7.5

                $10 for the big two sammiches, $8 for the Fish Taco and Filipino Skewers, $7 for those mini Steam Buns, $5 Chicago Dog, $3 each for the fried side items, and $2 for Baklava. A notable range of low to mid-high, providing some notable options for one’s situation and preferences. I would say the items tend to skirt the edge of whether they feel totally worth it if not a steal for the price charged, while others I would hope for maybe one extra bun (I mean it’s either an add-on, in which case it bumps the final price up considerably, or it’s supposed to be eaten on its own, in which case you want some more) or more fried shrimp before not worrying about whether I’m just being a cheap, nitpicky b*^@# food reviewer.
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Speed: 8

Distinctly depends on the item. Most are close to ready to go, can only take a few minutes, but the main boys will be an average wait; Cubano takes at least 8 minutes on the grill. That is proper though. I will say I would have liked it if they’d offer me the option to receive some of my other things first, since there were only a couple other orders, instead of having to wait what took 10 minutes for ALL of it.

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The TOE: 8.5

                I wasn’t thinking I’d score them too high for this, my premier thoughts and impressions on when I first spotted them in St Paul (happened to be their opening day! But I had other guys to hit then) was just another random ‘let’s open a food truck’ ideas, they do ‘international’ probably because they couldn’t think of anything else more interesting, like those who just do burgers and meat sandwiches; which can be great, but also uninspiring. But just as we can find a sandwich truck that brings us to our knees, so does Funfare come to grab my own attention. Whether it’s presentation, the distinctive look and taste of each food, or just plain doing it right, I can officially say they are the first truck that, in my opinion, successfully offers a menu that feels like it’s focusing on different world food regions. This as opposed to a certain one or two that really just seem to come from the Middle East and Asia, or  then go back to the US only to feature a burger and philly cheese (it’s always the burger and philly cheese…). Funfare chooses distinct and familiar, but not boring, menu items that do express some of our favorite eats from around the globe. To this, I myself am somewhat eager to see what other food items they explore and switch out with, if they continue on with strong hitters or fizzle out. Guess we’ll only see with time.

Tally: 41.5/50

Final Thoughts

Echoing my ultimate impressions on food, the truck as a whole stands as a very strong, ‘almost perfect’ business in their particular realm of focus, but it’s currently just one or two steps behind the point of ‘ideal.’ But I feel with time and some effort, if applied, they can easily reach the heights of food and personality impressions as some of my absolute favorites, like Home Street Home and SCRATCH.

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So I guess that means we just need to keep visiting and enjoying their various treats now doesn’t it? Now, it certainly is difficult to make suggestions for a future-changing menu, but I do believe I can confidently say the BEST strategy for taking hold of Funfare, at least for right now, is to attack the small-plates for snacking or mini-meal purposes. Whether it’s grabbing the almost-toe-ring-level Baklava for your sweet tooth, some Hush Puppies or Cheese Curds to pop in the mouth as you walk between other truck delights, or those Steam Buns just because they’re pretty darn tasty and good. If you DO want something more substantial, I still gotta try those BBQ skewers; they just look so good, and the additional rice will help fill you up; though I myself would rather just have the skewers for a dollar less to walk around with. That and the Cubano are my strong ‘entrée’ points for now. As for what else comes along, just do your best to have an idea on what they did well with THESE and try to imagine what other items would be crafted the best. To that, I finish with a good luck, good eating, and a hope I can get myself back out there snacking with all of you soon once more!

Classic Yum

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https://www.facebook.com/classicyum
https://twitter.com/ClassicYum
Main Location: Minneapolis, St Paul, Etc

The second truck on my State Capital lunch visit in May of 2015, Classic Yum Food Truck, mostly appeared on the scene in the same year. I had actually planned to hit them earlier during Harriet Brewery’s Spring Truck Rally, but of course I get the call from work RIGHT as I’m leaving. Grrrrr… damn you daily life, ruining my mobile adventures!

Oh well, at least I could get back to visit this big yellow behemoth (and now I’m thinking about the Magic Schoolbus)! The focus of which seems to be the use of Chinese and Southern Asian flavors and cooking techniques into basic truck food. Specific menu items themselves tend to change and switch around rather often; in fact, every time they park at a brewery they focus almost purely on selling simple snack-based, easy eating pub-style offerings (I sadly don’t know what kind specifically, but you can get an idea based on style they serve).

Items themselves can range from a highly classic and simple Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, over rice and such, to a ‘Chinese’ Pulled Pork Sandwich (I assume the moniker is due to flavors cooked WITH the pork, and not just because it’s served with an ‘Asian Slaw,’ though who knows). Some rather consistent options include Turkey Eggrolls (which I so wanna get), ‘Dragon Fries’ (will explain later), Thai Red Curry Chicken Wrap, and a Vietnamese Fried Fish Sandwich. Many of which come with a bag of chips (Lays, which my boss was happy with. Don’t look at me like that, I had enough food in me that day, I did NOT need those empty calories, no matter how crispy they are).

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Food: 7

                That Fish Sandwich was calling out to me, and was singularly unique compared to most menus I’ve seen, so I just had to feature it. The basic composition was, of course, a white fish filet, given a light batter and fried. This placed between a buttered, toasted bun (nicely toasted bun, yum) with a spread of ‘Shrimp Pate,’ cooked shrimp turned into a paste which offered a refreshingly cool sweet seafood flavor in contrast to the warmth and flaky light richness of the fish. That is then topped with pickled red onions, FRIED onions, and an ‘Asian tartar sauce,’ which all in all come together like a classic fried walleye sandwich with a twist of South-Eastern Asian freshness. The particularly tart pickled onions and flavored sauce stand out nicely with the fish, which isn’t at that perfectly thick and crunchy fried batter that one can expect from, say, a proper fish and chips, but it stood up with everything else just fine, helped out in flavor and texture from the fried onions. That said, I think they had way too many pickled onions on top; I had like half of mine fall out, and it still felt on the edge of just shoving their presence in your face, and I LIKE pickled onions (they’re good too). Just, pull back on them a bit will ya?

