Cafe Racer Kitchen Vist (#1?)

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Well I finally got to MY most anticipated Truck restaurant of the year, the Café Racer Kitchen. I would have gone much sooner, but after hearing a month wait for their Beer and Wine license to kick in, figured I’d wait (not that I actually HAD any, but sometimes it’s nice to give restaurants time like that to settle into their groove). For that, they currently offer a few cans from Indeed and Bauhaus Brewing, along with an Argentine Red and White, though there is talks of some fun cocktails coming soon.

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A big painted ad for Orange Crush soda on the building’s side greets one as they travel around the corner; of course I don’t ask why it’s there, whether they did it themselves or were too lazy to take it off in the first place, thus it stays a mystery! Under the motorcycle-imbued sign and into the door, we find ourselves in a small yet very open environment, smooth and shiny wood booths and tables, mostly connected for an almost communal eating opportunity. But of course I have to sit at the bar, basically four seats in front of the till with a full-on view of the kitchen.

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Where I get to watch the small team work, the two people in the kitchen and the one working the front (it was a nicely quiet-ish Sunday afternoon, though I bet even in the ‘busy’ periods they may only have 1-2 more employees total) while almost casually yet quickly doling out the truck food.

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For those of you still unaware of their mobile focus, Café Racer generally sticks with the ‘choose your entrée’ style similar to Brasa, focusing on Central American flavors/tradition. One goes for Pulled Pork or Chicken (or a veggie dish –shudders-), with which they can make an ‘entrée’ by getting two sides (rice, yucca/carrot frites, plantains, beans n rice, etc) or having with a couple Arepas for a sandwich of sorts. They also bring an awesome hot dog with toppings which I’ve experienced Here. All of this has been brought to the menu, alongside a few new plates combining some of these select sides with bigger proteins a la Quarter-Chicken and Chimichurri Skirt Steak.

 

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I came during Brunch-Sunday though, so I got to choose between options topped with Egg, Kielbasa for the protein, and plenty of sweet potato hash, arepas tossed in for buns (breakfast sandwich), base (benedict), or just on the side like toast.

 

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For a fun, semi-exploratory and semi-just-wanting-new-food visit, the Steak just called out for me. Served with a single small, firm-yet-pillowy masa cake (I love how they do their arepas now, for their style) and a side of eggs made however you want (I went for basted in lue of no poaching, wish I did sunny-side or over easy though, didn’t realize the yolk was gonna get cooked through… cooked well for a fully cooked egg though), they did little to dissuade me from diving right into that steak and hash. The meat was definitely juicy and flavorful, gotta love that harby-garlicky chimichurri paste (really gets the crave and appetite going), it is a bit chewy but only so much as one expects out of a skirt/fajita steak. The texture is just as much a part of it as the flavor, I’ve known some chefs who completely get rid of it through very long sous vide techniques, but despite how good and meltingly tender that must be it just doesn’t really fit what this dish is supposed to be in my opinion. Sorry, I just couldn’t help wanting to mention that, I guess that’s what happens with proper food experience; makes you want to discuss other things about it.

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Can’t help but love a nice hash too, they certainly hit the craving. Roasted together with herbs, this mix or regular and sweet potatoes immediately had me noticing the divergent nature between the two tubers. Whereas the sweet potatoes were fully soft, I found the russets I had to still be sorta firm; I think still cooked, but just on that edge where it could have been undercooked with just a minute less time. At first I was worried about having to critique, but I actually enjoyed it; it gave another texture, again was in an acceptable cooking range, AND it brought proper variation to the hash. What’s the use of using two different potatoes if they both feel the same anyways?

Ultimately, I very much enjoyed eating this plate, especially when I got to chop everything up and mix it together, a proper hash brunch!

