Filius Blue

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https://www.facebook.com/Filiusblue
https://twitter.com/filiusblue
Main Location: St Paul, Wineries, Etc

Some trucks are always more of a challenge and wait to find the opportunity for me to visit, believe me there are quite a few popped up that have mocked me with their distance (just gonna have to face the fact that certain trucks in Duluth and Bemidji will likely never find their way into one of my review save for freak strokes of luck), so it’s always a welcome pleasure when I can head out of my house before to fully explore one of these usually out-of-reach businesses.

Thus I was led to Filius Blue on a trip to St Paul, where-as the South American and Caribbean-influenced truck was sat in the bright sun, the uniquely designed sides in clear view to roam over as one waits for food. It’s only their second season, so I can safely say that I haven’t delayed too fantastically long compared to a couple OTHER trucks that I’ve hit in the past!

A couple fun facts, the truck itself is named after the filius blue pepper; a tiny little purple pepper that actually gets MILDER as it ages (apparently the only pepper that does that). This particular point hints at another key element to their menu, that being the use of Heat and Peppers in what seems to be their real specialty, Handmade Sauces. From one using the filius blue of-name to habanero, jalapeno, even horseradish, the food (which I’ll break down more in a bit) finds its central focus on which of these latin-american-inspired sauces coats their top.

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Besides that, the truck itself, while focusing on St Paul over Minneapolis, mostly finds itself booked in Waconia over the weekends, along with parking at various wineries and breweries, so look for them at one of those if able. And when you do, take the chance to look along the sides; a friend of the owner’s made all the original artwork, from cutting out patterns in linoleum to make all the animals and pattern stamps along the top and bottom to a Mermaid based on an original artwork the owner had in his basement. And based on the size of those hips, seems she’s quite fond of their food herself…

There are two sections to the menu, Sandwiches and Tacos, both of which basically have the same options for fillings; at least protein wise, all of which are Slow Cooked and/or Grilled, no frying in the truck at all (they seem quite adamant about they, either that or just couldn’t afford a friar). Pork, Grilled Chicken, and Grilled Tilapia are slathered in pre-determined sauces for sandwiches, whereas one gets their choices on the Tacos, like a creamy not-hot Avocado-Buttermilk to the classic Filius Blue, and others depending on season (apparently there’s a Puerto/Costa Rican that is to die for). Tacos did also have two different filling options, a Beef and a Beans for the red meat or veggie minded.

Well I’m all set to dive in, you?

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Food: 9

                We start off with what is basically their ‘signature item’ the Jezebel Pork Sandwich. Slow roasted with garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, big chunks of this come out soft, juicy and fatty, it’s like thick dices of delicious beef brisket in pig form, perhaps from the same cut. Safe to say it came as a happy surprise, as if anything one usually expects the ‘pulled’ variety of oinker… and let us not, oh dear god let us NOT, forget this sauce. Apricot jam, horseradish, and who knows what else, all I care about is that it was sweet, savory, filled with lovely horseradish (enough to taste it and provide that signature nose tingle when eaten fast enough, but not enough to turn anyone but the most sensitive off, ideal level in my opinion), and dripping off that meat and onto your fingers. It does NOT hold together in that bun the best, but that just gives one the excuse to pick it up with the chips or just eat the pork straight off your own fingers. The only word I can think of is Delectable. Bun got a happy butter a toastage on it too.
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After that I moved onto a Taco, Grilled Tilapia since it seemed appropriate, and of course I had to try it with the Filius Blue Pepper sauce. The fish itself was cooked well, had some of that nice grill flavor to it and texture, and they actually toasted one side of the tortilla on the grill! Like only using one tortilla for an enchilada and just turning it into a taco, I’m realizing how sad it is that no one I’ve seen has done this yet; sure they warm it up or get SOME grill marks on it, but never take it to the point of having that crispy texture and browning all throughout. Such a good element, it’s a shame that it was partly ruined by the toppings. I mean we end up having some fish in the bottom, but at least half of the taco is composed of shredded lettuce, not-the-best cheddar, and some pico. Basically something reminiscent of what I can get at Taco Bell, though at least fresher; I was sadly hoping for something a bit more unique and complimentary. The pepper sauce itself wasn’t what I was hoping it’d be either, having this little creamy-chunkiness and not much heat at all. Still good in its ways mind you, but after that sandwich I was hoping it’d stand out more, which the taco overall does not outside of the tortilla.

