New Bohemia Truck

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https://www.facebook.com/newbohemiafoodtruck/
https://twitter.com/newbohemiamn
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

With what’s likely my last solid truck review of the year (unless for some reason I’m actually able to find another yet-to-hit food truck in the upcoming insanely busy, hectic, and cold holiday season), I take on the result of one of the Midwest’s own growing bar concepts. Taking the heart of casual soul food that is German and Eastern-European faire, my favorite kind by the way, New Bohemia has opened at least 6 different locations based mainly around a wide selection of Beers and amazing sausages.

I’ve dined there myself a year or so ago, so I’ve seen the results of their work and atmosphere. Thus it was no surprise to chain adding a food truck to their lineup; there’s clearly both the ability and success for them to do so.

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Obviously their truck can’t shell out ice cold pints of frothy goodness, but they do have Draft Rootbeer and basically everything else! 10 different options for Bratwurst from basic Beer to unique/interesting Teriyaki Chicken to practically-insane Rattlesnake-Rabbit. These are split, grilled, and piled in a bun with the two toppings of one’s choice (Bacon Sauerkraut, Spicy Kraut, Sweet-Hot Peppers, Beer Cheese, Cole Slaw, or Beer Butter-cooked Onions); along with a veritable smorgasbord of different housemade Beer Mustards to squirt on at your leisure. Of course this also includes some Beer Cheese Curds, and… a ‘Giant Pretzel the Size of a Pizza’!? For $14, that thing better be huge!

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… yep, that’s a big pretzel. Could have eaten my food off of it… as much as I don’t care about pretzels for lunch even I’m highly curious about  what it tastes like. Moving on, then there’s the apparent chance for Fries, which similarly to the sausages gets the chance for 2 free sauces from its own group. Oh, and for whatever reason… two Salads (Strawberry Spinach and Apple Jicama).

As much as I’d like to try and think of a cutesy or informative paragraph to briefly entertain your reading, this article has been long enough coming and I need to get it out. With luck, in perfect time for the Turkey Day Season! So enjoy the last review for a while, cheers (toasts with a pretend beer since they wouldn’t give him a real one)!!

Food: 9

                Duck and Cilantro was my option of choice… because I’m too cheap to even go a dollar over for one of the ‘adventurous’ meats I love so much. Though to be fair, I DID try one of them a couple years back in the bar itself and loved it… just can’t remember which one. With a solid little snap, the skin is joined with extra flavor and texture from the ‘split-grilling’ method, whereas a link is sliced almost fully in half, spread like a butterfly, and griddled inside-down to cook for service. Always a delicious way to enjoy. Especially when the base sausage itself is just darn good, and if one can say anything about Bohemia, much like any decades-old family-run butcher/charcuterie, they’ve got their sausage recipes DOWN. Flavorful, balanced, peppery and/or herby and/or spicy and fatty where it needs to be. Num. If I remember correctly, the bun holder did not get any, or much, actual toasting, which would have helped to elevate the enjoyment even further.
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As for the toppings, of course I went for the Kraut, no complaints there! And the Beer Butter Onions seem to be quite a signature: they tasted good, but I was hoping for more cooking/grilled-caramelization, more beer flavor, and more BUTTER, I mean please it’s in the name. The sauces I tried for the fries, wasabi-ginger AIOLI and stout bbq, were both similarly well made as expected. And yes I got some fries to go with it; it’s classic, and much cheaper than getting a secondary sausage. Good texture on the outside, soft on the inside, addicting simple seasoning work, if one WANTS fries with their dog for lunch it’s definitely not an option you’ll regret.

Holdability: 7

                 For a sausage, the end-of-the-day verdict isn’t quite as ideal for holding as one would expect. Piled with that kraut and onions, or whatever toppings you choose, in a large soft bun, picking this up isn’t quite as clean and easy, so it’s good that it comes in a basket. Though of course the Curds, Pretzels, and Fries eat clean with fingers, but are again basket foods (okay maybe not the pretzel, but how often are you likely to buy that?). Part of me feels so ridiculous still talking about this… but the other part of me loves stubborn, weird consistency!!