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Which is never complete without a bit of coffee and dessert (really brunch is a complete daily meal: breakfast, savory lunch/dinner foods, and sweets at the end, maybe with a bit of booze). The dessert is a housemade Tres Leches (white cake soaked in a mixture of cream, condensed milk, and some other dairy), this one made with a rather compact and dense texture for the thick monster, stuffed with that sweet cream oozing from the sides like a sauce. Luis then tops his with a layer of whipped cream (a classic ‘frosting’ next to meringue) along with some orange segments and a dark chocolate drizzle. A decent offering, served cold and creamy, made even better when consumed alongside the hot, bitter and slightly-creamy coffee, brewed from a blend made just for them and served as-is or ‘au Lait’ with some simple steamy milk foam on top.

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It’s a shame that I don’t drink coffee more, this is one of those situations where I really wish I could delve into and pick out flavors like I can with wine and spirits. But I can certainly tell this coffee blend has a personality to its own, that’s quite clear as day, which I’m sure any coffee aficionados can enjoy (whether some of these notes are positive or full-on-catastrophe I can’t say there; for instance, I particularly noted a certain bitter note that I couldn’t tell if it was from over-roasting or natural ‘green’ coffee bean tannins). Do what I did and go Café au Lait option, it’s delicious and one can still get the full flavor of the roast; definitely makes the dessert complete.

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Apparently, despite the month wait, it seems I was STILL a bit soon in coming; word from Luis’ own mouth states that they’re about to start playing around with some further menu changes/addition, including a bevy of small-plate options (sorta like tapas) and some further inventive desserts, such as a Dulce de Leche (a milk-focused pudding-like dish) that’s going to be treated like flan and eaten with papaya.

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I guess I’ll just have to stop by again sometime soon, which as you know is something I RARELY do for Food Trucks on their own (for efficiency purposes), let alone the restaurants that come from them. But I think Racer is the first truck-staurant that I have a sincere urge to want to intently go back to for further explorations (I still have more sides to try!), so do take the hint dear readers and help me help them keep this little café of coolio in business.

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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)!!

Top 20 Food Trucks, 2014

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

So, here they are!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3rd, 48pts: Vellee Deli

#2nd, 49pts: NateDogs

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

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

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

Peep’s Hotbox

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https://twitter.com/PeepsHotbox

https://www.facebook.com/peepshotbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food: 10

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

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

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

Holdability: 7

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

Price: 7

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

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Speed: 6.5

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

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The TOE: 8

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

Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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).

 

Butcher Salt

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http://www.butchersalt.com/

https://www.facebook.com/butchersalttruck

Main Location: Minneapolis, Breweries, Etc

              It’s been a long, long winter in this juncture between 2013 and 2014, and I’ve had my share of boring days having to wait for the trucks to come back, and frustration in missed opportunities and futile searches. But finally, the days are warming up, the sun is back, the snow is receding, and the trucks have come back to Minneapolis!

              And just my luck, I had the chance to head down not only on the very first official day back of the year, but to the very first New mobile business of 2014! Butcher Salt has been on my radar for a while after seeing their startup posts, not to mention their signatory concept for unifying their menu items.

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              With a veritable selection of different meat-based, American handheld favorites like Hot Dogs, Sliders and a roast beef sandwich called the Ranger, which are then placed next to Hashbrowns and (ugh) a Salad. With not much of a theme between items besides the fact that they might all be found in a stereotypical (though very delicious) Diner, Butcher ramps up each gloriously prepared piece of meat and vegetable with a little seasoning they name, as one would expect, “Butcher Salt.”

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               Simply a good quality sea salt infused alongside rosemary, thyme, and other herbs, this large-grained rock is sprinkled liberally over their foods to provide proper seasoning and in-depth dimensions. Or something like that. They even let the grains fall over desserts, like their Salted Caramel and the oddly-placed Crème Brulee.

               Of course it’s not the only thing they rely on; pepperjack and spicy cheese sauce, sautéed peppers, and the required bacon festoon multiple items, like the “Stuffed” Hash Browns (really it’s just layered, but looks like a tasty breakfast item).

