Loud Mouth

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http://loudmouthmn.com/
https://twitter.com/loudmouthmn
Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul

I didn’t think it’d take this long for me to properly make it to this particular truck! My first sight of them was at the capital while hitting Filius Blue, but I had already gotten enough from THEM to make it quite difficult to focus on anything else. Though while stopping by I did ask about the place, somehow ended up with a little side salad (it was fresh and tasty, but hasn’t been featured since so I don’t feel like really focusing on it). My second time was during my visit to Sal’s, where my cousin DID get one of their items; but can’t base a review off of just one. So I set to wait until I could get the SECOND of the two sole items that appeared consistently from them, and found yet a third time in downtown Minneapolis, where I was waiting and ready to add into that day’s food truck tasting lineup… and saw they had MORE menu items. Distinct ones too. And I was spending enough money on other things that day anyways!

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But I finally made it down to visit them solely recently! Now it is the time to feature the Loud Mouth food truck! The idea may have started in 2013, but the truck finally realized itself early on this summer; if I remember correctly, actually, my first sighting of them was during their beginning week.

On first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a particular connecting theme amongst menu items, but further inspection and asking questions leads to finding out about where this all COMES from. The Beef comes from the owner’s own family farm, the Pig from a friend’s homegrown operation, and they even have a friend in Alaska working on a Salmon boat that flies in fresh, super-seasonal catches when available. Would imagine the accompanying vegetation is also kept local, fresh, and properly farm-grown as the proteins, though don’t quote me on this.

They bring these on the menu in the form of a Bacon Cheeseburger, Jerked Pulled Pork Sandwich (and I swore I thought I saw them make a ‘Cuban’ one day, but again don’t quote me), and Bowls often topped with some kind of Chicken, currently Thai with Rice and Pulled with Mashed Potatoes. When they have the Salmon on board, it usually comes in two forms; the ‘original,’ definitely noted on my first pass-by, where it’s simply plated with rice, Asparagus/Green Beans, and a Hollandaise I believe. The second form is a Taco with Pineapple, Pickled Onions, Cilantro and more of that sauce. Many of which come with your flavor choice of Dutch Kettle Chips… you know, just cuz.

Now let’s go ahead and see how if the food is as ‘loud’ as their name implies.

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Food: 7.5

                Got quite the collection of little things to try out for this one! Starting off is the Bacon Cheeseburger, topped with house-made Pickles and generic yellow mustard. The beef has that notable ‘charred pub/grillhouse’ style to it, and comes in tender, moist, and a very enjoyable mouth sensation alongside the cascade of cheese, meaty bacon, and subtly ‘pickly’ pickles. Overall I was very glad I chose to get a burger from here. Though talking about the bacon, which I’m guessing is made by them considering their sourcing and how thick it is, the moment the pickle toppings disappear (which can easily happen around halfway through consumption), it does end up making the burger a little too salty when combined with that notable grill char. I’d say this could easily be solved one of a few ways: add some Tomato-based element, like roasted or sauced; have the griddled/caramelized onions SLICED instead of that tiny dice, you barely really experience them like they are now and sliced would cover MORE of the burger easier; or make a sweet-tangy sauce. Any of those could help cut through/neutralize the little extra salty-fatty aspects. But that’s a rather minor concern here at the end of the day.
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A point that their OTHER sandwich, the Pulled Pork, also suffered from. Not on the salty side, but the fat… any regular can see that I do enjoy a gluttonous adventure of fatty goodness, but there ARE times and foods where too much can turn even me off, especially depending on the kind of fat. And sadly I just found this pile of pig to be rather on the unsavoringly heavy with the fat flavor and feel. Which is a shame, because there’s an easy way to fix it… Sauce. Which they top it with… but just not enough. I was rather excited going into this, as I LOVE a good Jamaican Jerk flavor, but I could barely taste it, except for one or two bites with a particularly concentrated amount. And theirs has a nice flavor, sort of more on the refreshing and soft aspect, barely any heat at all. But clearly it’s not strong enough with intensity to hold up. The sandwich either needs MORE sauce, a stronger flavor, or both. After which I would hope they start actually mixing and tossing it WITH the pork to help cut through the fat, both palate wise and physically too. Then again, I could have just gotten an unfortunately fatty scoop and a regular one is much better, but it’s something to consider.

Then we come to the Salmon! The fish itself: tender, cooked well, delicious, classic seared salmon, no complaints. Love that they use masa tortillas with the classic double-layering, always adds a nice note. I THINK I recall wishing there was either more pickled onions or some other accompanying element; yes, because at the end of the day everything in here comes together as all one soft texture. It sorely needs more crunch. Overall though it TASTES good, it’s all nice together… but there’s something about it that doesn’t quite ‘click’ for me. I know I love and vouche for fusion and twisting a lot, but that highly classic/’fancy’ flavors of salmon and hollandaise… it just doesn’t feel quite right being put into a taco as so. I think, for me, it’s simply that its accompaniments don’t fully bring it into a category reminiscent of ‘street tacos;’ they taste good but it doesn’t feel like it’s been properly dragged kicking and screaming into the world of street food flavors. And considering they DID use masa tortillas as opposed to flour, it feels as if they SHOULD have applied those different flavors; like getting chipotle in a pineapple salsa or something.

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But, at the end of the day, I recognize that these particular inhibitions are probably just me. The item itself IS rather unique, a cross between two worlds, and still tastes good. For whatever reason I’m sure I just don’t quite ‘get’ it as well as other customers may. So take that little rant with a grain of salt.

Holdability: 7

                 We’re really all across the board here. Though it comes in a basket, the burger on its own wasn’t really much of a mess, in fact I could have probably handled it somewhat easily, maybe some mustard and burger juice on the hands, with a wrapping and one hand if I didn’t have to deal with the pork! Then of course I imagine those bowls to be rather convenient for a two-handed-required walk-and-consume meal with a fork, and we all can imagine the convenience of tacos; though their particular style, with pineapple and such, did tend to be a little ‘juicier’ and not so ‘tight’ as the more classic Central American street food. Of course I just can’t imagine the salmon plate having ANYTHING to do with eating on-the-go, need to find a place to sit for that one. And finally, the pulled pork WAS a bit of a fatty-overflowing mess, so I was glad I had the basket for that.
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Price: 7

                  $9 each for the Burger and Sandwich, I DO believe the Salmon Tacos were the same but that could have been more like 8; what I do remember is the ‘Salmon Plate’ on its own cost  $12, not necessarily bad but then again I’m not sure how much fish one actually gets. And the newer-to-menu items, the all-in-one Bowls, come at  $10.

Speed: 8

Only took about 5 minutes for that burger; average wait time, though rather decent for how long burgers this CAN take on a truck. Not to mention you get to occupy some of that time munching on your kettle chips of choice.

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The TOE: 7.5

                  Initial impressions during the first times I spotted Loud Mouth sadly weren’t all that overwhelmingly characteristic; I see a big truck that says ‘Loud Mouth,’ a crew that talks about their fun and creative attitude… and a menu that just has a Burger and Salmon. Probably the most generic and clichéd items one imagines a new culinary student would come up with. BUT, I’m very glad I got to wait for a more full experience. The menu expanded, they added a taco version of the salmon, the distinctive Bowl-focused menu items, it’s started to take a more solid and personality-driven shape. Then I actually looked on their website where they talked about the local, seasonal, amazing sources for their beef, pork, and salmon, and was like ‘Awesome! Now this has something that gets a part of me behind it!’ So much so that I WISH they were able to translate that more on the truck; like really listing it on the menu, getting something on the side of the truck, a ‘slogan,’ something… it would have been nice if they chose a name that might have expressed this about themselves JUST a bit more, something that would make us wonder about the story more [a-la Curious Goat did so well]. If possible, I do particularly wish they developed some menu items that felt more like that ‘local, seasonal, organic, etc’ feel to it; maybe incorporated seasonal produce a BIT more, or at least do more with that salmon dish than just Fish+Asparagus/Green Bean+Starch. If done successfully, I think their impressions on the customer base could become even stronger and quite distinctive.

Tally: 37/50

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Final Thoughts

Definitively set in the tier of trucks most ideal for those looking to have something a bit more substantial in their main lunchtime meal item, though not on the really heavy end; though I rarely care for getting fries myself, I would much prefer the option of having THOSE with the sandwiches as opposed to just getting a small bag of empty-calorie chips. I’d actually say the main highlight, to my own surprise, are the Bowls, especially the Thai Chicken which I hear is the bomb. That and the Burger; though it’s not my favorite that I’ve had from a truck, it’s a solid ‘grill-house’ sorta-guilty-pleasure kinda option.

