Wild Side Cafe

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http://www.thewildsidecafe.com/

https://twitter.com/TheWildSideCafe

Main Location: St. Paul, Etc

            I’m not sure when it is they came onto the streets, but I first learned of the Wild Side Café’s presence during my trip to Twisted Fork in St. Paul. Though upon researching and learning that most of the spots (at least the ones they update about on facebook/other) they frequent come from various events in the farther-reached cities, it took me a while to find an opportunity to stop down. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I’d get to them this year, with their last noted event of the year being a half hour from the OTHER side of the Twin Cities that I have to drive to.

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            Luckily for me, they decided to make a visit to Pour Decisions Brewery before season’s end, giving me a great opportunity to try both establishments at once! (as for my thoughts on Pour Decisions… the beers are certainly interesting, fun, and tasty to a degree, but overall I share my fellow Blogger’s opinions). Not to mention I finally got to see if they had any connection to any of the Wilde Side restaurants/cafes in the cities… one never knows.

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            After separating from their previous job, owners Mary and Scott Sullivan decided to take their love of travelling and fair food to their next venture, opening up the truck alongside his parents, one operating the grill while the other preps the sides. After which they’ve taken the “wild side” name quite literally, focusing their entire approach on offering Game-based food items, being the only MN truck as of now to have both Buffalo and Venison on their menu. The main bulk and offering comes from Burgers, which are offered with one of two cheeses, different topping “combos,” and, most interestingly, the choice to have it in a bun or tortilla.

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            One can also get a Reindeer Dog, or find their game meat in the form of Jerky and Trail Sticks, which they get pre-made and packaged from a friend to sell. Chili comes in to provide topping on various items as well, particularly the Dog and Fries.

             

Food: 5

             I was able to try a few things here, and of course I had to start with one of those burgers with a Tortilla; Venison, since I rarely get to have it in any form. I chose the “Works,” sautéed onions and mushrooms, which sadly weren’t that fully manipulated before being used… the fungus was almost reminiscent of something from a can, sadly, and the onions quite slippery and not too exciting.

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             Eating it from a tortilla is pretty fun though! It’s quite different, and has some great future potential for holding as well as standing as a unique Truck highlight… though that’s if the burger juices actually stay in, haha. A word of warning, do NOT eat these guys soon, they need at least a couple extra minutes for the juices to re-circulate and “settle” back in the meat (I’d go into the physical mechanics of it, but too lazy right now). I took a bite and soon at least half of the “blood” in the burger was out, with all the extra lean protein in the burger not helping to keep it in. It also didn’t help too much with flavor; despite what seemed to be a proper cooking temp (about medium), there wasn’t much to the actual palate. It just goes to prove what many still have yet to realize when it comes to burgers, Fat adds flavor: the higher the actual fat content of the ground meat, the more flavor is in there, along with its moisture content (highly lean burgers, though healthy, also have absolutely no flavor). Thus, though the idea of using Venison is much praiseworthy, it doesn’t really transfer over to a burger all that well unless given a LOT of special care and attention, which obviously isn’t done here. I do, though, expect that the Buffalo or Beef burgers are probably done better.

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             After a burger and some beer, I was ready to go for that Reindeer Dog as a little snack, topping some of it with offerings from their little condiment line-up. Overall the meat was tasty, of the typical hot dog flavor but a little different, spicier… bun isn’t toasted (if I’m correct, neither are the ones for the burgers).

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             Finally, and to my excited surprise for the purpose of reviewing, a group of people next to me at the bar ordered the Chili Fries, and on hearing my review all but forced a fork of it down my throat!! Not that they didn’t have any to spare, shit they give you a PILE of fries, cheese and that chili, it’s a great bar-food item. The chili itself is probably one of my actual day-highlights; very chunky and beefy, it could basically be used for delicious sloppy joes, so they definitely give you the meat. At the same time, though, the dish highlights the biggest disappointment of the venture: Crinkle-Cut Fries. So they basically just buy cheap, mass produced frozen fries like that at any boring bar.

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               As for the Jerky, I haven’t tried it but I expect it to be pretty good like most Jerky.

Holdability: 7

               I’ll definitely praise them on using the tortilla to make a burger a little more handheld, however it didn’t completely eliminate the mess, particularly all the juices that bled out (apparently one needs to wait a few minutes before eating to let the juices settle and integrate back into the meat). The Reindeer Dog and Jerky is of course quite portable, but that’s about it; chili fries and similar items need bringing back to a bar to fully enjoy.

 Price: 8

               A very nice range of prices; alone, Burgers range between $6.50-$8 depending on toppings (no charge for different meat bases), an extra dollar with fries. The Dog stands at $5, same price as the Chili Fries, with an extra $1.50 to top IT with Chili. With these stats, I would normally expect to score a little higher; though with the noted average-ness in actual food quality, it feels less impressive (especially the $5 dog… I’ll let it slide since it’s Reindeer though).

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              Oh, and to finish, the Trail Sticks are $2 and the Jerky $5.

 Speed: 7.5

             Ordering Jerky, the Dog, and Chili Fries come out quick as expected, however I found the wait for the burger seemingly a little longer than average.