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               Oh, and they have some of the coolest toys! Look at all of the fun things they got; a special wooden stand for the tablet to do your card-swiping, customized phone case, and the cutest little wooden tip Truck! Reminds me of my own childhood one. These set on top of a display case of various shirts and other memorabilia for us to purchase; seems to be a trend nowadays no?

               So, after multiple months of waiting, it’s time to get back to a full rating review! I just can’t wait for the self-centered indulgence!

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Food:9

                Despite only being able to purchase two of their menu items, the owners/employees were generous enough to give me a small piece of their Roast Beef to sample the flavor! And damn, it was good; tender, beefy, really moist with that au jus or whatever they keep it in. Craveably salty, but I’d imagine it’d calm down nicely in the whole sandwich.

                Overall I’d probably use that word to describe the whole menu, “Craveable.” Everything I had was just warm and comforting, umami-focused with that poignant sense that properly, fully seasoned food can do which just makes you want it more.

                I felt it a lot with those Sliders. Buns may be toasted, but that crunch is destroyed as soon as you bite into those thick little patties, their juices spreading all over the sturdy bread and your fingers; and you don’t care. The meat is just… oh, these are the closest sliders I’ve ever seen come to those good-quality, thick juicy burgers. It just has that wet, sorta chewy but fully tender texture that slicks around your mouth as you eat it. Just heaven.

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                And that’s just the meat. You top this with gooey cheese and grilled onions that are sorta cooked, sorta raw, and with the other toppings taste sorta pickled too, the best expressions of all three. The pickles themselves, which I’m pretty sure are just the simpler, store-bought style, I doubt they made them, but that firm crunch and sharp salt+acid flavor is somehow just perfect with everything else, cutting through and increasing the seasoning aspect ever further. I think I can safely say that these are the best Food Truck Sliders in Minnesota (at least for now).

                As for the Hash Browns, they tasted good, had that nice gooey cheesiness and hash browny flavor; probably wouldn’t mind getting the “stuffed” version if I needed a morning fix one day. However it was all one soft texture, I wish they had been able to actually get the potatoes somewhat crispy/crunchy; really lowered the experience to something I could get at most places.

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Holdability: 8

                Basket-based, with multiple items requiring at least one hand to hold part of the food while the other eats, via multiple sliders or needing a fork. Those that could be one-handed, like the beefy Ranger, are quite the juicy messy affair, not that that’s a bad thing; the best burgers and sliders leave half their flavor on the fingers! And aren’t they just nice enough to wrap the baskets completely in foil for those buying multiple items and/or needing to transport it some distance before eating.

                The Crème Brulee stands a bit out of place; I’ve never really considered it street food in any real sense. Placed inside a throwaway foil ramekin, though, it does make it possible to eat while walking, like a caramelized pudding cup!

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Price: 8

                 There are two main price points; all sandwiches/main entrée-sized items stand at $8, which seems reasonable based off what I was given (and can imagine for the Roast Beef Sandwich), though I couldn’t see paying that much for the Caprese, basically just cheese and tomatoes. Besides these, Hot Dogs and Side items stand at $5, also reasonable(ish maybe) except for, in my opinion, the Hashbrowns. Just seems too small and simple for anything over even $3, I mean it’s just soft potatoes (not even fried) and cheese (well, and bacon, but sadly they ran out on my visit…). Finally, $4 for the Brulee, not sure if the salted caramel is the same or less, hoping for the latter. Overall it’s great individually though buying multiple items can grey the lines.

Speed: 7.5

                 Average cooking speeds, giving you ample time to have a fun chat and ogle over all the fun doodads!

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The TOE: 9.5

                  From the front, I wasn’t really sure I’d get that much of an overall feeling of “place” that I search for, especially due to the generic-ness of using only hot dogs, small burgers, and roast beef for the menu focus. Once you eat it, though, you sorta get it… I think there’s a centered-ness to them, a great personality that rings through the deliciously prepared food. The little doodads help too.