Final note, Salsa was tasty, well-made, with a consistent texture and just a TOUCH of heat for a nice accent, maybe not spectacular (but to be fair, how often do we find a salsa that really is?) but an enjoyable side nonetheless.

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Holdability: 6

                 As I said, that sandwich was quite the monster! Pieces falling out, sauce getting all over your fingers… delectable, but still something that needs some sitting down and napkins for best results. I expect other sandwiches are similar, though likely less messy. Tacos at least increase portability, but loaded with that much lettuce/etc and using only a single shell leaves for fallout (non-messy fallout, but nonetheless).

Price: 8

                  Sandwiches at $8-9, the awesome pork at $8(yay), Tacos at $7-9, dependent on filling and automatically coming with a side, good prices though a little more range would be nice (or, as often is my wishes even if I don’t say it every time, the option to get something on its own for a little less money), but that point is always just a hair splitter when comparing to the ‘perfectly affordable/cheap’ menus.
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Speed: 7.5

Seemed to be an average wait time for grilling and assembly.

The TOE: 8.5

                  Besides the Latin-Caribbean flair, the added ‘theme’ of hot peppers as a focus certainly tickles my intrigue bone… or maybe the capsaicin is screwing with some weird nerve. Either way, it’s certainly the first time I’ve heard of a truck with this sort of edge, and I definitely appreciate it. The truck itself is attractive, maybe not so interesting from a distance but once up close to see the details and personality of the staff and wrap, one finds a truck worth going back to.

Tally: 39/50

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Final Thoughts

With a menu full of things slathered in cravingly pungent handmade sauces, this is not necessarily the food to get when one needs to keep their fingers clean, but also not suited to cart back to an office or other location… since you’ll be too intent on eating it then and there. So definitely a truck to stop by when you have the time to sit and savor.

The best strategy truly is to stick with the sandwiches, you get more impact from the meat and, come on, that Jezebel Pork is just to die for, and should be gotten on everyone’s first visit. But if you want to try something else, or just went back for a second or third time, I’d say the Jerk Chicken and Grilled Tilapia seem to be quite money… though that Gravy Pork piques my curiosity… maybe grab that and ask for one of their other sauces on the side to compliment. Since you’re sticking away from Tacos (you ARE sticking away from tacos), you’ll have to request them on the side to mix into other sandwiches, which I always find fun, sort of like when blending different veggie stews and curries into rice when I go for Indian. Red Pepper Jalapeno and, when they have it, the Puerto Rican (or Costa Rican, can’t remember) are the ones to experience.

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Dredi’s

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https://www.facebook.com/dredispatties

https://twitter.com/DredisPatties

Main Location: Minneapolis

You know, I really like those big, flashy, Caribbean and Southern BBQ catering trucks we tend to see at various neighborhood events, music fests, etc. Sadly, mental quandaries still seem to abound in my head, ruining my desire to review them by dancing around my own arguable and annoying rules for what I consider a “food truck,” at least the kind that’s centered around this blog. They’re rarely if ever seen on the common streets or by breweries, the businesses are more a colorful catering vehicle (huge, by the way), not to mention the menus are often so relatively intimidating in scope, don’t think I’d ever be able to get through all I’d need for a review after even two visits!

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Fade to Dredi’s, a relatively new (officially they opened last August, but I don’t think they were really even present until this year), shiny metal trailer box, or whatever they’re called, with a centered focus on one of the ubiquitous items seen in many Island catering trucks: the Jamaican Pattie.

To be specific, the BEEF Pattie. A savory package of stewed and lightly spiced ground beef enclosed in a somewhat flat, square little package of savory, craveably golden shortcrust (same style as pie) dough. This is sold as-is or “Full House,” an intriguing idea where it’s sliced horizontally and turned into a Sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. One can get either of these as-is, in drink+chip combos, or alongside your own bottle of “Ting,” a Caribbean Grapefruit Soda. But that’s it, nothing else on the menu to arduously ponder over.

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So thankfully I finally have some sort of Caribbean truck on the scene; one of my favorite cuisines, I now have the chance to unabashedly review a business based on this spicy food subset. Now if only we can get some more out there to grab some proper Jerked Chicken Sammies!

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Food: 6.5

             I don’t know what it is about pastry doughs, the flaky texture of a pie, the crunch of a shell, possible juxtaposition with a softer inside, or just a subconscious reaction to all that butter we know is in there, but you’ve just gotta love them. This one was nice, with good color and savory crunch in it. The filling itself was pretty good, a moist beef stew with a decent flavor of spices to it. Not extremely exciting, though, being all ground beef; especially as it’s the only option.