I’m sure the Salmon Tacos will appeal highly to some people; they don’t fully ‘hit’ me but I won’t knock them, just my own personal oddness. Still I don’t see ANY reason to get the OTHER Salmon ‘option’… not until it’s worked on further. Finally, of course I am aware that the ‘extra fattiness’ of the Pulled Pork was probably more of an inopportune mistake on my particular order, and not something which consistently happens, but still I don’t think I’d want to have any pig-related menu items unless they’ve been officially improved with more sauce and/or other toppings.

Bark and the Bite

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http://www.barkandthebite.com/
https://twitter.com/BarkandtheBite
Main Location: Breweries, Minneapolis (Maybe?)

So I guess I need to pay more attention to CityPages on a frequent basis, since it made for quite the little ‘blind spot’ for me in not doing so. That said, it DID lead to a rather fun surprise near the start of a good night out, so maybe not so bad of a situation afterall.

Let me run you down what happened. Finally, after weeks of distraction or not having any reason to do so, I got the urge to force myself down to Tattersall Distilling; well that wasn’t so difficult, it was the finding someone to meet me there to make it an ‘occasion’ that took a while. Of course before I went I checked out their little event page, the place rather well known for nightly correspondences with Brooks High Batter and other food trucks; but just my luck that it was THAT Saturday that had no truck listed for nosh possibilities. Guess Brooks went elsewhere. But oh well, wasn’t necessarily even in the mood for food, but it’s fun to see options right?

So I drive there, finally find that little pain-in-the-ass alley-that-doesn’t-look-like-you-can-drive-through to get to the cocktail room and park, and what do I see as I’m driving by? Not just a food truck, but one that I’ve NEVER seen before, so the back of my brain starts thinking about the money I’ll have to lay down that night… then it notices that it’s a BBQ truck and that number rises a little more. It explains why the food truck spot was blank on the website…

After an Umeboshi Sour, but before a late night Baby Spice (both of them damn good by the way, I need to go back to try out more of their creations), I head out to my first visit of Bark and the Bite. Of course it’s just my luck that they are indeed a new Twin Cities truck and not someone from out of town, guess that means I have to eat their food. Oh darn. They’ve been on the streets since the start of September; or to be more accurate, on the doorsteps of various breweries. So it didn’t take me that long to find them, relative to plenty of other periods-of-ignorance you know I’ve had, and it makes sense considering I don’t get the chance to brewery it as much as I want… like, almost never.

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As a typical BBQ truck should, the forward-highlight of its menu is of course a basket of Ribs, theirs Dry-Rubbed and Memphis style. As opposed to others I’ve found, though, the rest of the menu is rather simple. One gets their pick of 3 ‘pulled proteins,’ such as the typical Pork, Chicken, and a vegetarian inclusion of ‘BBQ Jackfruit’ (oh I’m talking about this guy later), which can be gotten on small or big sandwiches and as a classic ‘pile of meat.’ One then picks their sauce: Cherry Bourbon, Vodka Chile, or ‘Bark’ Sauce (a mix of whole grain mustard, brown sugar, and I think chilies and/or other bbq things). We then of course get a list of typical, sort of, sides; Cider Vinegar-dressed Slaw, Baked Beans, Arugula Potato Salad, and of course Hush Puppies, ‘Honey Spiced.’

There’s even a cookie! Browned Butter Chocolate Chip (with Pecans). So I grabbed one of those, and a few other things, and got to chowing down, thankfully with help of friends! Thought I’d have to bring home leftovers…
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Food: 8

Okay, had to get the Ribs since it’s their purported favorite/specialty/focus, and for sandwiches that Pulled Pork and the intriguingly unique BBQ Jackfruit… though it was so hard not getting the Chicken, it apparently was coming right out of the smoker! But money… was spending enough as it was, especially with cocktails that night!

Also I was able to get a taste of a Hush Puppy! Oh and these are good ones, and very happy to say of a distinctly different ‘style’ compared to those found at Funfare, which were small, crispy and easy to munch. Comparably, these are big globes of moist cornbready denseness, in the good sense, and with a light honey sweetness just barely glazing the outside; enough to get your fingertips a touch sticky but not enough to even say they’re close to being ‘sauced.’ It offers an actual element to the fried bread, and there’s that happy guilty pleasure we get when eating cornbread and something deep fried.

I should mention here, before getting into the meat, that I actually got one of each Sauce; I asked them to assign as to what they think works best for each, but they instead just put them in cups so I could swap and choose at will! Not sure if that’s what they usually do anyways for sauce sides, but hey it was great here! They all tasted pretty darn good btw, I think I like the Bark as my favorite, but I’m a big fan of stoneground mustard; or just anything with that notably different texture and stronger, ‘pungent’ flavors.

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5 Ribs come out on top of a bed of Coleslaw (sounds like I should have a punchline for this doesn’t it?), of which didn’t stand out too much; just a basic Red Cabbage-based salad, good and decent but nothing exciting or standing out. The ribs on their own now, I actually prefer when they’re NOT on their own; with sauce, they are wonderful, tender and flavorful, a nice porkyness with that mixture of deep spices and wet tanginess. But unadorned, they’re good still, aren’t chewy, tender and sticks to the bone like smoked ribs should, but there is this little oddity in texture, almost a… I don’t want to say chalky, but maybe a slight off-dryness either from being smoked just a little too long or, I’m thinking, not nearly enough; I feel like the timing is probably good but the temperature and smoke level might need to be higher. That’s me spit-balling though, I’m no expert in BBQ problem-solving. Suffice to say they’re not perfect but still good.

I’ll admit, I’m not as excited to see pretzel buns today as I USED to be, before practically everyone did it and ruined the specialty of using the ‘right’ bun for the trendiness, but they are damn good here. Or should I say they make them damn good; THIS is why I advocate toasted buns in most situations, for that moment when you bite into a sandwich, you get that mouth full of meat, sauce, flavor, bread… and then that thin layer of toasty CRUNCH to add that extra textural element, which is so needed with ‘tender-fillinged’ sandwiches like pulled pork.

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As for the fillings themselves, tender, not dry, toothsome and flavorful; the pig had that great distinctive ‘porkyness’ to it, though for a BBQ item I wish there was more smoke or spice flavor, I really couldn’t taste any. But that JackfruitSO cool. I mean look at the picture; can you immediately even tell which one certainly is the vegetarian pulled sandwich and which one isn’t? The only thing that helps is that the ‘bbq jackfruit’ is already mixed with some marinade flavoring, thus the added color to it. And god it was fun to eat; it wasn’t a complete ‘meat substitute,’ but it was actually rather close; had a full texture to it, soft but with a bite… if I had to compare the distinctive feel to it, though, I’d say the closest thing that comes to mind is the meaty quality of a good artichoke heart, but more shreddable. Then it had this little, sorta-pickled tang in the background of it, which also reminds me of some bamboo shoot dish alongside the texture… it is just so interesting. But at the end of the day, GOOD, vegetarian-required and curious will both enjoy this. Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure if any other BBQ truck or local business has offered a full, proper vegetarian substitute for a main entrée, and to such a degree.

Oh, and then there’s the cookie! It cost a dollar and… tasted like it. Not that it was completely horrible, you get the chocolate chips and the pecans, a bit of the brown butter… but after being baked and wrapped in that film for who knows how long, it certainly developed a not-so-great texture, rather crumbly without being crisp. May need to develop a better recipe, that comes out thicker and softer, or perhaps it was just an effect of staling.

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Holdability: 7

I got mine in ‘to-go’ containers, mainly as I figured I’d have quite a bit to take home, but they do use the classic baskets too, which aren’t AS cumbersome. As for the food, a little typical compared to other bbq places, nothing extraordinarily helpful via sandwiches, though the pork held together rather well. The dry style of ribs helped… though I did have the sauce on the side, not sure if normally choosing a sauce would have it on top; it’s either that, making it stickier, or it’s on the side, meaning something extra to handle. But not an overall mess. Forgot to grab a fork for that coleslaw though, but that’s likely my fault! And then the hushpuppies had that little tacky stickiness from the honey; not really messy, but has one licking fingers… a yummy trait indeed, but it should be noted as far as this category is concerned. I also imagine getting a ‘pile of meat’ gets one further involved with needing a fork; and since I doubt anyone wants to get that on its own, added sides will add more components to handle. Okay, list done.

Price: 7.5

$12.50 for the Ribs, of which you get about 5 plus a mound of that slaw, not to mention the chanced to get a ‘Loaded Platter’ of 2 sides along with a big sandwich or meat pile, a nice little deal for those who want the more complete BBQ meal. Without the platter deal, each of those entrée-like items goes for $9.50, and one can get those smaller pulled sandwiches at $5 a-piece to get a better chance at sampling the different fillings; and they’re not particularly small, still have a good little heft, so the price on its own is reasonable for what one gets, but can add up fast. Sides generally range between $2-$3, with the Hush Puppies at $5; one gets 3, but as you can see they’re a good size, and tasty… I say judge their value for price for yourself, it could go either way depending on personal opinion. Finally, the cookie, as mentioned, is $1.