                I still think that having Crème Brulee as the main dessert option is really weird though, sorta off-centers the whole thing a bit. Opposite that, though, the Butcher Salted Caramel sounds AMAZING; I can’t wait to come back and grab it in the Summer (when it’s served). I’d say they’ve reached Official Toe Ring status.

                       Tally: 42/50

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Final Thoughts

              Probably one of the better street stops when one has that “Meat” craving, with some good, safe bets centered on the Butcher Salt Sliders and Ranger as the main items to get. Secondarily, if in the mood for breakfast with neither of the main morning trucks on the street, their Stuffed Hash Browns may just be the item to choose among the crowd. And a third highlight, with a great snack or food-truck-day stop for those Caramels. A veritable rolling triple threat.

              Definitely a great business to start off 2014!

Kabomelette

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http://www.kabomeletteminneapolis.com/  

https://twitter.com/kabomelette  

Main Location: Minneapolis, Mornings + Lunch

             With a name reminiscent of what might happen if Wile E Coyote got his hands on the Road Runner’s eggs, Kabomelette premiered on the morning streets with much curiosity. As the second Truck this season to come out with highlighted breakfast focus, I was happily able to swing my first visit (again, another truck this season I’ve needed 2 visits to get down…) by on the same day of checking out Paulette’s.

            As the name ACTUALLY suggests, Kabom offers up two main “specialties” (on my first visit this depended on when you got there; one “menu” for breakfast and one for lunch. Though the recent menu has shown no requirement for time, thus assuming an all-day option… unlike McDonalds), so our inner Pyro’s have to sadly throw away the hopeful thoughts of dynamite and destruction. Omelette“s” and other breakfast items fit one side, while the other is taken up by variously flavored Kabobs, such as Jerk, Satay, Curry, even Caprese Salad. Between the two, they’ve also made the decision to offer quality coffee and some sandwich options.

            Ups and Downs aplenty to fill my experience, can’t think of what else I want to say without going to my ratings. So let’s dive in shall we?

 

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Food: 5

             Omelette is of the simple flat and fold-over style, made with 3 eggs. I think it’s funny that, despite the fact it’s the main part of their name, they really only offer one kind on the menu. They’ll argue that they have multiple, but it all revolves around bacon-peppers-onion-zuchini-cheese; you can either get chorizo instead of bacon, a “Vegan” that just doesn’t have the meat, or another one that just doesn’t have the veggies. As for how the fillings turn out, they are… average. Big chunks of vegetables were sautéed at one point, then put on top of egg and folded. Nothing bad to it, but nothing that makes it stand out; which is very sad for one of their namesakes.

             On my second visit, I got myself the “Chicken Satay;” I was going to get 2 kabobs actually, but… well, I’ll explain that later. To my disappointment, these skewers aren’t actually grilled to order; all of it is cooked and assembled ahead of time, then placed on a bed of rice with their sauce. Despite this, though, the chicken was surprisingly tender and soft, a really nice texture and flavor; speaking of which, I VERY much enjoyed the somewhat-spicy Peanut Sauce. If it’s any indication, I’m sure one can be confident in the flavor and quality of the sauces used on the skewers.

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             A couple things though. First, see this picture above? That’s what they serve for their Thai Chicken “Satay;” I put quotes around it because, for anyone who knows, THAT is not a Satay, it’s a Kabob. Satays are thin slices of meat woven onto a skewer with NOTHING else and grilled as-is (like Yakitori I believe); they are NOT layered in thick chunks with similarly thick-chunked veggies. Now, if the menu said “Chicken Satay Kabob,” then that’d be fine, but it didn’t; in fact, it said “Thai Chicken Satay,” actually indicating that it should have been THAI style; which again looks nothing like our version of Kabobs. And they only gave 3 pieces of chicken for all those vegetables.