The fried Shrimp, on the other hand, didn’t quite thrill me that much. An order of Dragon Fries gets you a basket of shoestring French fries accompanied by 2-3 (okay it’s been a week since I’ve had this, and my picture’s not so clear, so I forgot) shrimp, sliced in half and fried in batter. Fries are typical, nothing exciting or particularly craveable, and though the shrimp has the nice flavor you expect, it was also a touch greasy in flavor, and the batter came out rather thick and soft in spots, almost moist. Basically they’re fried in a typical ‘sweet and sour’ style, flavor being better than the generic restaurants but texture about the same.

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Being of that style, though, it did come with a thing of Homemade Sweet-Sour Sauce, which… was definitely better than the stuff from the packet. Similar flavor points, but smoothed out, not thick, and mellow, a very happy dipper for both my shrimp and the potato strips they came with. I should finish by saying that I overall don’t have any issue with the dish idea, fried shrimp on fried potatoes seems lazy but I can understand its place, but there are some execution points and choices that I wish were improved.

Holdability: 8.5

                 Dragon Fries are like eating a… well, a basket of fries, we can imagine how easy that is, only need to consider dipping. The Fish sandwich fillings did have a habit of sliding around (as I mentioned earlier, quite a bit of the onions fell out), but to be fair I think much of that mess was my own fault for not taking full advantage of that foil wrapping around it. If I actually used that instead of trying to go full-hand, it probably would have kept in tight and clean like wrapped sandwiches do and not been so much tartar and pickle stuff on my fingers. And I expect the other sandwiches and wraps to be as clean, the teriyaki coming with a fork, and everything being able to consume without much extra attention while roaming. Just two hands required.
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Price: 7.5

                  Main sandwiches come out at $10, the Wrap being a buck less, Teriyaki bowl one further at $8. The Dragon Fries settles down to $6, which feels fair and about right for a mound of fries with shrimp, which usually comes in pricier even for just a few, though I do wish the quality was further up to match it. Still very sad to say I didn’t try the egg rolls, so not sure how well they fit their $5 moniker, but if they’re anything like Vellee’s in quality (being turkey based they certainly sound unique enough) and of a decent size or quantity, I’d say it’s a safe bet. As for sandwiches, I agree with price for the Fish (even as-is), but the pulled pork and wrap need to be a bit fantastic to garner that, cuz I don’t think a bag of chips is enough of a side to qualify the extra dollar or two I’m unwittingly paying vs having the truck food on its own. Would rather get those fries or something else (preferably something else).

Speed: 7.5

Took about five minutes, average wait for three things that need frying (shrimp, potatoes, and fish) plus assembly.

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The TOE: 8

                  There’s something about the food and menu that doesn’t quite excite me as the personality of the truck’s name and design does when hearing and seeking it out on social media, or seeing from a distance. I think part of it has to do with the actual sorta tacky food pictures in the window along with the whiteboard menu, which is an annoying juxtaposition as (as a customer/reviewer) I do appreciate being able to see what to expect for each item ahead of time. There’s a feel to it when visiting that reminds me of some typical/generic newer Chinese/Pan-Asian food court or cart (like that Golden Tummy that was hanging around Minneapolis a couple years back), which is unfair to them because I can tell they’re offering some interesting and more unique options and packaging of their food, what with getting turkey in the eggrolls, (hopefully) flavoring a pulled pork sandwich with Chinese spices, and other things I’m sure they’ll come up with. Definitely giving them a few extra points for changing the menu to fit their locations, like when they offer more pub-style/snack-ish foods at breweries. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe a result of the food’s impression on me afterward. Hopefully I can change my mind at a future visit.

Tally: 38.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Classic Yum seeks to fill the need for Chinese and Southern Asian flavors presented in a not-so-typical way, and for the most part they have had a strong start towards success in this, needing only some tweaking and further twisting from a few too simplistic dishes (I’m looking at you Teriyaki and Dragon Fries) to fully achieve something amazing. For now they are definitely the spot to go when seeking Asian flavors packed between two buns, or wrapped in a tortilla. They also offer a decent possibility in the quick-snack option during Truck touring/meals or when visiting a brewery, mainly in the form of Turkey Eggrolls and other changing/seasonal items I have yet to experience.

From what I’ve witnessed in their regular on-the-street lineup, I think the most exciting option for the hungry traveler would be the Red Curry Chicken Wrap, from its high portability to tasty flavors (plenty of places now have proven curried stuff crammed into a burrito is delicious), and at a buck less than the other sandwiches, even more of a deal. That said the Fish Sandwich is quite the experience, especially from trucks; with a lineup that mostly looks to burgers, pulled pork (and other bbq), bacon, fried chicken, grilled/fried shrimp, tofu stuff, and other things meat or vegetarian related, it’s not often you get to actually get to try anything fish related. And they did do it well, I simply suggest taking off half of the pickled onions before digging in. Then you’ll be happy.

Vellee in the Skyway with Burritos

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You know what the sorta funny thing is? There’s at least… what, 5 (likely much more) food truck restaurants and other standing operations that have opened up in the past two years that I STILL have yet to get to in the Twin Cities, and yet I literally only found out on Twitter about Vellee Deli’s Skyway place, located in the Baker Building off 8th and Marquette, on day 2 of their opening and I’m able to make it out there a week later! Well, guess it was the straw that broke this camel’s back, thank god I’ve finally broken down and accepted the need for using Twitter (shudders); I mean, I can’t miss out on my favorite truck’s new operation can I?

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And I’m not the only one apparently; whether it’s die-hard truck fans, other hipster-like foodies glued to twitter, or simply skyway workers really looking forward to the different, delicious fair, the line out the opening was well and long! Let’s hope it stays like that, as it should; if there’s any skyway food business that should stay successful for a long time, I think Vellee deserves it (who cares about the boring fast food companies?).

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An open-air kitchen filled with more than double the number of people that worked in the truck dealt with this line rather fast, serving out the large menu drawn in chalk, the same as on the truck but with a few extra, tasty items. I of course had to try one of these newer items myself, grabbing the Tofu Burritio (made with curry, zingy cream sauce, and some mushrooms and lettuce) and Chips w/ Pineapple Salsa.