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  The TOE: 6

             I mostly do enjoy the focus on Game and variety of familiar products we can get through it, easily standing out from other Trucks in that sense. However I’m not sure if the vehicle itself actually makes that much of an impact on my psyche, most likely due to the very simplistic options for burger toppings; the olives were probably the most original of the bunch. And when the food backed up behind it shows very little of the visuals associated with many of the burgers of great worship (you may argue here, but let me tell you, when I have a GREAT burger I can tell just by looking at it), particularly those crinkle-cut fries, then the reason becomes a little more understandable.

             Still, they have brought in the idea of a very unique, very “Food Truck-esque” item in the Tortilla-Wrapped Burgers, despite not being anywhere near their pinnacle. Hopefully I’ll be able to see them improve and perfect this concept, but until then their aura shall remain closer to what one would imagine if somebody’s backwoods game lodge contained a bar. Though that actually sounds like a fun idea…

                            Tally: 33.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            An interesting truck, probably most suited to enjoy outside places like Pour Decisions. Though there are portable foods, I would not consider the Reindeer too much of a must-have highlight. The Jerky, however, could make a great snack-and-go item or something to grab and hold onto for something later in the day (like sneaking into a movie, or when mom makes meatloaf).

            Of the Burgers, I would guess the only one worth ordering to be the Buffalo; sadly the Venison didn’t come out too much for flavor, and beef is just beef. Stick to the bun for now, they may need time before the Tortilla idea is better perfected, so best to only order the Mexican inspiration for when one requires more portability factoring. As for toppings, it’s ultimately your choice, but I would not do the grilled Mushroom-Onion, it’s just not executed properly (the Olive topping might be interesting… should probably ask what kind they are though).

            And to end, just don’t get the fries, unless you’re REALLY in the mood for just a beer and very simple, heavy-fatty chili-cheese-fries bar food. Otherwise, it’s no highlight in the Truck scene.

Tollefson Family Grill

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http://www.tollefsonfamilypork.com/  

https://twitter.com/tollefsonpork

Main Location: Etc

            A long winter, spring, and summer, and my chance has finally come to take in the Tollefson Family Grill Truck. It has been many an adventure of mine to visit various Farmer’s Markets, Breweries, and other events only to find a case of frozen meat, a portable grill just sending dogs and burgers, or an unknown cancelling. Oh if only I had taken the opportunity to hit them those during those summer days in Minneapolis when they parked on Nicolette. Sadly they have since cancelled their trip up the downtown circuit, only sticking to certain outskirt locations, some special events, and the occasional Brewery visit.

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            But a recent visit to Harriet has finally allowed me the chance to sample a couple of their items, while also enjoying a nice beer and music of course. At the same time, I received the chance to discuss a previous experience with the main man behind the counter, to which some interesting reveals surfaced.

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            To expound (probably not the right word, don’t care) on this, one of my recent attempts to connect with Tollefson took me to Fulton, which I only found out upon getting there that the truck had cancelled due to mixed scheduling issues. With the way employees had reacted, it (almost) translated as a last-minute thing; as my own nerves with cancelling Food Trucks were a bit high at the time, my emotions got the better of me and I sent a noticeably frustrated message Tollefson’s way on Facebook.

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            Apparently, though, the “truck” owner had actual given their notification for cancelling a week beforehand, even sending at least one or more other notes to ENSURE they apologized and understood the situation. Yet despite that Fulton themselves never put any notification of the cancelling for customers (neither did Tollefson, but they’re now aware and working on this), and it seems they did not fully communicate this to other employees, thus not helping to ease a somewhat frustrating situation to those customers coming on that particular day.

            I just wanted to make sure I put that up there, not only as my own formal apology to Tollefson for the message I sent but also as an awareness to others towards certain “possible actions” taken by those which Tollefson has interacted with.

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            Back to why we’re here, though, to explore this Truck. Tollefson, as one would hope, basically just takes all their popular protein items, grills them up “fresh,” and offers them to the crowd. One can get their Smoked Link, Hot Dog, Pork Pattie, and Smoked Pork Chop, along with their own made Pulled Pork and a Double Burger.  

            They do offer a Veggie Option of course, basically a Portabella Sandwich with peppers and other little things. Though of course I’m goin’ here for some of that Meat, and it’s about time I finally got there.

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Food: 6

            My first grab here was their Pulled Pork, which was surprisingly Asian Style, piled on a simple, untoasted yellow bun. The meat itself is quite tasty, the “asian” flavor doesn’t come through too much when eating as a whole, but just enough to fill out the flavor, keep the meat a little rich and moist, and overall create that “balance” a good pulled pork has before toppings.

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            As for the toppings, one has quite the selection; which is guarded by a big stuffed pig. A bottle of Kettle Creek’s nice, tangy BBQ is joined by Tollefson’s own Raspberry-Balsamic Reduction and the basic Mustard-Ketchup deal. This is joined by some pickle, chopped onions, and an “Asian Slaw” which wasn’t really a slaw, but was VERY tasty. For preparation purposes, it was more of a saurkraute-veggie-pickled mix with a bit of Rice Vinegar and maybe other Asian mix-ins that, though not reminiscent of the name, made for a crisp, tart, delicious little topping. Using that and the BBQ sauce, the Pulled Pork pulled itself to a very enjoyable experience.

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            This and a beer kept me stuck at the Brewery for quite a while, so another trip back to the Grill was almost mandatory. Thought I’d try their Pork Pattie, which they also served on that same, thick, untoasted (or warmed) bun. The patty itself had been sitting on the grill’s warm spot for who-knows-how-long, leaving a thin, completely cooked through piece of sorta-spiced ground pork that dearly cried for much moisture. Ultimately it was almost reminiscent of something I might find in a gas station if they had served a pork patty. Pickles and some BBQ sauce helped a bit.