Price: 8.5

                  A range of $6.50-$8 depending on your selected ‘level’ of sausage, which comes at a decent size so can be a nice stand-alone lunch. That said, if you want fries will have to fork over $3-4, so might as well get the larger option, making a complete meal not so bad considering (especially since they ARE good fries). We’ve already mentioned the $14 Pretzel (oh look there it is again), then there’s $8 for the Beer Curds (there better be a lot), and finally $5-8 for the Salads… which shouldn’t even be worth mentioning, guh.
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Speed: 6.5

It’s been a while since the visit, but I remember wondering why it took more than five minutes to grill a sausage, which should have been pre-cooked already and simply needing the searing. I know the fries weren’t an issue, I saw that they do batch-frying so that it was ready to just scoop into baskets as needed. Sides and sauces should similarly be heated and needing scoopage. That said it wasn’t truly a ‘long’ wait, just a bit more than I expected considering.

The TOE: 9

                  Though it’s from a pre-existing chain, the business itself has developed enough identity, feel, and uniqueness that it easily transfers onto the food truck to separate its own ‘air’ distinctly from others; if anything, it’s ideally suited for a mobile business.
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Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

Despite not having it myself, one should keep Bohemia in mind for one of the strong possibilities in acquiring quality drink consumption for your street-based lunch with their Local Draft Root Beer. I forget where it was from, but it wasn’t something I was immediately familiar with and sounded damn good. Speaking of unique things to them, though I find great curiosity and excitement in the idea, at the end of the day the ‘Giant Pretzel’ is just something kitschy, and likely not really worth it, especially for fourteen dollars. If they offered it for less, maybe at ten, then certainly consider it; but I know how much it costs to make, just ignore for now unless REALLY wanting some fun group snack to slather in mustard and various side sauces.

Truly, I cannot pick your guides in the world of all things linked, especially with all the little ‘categories,’ but a suggestion from each sounds fun right? Definitely do a Macaroni and Cheese-stuffed for the heavily affordable Classics, the Duck w/ Cilantro in Premiums (just solid goodness), and for those feeling experimental (which you really SHOULD be) the Rattlesnake-Rabbit is a rare white-meat treat. The Fries are NOT a bad decision, especially alongside Jalapeno Beer Cheese, Wasabi-Ginger Aioli, or Stout BBQ.

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Very much would I like to go back and ask what beer is in the Curds batter for yet another potential truck to get a good version from.

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Brook’s High Beer Battered

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http://www.brookshigh.com/
https://twitter.com/Brooks_High
Main Location: Minneapolis, Select Breweries

The second of this summer’s most locally-anticipated food trucks, Brook’s High Beer Battered gained fame through their popular Kickstarter campaign, gaining press and interest through the sharing of their particular vision, one which quite a few people seemed to agree with. Definitely one of the sight’s biggest success stories, at least for Minnesota, the team here proves that, if handled right with an idea that truly appears to our local hipster masses, crowdsourcing creates a viable supplemental income source for your startup food truck operation.

And what is this vision which so many of us here have been so anxious to get on the streets you ask? Well, if you have yet to run across articles like This and This explaining it (once again, since they’ve basically been talked about for quite some time, I’m going to be lazy in my intro today), they focus purely on, as the name suggests, Beer-battered and Beer-focused menu items. But not just any beer; the fun comes in the fact that as they park at brewery to brewery, that day’s batter recipe will specifically feature some of the different beers from our local taprooms. So one day you could get a typical fried something made from a light ale, while another brings complex bitter hops, and yet another day try out a uniquely dark and savory batter made from a stout.

So far they’ve been working with Bauhaus, Lynlake Brewing, Fair State, and Tin Whiskers, while also parking at the explosively popular distiller and cocktail room of Tattersall. Of which they’ve already been parking at for over a month; my delay in being able to visit has, as one would imagine, been painful. But with their mention of the menu still being worked on a few weeks ago, my steely resolve had to set itself to wait… that and my schedule sucks. But I always prefer to get to a truck at its set point while being as close to opening as possible; hopefully I got to the right point this time.

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Southside Donuts w/ ‘Glaze’

For the food itself, topping the menu is their Fried Walleye (at least now, perhaps they may switch the fish out depending on occasion) Sandwich, followed by classic Beer-Battered Cheese Curds. When asked about upcoming items, since with still only 4 on the board during my visit, it seems plans for a Bacon-Beer-Mac-and-Cheese are underway for when the temperatures drop, along with some Beer Chili. There IS a Salad for the gluten-free and veggie-required people out there, but we shall not deem it worthy by even looking at that. And what’s a fried truck without dessert? Of late their Donuts, current flavors taken inspiration from their friends at Tattersall, have seen much feature.

Now is the time to see if they can live up to the hype, as those that invested and those that just really love the idea of this truck hope and pray for them to survive on our local roads. Let’s see what chance they have at this.

