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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Bark and the Bite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Holdability: 7

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

Price: 7.5

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

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Speed: 8.5

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

The TOE: 9.5

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

Tally: 40.5/50

Final Thoughts

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

Rockin’ at Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill in Lakeville

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Four months after the infamous and devastating explosion incident that destroyed one of our Minnesota Breweries’ most beloved food trucks, Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill is back yet again, this time with their much-awaited standalone bar of the same name. Bursting out of the gate guitars blazing, the 40 days I myself have had to wait to travel down to their new location has been filled with packed nights, much local love, and a few ‘special visits’ from certain musical icons. As always I feel so rather crappy for not being able to go down sooner, this was the one truck-steraunt (patent pending?) that I actually wanted to make sure I was down for on opening day.

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But alas, the implantation of this brick-and-mortar (by the way, still hate the phrase, and yes I know that I have no proper reason for this) was straight down in Lakeville, 30 minutes south of Minneapolis and 50 from my own residence. So it sucks for me, but is a truly great thing for Lakeville; sadly, many a restaurant or other fun edible stop have been leaving the city over the past few years, limiting local options to only one or two places to dine out. Not only does Heavy Metal offer a different and totally awesome bar to change things up with every once in a while, which most of them have certainly shown appreciation for in these first months of business, but it’s only the first wave in a battalion of new businesses aiming to bring further fun and life back into the area. As anyone who’s been following the build of Motley’s restaurant is aware, a month or two from now will see the opening of a brewery-taproom in the same building, creating the perfect visiting experience. Not only that, but yet ANOTHER Brewery, this one with its own restaurant and apparently some kick-ass design ideas, will be opening in the space right BEHIND Motley’s, a trifecta of late night beer and bar food heaven.

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Though mostly bare on my visit, the walls of this hard rocker’s upscale-ish dive are already getting loaded with sweet guitars, flaming posters, and most notably Truck scraps. Yes, though the truck may be gone, its bits and pieces live on in glory within its successor, like a propane-fueled phoenix rising from the ashes… or scraps of twisted metal, whatever. If you look at the back of the menu itself, you’ll see a picture of the old truck parked outside their future space, already with their name on it… like a proud momma looking over her growing child. Sadly that was THE last picture ever taken of the old girl before the accident, displayed in yet another honorary position as part of this establishment.

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Currently we get to see this with some of the surviving classic attire so nostalgicly seen on the truck’s side, various stickers, license plate, and they hung the whole of the final menu in honor over in one of the corners. Then there’s the bar Hand Sink; who ever thought anyone would talk about a goddamn SINK in any business-related article? But one of the few surviving items from the vehicle, its hand sink festooned with stickers and all, has been given permanent place out front, still doing work and keeping its soul alive as part of the long working bloodline that is a restaurant’s kitchen and bar stations.

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And that’s just to start; if you get the chance to head down there soon, talk to Marty about decorations, that man has some PLANS for filling spaces. The original hood, or something, of the truck is going to be hung up in front between the air vents, one of the destroyed and sorta-twisted sides will garnish a wall, and an old logo that was GOING to be wrapped on the truck (but was way too big) is going on another wall.

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Keeping true with their old-school rocker lifestyle (the only kind worth living am I right?), they’ve also got a whole mess of other paraphernalia lined up and getting ready to go on display. Pictures, posters, guitars, Frisbees (some sort of big white disk, I claim all apology in completely forgetting what that was exactly), and various other things, signed by icons or just plain badass in their own separate ways. All awaiting their debut on the ‘bleak’ (inside joke, sorta, haha) and still quite-empty canvas; though I’m sure they’ve already gotten a few more things up by the time I finally get around to writing and posting this crap.

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But décor isn’t the only thing in development; as one should hope and expect, the menu keeps hold of every sandwich and beloved food item that the truck was known for serving for, two sections of which are filled with different steak/philly and chicken sandwiches. Of course one can still get a bag of the classic sweet and spicy pretzels from Sammy’s we so fell in love with from the truck, if there are any left that is!

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It’s not a truck-steraunt without new items though, to which they have quite a few… and they’re still adding more! The big focus so far is on their Burger list, filled with thick monsters topped by totally unhealthy things and given names such as ‘Kickstart my Heart,’ ‘Feed my Frankenstein,’ and ‘War Pig.’ A section of Chicken Wings compliments the proper atmosphere of the place, an ideal basket to eat with a big glass of draft from some of our local breweries (a small-ish selection for now, but growing, or at least in frequent rotation. Oh, and something cool, got the chance to go in the back with Marty, they actually have the kegs stored right behind the tap for easy handling; you’d think that’s obvious, but I’ve worked in kitchens, doesn’t always happen), dressed in classic sauces. Oh, and they have Seafood; Buffalo-style Fried Shrimp, which they plan on turning into a Po’Boy and/or other sandwich in the future, and Crab Legs. I shit you not, you can get a basket of simply steamed crab legs here. It at first seems so opposed to Marty’s opposition of places that just make their menu options as varied as possible, yet the singular point of ridiculousness with that ONE item makes it feel almost completely at home here.