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            As for other items, Dogs, Links, and the Smoked Pork are only as good as we know from buying them. I will say, though, I saw someone with the Burger, the meat of which was completely grey and cooked through. Two flat, quarter pound patties, which didn’t even look moist. And once again, as with all items, no toasting of buns. A bit sad to see…

Holdability: 8.5

           All items are very holdable, I mean they’re tight Dogs and Sandwiches, though they require two hands due to the basket always served with them.

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Price: 8

             Smaller items at $5, a Hot Dog at $4, $7 for the Veggie and $8 for all the bigger items. The addition of Bacon and Cheese to any item costs extra; not much for cheese but $2 for Bacon. A decent little range for product pricing.

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Speed: 9

           Mostly instantaneous, almost all of their items being cooked beforehand and held warm to be casually scooped into one of those untoasted buns. The one exception, of course being the Smoked Pork Chops, which they cook to order; it supposedly takes 7 minutes. Not sure if the burgers also get some cooking, are kept on a grill, or stay in a warming pan as well.

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The TOE: 5

             I won’t lie, it does sorta feel like something one might visit at a State Fair or Market or other event; though Dogs and such can be good, it’s still just a big cart selling Dogs and a couple Ground Patty Sandwiches with only a few exceptions. There’s some notes of the Street to them, but not too much.

                        Tally: 36.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            All those who are familiar with Tollefson’s products are already familiar with their favorites, so one can base their decisions off of that. It’s obviously a great locations for the quick-buy.

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            When looking for something a bit different than the normal products, or just the highlight in general, stick to the Pulled Pork. The Smoked Pork also intrigues me, but I actually wonder if it fully compares as such a simply grilled product. The Smoked Link is also popular, and a good low-price item if you haven’t had it yet. But no matter what you buy, make sure you dress it heavily; they all need some of that “Slaw,” or BBQ sauce, or whatever you like.

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            Ultimately, though, besides the Pulled Pork, there isn’t too much I feel that stands out from other Trucks.

Twisted Fork Grille

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http://twistedforkgrille.com/   

https://twitter.com/twistedforkStP  

Main Location: St. Paul, Minneapolis

            The Brick and Mortar hits the streets again, with Twisted Fork Grille bringing out a big, black van to shuck out restaurant favorites.

            Twisted offers a smaller version of their at-home menu, with a similar percentage between Apps, Salads, Sides, and Sanwiches (Entrees being the only section that’s cut out; though I think they DID make their Bison Meatloaf into a sandwich…). This includes “Modern Grill-based Restaurant” favorites like Walleye Cakes, Sweet Potato “Chips,” “Caramelized” Brussel Sprouts n Bacon, and a Burger (well, a Veggie Burger). These are joined by the Street-reminiscent Twisted Specialties of Pastrami Sandwich, Fish Tacos, and a side of Asian Slaw. And they of course have a couple salads, a plain Green and one with Smoked Salmon on Crostini.

            Yeah, not as long as my other Review Intros, maybe I’m feeling a bit lethargic from this taco I had earlier… (stick around for my next SFC post).

 

Food: 7.5

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            Since it’s their signature, I just had to get the Pastrami. Thick, hand-cured pieces of glorious beef cooked on the griddle with a big wad of melty cheese before getting shoved between a toasted pretzel bun (which I swear is becoming less novel and more boring nowadays… though I won’t take points off for that). This is joined by crispy onion strings, a tart tomato, and some zingy-dressed arugula on the bottom (which provided an interesting little flavor surprise to my meat-heavy expectations; cut through the salt and fat nicely). Overall it’s a pretty damn enjoyable sliced-meat sandwich.

           And it doesn’t seem to be the only one on the menu; I ended up sharing a nice, Truck-related conversation with a fella chowing on the Corn and Black Bean Burger. A big, thick, and apparently tasty home-made veggie pattie in a nice soft bun; the person eating it wasn’t complaining.

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           Though it looks as if their renown with vegetables stops just at the burger; I can’t help but find myself highly confused over the supposedly well-known signature of “Caramelized” Brussel Sprouts. First off, this is NOT caramelized; this is seared, sautéed, flash-burnt, whatever you wanna call it; REAL caramelization is made through long cooking, med-hi heat, browning the vegetable aaallll over, getting a rich and even broken-down crust. Of course one can never get it like caramelized onions, which is why when we made it in one of my kitchen jobs we would cook in some brown sugar near the end.

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            These, on the other hand, are cooked on a hot surface for either too short or too long a time, ending up with a technical sear on top of a big wad of what’s highly reminiscent of what turned most of us off to Brussels when we were kids in the first place. And I appreciate the addition of bacon, as with all its uses, but just sprinkling it on dry here just seems like… might as well just have it on the side. It all falls apart with no stick-togetherness; if it had a dressing or some sauce to better mix the two, maybe make it into a ragout than just a simple sauté, the two would stand out ever better.

          As for other items, from what I spotted here and there… the Smoked Salmon salad seems a simple excuse to serve thin slices of lox from an establishment (though they’re probably good), the Sweet Potato looked pretty good, and the Walleye Cakes, though looking possibly tasty, are oddly small… you get 3 balls that are a little bit bigger than a pingpong.