In particular I found noted disappointment in the “Full House,”or more particularly the toppings used in it. Just simple, cold slices of lettuce and soft tomato, neither of which seemed to be of great quality, standing on either side of a floppy, limp piece of cheap American cheese. A combo I expect to find in a fast food joint, only stuck on top of something that deserves much better.

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Interestingly enough, though, the Ting didn’t remark upon me that much as-is (tasted like most lemon-lime sodas), it made a surpisingly nice pairing with the lightly spiced beef. Oh, and don’t forget to get some Hot Sauce!

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Holdability: 9.5

              Much like Potter’s, these dough-enwrapped items make for the perfect walking snack on their own, coming in a simple brown sleeve one can slide down as needed (a-la McDonald’s hash browns). The Full House though, while still really well kept together, can be a touch messy with the inner stew now exposed, particularly when having one’s other hand full with a Ting.

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Price: 9.5

               On their own the Pattie and Full House are $4 and $5 respectively, adding 50c for combos leaves a pretty good deal for one’s wallet. My only gripe is that the Ting is a set $2 with no seeming way to reduce, which isn’t even that bad on its own (I’ve paid that much for Mexican Coke on the Street… man that came out so wrong. You know what I mean).

Speed: 9.5

              Other than taking about a minute or so to cut and assemble a Full House (gotta be careful with that pastry crust), instantaneous delivery of warm pocket goodness.

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The TOE: 4.5

               Though many of the points indeed hit home with ideal Food Truck operations (by my ratings), Dedri’s seems to be currently lacking full spirit behind the food they serve. It’s a great, perfectly mobile option with an interesting promise in the idea of turning it into the sandwich, but they haven’t really done anythingwith it. There’s only the one, really simple beef patty, of which they use only the most basic and cheap burger toppings for its transformation. I wanna see them have a few more options for filling, like a jerk chicken or pork or a starchy vegetarian (or whatever really), and then take it up a knotch with different KINDS of good, tasty sandwich toppings. Sauteed mushrooms, roasted peppers, sauces, not-shitty-cheese, bacon, it could be anything but not JUST what I got today. So much potential is behind this simple idea, but the lack of realizing even part of it in any exciting sense ends up bringing me down a bit further. I hope I can see them try some fun things in the future.

Tally: 39.5/50

Final Thoughts

For those requiring similar needs as the mobile greats such as Potter’s and Nate’s (hey it rhymes), grab yourself a Beef Pattie(with Hot Sauce!) and bottle of Tingfor a tasty $6 treat and drink on the street. Separate or together they’re also great as smaller, cheaper, not-so-filling in between snacks on the longer Food Truck Day ventures. And though interesting, I wouldn’t suggest getting the Full House until Dredi’s has updated the topping selection.

Lulu’s Street Food

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lulus-Street-Food/107004102822952   

https://twitter.com/LulusStreetFood   

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            It’s not often we see Truck’s expand their armada (though getting into restaurants is a whole different story); She Royal has branched to Brava, Potter’s added a second Pastie Truck to hit two cities… but that’s about it. But after only a few months of premiering, Lulu’s Street Food has already moved out another mobile operation, “The Red Pig & Truffle.” Supposedly rolling out later in the month, I of course look forward to giving it a full review when it does.

           This only stands as a sign to their growing reputation and success, exploding onto the scene much like how their design explodes over the eyes. Seriously, first time I saw this thing I thought it was a giant lifesaver… just wanted to lick it. Though I’m not sure if that’s the sign of a good Truck or some unresolved childhood issues…

            Well, getting back to the licking of organic matter, Lulu’s offers, well, “Street Food;” it’s really the best description. Menu items range in package, price, style, and flavors, but there are two things that connect them all. 1: they’re all based around the idea of classic and modern Street Foods, such as Tacos, Sandwiches, Rolls, Slider, etc; and 2: from what I can tell, most if not all menu items contain a Southern or Island/Caribbean base to them.

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            The Menu tends to change a LOT, and with at least 8 items (they have to use 2 blackboards!) usually on it, that says something. From what I can tell, some of the constant (or mostly seen) items include their famous Parmesan Truffle Fries, Cuban Chicken Taco or Sliders, Ahi Tuna Taco, and a Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich. Other items usually seem to contain Pulled/Roast Pork, Key West Fish Taco, and some Lobster based thing (either a Roll or, interestingly, Sliders). Whatever the situation, though, one is sure to find something suiting their particular tastes.