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Yeah yeah, the guy who complains about the logic of ordering chips and guac from a truck got some here. Well it’s a sit-down restaurant so I have the right! And it was quite tasty… was a bit surprised seeing the tomato base, figured it’d be more ike the typical Caribbean, all-pineapple with some mix-in salsas, was very much worried about the flavors being too muddy/mixed… but it actually tasted really good. Fresh, tart and lightly sweet, tangy, not thick and very crunchable on the chips.

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Then there’s the burrito, I mean who can complain about their burritos? It’s practically an indulgent sin, but vegetarian… and after just coming out of a month of vegetarianism, I’ve found new appreciation for the product that is Tofu, along with other non-meat-based thingies. Safe to say, scrumptious and nummy, the only reason it took me 10 minutes to eat being because I had an 8-minute phone call after I started! Plus I can’t say no to a good dish of curry and rice… I’ll admit my nerves waned slightly at the notable inclusion of simple lettuce, but it fully heightened the experience (I need to stop doubting lettuce… I blame taco bell).

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Well, it’s no different than my other ravings on Vellee’s offerings. As always, I wish them luck and good fortune in all their ventures, and hope those reading get the chance to try their Minneapolis Skyway location sometime soon. Just remember it’s only open 10-3, like all the other locations up there (think they’ll start complaining about losing business to food trucks now? Haha). Now, what truck restaurant to visit next…

 

Oh, gotta love a fully stocked quality soda bottle section while you’re at it, no matter where you go.

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Top 20 Food Trucks, 2014

2014-05-10 12.55.00

Thought I’d change up my “Top” post this year, since it’s become so difficult for new trucks to push into the ever-higher scores of the best 10, and with all the great trucks out there, I thought I’d offer a quick feature of the top 20 food trucks in the Twin Cities. This is again based purely off of the ratings developed through my reviews, and I admit that perception of the ‘best’ is very different for each person. Not to mention, sadly, there’ve been a few trucks that came later on in the season I never got a chance to get to, so who knows what it’ll look like when I get to them (hopefully we’ll find out next year!).

So, here they are!

20140501_175614Placing #20, tied at 44pts: Fro Yo Soul, Hot Indian Foods, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites, and Hola Arepa

A veritable cornucopia of styles, two new kids and two veteran’s, one that pumps frozen dessert and another that sizzles masa dough sandwiches, Indian burritos to deep fried goodies a la Psycho Suzie’s. My favorite example of the metaphor that is the Food Truck community.

Sharing #18 with 44.5pts: B52 Slider Squad and Jake’s Street Grille

Two maestros of the mini burgers end up sharing the score, offering juicy, hand-sized meat patties for our cravings.

Three-way hit at #15th place, 45pts: Home Street Home, Rusty Tacos, and Cupcakes on the Go

A couple of my long favorites in dessert and variety along with a veritable army of taco offerings.

20140828_113746#12th place, another three-way (there’s gonna be a few, and yet this is still family friendly!?) at 45.5: O’Cheeze, SCRATCH!, and Bachelor Farmer’s Sausage Cart

Two newbies slide in as we FINALLY get the grilled cheese business that the Twin Cities has desperately needed, not to mention a craft hot dog stand sitting outside one of North Loop’s favorite institutions. But of course SCRATCH still stands strong as it always has and will be with their awesome sandwiches.

#11, one of the few solo spot participants nowadays with 46pts (yes, I should probably stop being so generous with points and give more demerits to spread truck ratings apart better… sue me): AZ Canteen

Though they got bumped out of the top 10 last year, Andrew Zimmern’s amazing mobile station still holds a strong spot, both on the street and in my hear (cue adorably cheesy music).

And for the Top 10! Once again the list belongs to:

csh4#7th Place, 4-way tie at 46.5pts: Chef Shack, MidNord Empanada, Tot Boss, and Café Racer

#4th Place, another 3-way split at 47.5pts (can’t believe I haven’t gotten a 47-pointer yet): Eli’s Donut Burgers, Moral Omnivore, Paulette Bakery

#3rd, 48pts: Vellee Deli

#2nd, 49pts: NateDogs

And as always, #1 at a whopping 50.5: Potter’s Pasties

With luck, this coming year will show some amazing new guys willing and able to shake up the rankings a bit more, and with even better luck I might be able to try them out! Otherwise I might have to simply ignore next year’s rankings.

Thanks for dealing with me as always, hope this year is culinarily amazing for you all! Good Luck and Good Eating!

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.

Food Trucks that Don’t Exist: a Dedication

So I was gonna post this guy a while ago, but apparently I wrote the draft, took a break before I looked up pictures, and completely forgot about it! So pretend it came out right after this article did!

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/06/fleet_of_dreams_the_best_food_trucks_that_dont_exist_yet.php

                I am in much agree-al with this latest CityPages Hot Dish article! If you have yet to read it, click the link above to view their opinions on Food Trucks we have yet to see. The Dip-based idea seems a bit odd to me (though I can see us having a market for it), but the make-your-own Pie concept could be heavenly.

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                Either way, it got me thinking about OTHER kinds of Street Food our mobile army has yet to tap into, for one reason or another. I did do a post about a year ago about people/restaurants that I’d like to see get in the business, but hashing out the food itself is yet another fun endeavor in itself.

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All things Japanese

                I’ve mentioned it at times in the past, and I’m sure by now many of you have seen some food show or another traveling through Asian, only to learn that the large Continent is a veritable wealth of various stands shoveling out mass amounts of traditional street foods. There are so many things we still have yet to be completely brought in from China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. But the country that excites me most with their Street Food is Japan.

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                Hot Dish already covers our sore need for good mobile ramen, but I would also so love to see someone shoveling out Takoyaki, spherical little “pancakes” cooked in their own grate with different savory fillings (usually Octopus) and covered in sticky sauces and bonito, just waiting for you to toothpick it into your mouth. Similarly, Dango, little sweet rice flour balls (similar to Mochi) already skewered with a bit of sauce on top. Could have a truck that serves both, sweet and savory oriental orbs!