Holdability: 7.5

         Seem to be two main extremes here: the wraps and salads offer pure one-handled eating, even despite the gluttonous amount of meat and product inside, being served in a solidly-wrapped “foil” that one could easily peel back as needed. On the other side, baskets of salads, a couple of their sides, and those Fish Cakes (which are served with… salad)  need eating with a fork, and could be easily more comfortable sitting down; especially if ordering a side WITH something else.

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Price: 9.5

           Pretty damn good prices, most “entrée” sized items being $7, with those small Walleye Cakes at $6 and Fish Tacos at $8. Sides are $2-$4, and the Salads come in at $5 for the simple and $7 for the big Smoked Salmon.

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Speed: 7.5

             Mostly average, some a bit quicker some a bit slower; I’m a bit surprised that the Pastrami takes that long, though it IS actually being grilled to order w/ cheese on top. Just note it’s not a quick-assemble cold.

The TOE: 7.5

             Though that feeling of a Restaurant remains, I think Twisted has chosen the right menu items and adjusted themselves to the scene enough to drive a Truck feeling whenever we go.

                        Tally: 39.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            A good, affordable Truck for those in the St. Paul area, it has some great items when needing high abilities to eat while traveling, though some extended options for those who can sit down to enjoy. It’s also a fantastic option to try some of Twisted Fork’s restaurant items for a little bit cheaper than the original menu.

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            For Sandwiches, the Pastrami and Bean Burger are at the top of the list, though that’s not to dissuade you from the other entrée items. For Sides, I’d probably suggest sticking to the Sweet Potato Chips; they’re only $2, the Brussels are a no-go, and one can find good Asian Slaws almost everywhere. And for Salads, though once again I still don’t see the point, the Smoked Salmon offers a generous portion with added elements to at least give a “full” lunch.

            And those are about the items to mainly pay attention to; though we’ll see if there are any other things they switch out (if they bring the Meatloaf in, that would probably be a pretty good fella too).

Jellybean & Julia’s

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http://www.jellybeanandjulias.com/  

https://twitter.com/jellybeanjulias  

Main Location: Etc

            With an Anoka-based Deli found in the basement of a building on Main, Jellybean & Julia’s rolled onto the Streets late last year. Though most of us central Food Truck goers may be unaware of this considering how much off the beaten track they usually are. With their main Truck-sites revolving around wide-distance Wineries, and other stops with similarly-far locations, visiting the mobile operation requires a lot of either luck or dedication. I myself only found the chance to try them during an “Anoka Sidewalk Show” (which I am… relatively close to, at least compared to Goose Lake) where they parked out front of their Deli.

            A big black truck with bright pink and electric-blue logos reminiscent of certain artificially-colored candies, the imagery of the van much belies their actual menu. Kept simple for the often un-truck-seeing wineries (I’m guessing), the stark white marker board offers a couple un-complex Burgers (Cheese and Loaded), a Pulled Pork, and two Bacon-centric items (one being a Wrapped Hot Dog, the other a Grilled Cheese). All of which one can get with a side of Fries. From what I garnered from the Chef/Server, this is basically THE set menu, with little to no other changes or additions.

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            Oh, and not to be dissuaded from a lack of detail, they DO sell the Mexican Bottled Coke! I myself didn’t know that with the menu only saying “coke,” so I figured I’d at least help spread the awareness.

Food: 6

            With a limit of only one item for me that day (had a party later, I so didn’t need to eat multiple things beforehand), I limited myself to the Loaded Burger and a side of Fries. About a 1/3lb patty I believe, this little fella is topped with Cheese, Bacon (both a given), Grilled Onions and a Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise.

            Bun is toasted very nicely, and both the burger and toppings offer a moist juiciness to the palette. It ultimately is a good and enjoyable burger, however this comes in a very simple, average fashion; it’s the kind of burger one expects to find in a pub or bar. It’s definitely a good burger, with little real flaws, but again there is nothing in it that makes me really wish to rave and express the quality. Sort of like a Patty Melt… it’s all juicy and tasty and good, but really that doesn’t have too much to do with the actual burger quality.

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             Fries are highly unimpressive; though hand cut, or BECAUSE of it, they’re all soft and highly salted. I can’t tell if they’re fried only once or just not done all that well twice. They are sorta nice dipped into the Bourbon-Apple-BBQ sauce they have in the giant pump outside (though they really need the tart, sweet ketchup); would probably do well on the burger too.

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Holdability: 9

           Gotten without Fries, items seem to be easy enough to handle, sandwiches and dogs wrapped in foil to consume with one hand or two if needed.

Price: 8.5

            $6-8 for the bigger items, and a $4 Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog, the prices here are overall pretty fair and decent for the products; at least no obvious overcharging.

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Speed: 7.5

             Average speed.

The TOE: 3

              Amazingly Underwhelming… that’s just about the only two words I can think of to sum this up. I am so… disappointed in what I finally found, after months of trying to get to them. It’s not even that the menu is so boring, it’s how it compares to their actual Deli. You go to their site, you see all the things they offer from their original brick-n-mortar business; they have Paninis, and Wraps, Cupcakes, and other really delicious, tasty things, like something called the “Heart Attack.” All of these items, so perfect for a Food Truck, so EASY for them to be able to produce in that small area; they’re already doing the prep somewhere else. And how fun and awesome would it to be to finally have a truck that specializes in both sandwiches AND cupcakes?