            Oh, and most of these items comes piled in some form of Coleslaw. Either way, let me just say I was very happy when they finally returned back to the Downtown Minneapolis streets after some weeks of outer explorations.

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Food: 9.5

            It took a while to decide, but I finally ended up with their Key West Fish Tacos and the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich.

             Again, when it comes to Island Tacos, I find no issue with the use of Flour Tortillas, which held the package in pretty darn well; though it would have been nice to have at least ONE extra, empty tortilla below the two for any drippage, cuz there is a quite a decent amount of Slaw, Aioli, and Pineapple-Mango Salsa. Which, I might add, is one of the few successful uses of pineapple I’ve found in our Truck lineup. The fish itself, Cod I think, was grilled properly on the grill in a very tasty spiced marinade; it ended up tender, rich, and flavorful.

            Now, something of slight disappointing note, my first taco had a noticeable proportion problem. I will say this, it DEFINITELY didn’t have too much coleslaw; I mean damn, that is a REALLY good, fresh-tasting, yummy slaw.. at that point where it’s so good you don’t care how much there is (plus the flavor wasn’t strong enough to overpower others). But it really didn’t have that much fish; like, one medium chunk and some small fragments. I did find that the OTHER taco had a decent amount more (see the picture below); my guess is that they just accidentally scooped more of the portion into one taco than the other. They don’t cook the fish in long “sticks,” but in this bundle of chopped up, marinated flesh.

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             As for the Fried Chicken Sandwich… Oh, My, God. Crispy, down-home comfort fried chicken, the shell very reminiscent of the style found on chicken tenders but, you know, GOOD, made with quality, so it’s a thick, sorta-chewy but crunchy coating that just holds up firm. Drizzled this with sticky, sweet honey, piled with that awesome coleslaw, and then shoved between and awesome, toasted Pretzel Bun. They have to either make it themselves or get it from a different place than others, as it’s a different texture, size, and shape than other pretzel bun’s I’ve seen. Either way, it works well; I mean it’s not really with the Southern theme, but who cares when it all tastes so awesome. It’s hard to describe how satisfying this guy is.

            Oh, and of course I had to top it with something from the Hot Sauce lineup they have.  

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Holdability: 7.5

              HIGHLY varying depending on item. All of them need at least two hands for eating (basket-based), but whereas the Tacos and some other options are very easy for walking around, certain sandwiches and other items definitely bring the requirement to SIT DOWN and eat it. Prime example, my Fried Chicken Sandwhich, seen here:

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            Look at that PILE of awesome, delicious coleslaw; it may taste great, but try as you might I doubt one can hold that sucker with one hand while walking. Not to mention all that sticky, drizzling honey coating down and to your fingers as you hold it. I swear, even if that aluminum wrapping was all around it like a classic burger, I doubt I’d still suggest eating it while walking… though that’s not to say you still shouldn’t eat it. Mmmm, that was good…

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Price: 6

             Towards the higher end, most items range between $8-$12, the two outsandings being the Lobster Roll at $15, which I have absolutely no idea how it varies in quality and amount vs Smack, and the Truffle Parm Fries at $5. Though what ended up a small basket of fried potatoes sprinkled in Truffle Salt (which isn’t as expensive as people think it is), I’m wondering if this price is a bit high for it. Overall, though, I would have to say that the food is WORTH the higher prices, at least from what I’ve had so far.

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Speed: 8

              Average, if not a touch above.

The TOE: 9

              I’ll admit, the menu is a bit intimidating when you first come up to it, with the difficult choices and somewhat higher prices (at least they have more than one, worthy $8 items), but I very much enjoy going here. It’s vibrant, high energy, and very fun and welcoming, and I’m not just talking about the colors. If I’d posit a guess, the feeling and concepts of the chefs behind the window really come through in the menu and service; sort of like when one goes to Travail or Victory 44, with the Chef Waiter/resses.

                           Tally: 40/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Lulu’s certainly fits the bill for a multitude of customer requirements. Whether you’re looking for a higher-priced item to take back and sit down to eat, or something to walk around the street with, you can probably find a good option here. There are many items to suggest, but here are the ones I’d probably lean to.

            The Ahi Tuna seems quite popular, and I’m guessing there’s a reason for it; with these kind of chefs behind the window, I’d definitely assume they’re making it right. Besides that, other Fish Tacos also bring a delightful experience (assuming they get the proportions right…), particularly for the walk-n-eat scenarios. Cuban items are sure to be done well, so it’s a valid focus. And I DEFINITELY suggest the Fried Chicken Sandwich if you’re able to sit down!