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Food: 9.5

                To my surprise the Fried Walleye Sandwich comes in two sandwiches, each with a single batter-fried walleye filet, their Citrus-Apricot-Coleslaw, Tartar Sauce (of course), and half a white country bun/baguette for each. I think I saw a picture once that had their sandwich in a pretzel bun, so not sure if I mistook it, it was for something else, or they just switch it out every here and there, like the batter. Let’s start with the fish. Heaven. There done? Oh I need more details don’t I? You get the kind of fish cooked to a point where the flesh is almost melting in how it flakes, and then surrounded by thick, crunchy-fried beer batter, hot from the friar to steam your mouth, forcing you to pause and take your time. A faint amount of friar grease makes itself present on the palate, and that being near the end of the night, which is rather impressive compared to some other fried foods I’ve had.

The slaw is delightfully refreshing and creamy, an one does get those notes of citrus every now and then, really distinguishing it as their own and proving why it’s so classically paired to ‘contrast’ the richly-cooked fish. Didn’t get a lick of the apricot though, not sure what that was about. I like the tartar sauce, tasted on its own one can see it’s of an unctuous ‘fatty’ style, probably from the amount of sour cream and mayo, with this sort of deep tang. And the bread was good, not toasted on the inside but the outside got it at some point so the texture was there while the softer inside cradled its package.

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I’ve had a lot of Cheese Curds, and a lot of them have used good cheese from local and/or organic/sustainable farms, but this feels to be the first time where it REALLY expresses this fact on the plate… er, basket… actually, in the mouth. The curds on their own were so creamy, gooey, and just plain craveable. If I had to pick my personal ‘ideal cheese curds,’ I know everyone has their favorite at the State Fair and whatnot, these would be it. Besides that cheese, the batter formed a completely even coating, thin but still crispy and textural. It made me very confused as to whether I liked it better with or without the wonderfully creamy and spicy ‘Baeoli’… aioli with beer.

It’s a shame I ended up on one of the few nights which they only had one beer to make the batter with (Bauhaus’ Wonderstuff by the way), though I’m not quite sure how much of a difference it would have made. Despite intense testing of the batter, on its own and with the food, I wasn’t quite sure I could notice any particular flavor from the distinctive beer itself. Structure, as I’ve said, certainly; I can’t recall the last time I’ve had fried beer batter that good, at least in Minnesota.

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We finish with the Southside Donuts, their little ‘donut holes’ served with a Juniper-Lime Syrup; they call it a glaze, but really it’s this thin syrup on the bottom of the basket, which I delight in rolling the donuts around to coat before popping in my mouth. I do wish the juniper flavor came out more in it too; the acidity is there, but actual flavors are subtle, and I really wish I could EXPERIENCE it, get it upfront. The menu said #BOOM… I wanted the boom –innocent little tear-. Donut on itself was… interesting. Not in a bad way, just in that I’m not sure how to exactly describe or judge the style; I think it’s similar to the brioche-dough-doughnuts. Given the style, I do believe the structure was done well, and once again is fried well, not dry or doughy. Sadly not what I had expected them to be; but now we know what they’re coming out with so you know what to get excited about.

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Look at that cheese stretch!

Holdability: 7

               Officially basket, and in the future bowl, food; besides the hand-picked donuts and curds, or fork-required salad, the slaw and sauce on these sandwiches seem quite eager to attack my fingers. Even when I tried actively pushing them down between fish and bun(an idea I used to unjustifiably inflate my own pride), still had some veggies and tartar notably fall out, so it was a good thing the basket was there; and yes you’ll want napkins as you thoroughly gulf down these bad boys in a creamy affair.

Price: 7.5

                $12 for the Sandwiche/s, $6 each for the other fried items, and $8 on that salad; so ultimately the main item, if getting for oneself, is a bit in the higher range for truck entrees, the curds seem about right, but do think we should be getting more of those simple donuts if having to pay $6 for them.
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Speed: 7

The wait felt noticeable; for the sandwich, that may have likely just been me, but I do swear the curds and donuts were longer than I expected for basket-snacks. And by that I mean a minute or two; also, NOT me saying this is taking longer than they should, they have definitely achieved that practically perfect deep fry, comes out hot and delicious… and one should be ordering this at a brewery anyway so, unlike me who has no life, you have a glass of beer and friends to keep company in those extra minute or two.