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And that’s what’s here NOW. Inside scoop tells me (look at me trying to sound special, when I bet you anyone who even broaches the subject with Marty at the bar will get him telling you every little bit of the same information as I got from a computer screen) that we’re in store for some other special and fun ideas, such as a Juicy Lucy called the Iron Maiden, now-classic Peanut Butter-Bacon named Skid Row, and just a SIMPLE Cheeseburger (which they don’t have yet, for good reason in my opinion) named after Marty’s favorite phrase and one of his favorite bands, K.I.S.S.: Keep it Simple Stupid. Are you noticing a pattern with the names yet?

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Then of course there’s a burger topped WITH Philly Meat and cheese, a Philly served with Au Jus to make into a dive-bar Dip, Fried Cod (Sandwich version or non, former called Barracuda), Rib Tips, burgers made OUT OF Bratwurst, and a dessert of Cherry-Cream Cheese stuffed Tortillas fried and rolled in Cinnamon-Sugar known as Sixx Stixx (there’s quite the origin to this name, definitely try to get Marty to tell you about it if it’s not busy). One definitely can’t say any of this is high-class fare, or even gastropub, but we never really went to them for that kind of food in the first place.

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I actually went there with a buddy, so we got to try a couple things. Besides the always amazing pretzels, and a little sample of some ‘yogurt’-coated almonds made by the same guy that does the candied ones I oh so loved when they were in the truck, we each tried a burger and got those Buffalo Shrimp. Which are awesome by the way; deep-fried then slathered in sauce, what once was crispy is now almost soggy from absorbing that classic orange liquid, but I actually sort of LIKE that texture. Speaking of which, the shrimp were delightfully plump and bouncy, and there’s little beating the flavor of buffalo sauce, meat of some sort, and blue cheese dressing, which they also make from scratch in-house as any good restaurant should.

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That’s what you gotta get through w/ ‘Kickstart my Heart’

The burgers are monsters, that’s definitely the main point you go for with them; I’ll admit they’re not particularly juicy or of that perfect grind and meat that turns some burgers into massive balls of tender, squelching deliciousness, but they’re still cooked well and very enjoyable, especially considering the excess aspect. Just seeing them made us start talking about the ‘technique’ so often seen from Fieri on DDD, and then of course Marty comes over and asks us we got ‘the Hunch’ down! Perfect timing! My friend got Kickstart My Heart, a Double burger with 3 cheeses, 4 pieces of bacon, and a Fried Egg, and of course he then made it healthy with that ‘salad’ on top. I think we were able to get a good bite out of the bastard. Oh, and by the way, if you think your heart still has it easy for some reason, can order this one ‘Triple Bypass’ with yet ANOTHER patty, which has to be at least 8oz from the looks of it.

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‘Meatallica’

I felt I had to try the Meatallica myself: Burger, Bacon, Ham, a split and grilled Hot Dog (and not the skinny kind either), topped with Cheddar and… well that’s it. Lettuce and Tomato? Why the hell would I order that, this is the place that you shove those pretentions to the side! We don’t come to a place like this if we’re concerned about balancing our diets or looking at ‘perfect contrasting flavors’ for dinner that night. You go here to just shove a load of meat, cheese, and fried stuff down your mouth and enjoy it, washing down with beer. You can do that you know? You can take time every now and then to revel in something that’s bad for you… and this is coming from a guy who cares about food quality and crap. And I enjoyed my mountain of meat topped with cheap melted cheese and served with fries.

Speaking of which, I feel obligated to mention they DO have a house seasoning which they use on their fries, burgers, and probably some other things. It’s actually mixed in back, so not just season salt, and has an ingredient that provides a subtle little smoky aspect at times. I myself got the Cajun fries not realizing this, which I did enjoy, but one should certainly find interest that the ‘regular’ fries aren’t going to taste completely generic.

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Let’s see, final notes… there’s a big patio outside, looks great to take advantage of while the weather’s still nice. There’s a chair in each of the single-use bathrooms, no one knows why so don’t ask. The big sign outside lights up at night to look pretty cool. Glasses are monogrammed, and they always look into trying to get cool t-shirts made, so I’m sure there’s a few souvenirs one can buy if asked about it. And the whole team is awesome. Most of them are all from Lakeville and randomly got into the team through the kind of individual stories and happenstances that only a guy like Marty seems to keep walking into… like his baby duck.