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Speed: 8.5

Most prep comes simply in tossing things together with the various needed sauces/seasonings, piling it on the toasted bun or basket, and off we go; a little faster than average, but not near instantaneous.

The TOE: 9.5

I love the feel and personality of the outside, the name and design finally gives me that feeling of the ‘modern bbq food truck’ that I’m familiar with seeing from other cities, as opposed to the old-school, plain-designed truck/trailer with the long classic options menu; nothing wrong with those, but it’s the difference between seeing an old Mexican Taco cart and a bright, colorful modern fusion taco truck. They hit it nicely in my opinion. And I mentioned menu, which is something I really appreciate here; the normal thing  is one has to go up to a BBQ truck and you have to choose… Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork, Chicken, maybe Wings, they got Sausage, and is-that-even-part-of-the-animal? Not to mention side listings. And when BBQ businesses are noted for having distinct personalities in each of their separate products, usually being ‘really good’ in 1-3 and ‘just okay’ in the rest, it makes that first choice hard… gotta hope you’re picking the right one. But here? Ribs, Pulled Pork and Chicken (and the Veggie of course, but you’re either doing that from the get-go or not); and one could get the pork AND chicken easily in two sammiches. It’s a lot more approachable, and nice to see a place that narrows down their focus, in my opinion. And with the names of different items, Memphis-style Ribs, Jackfruit, and particular options for sandwich/platter, the truck and menu does feel rather distinctive in personality compared to other BBQ trucks. Though we have been lucky in garnering BBQ food trucks in the past year that all set themselves apart from each other, but one knows what I mean still.

Tally: 40.5/50

Final Thoughts

The Pulled Meat is definitely where it’s at; whether it’s to grab a single mini for a low-priced lunchtime filler/snack (or a good way to sample BatB’s flavor cheaply during a food truck rally), or a bigger Sandwich/Pile to really load up on some BBQ goodness on whatever sauce style is your favorite. If you REALLY want the experience, and a nice loaded lunch, I say go for the Loaded Platter, Sandwich option (I’d really say any of the three, though you’ve got to try that Jackfruit at least once just cuz… I mean who else is selling something like it at the moment?), with the Honey-Spiced Hush Puppy and Potato Salad options… perhaps the Baked Beans too, though I haven’t tried it to confirm and I feel bean dishes REALLY need that confirmation.

Wacky Wing Wagon

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wacky-Wing-Wagon/162312700602724?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/wackywingwagon
Main Location: St Paul, Outside Events, Etc

I’ve sadly had yet to get the right day or chance to actually head down to the capital for one of the food truck lunches held there, though hearing about it as a new regular and popular hotspot for it starting last year (if I’m correct it used to be timed for a few rallies/events, and now just any ol’ pretty day). Indicative of that, there was yet another truck that I was becoming quite worried in being able to hit, having found difficulty staying in touch with their social media updates and the fact that most of the ones I DID see were at some of the more random and not-so-familiar places (aka, an event or out-of-area business). Thus I can say I was quite thrilled on one of my now very-open mornings/early afternoons before work, which had some beautifully sunny but mild weather, that I saw there were a few trucks out in front of the big white building. So I took the opportunity to go down and hit not just one but TWO new trucks on my radar (the other review should be coming soon), and here we are!

I will say that the parking and driving situation near the capital was annoying… but that’s not what these posts are about (doesn’t seem to stop my bitching on other things though does it?). We’re talking food trucks, and today I got to hit one of MY most anticipated new businesses on the street, Wacky Wing Wagon.

What else do I need to say that their name already doesn’t? They sell Wings, their design is Wacky, and they’re a Wag… well, okay they’re a Truck, so you can ignore that part, but two out of three is still good right? And I like the truck, it’s interesting… and I’m not just talking about the wrap job done on it, with the whole ‘chicken wings instead of flames’ dealy. Not sure how well you can see, but the window set-up and placement is quite unique, very  ‘non-standard’ compared to practically every other kind of truck/trailer found on the street, what with the glass-covered display window and the little sliding eye-level hatch in the middle for taking and delivering orders. Which I just HAD to ask them about, it get me curious as to whether this used to be a different kind of truck that was re-fitted for food service, or if it was all custom.

20150519_130159Apparently it’s custom, made in Arizona I think he said (or Atlanta), which… apparently requires that all trucks be made with a bullet-proof glass window. So that explains THAT part of it, haha.

But back to the food, WWW specializes in, what else, Fried Chicken Wings (or Boneless, which I always loved as a kid with KFC’s Honey-BBQ. Mmmmm empty calories…), which one can get covered in classic Buffalo Hot Sauce, BBQ, or Jerk (Caribbean flavor mon). Besides these, one also has the option of a Chicken Sandwich, with the same sauce possibilities for flavoring, or Burger with a variety of toppings/styles (like the Pretzel Bun and Bacon Jam, not sure if it’s seasonal or not). There are of course Fries for side options.

And that’s about it. I’ve got nothing else to say and feeling too lazy to try to think up anything deeper, so onto the food and stuff! (I feel like I end a lot of these intro parts similarly, is it getting boring and annoying?)

Food: 8

                As tempting as it was, I REALLY wanted to try that bacon jam, the burgers were skipped, because gosh darnit this is a chicken truck and we need to go for chicken! I don’t understand why so many of them keep adding a burger options (I know, I know, ‘cuz people buy them, which is their own fault). It did look rather decent though, so for repeat customers to WWW who wanna try a burger, go for it. Also, though I didn’t have the chance to try them (if I was only doing one truck that day, I might have), but the fries actually looked very appealing to me. Thicker cut, golden, skins, crispy outside look, those seem to be the nice craveable kind that hits the spot.
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But let’s talk about what I DID have. Since I was able to get the same sauce options for both, I went ahead and grabbed both a Wing basket (bone-in of course, gotta set the standard) and a Chicken Sanwich. Hot from the friar, the wing skin kept that fried crunch we look for, even when thoroughly doused in the sauce of choice. The meat inside was moist and tender, as desired, and what’s best is it wasn’t greasy. Now I can’t really say I’m that great at telling the difference in quality between different fried chickens, either wings or other, so I can’t properly judge. In hindsight, though, I am wondering IF some more seasoning on the wings beforehand would have helped? The sauce could have maybe used some extra (I’ll talk about those in a bit though).

Chicken sandwich… grilled delight. Oh, I still love a good toasted bun, and this one was done nice, with a nice char on the chicken breast (a positive aspect, giving one the option for healthy white meat vs, well, fried skin and some protein), which still contained a juicy and tasty interior. It’s a great option for those who crave the burger flavors but want/need to go a little healthier, with all that nice grill flavor around it. That, the bun, and the sauce contributed the main positive points, as the other generic toppings only added the typical support bases, so don’t look or expect for too much ELSE special about it. As a very simple grilled chicken sandwich, it definitely gets my thumbs up.

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Finally, the sauces. I got to try the BBQ (on the wings) and the Classic Buffalo (sandwich). Both of which were nice, typically decent, and obviously handmade, having more of those natural flavors vs the highly generic/mass-produced go-tos. But though the sauce overall meets approval for structure and execution, I find little to truly be excited about, nothing ‘special;’ these are really only just a little better than what one normally would think of for BBQ and hot sauce. Maybe if they had more options I would not mind so much, but if it’s just these two plus Jerk I would hope for something fantastic.

Holdability: 6

                 Well it’s chicken wings covered in sauce, you can imagine their factor for this! Overall very walkable, but messy (unless one got plain wings, in which case WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!!???), napkins heavily required. Basket-based, the sandwich was an easy one to eat with a free hand, minus maybe a tomato slice falling out (though that may have been a different sandwich I had that day).

Price: 9

                  8-piece wing basket, every one, is only $7, and $6 for any of the burgers and chicken sandwich, overall it’s a rather damn good deal. The food is pretty simple to back this up, and fries come in at an obvious $2 extra (about average, I’ve seen places charge more, especially for ‘special’ kinds), and again they seem rather decent for the upcharge.
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Speed: 6.5

Generally average waiting time for wings to fry and buns/meat to grill on the flattop.

They CURRENTLY only have one friar (or two small ones, can’t remember), which can easily push back wait time once there are multiple orders in the window, having to wait for different batches of wings and fries to finish cooking before another one starts. Wishing them luck on being able to get an extra one soon to help with business!