                Then there’s Okonamiyaki, big savory pancakes that are cooked to order and whatever you want in them (drizzled in special mayo and sauce); Bento Boxesfor those on the go and wanting something “special;” Onigiri, simple rice balls stuffed with various fillings, think of all the cool fusion things we could do with that, while still keeping super-simple and affordable options for others; and of course, who could forget Yakitori, skewers of very simply and very skillfully grilled meats from every part of an animal, covered in a perfectly balanced sauce.

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Juicy Balls

                Subs, skewers, sandwiches, soups, fry baskets, what can’t a meatball be used in? And what can’t it be made from? So versatile with such a soul-filling warmth and joy when done right, there’s huge potential for doing something along these lines. And though we do have One Stand that uses a meatball sub, it’s just the one item on the menu; we need a true Specialty, like Devil’s Advocate before they changed their menu up (such a sad thing now…).

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Desserts Galore

                I’ve said it at least once before and I’ll say it again, we need a Dessert Truck! I’m sorry but Cupcakes don’t really count that much anymore, and our one Crepe Truck is… well… either way, all the other cities have one! Why can’t we!? Moooooommmmmmm.

                -cough- Sorry ‘bout that. Anyways, it doesn’t matter what kind, whether it’s one of those trucks that shells out all variety of sweets or a specialist; Pie, Cheesecake, Sundaes, something stuffed in a Cone, I don’t care, and neither should you! Give us more sugar, MOAR! I will say though, a good, proper Ice Creamtruck that makes their own custard from Quality ingredients would be extra awesome. Or hey, if Izzy’s wants to get in the game I won’t complain.

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Tapas for Everyone

                I know I know, we have A La Plancha now which serves up various “tapas” with their food, but it still doesn’t feel like they’ve gotten so deep down into the spirit and wealth of it that they could (and I’ve seen their truck out a few times). There really are SO many different tapas out there, traditional and non, a having a truck focus PURELY on these various small Spanish things which we could pick up and take around could be so fun. And let’s not forget about Pinchos, Tapas close cousin, basically semi-sandwiches or other “small” items with a thin skewer through them to hold together (and also keep track of how many things you’ve eaten). When I go for Tapas, I really want to get into the feel and culture of Spain, so let’s get a mobile eatery that can really do that.

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All Roads Lead to Dim Sum

                So Yeah, I want Dim Sum. If you want to hear my argument why, read this Post I did a while back.

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A Bit of Our History

                You know, now that I think about it, we really don’t have any trucks yet that focus on some sort of Eastern Europeanspecialties (besides that one Strudel Truck, but we barely see it anywhere). No Germanic, Russian, Polish, Czech, or anything like that, which is a shame ‘cuz it’s all really good food. True the idea doesn’t immediately conjure up “Street Food” images, besides bratwurst covered in sauerkraut (and we already have plenty of that), but there are some foods we know of (and many that we don’t I’m sure) that could do a great job on a truck. There’s Pierogies, cuz who doesn’t love dumplings; Piroshki, which are like Pasties but with a more bready dough (there’s a market stand in Seattle that makes awesome ones, perfect street food); Borscht and the Crepes like I said; many many regional snausagesto be used in dogs, sandwiches, what have you; various stews like Goulashwhich could be shoved in something; etc. And don’t forget the many many uses of sauerkraut and potatoes. It’s basically like talking about our favorite MN foods, so why not express them on the street?

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Everything Cake

                It hits me that we, and many others, have a Crepe Truck, a Waffle Truck, but why not have a Pancake truck? Thick and fluffy, but one could still wrap it in a cone or fold in half. Could fill and top it with anything, sweet or savory, as all different versions of pancakes do. Which is another thought, instead of just doing the one basic kind, a Pancake Truck could offer different batters (either pick and choose or each with their own crafted fillings): Potato, Johnnycake (cornmeal), Buttermilk, Thin European, etc. Who wouldn’t love the joy of taking something simple and nostalgic and getting serious with it, much like the Grilled Cheese idea (thank god I no longer need to add a “grilled cheese” section to this list).

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Fried Fury

                A lot of people like Anchor, our local Fish and Chips based restaurant and truck, but it feels like the menu is more restaurant-based than fish-and-chips-based; I mean they only have the onefish. How cool would it be to have a pure, simple, and classic Fish and Chips truck that, like the shops back home, have a whole selection of different fish to go in the fryer! Or maybe they take the fish and fries and stuff it in a grinder or tortilla (or, with the nation’s Indian ties, Roti) to make it fully portable! Slather on that Tartar sauce (per request of course) and really give us a Deep Fried delight. And why stop there, why not make a whole Deep-fried themed menu, span more than one kind of food item, cover some random crap in batter and crisp it up with heart-destroying deliciousness. I know there’s a place in New York (I think it’s called The Chip Shop) that does it, and they’re quite successful.

                Or at the least, maybe get a truck that specializes in Fried Chicken. We have some that do it (very well I might add) in sandwiches, but let’s get a place that really does it justice as the MAIN item.

Temaki

Temaki

                Oh come on, you knew I was gonna say it at some point (well, if you read my blog frequently). Sushi Fix STILL has yet to offer this perfectly walkable coneof Nori stuffed with sushi rice and filling. I won’t go into it much this time, but I still believe it would be such a great, fun, delicious Toe Ring type item to sell for the sushi lover on-the-go.

                Well, that’s my list, what’s yours? Do you have any particular Foods or Cuisine you’d like to see on the Minnesota Street?

Stanley’s on Wheels (Quasi-Review)

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http://www.stanleysonwheels.com/

https://twitter.com/stanleyswheels

           Most people know of Stanley’sBar, if not having been there already; it’s a cornerstone of the NE University/Lowry area. Mid-2012, they made the decision to join the new street food craze, launching their catering truck onto the streets of Downtown Minneapolis. Of late, I haven’t seen them too much on the street, outside of certain events (then again I’m not able to get “on the street” as often as I’d like, and not everywhere I want); but I hear that they’ve been participating in a wave of Catering gigs, likely due to the bar’s name/popularity, and have been very successful in this venture.