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So, after having to wait over a month to finally visit and feeling rather crappy about taking so long… I now wish I had waited even longer! Now I have to find another good time and excuse to get back down to Lakeville once these decorations and new menu items get thoroughly engrained. Right now I’m thinking of a whole ‘Lakeville Day’ with friends and/or family, spend some time at the breweries once they’re in, start the day with lunch at a nearby Vietnamese place Marty says has quite the badass bowl of Pho, before finishing the day on another gut-busting tour of Motley’s expanded menu. If lucky, can do it at Pan-O-Prog or some other yearly festival.

The Truck may be gone, but the rockin’ spirit and attitude lives on! Though there is potential for mobile resurgence in 5 years or so, but for now we can satisfy our ‘cheesy-sandwich-deep-fried-goody’ happy needs down in Lakeville.

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Gotta get that commemorative picture in front of the Heavy Metal Grill rock idol centerpiece!

By the way, I’ll be making sure to upload a whole bunch of new photos once those upcoming truck parts and signed paraphernalia get jammed into the wall and ceiling. And what I can’t fit between paragraphs I’ll just jam in below here for simple viewing pleasures.

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.

tc2

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

The Curious Goat

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https://www.facebook.com/TheCuriousGoatMN
https://twitter.com/CuriousGoatMN
Main Location: Breweries, Etc

The Farm to Table movement has been pretty huge in the past decade and so years, and though many area trucks apply the practice of getting most or some of their product from local farms, it’s much fewer that use the practice as their focal point and theme like many restaurants have. Enter in The Curious Goat, a big orange catering trailer that came onto the scene of Fall 2014.

Curious myself to try it, this feeling of interest only grew as I found their facebook and twitter page lacking in detail on their particular menu choices (at first, it is of course possible more info has been updated after writing this). All I could gleam at the time was a connection to a dairy farm, as well as a picture of the owner holding the most adorable kid (baby goat) ever, likely his own. Rarely out on the street, Goat has also stated that they mainly stick with a few certain breweries to cater at, leaving me to find the right weekend for a beer and lunch. Lo and behold, a wild Sunday opportunity appeared at Sociable Cider Werks, bringing me back to try and sampler and habanero-infused apple booze to pair with the new food discovery.

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My thoughts confirmed, Goat truly focuses on simple foods highlighting local Farm ingredients, working with multiple nearby growers and raisers. Menu is likely to change VERY often, using dishes that highlight a couple ingredients, like their vegetable dishes consisting of just a Cabbage Salad or Brussel Sprouts and Peppers. They usually carry at least a few Vegan-friendly fairs, as I found with the Caramel Apple, though of course protein will always be available. As with their namesake, they currently offer Goat in two forms: a Taco, and a grilled Crostini paired with fresh, local Chevre (probably the only item one can guarantee seeing year-round).

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Goat seems to practice the use of finding multiple forms of delivering these organic products to our mouth, from basket-based piles to different carb-wrapped hand grippers. Besides the taco, my visit also found bun-based Sloppy Joes and a Cauliflower Pita available. The limit of what kinds of food they may feature throughout the year is constrained only by which foods they can get their hands on and what they feel like making.

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Food: 9

                I was lucky enough to be able to try a few things on my first trip round, and here they are!

Considering the name, I just had to focus on goat-themed items, first up being the Chevre Crostini from Freewheeler farms; and let me start off saying I really have no complaints with this dish whatsoever. The baguettes were grilled beautifully, nice and crunchy and flavorful, and the cheese was able to shine its delicious and creamy freshness just as it was meant to. Garnished with fresh apple slices and lightly pickled onions, it made for a tasty, refreshing bite on a fine summer’s day.

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Following this with a warm Goat Taco isn’t a bad move, and as tacos go this one is very well put together. Good masa tortilla (not double layered, which at first I was upset about but there was literally no spillage besides 1-2 drops of juice, so it’s alright this time) and fresh herbs and veggies compliment a lightly-spiced, juicy shredded meat. I’d like to say how impressed I am at what first looked to be too much vegetation topping (a la Tiki Tim’s fish tacos in the early periods) actually contributed a much lighter element at good balance to the protein. The protein itself, which carried a good flavor through marinade and/or sauce, I found disappointment in lack of its OWN flavor. Or, put simply, there wasn’t much there in the palette that told it was GOAT as opposed to pork or some cuts of shredded beef. Wish that grassy quality was able to come through.