The TOE: 8.5

                  Distinctive, vibrantly themed with a fun name and, I mean come on those graphics! It’s got those great combination of factors which made me quite excited search them out, then of course sadness at not being able to do so for so long. Though I would say that a distinctive drawback to this occurs upon arriving, likely a combination of that super simple white-board menu and the rather… ‘lacking’ menu. I mean ultimately there’s Burgers, Chicken Sandwich, and the Wings, which is usually more than enough except there are only FOUR types of wings, two of which being Hot Sauce and BBQ (the most generic flavors) and a third just Plain. A big part of me was really hoping to revel in the wings more, have a few more interesting sauce options (you have that Bacon Jam for the burger, why not mix that with something to toss the wings in?) to try for that cult-corner EXPERIENCE of going there? Or something like that… just want that menu to excite me more ya know, get my palette dripping, the first stage of presentation before seeing the actual food. But overall still awesome and fun.

Service: +1.5

                First off, I feel like I want to openly say that I KNOW, I’m aware, that this added bonus or minus section is mostly situational. A lot of the people handling the window are always great, friendly and fantastic, it’s just some situations and people (or seeing repeat business) that it shines more. But I started off with having this section as an official way to reward or critique the trucks who, in my visits, I felt deserved it at that time, and I want to keep honoring that part of myself and this blog.

Which is why I thought it was quite nice that, during the little service lull as our food was being cooked and there was no one else waiting in line, the owner at the window walked out and started chatting, explaining the friar situation and apologizing for it between discussions of weather, food, etc. Even taking the effort to check my sandwich, which had a suspicious string of something which we then realized was just a super-thin onion, haha. It added nicely to the visit for me.

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Tally: 39.5/50

Final Thoughts

Wings may not be the handiest and cleanest of street food, but if you’re looking for a fun and unique joint to check out then Wacky Wing is the place to go, especially when looking for the lower-priced options. Also great options for food-truck-days/coursed meals as an appetizer visit, or a snack to share with friends between other things.

Any first or single visit simply should constitute an excuse to go for the Wings, Bone-in preferably but I will not judge. Other items should be saved for repeat visits, though I will say that IF one is in the mood for Fries (as-is or to accompany some other truck item), and there isn’t another fry-specialty business nearby a-la Neato’s, this seems to be a strong contender to get them from. As for the wings themselves, go for Jerk; I may not have tried it but I can feel, after having the other two, that it’d easily be the most exciting sauce of the lot, get that full experience.

Z’s Smoking Bonez

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http://zsmokinbonez.com/
https://twitter.com/Zsbonez
Main Location: Markets and Outside Etc Locations

It seriously feels like all the trucks I’m making it to in 2015 are BBQ Trucks so far! I think this is the third one in the past month or so, it feels like I’ve been trapped in a cage of smoke, pork, and bbq sauce. Not that I’m complaining of course, who doesn’t love getting multiple chances at brisket and all other meats that are good with the world? (I’m looking at you Vegans… scoot along with your evil ways)

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At the very least all of them have shown marked differences, and this last one has proven quite interesting in its own way. Having opened up in Maple Grove in 2012, Z’s Smokin’ Bonez is a full-on BBQ Sandwich shop, filling their menu with smoked pork and brisket piled between bread, and of course some classic ribs and cornbread.

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Their restaurant and catering business has obviously done well enough, and recognized an obvious strength in their food, ‘cuz they got a truck outfitted and moved their cuisine out and onto the street! That’s right, starting this year we’ve been able to see Z’s Smokin’ Bonez Food Truck hit some of the lots, farmer’s markets, and events in our Twin Cities’ outskirt areas. With a big white trailer outfitted with a ‘patio’ in back where their old-fashioned barrel smoker is mounted, it’s rather nice to see them able to bring their ideal cooking to the streets.

As for that food, they make some changes from the restaurant to offer unique handheld bbq options (and other things). Of course they have a half rack of Ribs, Classic Sandwiches (big and small) of Pork/Chicken/Or Brisket, including a Bacon Cheeseburger using ground brisket. THEN we get to the fun stuff. Tortilla Wraps stuffed with pulled pork, beans, and slaw (Big Pig) or brisket+pork+mac n cheese+slaw (Whole Hog). Then there’s Deep Fried Rib Tips, the Trailer Trash Burger (piled with all manner of meat, veggies, and a fried egg… my god I need to start trying burgers more), and a ‘Squish-wish.’ I’ll describe that one later. Oh, and a KFC-style bowl of fries, pork, and beans called the Smoke House.

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Of course we get the classic options for sides: Coleslaw, Mac and Cheese, Baked Beans, and Potato Salad, nothing more nothing less (oh and ‘Ziggy Fries,’ that’s an automatic thing usually). And the whole side of the trailer is filled with all their BBQ Sauces, seriously 8 different kinds, from Original to Jalapeno to the classic Texas White Sauce. I tried a few on each item, definitely wasn’t disappointed. Speaking of which, let’s start really getting into that food.

Food: 8

                I guess I should start with talking about the Squish-wish, my first item of the day (I wasn’t going to get more, but then, ya know, I just had to… but that’s for later)! The name certainly suits it, since it is actually squished right on the griddle, a proper pressed sandwich to my delighted surprise! Sadly, it was supposed to be made with a Cuban bread but they ran out; I didn’t mind, the regular bun acted just fine, I can only imagine it’d taste and come together even better. Ultimately it was much different than we’ve come to expect with traditional BBQ sandwiches, aka cheap, soft, and completely un-toasted bread to soak up the meat. I appreciate the additional texture and awesome crunch (yet still soft inside) to go with the filling.
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Which is rather good; Pulled Smoked Pork AND Smoked Brisket, melted Pepperjack, Onions, Pickles, and BBQ Mustard. Both meats were tender and had distinctive smoke flavor, enjoyable in their own fashions, and ultimately ate well as this delicious BBQ twist on the classic Cuban, coming with some added texture from the other fillings. If officially meets approval.

And then there are Ribs… Holy F&$%balling Mother of S#!% there are RIBS! My God look at those sons of b!%&#*$! You actually get a PROPER order of half a rack of ribs, big pieces of smoked pork meat that are actually composed of mostly meat with just a bit of bone for grasping! This is by far the best order of them that I have seen and/or gotten from a truck since I started doing them; and part of that may be due to others using baby back or some other style that costs more, meaning they have to give less for the same price, vs the St Louis Style cut that Z’s uses, but I don’t care about that. As I’ve always said, this is a food truck, not a restaurant, IF you’re going to charge $15 or more for something on the menu, then you better get something GOOD in return, quality and quantity wise.

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And these are good. The meat is still tender, it has that proper toothsome/bite quality to it (not melt-in-your-mouth, which shouldn’t really happen from smoked ribs anyway), though I did find the end pieces a bit more ‘rubbery’ than the rest (not drastically or anything, but you can see they’re not ‘as’ good, though they do have a higher meat ratio to them too…). It’s still covered in grinds of pepper or whatever spice was used in the rub, the flavor of which is distinctive but not overpowering (you know what, was it lemon pepper? I’m thinking there may have been some), and indicative of a certain style. Of course the smoke was nice, and best of all they tasted great with some of the sauce on top. It was a satisfying experience; if I were to list the faults, it’d probably be that the St Louis cuts they use result in a rib that indeed is more ‘meaty/proteiny,’ with less of the fat veins to make it extra tender, but if so it’s minimal, and I think I’m just trying to find a complaint that’s not really there so that I don’t seem like I’m just saying all-positive out of some biased opinion. Guess you’ll have to try for yourself to TRULY know.

Sadly the sides were rather unimpressive; not bad in any way, but the quality doesn’t stand really stand out. In fact the flavor of the Mac and Cheese was nice, a little better than typical from BBQ joints/trucks I’ve found, but with a rather thin sauce, almost like a slightly thickened cheese soup with noodles in it. Which is sad because now I have little to no actual interest intrying the Whole Hog Wrap. The Coleslaw, as I found on the sandwich, was purely basic, standard, couldn’t even taste any of the dressing so I doubt it’s particularly tangy or flavorful. I will say that I DID enjoy the Bacon Potato Salad; it was also rather typical in style, with that tangy sour cream dressing and some onions, thankfully some nice chunks of bacon, but it was done well and the kind of side I can REALLY dig into with a giant spoon from a tub, at least for a while. Nothing special overall.

Holdability: 8

                 I’m definitely giving them some extra points for their heavily sandwich-based BBQ offerings, especially those wraps, which I do still wanna try someday (even if the sides they stuff it with don’t thrill me). And that pressed squish-wish, thank god for Panini-style sandwiches for holding in the hand while walking. I can’t say for how messy the burger and typical pulled pork/brisket sandwiches shall be, I expect the former will need some napkins, but I certainly know the Ribs are a full sit-down item. Though at the end of the day, of course, serving in the classic BBQ to-go styrafoam boxes like this as full meals (doesn’t seem like any sandwich can be bought on its own for less, so it’s an automatic addition of fries or another side) will cut down on that factor I oh-so-cling to, even though no one but me cares haha.