            Which is good, because chances are if they had to depend solely on trying to survive on the streets and breweries next to our other Trucks, I doubt they would have lasted to this Summer. My original visit to this mobile eatery was a couple years ago, and I’ve been putting off writing the review for them for quite a while; though even after starting my Quasi-review habit, I at least wanted to go back once more to give them a fully updated chance to change my first opinion. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

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            Originally consisting of a bar menu (and pictures of the food) with options that one could expect to find at any sports stadium booth, Stanley’s initial focus revolved around multi-colored Nachos covered in Cheese sauce and, now, pulled pork, BBQ sandwiches made of said meat, Pretzel sticks paired with a shot of that cheese sauce to dunk in, and at one point a “Reuben.” My first visit had me ordering this, which they served by taking a big ice cream scoop of cooked corned beef and sauerkraut mixed together and plopping it on a simple bun, squirting their version of thousand island on top. Overall it was somewhat satisfying, not bad, but it felt quite lazy as far as proper Reuben’s go. Though I haven’t seen much evidence of them still selling it though, so I guess the fine details of that particular item don’t matter.

             Nowadays they’ve kept the Beef Brisket, uncorned, and use it and the Pulled Pork as fillings for Tacos, Sliders, and Sandwiches in conjunction with the other items I’ve mentioned. Unhappily I wasn’t able to get a picture of their updated Menu on my second visit, which was during their Bacon and Beer festival at the 2014 Art-a-Whirl. The event had them keeping a very simple menu of Nachos or ultra-simple Sliders of either filling, $2.50 each. I got one of each Brisket and Pork, and they both tasted about the same: overall pretty tasteless, with a generic and thin BBQ sauce flavor, not that exciting. At least they weren’t dry.

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              Too bad they didn’t at least have the regular sliders, which they apparently top with an “asian slaw,” and use a chili-soy-sesame sauce for. Those might not be bad options. But, with that meat, the Tacos look even less promising than what I’ve had so far; they’re apparently filled with some of the most boring and cliché ingredients, mainly lettuce, pico de gallo (salsa), cheese, sour cream, and/or cilantro depending on which taco it is. For the vegetarians, they have a Wrapof Red Peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, and Hummus. And as dessert, they celebrate in their “Rock Slide Brownie;” which they make sound so perky and hopeful on the sight but is basically just a brownie with caramel, topped with more brownie and caramel (and nuts, don’t forget nuts). Doesn’t it all just sound so exciting? No? Yeah I didn’t think so either.

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                Food:4 – The food options aren’t impressive, the food barely looks impressive (though I’ll admit the nachos and brownie don’t look half bad for what they are), and the food doesn’t taste that impressive. Not “bad” but… in the overall light of other street food options, meh.

                Holdability:6 – Basket of messy nachos, saucy pulled meat sandwiches, they’re not bad but they’re not great for it either.

                Price:7 – $7seems to be the set price for most main items, with $2for the brownie (not sure about their Pretzel “Sticks” with cheese sauce, I hope it’s barely anything more). Though the prices themselves are decent, as obviously expressed there’s not much

                Speed:9 – At the very least, most items are so simple in “plating” that it barely takes any time to pile them all together

                Toe: 3 – I just barely get anything from them, obviously (though that could be just me)

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                The sad part is, looking over their website and menu pictures and descriptions, it all doesn’t look quite that bad, at least based on the pictures alone. God, I hope the translated flavors aren’t the same quality as what’s served in the actual bar.

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Spring Food Truck Rally 2014, full of New!

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So, I was going to start this post off remarking about the good weather; the Spring Food Truck Rallywas this Saturday, and it was my first time at one of Harriet’sgatherings that it was just Sunny and warm the whole time! The curse of the rally being held in days interspersed and mixed with rainy sunshine was over!

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Well apparently that was just me, as I was only there for the first couple hours. Seems rain came down later… and the pattern continues. I swear it’s the weirdest thing isn’t it!? Every single one, different seasons, same basic weather. Maybe if they had one in Winter they coulda broke the spell…

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My luck in dodging the chance to get wet, the Rally itself was quite the fun success, as usual! Though boy did they crama LOT of food trucks in that lot, I can’t tell if there was more this year… or maybe just more people. There was a nice crowd, people everywhere, a big bustling horseshoe alleyways of those wandering for food, ending as usual with the shaded beer tent leading towards the taproom.

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Standing testament to their success over a certain other yearly truck fair, even with the noted crowds, people jostling for beer and food, listening to music, it was still a very comfortable atmosphere. No one was shoved “elbow to elbow,” most of the lines were quite small except for a couple relatively popular ones on that day, and they weren’t quite as torturous to wait through (well, maybe one). Interestingly enough, this was the first year that I have EVER seen the taproom band area floor NOT completely jammed with people, let alone almost empty (besides the chairs and couch). Guess most people didn’t mind listening at the many outside tables or during their edible adventuring.

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It’s a bit too bad most seemed to regulate their beer-buying at the outside tent, which casked four of the more popular options for fast retrieval. Unlike them, the INSIDE taproom offered those same beers and another four special, intriguing options. And though I love their Saison, I just had to get something unique for the occasion: a Barrel-aged Raspberry D.O.No, I don’t know what DO meant, I shoulda asked, but either way I found the yielding glass to be quite nummilicious (…I have got to stop using some of these words, my credibility wanes too much as it is). A chaste fragrance and filling flavor that holds reminiscence of recent raspberry and sour ales, with full body and deliciously heavy, grainy dark malt flavor with that certain blend of bitter hops and raw toastiness (or something, I still have yet to figure out the specific aroma elements for this) that I’ve found in many oaked beers. Overall I liked it; it wasn’t so much raspberry that the color changes and it’s basically fruit drink with beer (which certainly isn’t bad either), but it was more than those raspberry beers that only offer the barest whiff of affection in the aroma (also not necessarily bad, but certainly not my cup of tea; if you’re gonna flavor with fruit, then really FLAVOR it, am I right?).