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             But no… they serve a couple burgers and a grilled cheese, things that aren’t even on their original menu. It baffles me to think of how this decision came to be. Though however it did, this is nonetheless the final result, an odd contrast to the amusing and fun name and Truck design.

             I will say this; I can see it’s a good thing they stick to the outskirt events as opposed to the main downtown Truck venues. I don’t see how they’d survive otherwise.

                         Tally: 34/50

Final Thoughts

            IF one ever finds themselves going here, say if you’re at a winery and hungry, then I would probably say go for the Loaded Burger or Bacon Grilled Cheese. They griddle the bread and things nicely. Other than that, just go to their Deli; it’s a lot more fun and has better items… though it’s only open from 10-2.

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B-52 Slider Squad

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https://www.facebook.com/B52SliderSquad   

https://twitter.com/SliderSquad   

Main Location: St. Paul

            The Brainchild of B-52 Burgers and Brew, B-52 Slider Squad takes the obvious mainstay and miniaturizes it for the hungry crowds. Premiering along with various truck-patriots such as Hot Indian and Kabomelette, B-52 comes in to help fill out St. Paul’s obvious need for further new truck growth along with Hibachi.

            Offerings are almost entirely composed of, you guessed it, Sliders… or, “Sliders” (I’ll explain later), and of course the traditionally-accompanying Fries. One can get these in the Traditional Cheese Slider, a Bavarian (Onion and Mustard), a Veggie, and the New-to-the-Menu, and likely to make an appearance throughout the season as they mentioned, Pesto Slider. Besides these, one can also order a couple skewers of Corn Fritters.

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            To tell the truth, I don’t have too much more to say about them than this. Maybe I’m not feelin’ the “preachy” vibes tonight, or maybe they’re just that straightforward of an operation, or maybe I drank a bit more than I should have in my other writings, haha. Either way, think I’m gonna just get right into it tonight.

 

Food: 8

            Well I can’t go here without getting a Slider now can I? So I decided to go for their Bavarian. Though they label it, and a few other items, under “Burger” on the menu, all patties served ARE“Sliders.” I put it in quote as, unlike most sliders one sees in Trucks, White Castle, etc, the patties here are all ¼lbs of deliciousness. Oh yeah, that’s a big slider; though I’m sure there are many who would immediately disallow it from using the term. What I know, though, is that despite the amount used, they’re still pressed into that square patty and shoved into that soft, square, oh so nostalgic slider-like bun, only it’s a bit bigger. Ultimately, one still gets what is for all intents and purposes a slider, even if it’s a little bigger than usual; and hey, it still doesn’t reach the size most of us consider for a PROPER burger anyways.

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           Now, onto the actual quality. The Bavarian, shoved between a special Pretzel Slider Bun and topped with a white onion and some good European mustard, comes with some nice sharp flavors and textures. The bun is soft, toasted a bit but still soft in the middle like it should be. And the meat used is of nice quality, but cooked all the way to well-done, which I guess it probably should for a true slider. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t contain much real qualities of the “omg heavenly” one finds in the best grilled meats, though that’s not to say it’s poor in quality, because it isn’t.

            It’s not the greatest Burgers from a Truck out there, but you won’t be disappointed.

            As for the Fries, I’ve been thinking of a good way to describe them, and I can’t help but be stuck on this one idea. Think of what would happen if McDonalds didn’t work in low-quality bulk and made their fries bigger; like, actually restaurant-thick. That’s basically what we have here. It’s got that similar light-crisp outside, the soft inside, but more noticeable starchiness from its size. Oh, then they toss it in some seasoning. It’s pretty darn good.

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            And finally the Fritters, skewered Dango-style for our enjoyment. Bonus points for mixing in the fresh corn, jalapenos, and cilantro, so it’s not just one-note. The outside is crispy, though I’m sort of unsure of the actual filling texture; it’s quite noticeably cornmeal filled, though I think that comes with many of its positive and negative qualities. Eating it, I felt like the flavor reminded me of something… and all I can think of that might be close is cornbread; particularly the sorta-overcooked kind. Though I found the actual fritters weren’t really dry, this does clue you into something very important about them; it is VERY hard to get through eating all 8 of them, even with the palette-exciting flavors mixed in.

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Holdability: 9

            They have a fun way of serving the burger and fries, putting them BOTH in the old-fashioned paper bag, as opposed to the random paper baskets we keep seeing. If done right, one could thus require only one hand to eat the burger with; the same could be said for the Fritter Skewers, as long as you moved them into the paper bag they are served on top of. Of course, would need two hands when going for the fries… unless you tipped the bag up to your mouth (YES!).   

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Price: 9.5

           Some really good price points, with all items in the $5-$8 range, only one item being $8. Though all sliders automatically come with Fries, one can order solo sliders for only $1 off.

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Speed: 9

            Pretty damn speedy, I really didn’t have to wait long for either item… I’m guessing the Fritters are fried and skewered ahead of time then. But the burgers are cooked quick too (maybe they grill them half of the way beforehand, I worked in a restaurant that did that for when someone ordered well-dones).

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The TOE: 9

            FINALLY we have an all-slider Truck in our midst! I’ve been waiting for this day ever since I found out Gastro pussed out and just went to large sandwiches. And they certainly don’t disappoint. It’s a nice menu, a fun trailer design, and the food comes out in that little nostalgic package (and skewers for the fritter), making for an enjoyable experience for those on the grab-n-go.   