Price: 7

                  Besides a $7 and $9 price for the small/side sandwiches, most are $10, $12, or $13 (the latter two for Brisket and Specialty Sandwiches/Wraps), with $15 for the Ribs. I will repeat, compared to other trucks this is easily the BEST deal for ribs, getting the most bang for your buck, for the money spent. But price points are overall still higher up. Though the $10/$12 sammies, including the burger, do in effect come in as good sandwich+side combos for the price (they’ll sometimes switch out the fries for another side if you mention interest).
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Speed: 8.5

Depends, things like the pressed sandwich take an average wait time to grill up and/or prep up, fry the potato sticks, etc. Some things just need scooping and cutting (helloooo ribs and potato salad) to be served up.

The TOE: 9

                  I feel so bad now, because I have to repeal my recent naming of Baldy’s as my favorite BBQ Truck, for I think Z’s has already dethroned you. Not to say I think they’re the BEST, I think I much prefer Baldy’s for quick grab-and-go sandwiches at a better price, but I really appreciate and respect a lot of what Z is doing EVEN MORE. The big thing here is the Setup, what kind of packages for the BBQ they offer, and they definitely do that in a way that more fits the street, both in the ability to only need your hands to eat most of it (minus bowls and sides, thus a fork comes in handy), but also in the attempts to trying some different and fun/unique forms of the original via wraps and other sandwich combos. And though longer truck menu selections like these can lead to an annoyance in wonder and confusion, or just a wish to focus and specialize in a few things, this is one of the trucks that, because they’ve done it well enough, I myself am somewhat intrigued to want to come back and try more if given the chance (particularly those Deep Fried Rib Tips). I haven’t said that out loud for other trucks, but there have been others where I feel the same.

I’m a bit sad they don’t have any of that Jalapeno Cornbread I’ve read about in the restaurant, that sounds like it woulda been a fantastic addition. Hell, I’ll take a brick of that instead of those French Fries anyday… or used for a sandwich (get on it!! Please?).

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for some true flavors and heart of BBQ food or a truck showing a fun street food twist on something classic, Z’s Smoking Bonez can fill part of your heart. It will be best enjoyed when you have some time sit or pause and enjoy it, leaning against a wall or sitting down with your entrée in question, though there are possibilities for the on-the-go.

Though it’s still not the item I’d ever get purely on my own interests, if you ARE looking to get Ribs from a Food Truck, this is the place to do it. I myself would definitely suggest jumping on the Squish-wish or Trailer Trash Burger for the full, deep down Meat experience with a side. For those of the more portable-minded, the Whole Hog Wrap (though I’m not too interested in it now since I wasn’t impressed with the mac and cheese, though it’s still a sinful addition right?) or the Fried Rib Tips are the way to go. Finally, the Side: Bacon Potato Salad. The others don’t really stand out, I doubt the beans will, and the potato salad actually works really well, the tangy sour cream helping cut through all that rich and fatty pork/beef.

As for those looking on the simple side, debating brisket vs pork vs chicken, that all seems to be up to you, as they seem to be handle at an equal level. Though that’s only a consideration for those who want to visit but are really on a budget and thus looking at the cheaper regular/side sandwiches.

Ultimately, it’s definitely worth a visit, I’m positive you can find an experience here.

Hot Dish “100 Favorites” for 2014-15

It’s a little late in response (though aren’t most of my posts usually nowadays?), but I do always love featuring the Trucks that achieved the graces of making City Page’s “The Hot Dish blog’s top 100 Favorite Dishes for the year. I wanna make it a yearly thing! No promises of course… I am quite fickle… and forget things… SURE I’ll have another shot of Vodka.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, awesome food trucks. Though quite a few of the ones to make the list this year were purely resulting of the Restaurants they generated, but it deserves featuring (and I need SOME kind of material to flesh this post out some… don’t look at me like that! I’m needy…). So, let’s see who made the list this year…

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#77: Taco Cat with “The Larry”

They may not be an actual truck, but their street food soul shines bright, plus I recently did a quasi-review on them and feel they deserve continued honor in that respect. And their tacos are rather awesome, as is evidenced here through City Page’s feature of The Larry, a pile of Chicken, Chorizo, and Cheese stuffed inside three double-wrapped masa tortillas. Of course it’s the one that I didn’t get…

#62: The Curious Goat with Goat Cheese Curds

Their menu is quite frequently changing with whatever local ingredients they can get their hands on, but it’s not often one won’t find at least a few dishes with goat meat and/or cheese on the menu. And they take this latter up to an epitome of experience by lightly frying curds of it and serving with roasted butternut, some spring onions, and a drizzle of honey (my new favorite cheese curd companion forever). Again, something I dearly need to have at some point… here’s hoping for a rally.

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#55: Smack Shack’s Shrimp and Grits

I may still hold strong reservations and annoyances about this truck (don’t ask me why, I’ve probably lost proper reason for it long ago), but one can’t argue their food always gets results in those willing to spend the extra buck to attend their mobile or standing business. Usually getting renown for the lobster, this year highlighted one of the best southern combos to ever grace the table: Shrimp and Grits. I know, the last word strikes terror and disgust into many a heart, but done right than oh my god… I’m still vary happy to have gotten it at Surly myself.

#54: World Street Kitchen and The South Side

Not surprising to see them on this list again, this time for Brunch! The restaurant location serves out a dish composing of a bile of hashbrowns, ‘secret sauce,’ and some big chunks of lamb topped with basted eggs (which, if they’re PROPER basted eggs, are easily the most sinful and delicious way to eat them whole I swear).

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#39: Chef Shack Ranch with the Big Boy Ranch Plate        

I almost probably shouldn’t even be mentioning these gals on the post today, since the restaurant focus has almost NO connection to what the truck turns out, instead serving out bigass servings of classic BBQ. And it’s not a bbq joint without a giant parchment-paper-lined platter dolloped with practically one of everything, like grabbing a charcuterie board at the more hipster-ish locations but with hot, soul-fulfilling smoked meat… and more of it. As it’s apparently some of the best bbq in the Twin Cities, this little selection of pork and beef moved itself rather high up on the list.

#25: Hola Arepa’s Corn Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Of course the local famed belter of the stuffed corn-dough sandwich is now turning out a dessert version, stuffing sinfully smooth vanilla ice cream in a sweet cookie dough filled with butterscotch, fritos, and corn flakes. Why didn’t they have THIS at brunch!?

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#7: Hola Arepa and the Beef & Plantain Arepa

That’s right, they got on twice! (And they’re not the only ones, damn Spoon and Stable… making me want to go to you when I don’t have enough moneh) And fitting we end on something that actually could come out of the Truck itself, their classic masa ‘flatbread’ bun stuffed with sweet, soft plantain, rich beef, tasty pickled onions and of course some sauce. It then gets kicked up to 11 when eaten in restaurant and served with those amazingly thick, crunchy Yuca Fries that I just think are perfect. No wonder they’re at the top of the books.

Well, that’s the second year for me done and taken care of, we’ll have to see how the following 2015-16 season goes. Will more trucks move to restaurants and fill the brackets, or will a resurgence in interest for starting mobile operations take precedence? Find out next time (he says in announcers voice as if he was coming back to this in a week and not a whole year)!!

Sir Baldys

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http://www.baldysbbqmn.com/
https://twitter.com/dinkytownbaldys

Main Location: St Paul

Starting in Lakeville and then opening a Dinkytown location back in 2011, Baldys BBQ has expanded nicely as their business popularity grew. Obviously their quality of bbq has created a strong enough fan base to have developed a want and need to access it closer to the Twin Cities for ease of meat and sauce delivery. And now this need has vaulted them, four years later still, into the next phase of business life as they go Mobile.

Moving onto the Food Truck scene, the pink pig in the black shirt (that’s right, they got a mascot suit, all fear the piggy) premiered Sir Baldys earlier this year. Extending into the St Paul area (I got them on a visit to Regions Hospital, apparently one of the new ‘hot spots’ for trucks this year), it seems they’re looking to spread the word of their bbq even further into our state!

Which shouldn’t be so hard to do, considering how much this big Pink(ish? Very much in front at least) food box on wheels stands out. Though visual appeal comments notwithstanding, it’s the menu that will really spread their food to the customers. You won’t find any ribs, wings, chops, or piles of meat on a styrafoam container here. This BBQ Truck focuses purely on Sandwiches piled with their classic items. Pulled Pork, Chicken, and Brisket all come into play between two buns, one can also find their handmade Italian Sausage. Of course there are options for traditional sides via Baked Beans, Potato Salad, and Coleslaw.

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Of course sauces come in standard on a side table (set up on the other side of the sidewalk, I didn’t even notice immediately! I mean, saw the table and a box on it, of course my mind paid no attention… stupid mind…), with 4 of their home recipes available for topping your meat, if that is how you are so inclined. I tried a bit of each and enjoyed them all for various reasons.