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Beer’s not the only thing I tried, of course. One of my big reasons for coming out there was compounded by the ability to take pictures and sample from not only one, but TWO new trucks in the Minnesota scene! O’Cheeze is here, finally, bringing the Twin Cities our very first Grilled Cheese business! And it’s about damn time! Following them, and filling in for a an absent Sandy’s, is Pepperjax Grill, rolling their Philly Cheesesteak truck out from their many base restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska to try out Minnesota’s street industry. I did ask, they’re in the area to stay (at least for the summer), so a review of them and O’Cheese will be coming soon.

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Don’t need to wait for the other food though. And there was one food item amongst all the menus that everybody learned about, and I’d say at least 33% actually enjoyed. If you were there, you know what I’m talkin’ about: the Chicken and Waffle“sandwiches” from Lulu’s. Oh, classic, classic Lulu, offering us something that we just can’t say no to. Thick, crunchy, juicy fried chicken (you’ve read my review, you know how awesome their fried chicken is), this time pushed between thick and caramelly Belgian Waffles, drizzled with syrup, topped with Bacon, some sort of ranch-ish sauce, and I think a parmesan crisp? This basically stands for everything that Lulu is; pure, unadulterated indulgenceand happiness… in a very messy container. Great for fairs with tables! I didn’t mind getting messy to enjoy this spicy, crunchy, somewhat sweet bunch of deliciousness; I actually had to finish with a fork. The best part, I’d have to say, was the waffle; like the chicken, I would very gladly eat this separate and on its own, one of the best waffles I’ve actually had in a long time (good crunch, great flavors, still soft inside, etc). Using it here just compounds the amazingness of the whole dish.

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Now that I think about it, that makes a day of three different sandwiches. Huh, fun.

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So how do I finish off my palette after three heavy sandwiches on a hot day? Why with a popsicleof course! And it just so happens that Moral Omnivore has started selling a “Daily Popsicle” as their new dessert-of-choice. Like the chix+waffle, it made for another popular item amongst the crowd; I was quite surprised in finding out it was from MO, but very happy nonetheless.

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The flavor of the day just happened to be one of my favorite combos, Raspberry and Rosemary (too bad I had finished my beer by then); I just love berries and herbs, sweet or savory. As figured, the flavors were tasty, they weren’t afraid to showcase the rosemary. One thing I’ll say though, it was very icy… not too surprising considering it’s, as they said, basically just a fruit smoothie put in cup and frozen in a freezer. I didn’t mind too much though, they weren’t large or chunky; in fact, it works with the raspberry, very reminiscent of eating through the seeds (that’s what I thought it was at first). And I love that chunky fresh, tart raspberry feeling. Though hopefully it’s an issue that doesn’t come up in other, smoother fruit-based flavors.2014-05-10 13.07.26

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Though that was the end of my edible options that day, it wasn’t the last thing to see. Going off the popsicle, MO wasn’t the only one to have a menu change; there’ve been quite a few trucks upgrading from a simple white board to a nice, permanent design. Hibachi’s got a new, colorful yellow tag system to paste on the side of their truck. Brava, not so extreme, has brightened up the big plastic-enveloped menu items. Gogi Bros even got one of those Plasma TV Menu displays! (tried to take a pic, but it didn’t turn out well with the light)

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Not only their menu, Emconada’s gotten themselves a brand new truck! Though I forgot to go up and ask if the cart is still around, they’ll now be rolling up in a big, impressive orange van to stand out and rival the others! With the new truck comes some menu update, adding Burritosand Sandwichesto the repertoire (made with the same meat though, so I don’t see much need for a review). The cones have stayed the same, though they look a bit prettier with the sauce application on top.2014-05-10 14.06.56

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And that about sums up what I have to say. Overall I’d say it was another very fun, very successful rally by the MN Food Truck Association. Already I can’t wait for the next one, though at least I have a few events until then to keep me busy; Art-a-Whirl 2014is this weekend, get ready! Hope you all have fun, and an exuberant wish of Good Lucks and Good Eatings for the coming months!

 

Citypage’s 100 Favorite Dishes, 2013-14 Food Truck Breakdown

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                It’s safe to say the press and attention our Food Trucks have been getting through local news, papers, and blogs has yielded a wide breadth of coverage, strong reviews, and some pretty fun and interesting online articles. For the past… well I guess it’s actually been half a year, I’ve been occasionally following one of these yearly “projects” posted in Citypages: they’re “100 Favorite Dishes” (of the previous year I’m assuming… and the beginning of 2014).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/100_favorite_di/

                I took notice a few weeks into their beginning of this year’s list after seeing a certain Food Truck’s mobile options as one of their favorite. After reading the article, considering things, I thought it would be fun to stick around and see who all else they might raise to inspired cravings. And let me say, our meals on wheels brethrens have racked up quite a few spots in the limited selection; not huge, but certainly not a puny few.

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                The first pic, coming in rated at #94, is World Street Kitchen’s Kimchi(and blue cheese) Scones. Though, yes, this particular Brunch item is only available through the RESTAURANT, I do believe the originally street-savvy business deserves the credit. Especially since this would make an AWESOME item on the Truck; god, I would hunt their truck down in a SECOND if I knew they had this guy on its menu, total Toe Ring material. Baked in house, this soft and yummy pastry is twisted with an interestingly funky mix of fermented cabbage and the moldy cheese. They have other scones too, which all sound quite yummy as well, but I gotsa love me some Kimchi all the time.

 http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/asian_invasion_bulgogi_tacos.php

                Asian Invasion comes in at #90with their oh-so-signatory Bulgogi Tacos, as I made some mention in their review. Kimchi makes its second appearance in this list, joined by jalapenos and the sizzling beef. I still have yet to get my hands on this soft and delicious package, but soon… soon…

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/100_favorite_dishes_no_78_potters_coconut_curry_veggie_pasty.php

                #78was taken up by my own favorite, Potter’s Pasties, and the much agreed-upon choice in what’s likely the best of the classic opions (or at least in the running), the Thai Veggie. Don’t think I need to express any further opinions on this item, those who read know my love of the savory pastry cart. Though I will say, so far, these favorite selections are really quite Asian aren’t they?