              And as for the vegetables themselves, again there was nothing special of them. They were cooked as minimally as needed, had some weird hanging peppers, and just didn’t leave anything to impress me with. But the real oddity here is not the cooking and skewering, but the vegetables themselves; if one actually reads through the menu at every menu (outside the Caprese) you’ll see it immediately. Every single dish (breakfast or non) that uses veggies always uses Green Peppers, Onions, and Zucchini; nothing more, nothing less. Am I the only one who thinks this is sorta weird? I mean hey, the “why not” idea is there, but does it not just create a feeling of banality reminiscent of the boring Diner down the road?

             Maybe it’s just me.

             As for the sandwich items, I personally don’t care how good they are; so many other trucks serve them, and the draw to this particular one focuses completely around their Kabobs and Omelette“s.” And sadly, neither of these really live up that much to expectations.

Holdability: 6

              So disappointing. I was so excited at the idea of focusing their menu around one the iconic “On a Stick” food, the one thing I could be guaranteed to carry around in one hand wherever I want and chow down (well, that and a Corn Dog… which reminds me, we need a specialty Corn Dog Truck… someone get on it!!), and what do they do? Put it in a basket with rice.

             I’d pound my head against the wall if I wasn’t so lazy… and if it didn’t hurt so much. It may not be that difficult to eat, about the same as most places in baskets, but I’m taking off extra points here. They have a very clear and very easy route to a food item that’s absolutely perfect Holding while walking, and they just go ahead and do this…

             As for the omelette, in a basket as one expects, and not all that messy to eat.

Price: 6

             A very interesting phenomenon happened between my two visits. On my first exploration, I saw a very interesting and appealing Menu which looked like this:

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             A few options, very focused on the Kabobs and breakfast (if only having one omelette), and some VERY nice prices; if I had the time to stick around for lunch that day I would grabbed two skewers! My excitement, however, was soon to depart when I came back about a week later to this:

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             Interesting, isn’t it? It’s amazing how almost all the same items other than the Sandwich and Hash have increased in price; yet, at the same time, no additions had been made (I actually THOUGHT the rice with the Kabobs was new, but after looking back I was wrong! No Change!). What’s even more interesting is how, despite the attempted “diversification” of the omelettes, the actual Works (with everything) has no price difference than the other two (one with no meat, the other with only two bare items); not that the difference should be huge, but at least 50cents to better identify.

             Then we get to the Kabobs, which are basically just a pile of rice and cheap vegetables with only a bare few pieces of meat. I personally don’t see the actual justification for its given price now. What they need to do is get those prices back down, add one more piece of meat, and get rid of that rice so we have a nice, cheaper, handheld skewer of tastiness we can walk around with.

             Oh, guess I should list the final prices for those who can’t or are having problems seeing the picture. Breakfast items hang at $5, with $6 for their Hash and most Kabobs; lunch Sandwiches and “higher-end” Kabobs get set at $8. Overall, it’s still some pretty good prices (when simply compared to other menus), but I’m not sure it’s justified for the very simple, very low-costing products.

Speed: 9

             Quickness in service seems to be one of their main goals. As mentioned earlier, all Kabobs seem to be completely cooked and assembled beforehand, only needing an extra squirting of sauce and placing on a bed of rice or whatever. Omelette’s are cooked to order, though, and offer an expected couple minutes wait. Not sure if they cook meat for the sandwiches any further once ordered, though my guess is probably No if going off their mission statement.

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The TOE: 4

              I think it’s clear that there are quite a few things that stand out on the non-positive side here. The potentially-portable Kabobs are segregated to a rice-filled cell, prices have actually INCREASED, the actual quality of their specializations are only a bit over average; even their cart sorta looks like it came out of one of those random, average start-up diners. Though the name is interesting and they certainly help with the recent movements towards a Truck-focused Breakfast Scene, many of their decisions since opening have twisted what could have been some great impressions for the experience.