Gotta love a warm, blue-skied sunny day for BBQ. Let’s get to it.

Food: 9

                As always, you can and should never try to get an idea of a BBQ joint with just one menu item, and luckily for me it was easy to grab two sandwiches in one go today. First up, the Italian Sausage, which I chose to top with the Pepper and Onions option (and totally forgot to take a picture of! Gahh, whyyyy!? So ashamed… please accept my apologies for this). What can I say about this besides… indeed, it’s a proper sausage. The flavor and spices were great, exactly what we should expect from an Italian weiner, the meat was moist, and oh yes it had that SNAP from the casing. Sliced in half, 3-4 (wasn’t paying attention, too into the food) of these long demi-links are piled haphazardly, in a fun way, on top of the soft white bun, creating a mass of something that makes you ache to just squeeze hard in your fingers and shove into the mouth. Pretty good. I did enjoy the addition of the veggies; though obviously cooked somewhat, they still provided that nice vegetal crunch and texture to add to the experience. Not much FLAVOR addition from them though, would be perfect if they were able to get a grilled char or something on them.

Moving onto the Brisket, also enclosed in that same bun; not toasted, instead capitalizing on those cravings for super soft white bread typically reserved for sloppy joes and, well, bbq. Now, having recently had ANOTHER Brisket Sandwich at a Previous Truck, this was quite interesting, providing a completely contrasted style to production. Sliced thin and mounded generously between the bread, let me just start off by saying that I LOVE the flavor. The beef, the smoke and those flavors of whatever cure they use can be tasted obviously, and is much superior to the ‘other’ brisket sandwich in that way. Properly toothsome, teeth cut through the flesh like it should with good bbq; it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, ‘fall apart’ in a super-moist bundle, keeping its form through biting, but it bites through easily without ruining the form. This is the standard for Ribs and other similar long-smoked items.

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That said, it’s not perfect in the slightest. One cannot ignore the thin hard edge of fat, or gristle, or whatever it was which hung on most of the meat. Tough, chewy, stubborn, this part would have us dragging in extra pieces of brisket with each tug of the choppers. It creates an annoying and unpleasant interruption from the amazing flavors and OTHER texture which I can tell is right, but can’t be fully experienced now.

It can be and is often said (in a way) that good BBQ should not NEED any sauce, like any meat, but only use it to make things even better and complete the taste balance of sweet-salty-bitter-sour (and sometimes umami… makes it feel like “y” for vowels). So far I feel that this is easily applied to the food today; I could have easily enjoyed the Brisket on its own with nothing else (sans the gristle of course).

Last note, the Beans, my Side of Choice. So far, probably one of my favorite baked beans that I’ve ever had, though I don’t have a lot. Beans were properly soft and tender, without turning to mush, and mixed with 2-3 pieces of bell pepper which brought a welcome extra flavor. I very much appreciated how it wasn’t just HEAVY sweet molasses/brown sugar, bbq-saucy stew. The sweetness here was more controlled and mellow, a bit of that noted spice flavor that still reminded you of the bbq sauce. I’m still… wishing and hoping for more depth, more complexity and exciting flavor, but not as much as other versions I’ve tried. So it may just be me.

Holdability: 7.5

                 Having every entrée automatically transformed into a sandwich immediately increases the street food value factor here, and though they are all served in a basket, and made with piles of multiple cuts which can fall out easily (especially with the already noted chew factor in the brisket option, not to mention the veggies in the sausage sandwich, though I expect the pulled pork is kept very tight), the two of these normally full-negative factors actually combine to assist in walkability. Just know that, of course, one will still need both hands and will likely be spending time picking off fallen things from the basket. And unless one REALLY slathers on their bbq sauce of choice, there’s little actual mess factor to attend with napkins. The main considerations come into play when one gets a side or combo along with the main protein, which I expect to be a regular action unless one has a goal for order minimization, which CAN still be walked without issue but really highlights best in a sitting down situation.
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Price: 8.5

                  Solo, the sandwiches come in at $6 or $8 (latter for the Brisket only), with a nice helping of Onions and Peppers to any of them for an extra $1 (which I am seriously only NOW realizing. Seriously, I did not notice this on my day there, and when he asked if I wanted them on my sausage I just thought it was a complimentary option, like slaw or no slaw… I’m a touch disappointed right now to be honest). For an extra $3 one can grab a combo of any drink, side, and drink (not sure if Lemonade-Iced Tea counts… I really should have picked that, damn last-minute rush choices…); basically, sammy+side with free drink. Overall really nice, relatively low price range, and I feel fully worth it, except for maybe the extra veggie cost… debating still.

Speed: 9.5

With everything kept in proper warming bins, the food offered picked to all work well with this storage style, all the wait one has is for the meat of choice to be scooped onto their buns and whatever side ladled into a cup. Absolutely awesome.

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The TOE: 9

                  A great culmination of different factors mentioned, smooth operation, a fun little personality and attractive wrap job; maybe a little more ‘pizzazz’ in menu display or something else would be nice (it does feel like there’s one small point missing), impression might not be TOO lasting, but to be fair I think that’s an issue that most BBQ Trucks should be likely to feature considering, well, they all focus on the same kinds of food. It’s difficult to get that true intrigued edge of “special/uniqueness” to them that other mobile styles are able to play around with, so I don’t hold it against them in the slightest. That said, this is easily my favorite BBQ Truck that I’ve encountered in Minnesota so far.

Tally: 43.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Of the few BBQ Trucks that I’ve paid visit to in the Twin Cities, Sir Baldys has easily proven to be the most successful within their transition towards the food truck business. I certainly suggest anyone craving a down-home, simple bbq/meat sandwich on a soft bun should definitely consider them as their option. Ideal for grabbing a quick, well-priced sandwich to just eat on the go, or spend a couple extra bucks for a sit down enjoyable bbq-style lunch.

Italian Sausage, with the Peppers+Onions, and the Pulled Pork are going to be the best way to go in my opinion (Brisket is totally pro+con action, you’ll have to decide on your own based off what you know about it now). I wish I could try EVERY side so I could get a full idea on them… what I can safely say now, I imagine all 3 (no I do not count the chips) are ideal versions of the sides, so whichever you usually like going for do it. For those absolutely unsure… Potato Salad is calling out to me. OR, to take things up a notch, grab the Coleslaw and pile it on top of that pork sammich. Make it a happy day.

The Sizzling Wagon

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https://www.facebook.com/sizzlingwagontr/info
https://twitter.com/sizzlingwagon
Main Location: St Paul, Etc

With a long winter come and gone, having issued itself as a large dry spot in my own personal culinary adventures, the transition into the 2015 truck season couldn’t have come sooner. Though my work schedule still keeps me from almost every good brewery night visit, the rare and good occurrence for a lunchtime adventure is still there when the weather is good and the recent newcomers are out.

And so it was a week ago, on a sunny day with plenty of time to kill, that I found myself driving down to Region’s Hospital (which, btw, so not parking friendly to outsiders trying to seek the truck out… mainly for those already in the area, but oh well that’s the truck business) to visit the Sizzling Wagon, thus well and truly kicking off my 2015 food truck year. I should technically feel guilty for not getting down to the truck last summer after they actually opened, but it seems I’ve lost that feeling of shame for my blog lateness a looonnggg time ago.

Besides, why feel shame when I can simply delve into the delicious pit that is a new food truck menu? And this one offered up quite an interest as I attempt to figure out the best description for its ‘theme.’ Serving up a small variety in different griddled and fried foods, each familiar in the street food and bar scene with certain kicks to bring it up a level, making my mind finally settle on a typical gastro pub feeling with some BBQ interest. To be more detailed, one could also claim they offer similar styled options as today’s Gastrotruck, but with a more deep-fried bar-ish feeling.

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This of course includes Onion Rings, a couple Burgers, a classic Cheese and the “Sizzling” (fried onions, jalapeno, sirachi bbq and coleslaw), and a Pulled Pork Sammy, but no doubt the most popular (and signature) items revolve around the Beef Brisket Sandwich and seasonal Shrimp Tacos. Sides, besides the onion rings, of course contain simple Fries and Pico de Gallo w/ Tortilla Chips. New and changing items are expected, all to be likely revolved around the similar requirements of being slow-cooked, griddled, and/or deep fried and served with their signature bbq and/or slaw.

Now, to make it short (because I’m probably getting rusty at this), let’s get into 2015’s first full review!