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            Sadly, there’s not too much here for those with a little lighter wallet. The Truffle Fries do offer a good snacking option, especially on Food Truck Days, though I still debate whether they’re truly up for a whole $5; they do seem like really quality-cooked fries though. As for the Lobster Roll, I don’t really see much reason to peddle so much out for an unsurety… if you’re curious, and have a bit of extra cash, maybe try the Lobster Sliders when they come out, get a feel of how it tastes to decide if you wanna have their Roll instead of Smack’s (also ask how the size compares).

SFC: To make a Caribbean Lunch

            Soon after I began my studies in the Culinary field, I started to develop this really weird obsession over Johnnycakes. These are the really old, historical traveling breads or pancakes (depending on when and where it was made) made from cornmeal and griddled. Though my foray into trying to figure out this food items didn’t last long, it was filled with compiled lists and attempted recreations of the mysterious cake. With many a recipe not yielding the results I so desired, I soon decided to give up and focus back on my studies.

            These memories all came rushing back to me recently, though, during my trip to the Caribbean, where we visited a local making the traditional “Dumb Bread,” a kind of johnnycake, at a Plantation tour. Not only was it finally what I was looking for, but we also got a recipe to make it back home! (adjusted for an oven, as opposed to frying)

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            And here it is! Look at that tiny little piece of paper I saved all the way from the Caribbean! Didn’t even have to wait too long to take it out again; my Dad’s requested present for Father’s Day being a Caribbean Chicken dinner. Personally deciding to extend the idea past the main meal, I thought it’d be fun to try the recipe out for breakfast (especially since I’d have some leftover for a sandwich).

Baked Dumb Bread/Caribbean Johnnycake

3 cups Flour

1 cup Fine Cornmeal

½ c Shortening

½ c Margarine or Butter (if latter, probably Chilled)

3 Tb Baking Powder

2 Tb Sugar

¼ tsp Salt

1 Egg, Beaten

½ c Milk

            A very simple (in mixing at least) recipe, we start with combining not just the Dry ingredients, but the Fats as well.

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            Yeah, that’s a pretty big pile of stuff. I of course can never understand the use of margarine, so I went for butter instead. Then again, as you’ll see later… I ended up with quite a few issues for my final product, and that could have been the cause of part of it. So if you choose to use butter as I did, don’t leave it out to soften, work that baby in chilled.

            Now, very important, really need to use that Fine Cornmeal. If one can’t find it, or already has the regular kind and is too lazy to shop for the special style (like me!!), we do have options. I myself took out my handy-dandy Coffee Grinder-turned-Spice Powderer (didn’t want to use “grinder” twice… and I like making up words).

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            We of course start out with regular cornmeal.

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            After a few long seconds of pulsing (in small batches of course), we get a nice yellowy powder. Probably not as small as flour, but for “fine cornmeal” it should do. If mixing soon after, this is probably when we’d turn the oven to 350F.

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            Anyways, back to that actual mix. Once things are getting sorta together, start adding in that milk and egg. The recipe says “knead until smooth and ‘not sticky,” however mine wasn’t actually sticky to begin with, which lead me to only briefly knead it. If this happens to you, ignore it, as I’m pretty sure it’s what mainly f#$%ed up my final product: it was quite literally the texture of compressed cornmeal. Though it’s possible I may have overkneaded, I’m guessing what I really needed was a lot more gluten development for my bad boy. So don’t be afraid, don’t be doubtful, move that mass to the counter and started pushing and rolling that fella until it feels like DOUGH (get some flour down if it’s sticky); really the best advice for any bread making.

            As with any decent dough, gotta let it rest after those glutens get developed, so a 15-minute break (covered with plastic or a towel) is due. Once done, shape into a ball, or whatever shape one desired (should probably stay away from pretzel though…), and “press into rounded loaf 2 inches thick on a baking pan/sheet.”

            Again, I get to a point which screwed me over. Though my underkneading was sure to be a big contributor, it took at least twice as long (after cutting it in fourth partway through) to bake just so it wasn’t “doughy.” Seriously, at least on your first batch, press this down to 1in, maybe a little higher if you really want.

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            Score the top or prick with a fork, and bake in that 350 for 30 minutes. Now, the recipe says “turn over” after 15 minutes, and I’m pretty sure that just means turn the pan 180, like with cookies. Maybe it means actually flip the dough over, like one was cooking it in a griddle, though it doesn’t feel right here…

            Alternatively, when mixed right, I’m sure one could easily break this fella into small little balls and press into a hot, well-seasoned griddle. Bet they’d cook up pretty similarly to Indian Frybread.