The TOE: 10

                What can I say about the truck’s concept and intrigue that hasn’t already drummed up excessive revenue for their kickstarter and media attention? Combine that with their strategic move of, as far as I can tell, ONLY parking at taprooms (or cocktail-rooms in Tattersall’s case) and events, which always have a strong local beer focus, and we have a big behemoth of a truck that melds fully into the environment while drawing us in with their appealing personality.

Want to mention the donuts again, mainly cuz, as mentioned, I was hoping they would be something different and reach a wholly unique (and again, more flavorful) Toe Ring status symbol for the truck. Perhaps if they covered it with a juniper-sugar, maybe a proper lime-frosting-glaze drizzled on top or on the side, or perhaps lime-scented white chocolate sauce…

Tally: 41/50

Final Thoughts

Now that Motley’s has gone to rest with their new restaurant, Brook’s High Batter comes in as one of the main trucks to stick to at our breweries. One could potentially get a basket for snacking at a festival, the only other place a deep-fried and beer-placed business such as this would excel in experience, but they do seem to be best when sat down alongside a nice big, rich glass of beer; ideally the one accompanying the batter-of-the-day.

Order the Walleye Sandwich with a friend; not only is it a great sandwich one can actually share without worrying about trading spit (you know unless that’s what you’re into), you’re basically getting a single delicious and reasonably-sized sandwich for $6 apiece, turning it into a better deal again. Ideally, this should also be hit at a gig where they do indeed have at least two different beer-based batters; that way when you get your obligatory Cheese Curds (Get Them! Seriously!), or perhaps their upcoming Bacon-Mac and Cheese, you can enjoy the spirit of the different preparations. Plus then you could tell me if you can actually taste the beer notes in each…

Eastlake Craft and Taco Cat Quasi Review

tchttp://www.tacocatmn.com/
https://twitter.com/tacocats

Sad to say, the past winter, in combination with the full-time job I’ve acquisitioned into, has bulldozed my daily schedules and habits to one which has fully kept me from my beloved food truck explorations for the longest of times. I worry that I won’t be able to make it out to try some of the new entrepreneurs, let alone catch up with ones I still have yet to reach after last year’s premier.

But this spring feels so revitalizing! Just recently finishing up a month-long vegetarian diet project (which I’m now regretting not featuring in my Other Blog), getting used to the new hours, my wallet not feeling as dry and stingy as before, and with the weather taking a noted turn for the better, that flexible sense of adventure and exploration finally re-set itself in my soul and fingers. Restrictions no longer seem to cling to me anymore, leaving my wandering tastes excited for the new possibilities as I make my plans to get back into the food scene of my much loved Twin Cities.

20150315_163237And with my first full day off of work after this amazing weather hit, I just had to go to a taproom, so I headed down to the Midtown Global Market to visit the newly-opened Eastlake Craft Brewery, a fun venture started 3 months ago that focuses on some Belgian, IPA, and unique styles, including a fully Vietnamese-flavored and styled beer called “Eye of the Tiger.” Besides beer, the place offers Dean’s Kombucha on tap, tasty on its own but even better when utilized in a “One Two Punch,” whereas they’ll do a half-and-half mix of your chosen beer and flavored kombucha (I tried the Tiger with some Blackberry, subtly spicy sassy sour super sipper, num). But that’s a review for another time, which I’ll probably hand over to Eat.Drink.Dish, what we really need to talk about is the food!

20150315_155139The reason I chose Eastlake, in the center of uptown as it is, was to finally achieve an experience I, and many other Minnesotans, have been telling myself I’d do for over a year without actually making a proper attempt: Taco Cat delivery. Yes, those gurus of the stuffed tortilla that started in the southern area of Minneapolis, solely relying on a bike delivery services and sarcasm. Despite being based out of a kitchen in the Global Market, TC still has no ‘proper’ pickup, requiring you to stand outside of the building to then have your tacos delivered by bike. Despite the simple requirement of having to be anywhere in uptown, the cliché of everyone talking and raving about Taco Cat without having actually tried it yet has still stood strong in our cities (well, at least I’m no longer part of those statistics).

I wanted to take a picture for the feature, but my guy wasn’t wearing his jersey today (the bearded bastard!!), and I couldn’t find any good ones online of their delivery guys wearing anything besides winter coats, so here’s a picture of a cat in a taco costume!