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Food: 8.5

                A Brisket, a Basket, a HOLY F@#%ING GOD LOOK AT THAT MONSTER!! That is a big, thick slice of braised beef! Now THAT is how you make a proper sandwich, and oh god was it good; rich, juicy, and covered in their special BBQ Sauce featuring Sirachi, the final result being something more bright and tangy with that unique, almost fruity (but not really) edge to it. With the Slaw on top (which is optional, but really why would you say no if it doesn’t cost more?) it creates an experience rivaling some of the best pork belly sandwiches that I’m hoping all those reading have had at least once. I WILL say, there is a very noticeable, thick layer of fat in here; which I myself have no problem with, I’ll delight in something bad for me, but even I admit that it might be on the ‘too much’ side, and can easily understand why it may turn some people off.

I didn’t get this alone, having ordered a side of Onions Rings because 1: I’ve become almost obsessed with them now when I go someplace new, and 2: in debating a second item, it was between this or a whole $10 for another entrée… what can I say, sometimes I’m cheap. And I’m glad I did, for I can’t help but love an absolutely perfect onion ring, and these are almost there! Good crispy batter, soft tender onion inside that doesn’t completely pull away with a bite (a couple sorta did, but not like those bad rings do), a clean cut through, and even a seasoned salt on the outside for extra flavor. Though, it did feel a BIT greasy, making it hard to eat the whole thing; definitely something that either needs a good beer next to it or a group of people to share.

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Speaking of fried things, the actual Fries coming with the Brisket… meh. Typical fried potato strips, similar to those found in an in-n-out but without the character, not bed but not exciting or exceptional, just something to have on the side.

Now, Let’s talk about what I DIDN’T have. I did get a chance to snap a pic of the Shrimp Taco, covered in fresh slaw and veggie goodness; it looks enjoyable, especially considering the shrimp, a-la Fish Tacos, come in as crispy deep-fried nuggets. I would imagine why this is popular, my only worry is whether or not it offers itself as more than just good fried shrimp and coleslaw in a flour tortilla (I’m sure it does, it looks good). The Chips and Pico on the side look on the same level as the fries, basic and tasty with everything done how it’s supposed to be but nothing exciting.

Oh, and considering how the brisket turned out, I would imagine the Burgers probably don’t suck, especially the one with the onion ring. At all. Gimme?

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Holdability: 6.5

                 Individually speaking, items like Onion Rings and Tacos seem to hold up tightly in their basket, with the Burger and BBQ Sandwich options offering up the typical extra delicious saucy drips along the fingers. And of course the automatic transition of these single items into combos with fries or chips-and-salsa create the extra bits of attention and effort in the matter (besides the tacos and, perhaps, pulled pork and simple cheeseburger, a few of these eat best when seated).

Price: 6

                  All main items come in at $9 or $10 (for both Shrimp, which I understand the added cost of seafood, but I really wonder if this fried shrimp REALLY comes in at the noted high cost), the main exception being the Cheeseburger which offers itself up at $8, and though it’s obvious this noted extra step up in cost (compared to other trucks) is due to the automatic add-on of certain sides per item, the lack of interest I myself found in these makes me sorely wish for the option for grabbing the single main sandwich/taco for less (why can’t we just keep the combo option separate with most of these trucks?). Currently I also wonder if I could have switched out the fries for onion rings for only $1-2 additional instead of having to pay a whole $5 for the basket… something that I should have asked (darn me), but I did need to see the quality of their fries anyways I guess. Getting a basket solely of Fries or Chips+Pico comes in at $4 and $3 respectively.
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Speed: 7.5

Average expected wait for the items served, seemed to have been handled quite smoothly, though with little to no line at the time for proper reference when busy.

The TOE: 6.5

                  The street-ish faire food, sirachi bbq sauce, and almost exceptional onion rings and brisket sandwich offer noted points of intrigue amongst the foundation built from the personality of the worker’s and business (name, design, etc), but so far as I’ve experienced nothing else sticks out after that. I am so far quite happy at the quality of the food, but my drive to visit it as a truck has yet to rage bright and hot, even with my curiosity for their other items. Maybe it’s the similarity in style with today’s bar food, maybe it’s nothing, or maybe the salt containers aren’t lined up (old college reference, best to just pretend I’m speaking gibberish), but either way it’s only gotten this far for me.
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Tally: 35/50

Final Thoughts

A striking red truck serving idealistic Gastropub BBQ faire, Sizzling Wagon ironically sees itself rarely close to a local beer source. But if you ever spot it outside a taproom, that’s the time to head on over with friends to share some grub, alcohol, and good times. This is the kind of truck ideally visited when really making a day/night out of it.

For the best experience, get the Brisket Sandwich or Sizzling Burger, and see if you can answer the question on swapping out for those Onion Rings (if you can’t, get a basket for a few people to share… heck, maybe you can even ask to NOT have fries for $1-2 less, who knows?). Of course other options are surely not to disappoint, the Shrimp Tacos offering a much better pursuit while trolling the streets.

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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Big Brother Almighty BBQ

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http://www.bigbrotheralmightysmokedbbq.com/

https://twitter.com/BBAlmightyBBQ

Main Location: Minneapolis

It’s always interesting when new batches of Food Trucks come in each year; the discover of which, usually, coming through various waves and instances as the 10+(usually a lot of +) come in unannounced throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. 2014 has stood out as somewhat interesting, though, in how many articles and reports and postings I’ve seen come out, grandstanding around THE new group of mobile vendors coming out this year. This always being the same group of 5-8 Trucks being anticipated for by bloggers and media alike, setting themselves squarely into their own little ‘Rat Pack Street Food Style’ of the 2014 Generation. Though of course one or two of the trucks aren’t always consistent list to list, certain new businesses being more unique or informationally available for each article owner, there are a certain few that consistently stand out at the top of the list.

Of these, Big Brother Almighty BBQ seems to shine as the most intriguing of newcomers (well, next to Butcher Salt, but they came out much earlier), calling those denizens of the street forth in curiosity as the unique, Zeus-embellished logo. As for their story, it seems the business is originally based out of the bbq-joint-of-the-same-name, located on Hoover St in Minneapolis.

Like all BBQ businesses, there is no such thing as ‘menu specialization;’ no matter what their best and worst items are, they shell out everything. Ribs, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Rib TIPS, even Chicken Wings, one can get all the classics, every which one of them being smoked for flavor. Of the sides we have those mainly typical of a lower key place, or perhaps a picnic, with Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Mac n Cheese, Potato Salad, and French Fries (sad to say no bacon/ham and collard greens made the list). Besides the Pork and a Polish Sausage, all smoked items come in Full and Half orders, reminiscent of making the aching decision of whether or not you can handle double the ribs in your local lodge house.

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And did I mention every meat comes with a free slice of White Bread? Now that’s classic barbecue. Sadly, they don’t make their own sauce to accompany this or your meat, maybe a wet marinade for some items, but they carry a few classic options to choose from and distribute on your own desires.

Food: 5.5

                It’s a very, very difficult thing to get a grasp of any BBQ joint’s food and style when only having one or their items; whereas the ribs from one place are divine, that same business’ pulled pork may be abysmal (or at least just okay), or vice versa. Many places have noted strong and weak items, some may be strong across the board, but we can’t know the full situation with only experiencing one meat. Thus my exploring of this mobile shack had to be relegated in my schedule twice.

Thankfully for me, my very first visit provided a stroke of luck, walking up to the counter right as they were inspecting a slab of Rib Tip. Cutting off an end, the cook asked my opinion on its level of preparation; it did need more time, as it was still notably chewy, but the juiciness of that meat fully coated my mouth and fingers, accompanied by a lightly piquant red marinade that made me very hopeful for my meals to come.

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But that stopped soon afterwards, for though the side of Beans I acquired provided a nice flavor compared to the generic puddles of goo one is loathe to remember, still a touch chalky in texture but definitely a good basic experience, my regular Ribs left my feelings neutral. Not that there was anything wrong with the ribs; my teeth can bite through, one can taste a little smoke, the pork flavor is nice; but there’s nothing really ‘right’ either. They’re not bad, but they aren’t great, and ribs are one of those foods where any time you eat it the flavor should be GREAT and excite you. But they just felt decent, ‘alright,’ it was cooked well enough nothing was wrong with them but there was no special quality.

The Brisket sunk me even lower, finding something that made me disappointed. I love brisket, absolutely love it, but this just ended up tasting like roast beef, with barely any smoke flavor and none of the pink flesh from that heated carbon-curing. It was gray and brown with no bark (literal and figurative), and really pointed out the sadness that they don’t make their own sauce to slather over the finished meat. Because worst, worst of all, it was dry; and no, not as in the sandy, chewing on leather dry, but that texture right in the back tells you immediately there will be no juicy reward in this food, with just a hint of flesh scraping, which may be nothing for other meat but for a brisket is DRY. Oh, and did I mention I had a piece with a chunk of fat/gristle that I, of all people, COULDN’T eat? And I love chowing down on delicious animal fat with steaks and whatnot.