             Speaking of the name, I have one last issue I find highly jilted on. After reading their name, as well as a few little descriptions about the place, I’m sure my mind wasn’t the only one which got the idea that their truck was actually gonna focus on a new “Fusion” item of a Kabob wrapped in an Omelette (or something like it). One can imagine my immense disappointment, then, when I came only to see that they keep the two items separate; and they only have one actual omelette. Now, if this was a Restaurant, I wouldn’t bring it up; I mean hey, if there was a restaurant named this, where they had like 6 omelette’s and a whole list of skewers, it’d make sense.

            But the fact is, as I’ve said with other review, THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT; it is a Food Truck. And one of the best aspects of this world is its wondrous realms of Creation and Fusion that just naturally seems to develop. So much so that, not only is the Fusion of items common, but it can be EXPECTED; and with the name Kabomelettes, it was highly expected. Especially with how easy it would be to actually make and how much sense it is; wrap an egg around a kabob like a lettuce wrap around a satay, and walk around with a paper-enshrouded skewer to enjoy your new food conquest. And to not deliver on this silent promise just creates a sever decrease in the potential experience us Foodies and Customers look for.

            Ultimately, if they can get rid of the Rice, nix the Sandwiches, add some more meat to the Skewers (and reword the name on the Satay), REALLY diversify their Omelettes, and maybe try at least one signature “Kabomelette,” and they really could be something great. Until then… –sighs- will just have to be here for the breakfast and quick-to-eat crowd.

                       Tally: 30/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            So far, I find Kabomelette’s to only fit 2 situations for going: for those wanting an egg-based breakfast from a Truck, and when looking for quick lunches.

            If one does end up going, my menu item suggestions are this. Jerk Chicken if looking for a Kabob, Fried Egg Sandwich if wanting Breakfast (the Roll is homemade, and I just don’t think the omelette’s are special enough to justify going to a truck for it; can find similar or better in many other places), and avoid the Sandwiches (I just don’t see the need to get one here as opposed to other trucks which BASE their menu around them).

            Hopefully changes are made and future experiences can prove all this wrong.

Paulette Bakery

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http://www.paulettebakery.com/#

https://twitter.com/PauletteBakery

Main Location: Minneapolis (Mornings)

            There are so many fun little facets and parts to a successful Food Truck scene, and though our Cities’ growth in this has been tremendous we still have much a ways to go to catch up to the rest of the Nation. One of these aspects, as I’ve talked about with Racer at short-length, is a notable absence in the Breakfast scene. Sure we have a few trucks that have Breakfast OPTIONS, but none truly Specialize, and the number of them which actually show up early enough for the Morning Crowd is a notable minority.

            Hoping to lead the way in this mysterious territory, Paulette Bakery jumps onto the scene. Parking its small little self at various spots in our Downtown Minneapolis area, Paulette’s makes a note of ONLY serving in the early Morning times between 7 and 10am (not counting special situations and possible events). Whether the owner (whose name ISN’T actually Paulette –gasp!!– how dare she!) has considered extending these into lunch, considering how fast and often her goods sell out before 10, I’d say she’s probably fit to stay in that same-old timeslot.

            There are currently Two things one can get when they stop here: good quality, Fair-Trade Coffee (okay, they also have Tea), and Hand-made Croissants. The latter comes in 4 simple options: Plain, Chocolate, Almond, or a seasonal Savory Croissant (when I visited, it was Goat Cheese-Asparagus, yum!). Waiting in a simply stacked rack, these little joys make a quick bite for the Breakfast-seeker walking along the street.  