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D’awwwwww

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It certainly is yet another great taproom food, the guys offering a few basic and unique topping-laden tacos, along with options for Nachos and Burritos filled with choice meats. Going for two items today, I chose the Ruckus, a mint-chimichuri and pickled radish-topped steak, and the Outlaw, slow-cooked pork with kimchi and typical salsas. Each order comes with Three decent-sized tacos, great for sharing or just stuffing your face (and, of course I checked, no we cannot do mix-and-match orders… thus why I ended up having to buy 6 tacos just to try two menu items… at least my next home lunches aren’t gonna suck). Of which, both of these certainly displayed how Taco Cat has gotten its reputation for scrumptious street food.

Two quality, soft layered masa tortillas stuffed with juicy, tender meat, I mean come on. The pulled pork was easily one of the best, juiciest that I’ve had in the street food game so far, and a great base to build a taco with. Steak was nice and typical of most but, on the other hand, when I hear grilled steak, I want something… more. Give me some crust, texture, something more than cooked beef cubes (they’re good cooked beef cubes mind you). But my mouth was overall quite happy with what I put in it.

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Oh, and can’t forget the salsas! A green salsa verde with the steak, a chipotle-based number for the pork, both of them so devilishly good… especially the latter, so smoky and rich and indulgent, I just want to slather it all over the pork and just stick with that.

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They may not be an actual food truck, thus my choice to delegate them to the Quasi-review circuit, but they’re fully delved into the core of street food in our cities, and I’ve been wanting to try them anyway, so there.

                 Food: 8 – What I’ve already mentioned, I also found that the fun toppings I was so excited for, such as the kimchi and mint chimichurri, barely came out. When having it plain (no salsa), I was able to get a subtle mint on the steak, but that was the biggest personality inclusion. I really wish they stood out with a ‘POW’ like they should. Can assume similar meat and flavor qualities across options.

20150315_151142              Holdability: 8 – Tightly bundled tacos, easily transportable in their aluminum wrap (and doggy delivery bag)

Price: 5 – Certainly higher than typical taco trucks, even for the simpler offerings, and forcing us to buy 3 of the same at a time keeps bills higher, especially when sampling multiple items.

Speed: 4 – Great for bike delivery I’m sure, but even when ordering outside the kitchen makes a 10-minute wait. So, compared to food trucks, not the best.

Toe: 10 – What? I like the name… and it’s funny reading their website’s Q&A section

I don’t remember if I usually have a ‘final suggestion’ section in these Quasis anymore, but I certainly wanna say that, if you ever have the chance to hang in uptown and place an order, do this: Order as a Group, so you can try a few different meats, split the costs, and have a smorgasbord of fun to try. Don’t go for the ‘special’ tacos with the different toppings; instead, just get the plain (pork or chicken ideal) and smother in those amazing salsas… I mean seriously. I bet the nachos and burritos are pretty gangsta too (yes I just said that); and safe to say, these are best enjoyed at breweries, coffee shops, or other fun outdoorsy sit-downs in uptown.

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Well, that’s about it for now, I’m gearing up for some more brewery visits and other upcoming fun! Enjoy this amazing season all of you (unless for some reason you’re reading this in winter… in that case, so sorry… maybe build a snowman and watch Frozen?)!

Waiting for a Rocking June at Motley’s

SAMSUNGPlenty online local papers and blog spots have already reported and written about this who knows how many times by now, but I wanted to still get in my congrats and shout-out to one of my fav’s, Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill, and their upcoming restaurant project! That’s right, the brew-centered food truck is getting themselves a stand-alone serving space on June 1st, and I sincerely hope I’ll have the opportunity in my schedule to stop down as soon as possible once it opens!

The new digs will be located on Holyoke Ave in Lakeville, with an interesting twist to the operations, which I was very glad to hear about. Cuz though I do love this truck so much, it is a bit difficult to imagine themselves transferring to a restaurant idea… plenty of other trucks one can see no problem, but simple messy sandwiches and bar snacks, hmm. Could certainly picture some café or one of those quick-service places like the classic Philly Joints in their hometown, but we’re talking an actual full restaurant here. And then I find out that half of the space will be shared by a local craft brewery (which one is still unknown), thus keeping that perfect pairing we all love so much.

That’s about all there is to say about this upcoming venture. I wish the best of luck to these guys in their next step, and can’t wait to stop on by for some awesome brewery-centric faire!

(Here’s a couple other articles on the topic)

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2015/02/17/motley-crews-food-truck-will-get-a-permanent.html

http://minneapolis.eater.com/2015/2/17/8052245/motley-crews-heavy-metal-grill-from-food-truck-to-lakeville-restaurant

Harriet Battle Roy-ally

2014-09-03 13_11_42-Youth Link Food Truck Battle & Rally _ Harriet Brewing - Internet Explorer

http://www.youthlinkmn.org/food-truck-battle/

So apparently Harriet Brewing is hosting a full-on Food Truck Battle on the Saturday of September 13th… and I’m gonna be working during it! Ohhhhhh the humanities!