                        Tally: 44.5/50

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Final Thoughts

            Definitely one of the highlight Trucks for those looking for cheaper eats on the street, a quick grab, and easier holding while walking. Of course I can’t write a review on this without suggesting a Slider and Fries to order. If one doesn’t want to just do the Traditional, I think the new Pesto may be the Slider I’d lean towards most. I’m not sure how much I would actually suggest the Fritters (they’re interesting), but if you DO want them, then I would require you do one of these two things: either make sure you have 1 or more other people to share it with (again, they’re dense and hard to get through all 8 palette wise), or ask if you can just have one skewer for less.  

            I almost wonder if they should start doing shakes… but then I remember that this is a BAR, not a Diner. We’re just here for rich burgers and fries.

2013 Food Truck Fair in Uptown

http://mnfoodtruckfair.com/  

            So of course, despite it being tomorrow, I don’t actually find out about the 2013 Food Truck Fair until yesterday. Once again, I need to figure out how to find these things out sooner… well, at least I liked their Facebook page, so I shouldn’t be caught with my pants down as far as future Fairs are concerned.

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            Now, away from my bitching and onto the actual event!

            Coming off a complete and utter disaster in their first Fair (which was last year), it seems the organizers this year have put some drastic changes into play. In comparison to the previously high-costing, area-confined, limited-houred, enormously-crowded ordeal beforehand, this year’s event (from what I can tell) is attempting to follow a similar formula to the “Art-a-Whirl” style (though not as huge and widespread). Completely Free and taking place from 3-8 tomorrow, the website claims to have the fair located “In Uptown.” It states to be taking place on Hennepin and Lake, though with the immense list of Vendors (and free entrance) I can’t imagine them confining themselves to an enclosed area.

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            The actual Trucks and Vendors present are too many to list, and will be joined by a couple different Bands, our local Breweries and, same as last year, the Blue Door Pub, serving up their signature “Blucy.” Unlike last year, though, this year should yield a situation where people can actually try it without wasting half the time in line.

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            God, I wish I didn’t have plans that day! And starting at 3 too… it was actually during last year’s Fair that I started taking the idea for this blog very seriously. I had always thought it’d be fun and someone needed to do it, but talks with people in line, as well as the many shared reactions to the Fair’s obvious flaws and hopes for next year, started pushing me into actually planning it out. So disappointing that I am unable to celebrate this important moment for me with what looks to be a highly successful change in style and quality.

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            For those who can go, however, I wish you all the best luck and fun in this now-yearly celebration of our Mobile Culinary Culture! Though I may not be there in body, I shall of course join you in spirit!

            Don’t forget to report and tell me how it all goes either! Good Luck and Good Eating!

Food Truck Wars Fridley (Wk 3)

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            3rd week of the Twin Cities’ Live Food Truck War is here, and they just happened to stop right in my hometown of Fridley! So of COURSE I had to go now (apologies for missing last week’s update; been busy as of late), with Dad accompanying so we could bring food back for Mom.

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            Sadly, it seems this particular session of “Wars” didn’t quite reach the zenith as the others: of the 5 Trucks scheduled, only 3 were able to make it (Tiki Tim’s, Hot Indian, and Simply Steve’s), with Potter’s and Melch’s having to cancel at the last minute. On the same note of “skewing my expectations,” I myself am a touch anxious at this trend of using many of the same trucks each week. With the idea of some sort of competition (where there’s a winner each week), did anyone else think that it might have been more fun to have completely different trucks each session (except maybe winners, see if they can get “de-throned”)? Though at least they still switch out a few; I heard something about some “Fish n Chips” showdown with Anchor next week.

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            Having arrived soon after 4, we thankfully hand enough time to grab Free Samples from 2 of the Trucks. First stop was the Indurrito truck, where they delivered ½ “Tacos” of their Chicken Tika alongside some of those fantastically crunchy fries. With shells made from Roti (which Amol thankfully corrected me are Indian Flatbreads and not Mango-Yogurt! Looks like I got them confused with Raita… sorry guys, and thanks!! Swear I saw it on the drink area one time though…), their Taco-versions have twisted up a fun notch in line with their original cuisine. Looks like they adjusted their Aioli as well; less garlic-focused and more “Indian spice and peppers,” another tasty pairing with their Fries.

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            With this well-made plate, it’s not surprising to see they earned the Golden Plate this week (I voted for them too! Wooh!).

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            Unlike Tiki, it seems Steve didn’t put up too much of a fight. Their menu still somewhat scattered (though not as much as my last view of it, mainly burgers and tacos this time; they might be pulling things in a bit more again, I’ll have to pay attention to their selection in the coming weeks, see if they get back to where they were before), Sample offering consisted of a somewhat squished, basic-looking quarter of a Burger (not sure, but I think it might have been the Quinoa… since they sort of “highlighted” that item in the “Live” recording earlier). And oh my god, did you SEE what their Grilled Asparagus looked like in the Live video on the event? I’m sorry, but that just… does not look great… I’m sure it tastes fine and all, but it does not conjure any images of what quality Asparagus can be.

