Z’s Smoking Bonez

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food: 8

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

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

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

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

Holdability: 8

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

Price: 7

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

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

The TOE: 9

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

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

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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Sir Baldys

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

Main Location: St Paul

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

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

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

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

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

Food: 9

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

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

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

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

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

Holdability: 7.5

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

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

Speed: 9.5

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

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The TOE: 9

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

Tally: 43.5/50

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Final Thoughts

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

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

The Sizzling Wagon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food: 8.5

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

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

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

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

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

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Holdability: 6.5

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

Price: 6

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

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

The TOE: 6.5

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Big Brother Almighty BBQ

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http://www.bigbrotheralmightysmokedbbq.com/

https://twitter.com/BBAlmightyBBQ

Main Location: Minneapolis

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

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

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

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

Food: 5.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holdability: 5.5

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

Price: 3.5

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

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

Speed: 9

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

The TOE: 4.5

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

Tally: 28/50

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Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Stanley’s on Wheels (Quasi-Review)

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http://www.stanleysonwheels.com/

https://twitter.com/stanleyswheels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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