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Food: 9.5

             (Let me start by saying I am SOOOOOOO sorry… I forgot to actually take pictures of the Croissants themselves! I was so focused on eating them and getting back home it completely skipped my mind… guess that’s what they get for being so good. So here’s some better-looking ones I found online)

             3 words: Scratch, Made, Croissants. Unless she’s defining it differently, that means the owner is making the dough herself, from the base, and then rolling it into these amazing little pastries. Many people might not actually be aware of this, but this is HUGE. There are NOT a lot of places that actually make their own Croissant dough (or even Croissants for that matter); it is highly finicky, labor intensive, and ultimately a real bitch for any business unless one can actually do it right. That’s why most places rely on Factories for their dough; it’s all done exactly the same way, and one doesn’t have to worry about (your) Labor Cost. It’s basically the same as Puff Pastry, only not AS completely insane in difficulty.

             As for the results… BUTTERY. Rich, flaky, tender-soft Croissant deliciousness, which is then filled with even more deliciousness depending on what you get. Going for a complete review, I of course had to get 2 of these, so I settled for the Chocolate and (as mentioned) the Goat-Cheese Asparagus seasonal. Chocolate was of course that nice, traditional rich line of darkness, while the Asparagus… oohhhhhhh the asparagus. Now THAT’S how you use this ingredient; nice and soft in here (we don’t want the texture this time, too delicate of a wrapping), with that notable green, slightly pungent flavor, mixing with that tart, rich, creamy chevre. And the Croissant is an almost PERFECT pastry for it; much like the typical hollandaise used to garnish, its buttery nature complements the veggie nicely. I’m still doing a bit of a happy dance.

             These Croissants clearly blow all the well-known, average pastries out of the water, and even remind my Mom of a few of the ones she’s had in France. Now, going for any critical notes here, apparently they aren’t quite AS crispy as the “perfect” France ones (where they apparently learn how to make it when they’re kids, ugh). I also find myself somewhat wishing there was more to differentiate the simple chocolates from its competitors (besides the quality of the pastry); same simple design, but then again there’s a reason for that… it’s GOOD.

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Holdability: 10

            In the same line as Potter’s, grabbing a pastry in one of those small bags is about as simple as can be, there’s not much more to say about it. I was debating lowering it since the antiquital experience here is with BOTH Pastry and Coffee, but as one only needs one hand each with no issue.  

Price: 9

              Definitely a cheaper breakfast than getting an omelette or egg sandwich somewhere, with the croissants ranging between $2.25 and $3.50, with coffee for a bit under $2. As a Bakery, though, it is a touch disappointing they don’t offer one or two REALLY cheap options, like tiny Danishes or those little Frangipane-Puff Pastry “cookie swirls;” I’ve always found looking at and grabbing an extra little something to be a fun, naughty part of any bakery experience.

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Speed: 10

              Instantaneous like any bakery.

The TOE: 9

              Maybe not the first Truck to serve Breakfast, but definitely the first in our lineup to specialize in it, Paulette looks to lead the charge towards a whole new movement in our Morning Rush. With talks of Café Racer and others in tow, a new dawn of Breakfast Trucks may certainly be closer than originally thought. It seems only fitting that such a small, simple Truck like this be the one to create such large ripples in the lake. For if we’ve learned anything in our explorations of Truck Culture, the biggest impacts often come from the most unexpected places.

                      Tally: 47.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            A great start to our Breakfast-based Lineup, fantastic for those who need a quick munchy and/or coffee on-the-go. Quick, Cheap, Easy to Hold, and Delicious, it fills all of the street-eater’s basic requirements.

            With the limited options, I’d just say get whatever particular style of Croissant suits your desire. However, if you haven’t had one before, DEFINITELY get the Almond one; filled with that sweet, rich Marzi/Frangipane, it’s always just so good. Not to mention the nut-based flavors go awesome with Coffee. For something a bit different, don’t be afraid to go for whichever Savory Croissant they have that day either.

            Oh, and don’t forget to stop by Starbucks on your walk and laugh at them as you point to your Cheaper yet Better Quality Coffee.

 

SFC: The Juicy

                I’ve been in a mood for some experimentation, and lucky for me last night we were all in the mood for burgers, of which we already had three ground patties. So I figured I’d try a little riff on a Juicy Lucy that’s been floating in my head for a few days.