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            Finishing the day with Tiki, who decided to split their Fish Tacos in half for a sample, which tasted great as usual (we were in the 2nd to last group of samples, whew!). Since I knew my mom enjoyed various seafood cakes (and hated Indian food), this was our official stop for Dinner. Though we were still a bit back-n-forth, so we ended up bringing back a Combo Plate and the Kahlua Pork (hey, what she didn’t eat we would).

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            First I have to say how happy I am to see where these guys have come. Compared to my first Combo Plate, which in itself was delicious, this batch of Fish and Tiki Cake was even better, clearly showing their gradual tweaking and improving towards perfection. Look at how perfectly pattied that Cake is; I’m still so disappointed that they haven’t turned it into a Slider, cuz it’s just SO good. And the ratio of (perfectly) Fried Fish to the Cabbage is exactly what it should be, as opposed to the Veggie-dominated Taco I experienced early this year (I shall DEFINITELY make an update in the review). Oh, also, I never noticed it earlier, but my mom pointed it out and it makes interesting sense. Unlike others, the tortillas here see little to no actual cooking; whether it be steamed or grilled. Despite that, not only do they hold up well, the actual texture is interestingly complimenting to the fish and rich Cream-dressing.

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            The Kahlua Pork sandwich was quite the interesting experience; I had completely forgotten about it on their menu. Upon getting it, thoughts of my highly-recent proclamation around Starlight’s Pulled Pork came to mind, and I wondered if a quick upheaval in the Pork power balance was to take place.

            Sadly, it wasn’t.

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            I give credit to the separate quality of the Pineapple-Red Cabbage Slaw and the actual Pork, which are both nice in their own ways. However, as with most pulled pork, the giant mass of meat, even with some natural juices, ends up dry (at least in sensation), and REALLY needs a nice, wet sauce of some sort. Maybe a grilled pineapple bbq or something… I know traditionally Hawaiian Kahlua pork is served dry, but truly a sandwich like this requires the moisture.

            Second requirement for improvement revolves around the actual bread. They DO seem to actually griddle it, I could feel the nice crust around the rim, but the rim is where any crispiness stays. But the real disappointment came in the bread itself, the texture really throwing the thing off a bit; it was sort of that soft, slightly chewy, almost doughy feeling one gets from those cheap baguettes at the store (before baking again in the oven). Luckily, this issue is easily fixed; hopefully, if they choose to do so, they can either grab a slightly-higher quality sandwich bread, or just bake all their Ciabattas a second time for a bit, crisp up the outside a touch while letting the inside follow through to its proper texture. It’d be nice to think just griddling it more would work, but with this bread I’m sure it wouldn’t (unless they were able to Panini it… oooooh, Kahlua Panini!!).

            Well, I guess that’s that. Despite the mysterious loss of 2 trucks, the small event turned out pretty well, and was fun for those who were able to grab a couple samples (such an interesting coincidence how empty the place got right after the 4:30 cut-off…). We’ve got one more week to go, people, let’s make it count!

            Ooooh, one last thing! I love Tiki’s new LONG Blackboard; it’s so fun!

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Jake’s Street Grille

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https://twitter.com/JakeStreetTruck   

https://www.facebook.com/JakeStreetTruck?fref=ts    

http://www.jakescitygrille.com/

Main Location: Minneapolis

             After a miniature torrent of new trucks which are trying to start up or sound like they’re from a restaurant, we finally have another mobile operation that’s (gasp!) actually BASED off one! (well, these guys and Falafel King… but that’s really more of a deli chain…)

             Expanding from the Triple-D-made-famous Jake’s City Grille, Jake’s STREET Grille hits the… ummm, street, in flame-covered glory. With multiple locations under their belt already, it seems Jake’s has decided to take their attitude and shove it in the middle of our Food Truck lineup. And so far, one can’t argue that they don’t stand out (at least as far as colors go).

             One of the closest trucks we have to a “gastropub” vibe, Jake’s picks some of their favorite and most Street-worthy items from the varied and bar-based Restaurant Menu; along with a couple new twists of course. Top of the list includes their all-famous Jakewings, and Cajun Tilapia or Lobster/Shrimp Tacos. Following these are some Jake Burgers turned Mini, a popular Chicken Cobb shoved in a big Pita, their favorite Chowder, and a homemade Cookie! I actually got a picture of it!

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              Then one of the employees decided they wanted to pose for me…

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              So yeah…

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              It was a bit of a rainy day the time I actually visited, and luckily for customers they have their very own awning! And not just that miniature tent often used in farmer’s markets. After placing one’s order AWAY from the truck, customers can then take their ticket up to the window to hand in-person, where we can clearly view the highly cramped and crowded kitchen. Half of the space being taken up by the big man Jake himself (or someone else who got their picture taken with Guy Fierri…).

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Food: 9

               I had to of course get the two items named after the restaurant, the Wings and the Mini Burgers! I would have liked to get the Lobster Tacos, but they’re a touch out of my price range. Did get to take a picture of them though:

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               An interesting looking “Taco,” if I have to say so. If anything it sort of reminds me of a Mexican-inspired “Lobster Ravioli” that so many high-end restaurants like having on their menu to use up knuckle and other tasty lobster meat. Considering the quality of the other foods I’ve received, the flavor combinations, and the noted grill marks on the tortillas (flour, but it’s not a traditional taco filling or wrapping anyways, so I’m okay with it), I think we can assume a good level of quality to these.

