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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?).
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.