                So, split each patty in half, flattening, and in the middle put a couple pieces of good-ol American cheese (the only REAL cheese one can use for a Juicy Lucy) and a whole egg yolk. Sadly, didn’t think about turning this into a blog post until after I added the top patties, so no pics of the yolk-in-burger. There is a nice shot of the little meat packages though; a good display of proper Lucy seal-age. And all of us who have tried know how important a good seal is along the edges.

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                Treated the buns like any good burger place would: Buttered and Grilled; makin’ sure of course to keep that 60-40 split.

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                Onto the burgers. Had to be especially delicate with these, considering its valuable cargo, but I think I pulled it off quite nicely (as you’ll see). Though, if you look closely, you can see one did end up squirting on the grill, which wasn’t surprising; had problems sealing that one anyway. It was fine, though; Dad decided he wasn’t going to tell us when he was coming home, so he got the one missing most of its filling.

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                Was a quick-make dinner, so ended up keeping the toppings simple. While I’m here, a little lesson on sandwich architecture! We’ve already covered the foundations for our structure, the bread (see Pulled Pork), now we get to the cement and woodwork. I start with a little mayo on the bottom, like a club; now, why is it that we usually spread some sort of butter, mayo, melted cheese, mustard, sauce, etc on the tops and bottoms of our sandwiches? Besides, of course, being easier than trying to spread it on a piece of lettuce, these oily sauces serve a very important function in Burgers: moisture retention.

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                By placing a barrier of rich, oil-based spread between the bun and other ingredients, one prevents the juices of said meat and/or watery vegetables from leaking into the bread and making it soggy. Which is why Bulldog NE covers the bottom of every one of their burgers in a flavorful aioli.

                Has anyone actually wondered why we like tomatoes and ketchup so much on our burgers and sammiches? Besides tasty factor, the answer is quite simple, that being the tomato’s high amount of Acid. This is always a key factor when creating balance in quality dishes, and in a burger’s case it helps cut through the fattiness of cheese and meat. Speaking of which, ignore all these people who say how much better “lean meat” is. May be healthier, but all the juiciness, all the real FLAVOR from steaks and burgers come from the Fat. So ignore the expensive 95% “lean meat” and go for the high-fat, high-awesome stuff; hell, I’ve heard of a chef who take 70/30 and adds in ground fatback.

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                Mustard also helps with this, considering all the vinegar used in its creation. Last on my burger, a nice piece of lettuce; not much to say other than it stays crisp, helps with moisture barriers, and all that. Just remember kiddies: grab your leaves of lettuce from the CENTER of the head/heart/leaf-bundle-thingy. The best, sweetest part of any greens is the one hidden away from that bright sun, where it’s developed all but none of that bitter chlorophyll (and it is bitter, taste a dark green leaf to an inner light-green from the same lettuce head). Though the bitterness can come in use with some dishes… but I like the sweeter center better.

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                Burgers have rested a couple minutes while I finish building my sammich, and I’m ready to chow down. I will say, it’s a good thing I cut this thing before I took a pic, cuz there was a LOT of gooey-juicy stuff inside; lost quite a bit on the cutting board. But the cheese was perfect, the yolk was still nice n runny… and look how photogenic it was!

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                I say was since it didn’t last long… that was quite the successful experiment. Could really tell that the burger and cheese tasted “richer” from that yolk-fat, which also really heightened the naughty messiness of a good Lucy eating. If I did this again, though, I would SO add me some bacon, then do this on an English Muffin for a Breakfast-Lucy. Just need to find a big enough muffin to hold it… or try and get some smaller yolks…

                As far as Street Food goes, this so does not fit the “holdability” factor at all. That said, I think it still has the spirit of a Food Truck item, even if one wouldn’t be caught in their right mind trying to produce it for a menu.

 

Where’s your favorite stuffed burger made?