For those like me who haven’t heard about it yet, Youthlink’s First Ever (indicating possibly more events year to year) ‘Gilded Spatula’, with a portion of the profit going to help homeless youth. The battle itself start at Noon and goes ’til Three, with each of the 8 trucks making a completely New Entrée dish, never seen before, to be judged by a panel. Entry fee during this time frame is $45, which not only allows one to watch the proceedings but to also sample each and every contestants’ food yourself along with two, count them, two of Harriet’s Beers to keep yourself amused while waiting.

Of course, if you don’t mind not being there when the judgment is called, not being able to sample the creations, or waiting a little longer in the day to start, these mobile contestants will be sticking around the parking lot until 7pm for a Free-to-Enter Rally after the show. Bands and music will of course be playing all day as-is Harriet’s custom, and beer will now need to be purchased, but it’s all gonna be a grand ole’ time like usual.

Competing Trucks will be: Cupcake Social, Big Brother Almighty BBQ, Brava on Wheels, Cave Café, GastroTruck, Gogi Brothers, Scratch Food (I’m laying my bets on them, GOOO Scratch! -holds up foam finger-), and Tru Pizza.

Tickets can be purchased Here, along with extra donations if you’re able.

Red River Kitchen

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https://twitter.com/RedRiverKitchen

Main Location: Breweries, Markets, Etc

            Have you ever been in that situation where you visit a restaurant, maybe one that had recently opened, been totally not impressed by the food for very obvious reasons, and then half a year or so later you see these articles or posts from people saying how great and fantastic it is? Did they improve their food? Have we ordered the wrong menu items at the time? Are they talking about a different location that’s better than the one you went too? Is everybody else taste-deaf? Or am I just too cynical an @$$hole in this particular occasion to give proper credit?

            That was my experience with Republic, a new bar which popped into the Cedar and Riverside intersection (also known as 7 Corners) during my last year of College Student Housing, replacing one of the main corner bars that sadly couldn’t last. The beer selection is great, but my food experience was quite… bleh. It’s left me quite confused after the more recent accolades.

            So when I found the excuse spend money on and try them again through the introduction of their new “Menu Testing” based Food Truck, Red River Kitchen, I jumped at it eagerly, heading out as soon as they parked at one of the breweries near me. They aren’t ever really out on “the streets,” mostly sticking to specific farmer’s Markets and Breweries; Excelsior seems to be a favorite, along with many other ones not-that-close to the Twin Cities.

            Using the mobile eatery as a way to round out and experiment with possible new restaurant foods, options change quite frequently, so it can be tricky to narrow down what one should expect going in. I think I CAN safely say, though, that one will very likely find at least one burger and/or Sandwich on the menu; a simple Bacon Cheeseburger seems to be a standby for customers not interested in experimenting. Another standby, likely to satisfy those brewery go-ers craving a fatty, salty food snack, is the restaurant’s classic Cheese Curds.

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            Other items on my visit were Barbacoa Tacos, Handmade Jerk Chicken Sausage, and a Quinoa-Mushroom Burger(pictured). Their own versions of typical Modern Day Bar Food, at least those better suited to the Food Truck Menu concept, is ultimately what one will find. Now if only they had their famous beer tap attached on the side.

Food: 8.5

             It was hard to choose between the Tacos and Chicken Sausage Sandwich (the burgers, though probably good, didn’t look THAT special to me), but after a bit I settled on seeing how well they got the Barbacoa, supplemented with some Cheese Curds, which seemed to be quite the popular item that day. Can’t imagine why, they were practically awful.

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            Well, I guess that’s a little harsh. To have their own little “personality,” I guess, River swayed from the classic batter for a drier dredge before frying, possibly cornmeal based. They were actually pretty good for a couple minutes after receiving it, still hot from the frier; a little gooey, an ‘interesting’ crust, and that “Yum Yum” sauce (from what I can tell, a simple aioli of lemon, cayenne, and possibly other simple spices) was quite good with it. After those two minutes though, as soon as it cools down… just rubbery, chewy, bland starch-coated cheese that makes you put effort into eating the rest of it, even with the delicious mayo.