              Wings were sticky, sweet, tangy, with that nice little “spicy wing” flavor in the background. Grilled to a juicy tenderness, the black skin imparting that nice little smoky flavor to the rest of the sauce. Other than a possibility of a couple wings being too “fatty” (I know, it’s weird to say about wings… but they actually might not have been cooked enough for a little more fat to render like it should), it was a very enjoyable and delicious experience.

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              Sliders are certainly something. A mosaic of sesame over the buns, its inside toasted properly before being filled with the cheese and fried onion-covered meat. Though medium-well, an overall sense of dryness is notably absent, most likely helped by the “JakeSauce” flavoring the burger (can’t actually see or feel it; almost like it was soaked in… so good), which is very BBQ-ish in nature. Onions are nice, crispy and spice-flavored of course. Though I would definitely not compare it to some of our Best Truck Burgers, as a burger-based-slider its flavors stand loaded and high.

              As for the fries: crispy outside, soft in, not SPECTACULAR compared to the street’s best but no negative qualities. Very SOLID and well-made potatoes. Just need to eat them soon after ordering or risk softening. I’m not sure about the Cookie, but it’s handmade and certainly LOOKS delicious…

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Holdability: 8

              Based off a restaurant as it is, most of this stuff isn’t exactly clean. Not necessarily sit-down food, though; with a single basket one easily only need both hands. However, wings are quite the messy, sticky beast; they even come with wetnaps (which I accidentally tossed, agh!), which one could say is quite nice for those wanting a messy meal on the street but still needing to get somewhere. The unique roll on the Tacos are actually quite perfect for the street, with little to no worry of fillings spilling out. Though I find the pile of salsa on top sort of odd and out-of-place for any street-food item (at least the Tomatillo and Guac were in cups…).

              I DEFINITELY want to give special mention and props to their Salad. Still, still, I do not understand those people who go all the way out on the street, to a Food Truck in all its Foodie-based “Eat me with your hands” glory, and order a SALAD of all things… I mean seriously you can get that anywhere. However, Jake’s is the first place that has actually taken their salad and shoved it into something like a pita wrap (and boy did that shove a LOT of it into a BIG pita). Not only has this created an item salad-lovers can eat while walking, but they’ve transformed one of the most boring of items (a Cobb) into something fully indicative and representing of Food Truck items. In fact, I’m somewhat considering it for “Toe Ring” nomination.

                Other items hold themselves in similar levels of two-handed-ness. The chowder itself comes as a nicely-sized paper bowl which THEN put into a cardboard basket.

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Price: 9

             There are a couple higher priced items, but unlike certain other trucks Jake’s has a fantastic VARIATION, offering a great range of different prices so one can find the right fit if needed. Whether this be a $5 Chowder, $12 Lobster Taco (which actually costs LESS than the at-restaurant version, unlike a certain other Lobster-item I know), or everything else in between, all of it seeming pretty right on the money with what they offer.

Speed: 8

             Slightly above average speed, not surprising considering the full kitchen behind the window.

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The TOE: 9

            Though its restaurant ties are clear in their menu, Jake’s attitude and personality shine in the same way as the best Trucks. Their menu may not be united in a singular style or cuisine, but each item shows an excitement and “Signature” to it that others easily miss. Not to mention the fact they’ve actually put some effort in insuring most of their offerings tie well into the Street Scene.

                        Service: +1.5

               I refer to the picture of the employee posing for the cookie. Fact is these guys are fun, energetic, and practically make the visit an experience.

                         Tally: 44.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Probably the best truck so far for those who want that “restaurant experience” without sacrificing the ability to eat while mobile. Also one of the very few places (Moral Omni the other) that I find it not only acceptable, but I SUGGEST one get the Salad – Chicken Cobb in Pita.

            Most items are definitely of great suggestibility. Lobster Taco should be tried for those willing and able to spend the extra few bucks. On the lower-priced end, the Chowder looks amazing, easily in the same league as AZ’s Gumbo. The Wings are great, but only for those who don’t mind the stickiness. Mobility wise, both the Mini Burger and Cajun Tilapia Tacos fit the bill, I probably suggest the taco more; it looks amazing, I really want to go back to get it.

                Which in itself speaks to the quality; there are very few trucks that I have any real urge to go back repeatedly. Vellee and Potters are among the small group, and now Jake’s entered the list.

                 One final note, for those who looking to get a cookie on the street, I would certainly say this is one of the Trucks to grab it from.

Week 1 Results

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             Thanks to Hot Indian Foods for updating their facebook page for the Twin Cities Live first week of Food Truck Wars.

             Here’s a link to the Live preview of the trucks themselves: http://twincitieslive.com/article/stories/s3055548.shtml?cat=10692

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             Congratulations to Melch’s Meat Wagon for taking home the first week’s Trophy.

Food Truck Wars!!

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… okay sorry, it’s not the actual show. But starting tonight, the 2nd Annual local “Food Truck Wars” with Twin Cities Live and 107.1 begins! Every Tuesday in June, from 4-7 in White Bear Lake Minnetonka, they will be tasting offerings from 6 various Trucks and deciding a winner! The starting lineup will be A Cupcake Social, Hot Indian Food, Melch’s Meat Truck, Tiki Tim’s, Cafe Racer, and Minneapple Pie.

With this selection contrasting offerings, it’s sure to be an exciting “showdown” to go and take part in. Now if only I didn’t live so damn far away from White Bear…

https://www.facebook.com/events/168931506609705/?ref=22