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/01/100_favorite_di_54.php

                One of last year’s summer newcomers, Paulette’s quickly scores itself up to #61in Citypage’s highlights with their Chocolate Croissant.Though really they could have picked any the croissants they offered, what with their mutual use of that buttery, flaky handmade and folded pastry. Can’t blame them though, a good chocolate croissant almost being a work of art, and this really is a good chocolate croissant. I’ll have to write myself a note to have it again sometime soon.

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/02/100_favorite_dishes_moral_omnivore.php

                Not a surprise, Moral Omnivore comes into the ratings, and quite high at #48, easily edging itself into the upper half of this list with their BLTwhere the T stands for Terrifically-Fried-Tomato. There’s a reason both these guys and Paulette’s made it into my own Top 10 Truck list, and the items responsible are both featured here as well. Just simple, beatifull, and perfectly fun and street worthy. If one still has yet to visit them, you should, they were probably THE stand-out truck for me of 2013, if there ever was any (hold on, did Motley’s premier in 2013? If so than MO is #2).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dishes_foxy_falafel_cheese_curds.php

                Foxy Falafel made it in at #28, but it was for the restaurant’s Cheese Curds, which I just found out typing this… it makes my feelings confused. On the one hand yes, it’s quite the accolade to get so high up on the list, and those local, cornstarch and dill-breaded curds look perfectly crisp and delicious… but come on, you have Foxy FALAFEL on a top 100 list for CHEESE CURDS!? I guess I should be happy it’s still a classic street fair food, but… but… falafel… please…

                -cough- Anyways. Drumroll please! The final Food Truck, which reached in all the way up to spot #23is….

–dadadadadadadada–(… in case you can’t tell, that’s a drumroll)

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dish_world_street_kitchen_yum_yum_bowl_sameh_wadi_delivery.php

                -Gasp- World Street Kitchenagain! And it all comes full circle, and with the menu item that many could say launched their popularity: the BBQ Beef Yum Yum Rice Bowl! I still remember the many times I walked past them in the summer of our first Food Truck year. Even now, it’s still never an item that initially stood out to me that much, but when I finally had it one lone night did I get to experience the balanced beauty of this asian mixed bowl delight. Though not the most mobile, its origins hark back to the days of weary travelers getting sustenance from small roadside “cafes.” And the heart and soul has translated well throughout all these years.

                And with that ends this year’s iteration of the 100 best, my response posted notably later then I wanted it to be (they snuck the last one under my nose without me noticing for over a week, darn them!). A big congratulations to EVERYONE who made the list, this is truly quite the gathering of delicious food offerings. Maybe I should start another One Craving Project around trying each one of them? Let’s hope next year yields a similar level of Food Truck involvement. But until then, enjoy all your culinary adventures, whether they’re mobile or stuck in the ground. Good Luck and Good Eating!

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                Honorable mention towards Indeed’s LSD Alereaching #70, much love to our business brothers in the local Breweries, and Chef Shack Ranch’s Chicken Wingsat #37 (god I still need to go there… and other restaurants).

 

Asian Invasian

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http://asianinvasiontruck.com/

https://twitter.com/AsianInvasionTr

Main Location:St. Paul, Etc

            I’ve somewhat discussed the idea of trucks coming into business during the fall season, right after the busy summer has ended and gliding into the hard, hard winter months. How some of them make the decision is a mystery to me; how they actually survive to the warm weather is spectacular (we do make ‘em hardy in Minnesota don’t we?). So it’s interesting to see if and when anything happens during this season, to both the old and new guys, and any evolution that may happen as the snow falls and melts as it does.

            Coming into the fall of 2013, Asian Invasianhas easily survived the harsh winter with high popularity. Before year’s end, their bulgogi taco had already earned a spot in Citypage’s Top 100 Foods of 2013. Whether this is a result of, or one of the main factors in, their late-season survival I am not sure, but it certainly is something to say isn’t it?

            As the name suggests, Invasian deals in all items Asian-themed, mainly the more “well known” (or cliché) dishes from the big mainland countries. Dining options vary from rice bowls of Chinese Sesameor Lemongrass Chicken, Indian Pork Curry, and Chicken Fried Rice to Korean Bulgogi(short ribs) wrapped in Tacos. Vietnamese Pulled Pork Bahn Mialso makes its appearance, alongside with those iconic fried Egg Rolls and Wantons. My particular travel also saw a couple Hot Dog based “specials;” whether they often offer asian-flavored wieners is as yet unsure, but it’s a consideration.

            In reality I have yet to finish my travels to this particular mobile operation, as the main object of my desire had been unknowingly snatched away from me after ordering. That said I figure I have enough of an idea of them so far, and I will surely update if needed once I wrap my fingers around that beefy goodness.

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Food: 8.5

                My pursuit to get the Bulgogi Tacos was put to a quick halt as I later found out (a while after the order got accepted) that they had run out, so I grabbed the Bahn Miinstead. Similarly, they had run out of Pork Katsu Curry, but had a Chickenversion to try instead.

                Both items had noted ups and downs in my view. The curry itself was nicely flavored, and the meat and veggies cooked well, not quite amazing but better than one made with generic curry powder. Though then again I’ve always found that this particular style of yellow-spiced-curry is hard to identify high quality versions… sort of like root beer. Either way, I liked it. What I didn’t like was the giant mound of rice beneath it… or perhaps just the notable lack of curry that went on top of it. I understand potential cultural relevancies behind it, the habit of having a lot of rice to just chew on plain next to the meal, but we’re not in India or Japan. I want to be able to actually mix the sauce into all the rice without its flavors practically disappearing under the starch mass. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only local who wants to taste the already subdued flavors.

                There’s not much I can say about the Bahn Mi. They used a different bread than they should have, but they got a flat crunch on the outside which was nice (no inside crunch, but I don’t mind it sopping up stuff so long as there’s texture somewhere). The pork itself, though cooked well at least, was somewhat boring… it just reminded me of another pulled pork sandwich but without any sauce. I really wish they had a sauce. Or a different kind of pork, like something grilled and glazed or a pate, like is pretty proper. I guess the pickles were nicely acidic and tart, but that’s about it… still wondering if the jalapenos were cut a bit too big in mine. It’s part of the experience but I feel like I’ve had them thinner in other bahn mi’s.