           Which is a shame, because that Taco was damn good. The meat was tender, juicy, and tasted like the grill from which they were cooked on (in a good way), carrying that slightly smoky characteristic that good Barbacoa demands. The white corn (I do believe it’s masa, but it’s hard to tell with only the one wrap and all the food on top) tortilla is lightly grilled to amplify this experience, and filled to the brim with meat and typical accompaniments, which are quite poignant on their own, lending a strong flavor to the whole taco. I loved it, for the sole reason that everything tasted exactly like how you expect a proper Barbacoa Taco should, with every flavor present.

            I would like to say, if I was basing this solely on the execution of the Taco, I would gladly have scored Red River a whopping 9.5-10 points easy. But taking other dishes into account, not to mention the variable factors with changing dishes, lowering it somewhat seems the more prudent choice.

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Holdability: 6.5

             Outside getting a sole basket of Curds or Fries, every food item (on their own, not counting container) is a pure two-handed affair, with wide burgers and tacos which, though conveniently wrapped, made quite the little mess while eating (they are quite stuffed with toppings, very delicious but not condescend to portability, especially since they didn’t provide any napkins). A shame they didn’t sell them with the proper double-tortilla wrapping to sop up the fallen garnishes and juice.

Price: 6.5

              Restaurant-influenced pricing is pretty obvious, with $8 and $9 for all mains despite their simplicity. Not as crazy and psycho pricing as certain other places I’ve been, but there’s not as much range and variation either outside the $4-5 Fried Sides.

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Speed: 7

              Well, I had just enough of a wait time to head back in the brewery, stand behind two people taking their sweet ass time just to order a glass of beer, and head out just as they were calling my name. It can feel slow if there are multiple orders in front of you, but it’s not a bad speed if you consider the individual orders.

The TOE: 6

             They feel solid, with a bar-like sense of “place” that I’m sure those familiar with Republic could probably work out even better, with a nice design and set theme. Not to mention a bit of fun in the understanding that there should be often menu changing, all of it being part of the Testing period to see what may make the old restaurant menu. I never did feel much of an “impact” when I was there though, overall the place doesn’t seem to want to stand out in my mind, not much that makes me want to drag myself back.

                      Tally: 34.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            Though my overall opinion of Republic’s kitchen offerings has certainly improved compared to my first visit, I can’t see their mobile operation as being a particular favorite of mine on the streets. At a Brewery and Event, however, with choice seating and a predication to not mind spending an extra couple bucks on my meal, I’d have little problem popping in for a choice edible. Due to the supposed ever-changing offerings, suggestions towards what this should be end up difficult.

            What I can probably say is, first off, if one desires Curds of Fried Cheese, their best bet would be to get it “as a group” so that it’s all eaten quickly while still hot and delicious. Otherwise, don’t bother. Similarly, if one is looking for a quality burger, I would strongly bet there are much better options on other trucks; I’m sure they’re still good here, but the quality of other Trucks like Melch’s and Neato’s should easily trump what I’ve seen so far (though I will go on record saying that I could easily be wrong, I do have yet to actually try one, but appearances CAN convey a lot if you know what to look for).

            Thus, one’s best finds are likely to be any newer items, look for things that are “Homemade” or, at the end of the day, just sound really good on the menu. It sounds lazy to say it like that, but those Tacos sounded like the most appetizing thing on there that day, and they definitely did NOT disappoint. Maybe it’d be good to say that anything “Grilled” will go best for your nearest beer source?

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).

 

Upcoming Events after the Rain

               Re-going over some event sites and articles on new trucks for better preparation in the coming season (really need to start planning truck trips, try and get to any new guys I’ve missed), I’ve come under quite the personal revelation.

               We have quite a few Food Truck gatherings in the coming months.

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http://www.mnfoodtruckassociation.org/event-details/spring-food-truck-festival/

                Even with the Association’s Spring Rallyaside (which again, is on May 10th, at Harriet Brewing, Noon to 7), which I am excited to go to and stop by the new O’Cheeze Truck, another set of annual events have popped themselves up later in June.