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After what was originally going to be my only two options, I couldn’t help but go back and try something that just seemed too fun not to get: the Caramel Apple, made completely Vegan (since caramel usually needs cream and/or butter to complete itself). Sadly not on a stick, the local fruit is cut into wedges and served alongside a container of cooked sugar thus mixed with coconut cream and other vegan substitutes, along with a few choice spices (not the regular cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice thing). When all is set and done, and the apple dipped, the dish thankfully avoids the feeling of an ‘inferior version to the originally,’ which many vegan recipes can do if not made well. The coconut added a tasty fusion to the flavor, the sauce’s texture was smooth, and the spices light and floral, overall tasting really nice with the apple; I’d love to have this sauce on top of some pie or ice cream!

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Holdability: 7.5

               Pretty variable among options, but nonetheless the intention behind these food creations is to have them enjoyed at the table of a local brewery, thus quite a few are designed to be much more comfortable eaten sitting down. That said, the tacos, pitas, and potentially sloppy joe eat a little more mobile, and the other items are still presented very clean, with little to no risk of mess. I will say I was hoping the ‘caramel apple’ would have come on a stick somehow, but the sauce was indeed very loose…
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Price: 6

                Very static; on my particular visit, the highest item was a spicy Fried Chicken at $12 while the cheapest was a $5 cabbage salad and the $4 caramel apple. The mobile protein entrees were $9 and $10, with other veggies hanging around $7-8. This is all of course BEFORE tax.
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There is something else I’d like to bring up. Apparently, on the particular day of my experience, there seemed to be some issue with the coin change; either they couldn’t get to it, or didn’t have any, or whatever it was, despite tacking on an additional 30-80 cents to orders due to tax. As a result, one was handed back purely all of the paper change and nothing else; in a sense, all menu items cost a dollar more than what was listed unless you paid with a credit card. Now, of course, I don’t expect or assume this is a constant problem, but I’m a bit upset at how they chose to handle it; in a situation like this, customer service would dictate it much more favorable and kinder to simply give out an extra dollar in change instead of unknowingly forcing people to pay more. It’s not much, but it’s one of the many little things in the business that helps to keep the experience for a customer, like a simple smile when taking orders.

Speed: 6

I felt like I had to wait a bit longer for the tacos and chevre than what it should have taken, especially with only one order in front (and that was out soon after I placed my own). I mean all the chevre required was toasted the baguette, everything else is pre-made; and one can clearly see the goat is shredded, thus pre-cooked, and would only need warming while the tortilla toasted. With a brewery experience, this probably works well though; you make your order, go and grab the beer selection, and then head to a table for them to bring out to you (they even give you those little number cards for delivery! Fun).

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The TOE: 9.5

                Focusing a menu and truck purely on Farm-to-Table and good, local products is always a great idea, but it’s not always expressive in the mobile game; which is why I absolutely love Goat’s ability to really make me ‘feel’ like I’m eating these ingredients through their menu of simple, produce-based dishes. Of course the name and display is quite interesting and unique and helps facilitate this along, next to its good-tasting food.

As the wave of excitement and ambiance leads me through, though, it makes me feel even the worse for not hitting that absolute peak which I wish they could get to. The menu and food has a noted feeling and soul to it, but it just doesn’t come together perfectly for a food truck; I’d say it’s missing something TRULY central and eye-catching, a focal point besides goat cheese crostinis… it needs a TOE Ring. My hope was that this would be the caramel apple dish, but cut up fruit with sauce on the side, no matter how good, won’t cut it; I wish they actually had taken a really small apple (and it was a small apple they used), or like a section of it (maybe gouge out little balls) and actually make caramel-coated local apples on a stick/skewer, and with those added spices they had it’d make a perfect fit, so long as they could get the coating set. Or something… it really FEELS like they could make something worthy of TOE Ring quality or something similar, and that’s why I’m missing it a bit more than usual (nonetheless, what they did accomplish here was still really good, so I think they deserve a very high score).

Tally: 38/50

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Final Thoughts

Truly one of the ideal mobile kitchens to order from at a brewery, on a beautiful blue sky day with outside seating and your favorite glass of local draught. Not to mention Goat also provides some of the better, tastier street options for Vegans (shame on you, SHAME!).

Though if you’re more protein-inclined, they include some great Minnesota-raised animals to chew. Sadly, though the Chevre Crostinis are a certain positive experience, the other goat-based item of tacos doesn’t feel too worth a visit. The Sloppy Joe and Fried Chicken, on the other hand, should offer fun options for those willing to pay more than usual.

I expect most any vegetable dish to be prepare well and proper, and put high suggestion on those like the Cauliflower Pita. As for the Caramel Apple and other desserts they may put out, not a bad experience if one has the urge for a little sweet in their day, but one shouldn’t be too upset if they decide not to get it.

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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.

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!