All this comes as no surprise when one reads on their homepage that the owner himself, a ‘Professional Cook,’ has been working only as a Prep cook he was 20 and ‘has even taken a course in BBQ from Jack’s Old South BBQ Cooking School in Unadilla, Georgia.’ Ooooh, a whole course?

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I now sadly doubt if the rib tips, though delicious when fresh, would actually come to customers near that level after having been sliced and kept ready to serve like these previous items. Could very well be wrong though, they may just keep that idealistic perfection, with a texture my teeth can actually cut through on their own. Finishing off, I did get a look at their Mac and Cheese, and for the typical thick, gooey yellow style one usually sees from BBQ and Sandwich trucks (like Bloomy’s), it looked to be of the tastier variation.

Holdability: 5.5

                 Though sides, when ordered solo, are placed in small, easy-to transport containers, any entrée choice immediately requires the characteristic giant styrafoam box, no matter how small the whole order is. Though options like ribs and chicken wings, when not heavily sauced by yourself, can allow for ease of consumption (despite the obtrusive packaging), brisket and pulled pork offer much cumbersome mess. Picking up the white bread that’s supposed to act as their sandwich bread base only ends in part of it ripping in half, saucy meat falling, and you turning around to grab napkins as you plan a better navigation plan. Put simply, these items are meant for shipping to an eat-focused-location.

Price: 3.5

                  The cheapest one will pay here, not counting only getting some sides or ordering the $7 Polish Sausage, is $9 for their ‘small/half’ orders. This applies to only 3 slices of brisket, 4 small ribs, 4oz of rib tips, or just 6 chicken wings (not sure how much pulled pork you get, but I don’t expect I’d be wowed). Oh and did I mention this is before the tax kicks in? So it’s almost $10. To actually get a decent sized order, one will pay around $14 for double the amount, $12 in the case of chicken wings (which isn’t actually getting a full double anyways), before tax again. And sides are $3-4 each.

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Very typical and not so surprising price listing when heading into some BBQ restaurants, but completely unacceptable from a food truck perspective; we either need some more affordable options or, at the very least, substantial quantities (and qualities) of food to match the higher-end price listing in the street vendor line-up.

Speed: 9

A relatively quick recovery of pre-finished product into your container, or spooned into Tupperware.

The TOE: 4.5

                  Big Brother seeks to apply the same feeling and experience of eating at their restaurant or bbq catering table, I presume, without making any consideration changes towards Street Food culture. Nothing is made purely to eat mobile, the price system mirrors brick and mortar expectancies, and portion size for even the most affordable options are laughable. They do carry an ambiance and a unique enough design and attitude which initially draws us in quite well, but it never carries through unless one is tunnel-visioned enough about the idea of a barbecue stop that they simply don’t care (which I admit, and have for many of my reviews, that these may simply be the opinions of a self-obsessed ranting lunatic, but nonetheless…).

Tally: 28/50

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Final Thoughts

Unless one really has a craving for a BBQ lunch, and are dependent on getting it from a Food Truck, I would ultimately suggest finding somewhere else for lunch. That said, if one WERE to visit here, I have two main ideas for a decent experience.

1: for the BBQ-focused, I would bet the Pulled Pork probably allows for the better eating options, and you may get more for the money (pork used for pulling generally being cheaper, and since they only have one option for I would assume that means it’s not a half/dinky order. Then again, it could just be charging for a single, small sandwich). Then again, if the Rib Tips ever tender up once cooked, it should be pretty good, just one of the pricier street options. Though considering they’re the main two items they seem to push on the website, it’s not so surprising.

2: skip the BBQ all-together, get yourself 2-3 sides, some Mac and Cheese and Baked Beans. They open themselves up as a possible choice when creating a full-course food truck day plan. Though don’t get the fries, they’re pre-cut frozen things I can tell.

Those Lost, 2013

                Another year has come and gone, filled with many exciting adventures, relationships, new discoveries, and for this blog of course Food Trucks. But with many new ventures rolling onto the street, we have inevitably lost quite a few along the way. A made a small memento post about a few of these missing businesses shortly after starting this blog, and I think it’s only fair to Update and Continue this list in the years to come.

                So please join me in a moment of silent respect and remembrance as I take a brief look back into those no longer with us, starting with our more recent losses.

 

Barrio Taco Truck

Link to Review

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                Though my disdain for their prices was heavily known, I was very surprised to see this highly popular truck no longer roaming Downtown. Truly they did offer the best quality and technically executed Tacos from any of our trucks, and I’m sad to see them go.

Aussie’s Kebabs

Link to Review

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                 A real shame, as they pedaled out one of the most unique and idealistic Street Food item that I’ve found in my travels. A traditional “kebab,” not the one you’re thinking of, made by slicing of gyro (or gyro-style) meat, wrapping it with veggies and sauce in a pita bread “tortilla,” and then pressing like a Panini. Maybe the size of their cart never truly stood out amongst the rest, but their food and idea reached high to a potential which I sorely miss.

Trinh Food Truck

Link to Review

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               Serving up very simple and traditional Bahn Mi’s, they were the only truck one could find Boba Tea, which was an odd but very effective highlight for me. I’m not that surprised to see them go, but I don’t think it should have been an inevitable end for them. Hopefully they’ve found success in whatever catering/food career they’re at outside of the mobile.

Untamed Cart

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                A True Culinarian’s Delight, the small cart was operated by two professional chefs (I forget which kitchen it was out of) who served a small variety of easy-to-assemble but complex-to-prep sandwiches, along with some good quality chips. I was SO depressed when I found out they were gone, they had some really good food. My very first taste was a homemade Porketta (if you don’t know what that it, look it up and watch your mouth salivate and get excited) sandwich, probably one of my favorite food items I’ve had from a Truck so far (which makes me think, I should do a list of my favorites…). What makes me even sadder is knowing many that now no longer have a chance to try their food.

Taqueria La Hacienda

Link to Review  

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               Serving out of a large, long yellow Truck with an up-front ice tray filled to the brim full of Mexican sodas, Hacienda was the Downtown’s access to delicious traditional tacos, which we are sorely in more need of (we have other trucks that do that, but they seem to stay away from the Downtown Cities). Technically I am still unsure as to whether they are truly off the street, but there has been no word on Twitter for over a year and it seems the website is down. Possibly they are just keeping the Truck down in the Latin district of Minneapolis, near the Mercado Central, but either way I will miss you Hacienda.

Yummi

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                A bahn mi-based cart. Previously discussed in 2013 Article.

Origins Coffee and Tea

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                A drink-only specialization cart for the morning runner. Previously discussed in 2013 Article.

Magic Bus

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                A big Purple Bus shoveling out amazing Hot Dogs, which sadly moved their business to Colorado. Previously discussed in the 2013 Article.

Cook n Wheels

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                A food truck I hadn’t had a chance to visit (and know nothing about), has appeared to be off the streets for quite a long while. Previously discussed in the 2013 Article.

The Brothers Deli

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                A small cart serving awesome Deli Sandwiches and knish based out of their store. Previously discussed in the 2013 Article.

 

Honorable Absentees

                Sort of weird to have an “Honorable Mentions” type section in a post like this, however there are, without a doubt, some trucks that seem to have made a noticeable absence in the past summer/s yet have still left doubt as to whether or not they’re really gone, or are still operating out of a different kitchen (or some other thing). So I wanted to put these guys here, at least for now.

Awesome Eats

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                A big green catering truck that started serving tacos and then switched things up on people, AE moved into the NE Palace kitchens during the last winter and, as far as I can tell, have yet to move out of it. Though I haven’t seen any update post on their facebook since summer, so I’m not sure if they’re even still there.

Cruzn Café

Link to Review  

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              After seeming to come back on the scene with new menu additions a couple summers ago, and still having a fully operating and detailed website, I have yet to see Cruzn on the street since the first “Annual Food Truck Event” in downtown, nor any updates to their Twitter. My guess and hope is that they’re keeping themselves to catering, as it would disappoint me to see them completely done with such a fun Business.

Smack Shack

Link to Review  

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               With their recent new, very Big Restaurant, Smack Shack basically backed away from the streets in the summer of 2013. Whether they’ll be returning or not is anyone’s guess at this point.

The Cave Café

Link to Review  

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                 A big White “Truck” serving African cuisine, I haven’t heard much from cave since a twitter post exactly one year ago. Where they are is currently unclear, hopefully this will be remedied in the coming season.

 

                Already we miss all of you who visited and served our streets, and though your success may have been short lived I speak for us all when I say Thank You in your efforts and for including us in your journey. I wish all the people running these trucks good luck in their future, and perhaps chance that we may meet again in a revised future go-at-it.

                This is Andrew with Reviews on Wheels, wishing all my readers a Happy 2014 and all the Trucks, current, past, and upcoming, a great Year. I’ll be out to get you soon.

                Good Luck and Good Eating.