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https://www.facebook.com/nefoodtruckjam

                Up first (well, second after the Rally) is the NE Food Truck Jam, an event which seems to have started last year without my notice. Started up by the East Minneapolis Exchange Club, the little gathering started as another way to raise money for local charities. As such, of the three here, this is the only event that has an entrance fee/tickets, though they’re only $7with advanced (aka before June 20th) buying online, link on their Facebook page. They only had 5 trucks last year, though hopefully their 2014 event will amp things up a bit more; hard to say, though, as they’ve only advertised Gastro and Anchor on their page… and it seems like the “Jam” is being held at 612 Brewing. Would be odd if they didn’t get a decent showing at least, as they’ll be bringing in a wealth of local bands and beer (supposedly a lot, should be able to wet the whistle quite well).

http://www.mnfoodtruckfair.com/#about

                The Jam is set for Noon to 5pm on Sunday June 22nd,one week before the 3rd Annual (aka the third desperate attempt of the:) Minnesota Food Truck Fair, or the “Uptown Food Truck Fair” as listed in the Association’s Event page (hopefully this is a sign they’ve had some involvement with the event). With another summer coming up, the organizers of this yearly debacle try once again to create a gathering that runs smooth and doesn’t piss too many people off.

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                Which… just might happen this year, despite bringing in over 35Trucks (or maybe because of it, a lot more options for people to spread out to). Located at Lake/Hennepin and 31st/Holmes, the event this year is completely spread out around a whole, large block. All the trucks will be spread out in various parking lots and lined up on just one side of the street (apparently a big change from last year) to expand walking area and improve traffic conditions (again, also apparently a big change from last year). Various booths for beer, a music stage, and other things that I have no clue what it is (no info key on the website yet! Haha) set up throughout as well.

                The Fair is set to go from 11am-9pm, again on Sunday, June 29th. Seems this year has a theme too! “$5 Pair Share,” which basically means each truck is offering a unique, affordable $5 menu item that’s made to share with a friend. I’m thinking I might have to query a few of them and try at least one from one of the more familiar trucks, see how they’ll take the idea. Either way, I can’t wait actually head out there this year (shocking, right?), at the least get to some of the newer trucks I’m sure to have yet ventured out to.

                I hope to see as many of you out to these events as I can! Can’t say whether or not I’ll head to the Jam; at the very least I’ll try to stop by and take pictures from above the 612 lot to see what it’s like. Have fun until then, good luck and good eating!

 

Taco Cat and Other News

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                   Recent texts with friends and the spying of a certain CityPages article today has made me aware of what seems to be quite the exploding topic at the moment. Articles, press comments, and many a hipster are doing what seems to be their very best attempt to bog down the company from being able to actually perform their “soft opening” which they so wished for tomorrow. Though considering this particular business to be… two years in the making (? they trademarked the particular kitty logo in 2012), one can’t blame a bit of excitement among those aware of this upcoming venture for quite a while. Taco Cat is Here.

http://www.tacocatmn.com/

                   Their slogan, much like their website and view on life (life meaning tacos), is simple: Call Number, Get Tacos. By bike, in the uptown area, no going to a café or shop to get them (they don’t want company). You are to wait for their delivery persons to bike over to where you are and deliver the crunchy, awesome packages of handheld tortilla goodness. I would have said “Mexican goodness,” though they only seem to have two Mexican tacos… the others use things like Bulgogi Steak, Mock Duck for a Bahn mi enspired creation, and a Pork with Caribbean Mojo sauce.

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/04/taco_cat_call_n.php

                   Again, as I’m probably one of the later news-bringers for this particular business, everything’s already been said via other greedy, non-lazy publications and bloggers (blegh). So my attempts at making really bad, cheesy, snappy comments have already been null and void by those who have already gotten there before me. Oh, and they probably have more information on the company or whatnot…. so feel free to leave me forever and get all your hot, sweaty news needs fulfilled by other better-endowed keyboard typers. Besides, this may not be my last word on them… I’m debating getting myself to the uptown area and hitting up their number for an interesting Quasi-Review experience. Not a food truck, but they are quite mobile aren’t they?

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                  I definitely suggest going to the website, just to read their hilarious QnA section.

                  In Other News, our awesome MNFoodTruckAssociation has updated and changed the format of their website! It looks very pretty, much easier to navigate, and actually makes you believe they’re a proper organization (not like I didn’t before…. though it’s nice to see they’re still doing stuff). Best of all, though, is an actual event schedule page! Which not only reveals the date of the next, very long awaited Spring Truck Festival (I tought they were doing something in the winter… maybe I was wrong… coulda been someone else), but the dates of every Festival and any other event they do the whole year. Thus making it official, each Harriet Festival is a seasonal thing (little different than what they first advertised for it, but at least it’ll keep happening), every one filled with the awesome music, beer, and crowd of trucks that we’re already used to. I know I already can’t wait and hope to be able to go to the next one on Saturday, May 10th. Will see you there after my Tortilla Kitty!