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                I will say though… they’re really good at frying things. Don’t think this is me being passive-aggressive and snotty, I’m serious. The Sweet Potato Frieswhich automatically came with the sandwich had that perfectly thin layer of crispness on the outside with a tenderly soft inside; not the easiest thing to do (I doubt it’d last long, but no sweet potato fry ever does). And the chicken in the curry (also used in their Sesame), which was also deep fried, had that really nice tempura-ish crust, which stood up very well through the sauce, without overcooking the bird. Could tell it was an actual scratch-made batter too, not the generic thick sweet-and-sour batter used in almost every Chinese buffet or to-go restaurant. Either way, I was excited to eat it; and something about the texture reminded me of pork cracklings.

                That said, one can expect that the wontonsand egg rollsare to be cooked well; I’m also giving them the benefit of the doubt with the Bulgogi and the Pork Katsu (sounds like they’re deep-fried meatballs) that I was not able to sample at this time. So I’m giving them a little higher score than I normally would have. Hopefully I’ll be able to try the Tacos soon to properly update the blog with.

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Holdability:7.5

               So far, every item seen has been giving in some form of “bowl” (to-go aluminum version) or basket of plastic or regular composure. Everything requires two handedness, many require a fork, fried “apps” have a dipping sauce one needs to take into consideration (non-covered), and even potentially high-mobile sandwich is grounded by a side of fries. The Tacos and Hot Dog Specials are probably the only truly mobile options, with the latter possibly only needing one-handedness depending on how much topping it’s given (though I’m sure it’s served in a basket, one can just readjust on their own).

Price:7.5

                Basically the same pricing structure as the recently-visited Butcher Salt, with all main items at $8 and smaller onesat $5, but I feel the quality for cost is very divergent among them. As for the cheaper things, the Hot Dog Specials (at $5) may be a good deal, though that also depends on the dog used and how much they’re garnished. On Fried, I’m a touch uneasy; the Pork Wonton/Fried Dumpling yield a good option, but one only gets two okay-sized Egg Rolls (they look tasty, but not much there; at least with Vellee they gave 5 finger sized ones, it seems more bountiful), and Cream Cheese Wontons are always just that.

                As I mentioned previously, with the bulk of the rice dishes being quite obviously the, well, rice, it’s difficult to contemplate the price justification. Though the Sesame seemed quite loaded in comparison, and the Pork Katsu meatballs do seem like they could lift the dish nicely; if only they hadn’t run out. The Bahn Mi is, as one can see, quite small compared to other Bahn Mi’s, and should probably be served for a couple dollars less, though they use the automatic inclusion of Sweet Potato fries to justify. Bulgogi is quite likely to be the one item that stands at the peak of price quality though.

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                Of course this little session of me whining over whether prices are worth it should be taken in a sense of minute quantities, one dish vs the next, and not in too major a fashion (maybe next to other trucks though). Obviously these prices are still much better than lots of restaurants.

Speed:8.5

             It’s pretty hard to judge this properly, as though my Curry came out rather quickly (a couple minutes, and there were other tickets in the window), I actually had to wait at least 5 or more minutes before the guy leaned out the window to inform me that they were out of my Bulgogi Taco order. After that, though, I don’t believe I had to wait too long for the Bahn Mi. Others around me weren’t waiting more than a couple minutes between orders, ish. Certain items come out faster than others. Overall not too bad seemingly.

The TOE:8.5

                There’s a great “theme” to this place. It’s a great idea, has a fun decoration and logo and feel to it, and there’s been something about it during the chase that really made me quite excited at the prospect of finally getting to it. However, I will say that in hindsight, the fact that many of their items are based on the most cliché Asian items sort of takes a decent chunk of the experience away for me. Now they’re good versions of each, I will definitely give them that (it’s one of my big highlights), so props in not sticking to the crappy take-out recipes or whatever they all get for that. But it’d be nice to have seen either some more in depth, non-everyday regional Asian dishes, or Twist their applications some more (like putting the bulgogi in tacos and the curry-topped hot dogs). Overall, Strong showing in “ambiance,” pretty good in Technique (with some noted exceptions), lacking in creativity/interest.

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Service:-2

                Alright, so… they ran out of things a lot. Which sounds douchey to use for a deduction, and normally I wouldn’t; shit happens, sometimes things run out, even bacon (-gasp-). But these guys ran out of quite a few things on their menu, pretty vital and simple things too: Chicken Fried Rice, Pork for Curry, possibly a wonton, and worst of all the Bulgogi Taco, their mainstay item. Thing is, by the time I got there they hadn’t been on the street that long, good chance of only an hour’s worth of service. I doubt they had that much traffic, there was one moment of a little crowd when I got there but that’s it, since it was pretty gray and chilly out. There’s not much reason I can find for the lack of, besides highly insignificant prep.

                Though, in itself that’s not too bad at all, I’m not really upset or feel too lacking for that in itself; though it does make a point that they probably shouldn’t have that many items on the menu, if they prep so little of some that they run out easy. What gets it for me is the fact that I wasn’t informed of the bulgogi loss until 5-10 minutes after ordering and waiting for my food. Not to mention the fact that not once did they offer to comp the meal, add an order of free wontons, or anything of that matter, which most establishments do (or should do) after such annoying circumstances come up. Either way it’s something to think about.

                       Tally:38.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            I find there are a couple needs this could place could satisfy, one just needs to choose carefully for each. For the basic Street Food delighter on-the-go, Bulgogi Tacosare the way to go, than and possibly a Curry Hot Dog(or other fun hot dog specials). These can also be used to satisfy “snack stops” for Truck samplings or when one just needs the small stuff; I would also lead towards the Fried Pork Wontons/Dumplings(the Cream Cheese ones are good I’m sure, but they can only get so exciting in my opinion).

            As for those in the mood for a sit-down, something to take back to the office, or just needing a replacement for skyway Chinese food, the Sesame Chickenand Pork Katsu Curry are your destination. Maybe see if you can get more sauce though…