            Serve right out of the oven, spread with butter and whatever jams are handy! (Slathered in this case; though heck, with jam it didn’t taste that bad… just gotta try and do things differently next time)

            Of course, this wouldn’t be Street Food Corner if I didn’t make a sandwich or something out of this. Good thing I had some leftover Jerked Chicken!

            Actually making the Chicken was pretty simple, it’s just understanding the base ingredients to use in the mix. I myself don’t have a set recipe for this, but as long as one knows what to use they should be able to blend a nice marinade.

Required Ingredients:

Allspice, ground – the main spice component

Thyme – main herb

Lime juice + Zest – fresh, Caribbean flavor

Vinegar (Red, White, Malt, or Apple dependant) – nice acid component

Scotch Bonnets – main SPICY component

Need at LEAST 2, only use 1 for SMALL batches, I could barely get any in my final dish

Garlic + Green/Spring Onions – main Aromatics

Secondary Ingredients (ones often used in conjunction, but not always needed):

Brown Sugar + Honey – sweetness to counter the spice and vinegar – also glazes well

Nutmeg, Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger (ground or fresh)

Onions, Chives

Worcestshire

Optional Ingredients:

Rum + Bitters

Orange juice/zest

Soy Sauce

Other Herbs and Spices

Other peppers (Jalapeno, Serrano, etc)

            Choose your weapons, place it in the blender and pulse away until smooth! Adjust for flavor as needed, and make sure there’s enough liquid to get all the chunky components (usually use a lot of onions) into a paste. I myself decided to give a hard sear and blackening to all my veggies beforehand for extra flavor. Once blended, it looked like this:

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            Broke down my (nice and organic) chicken, tossed it all in a bag with extra herbs and veggies, and mixed with my Jerk for overnight.

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            Hot charcoal grill to finish it off; starting in the hot spots to get that blackened grill, off to the warm spot to cook all the way through. We certainly enjoyed it all right afterwards for dinner, and I enjoyed it again on top of that johnnycake with a little mayo and jam (works really nice with spicy components).

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            Now, just have to learn to make it properly next time…

Let’s Eat (1 Meal)

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(No Links that I know of. If anyone can find something, please inform me)

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            I’ve found that, among the troves of mobile catering options on our Minnesota Streets, after a while one is actually able to separate different kinds of Trucks into “groups,” of sorts. There are the “Event Trucks” I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the “Food Trucks” which I base my reviews around (the downtown, big event, new-culture-driven operations that bring those forms of “wonder” to us customers when we visit), and then there are what I call the “Soul Cater Trucks.” You’ve seen these around I’m sure; whenever one goes to a big/special block party, or a city-wide event, and there are those white tents wafting in the smoke of giant black grills, serving up things in big styrofoam boxes. Next to these one will invariably find at least one simply-adorned Truck, serving either Wraps or Caribbean food or Ribs or something. None of it “special,” none of it “gastro,” but all of it purely based on that simple, soul-filled Food that just fills us with warmth (well, that’s the idea anyway).

            Aaaaallllll these people and operations, the mobile and non, are generally ignored by myself for Blog purposes. As a whole different category and world unto itself, of which one only sees on the occasional basis (vs the almost every-day Food Trucks). However, with its recent decent on the Downtown Streets, Let’s Eat “1 Meal” (don’t know if it’s part of name or something else… weird light bulb sticker logo) has officially pushed itself into this growing realm, and I feel no less than obligated to visit and review them completely.

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            With a menu controlled by the smaller mobile quarters, options run a bit of the gambit of the “Soul Truck” offerings, sticking away from a few of the larger dishes like Ribs. That said, one can find options like Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Philly Sliders, Blackened Tilapia Tacos, Buffalo Shrimp Wraps, Jerk Wings, and… well, I guess there IS a Rib dish, only it’s made from a Turkey’s (anyone else a bit confuzzled? Don’t worry, I explain later).

            All of this comes with a side of Sweet Potato Fries, just what one would expect from any soul-based caterer. Now all I need is a nice, big glass of Caribbean Lemonade (made with a bit of Pineapple; get a cup at the next State Fair in the Global Area, it’s awesome!) and I’m good.

 

Food: 6

             Overall, not too exciting of a visit. The Pulled Pork is… basic. It’s not bad, the pork is tender and the Sauce is the expected BBQ Tangy, but there really isn’t anything to differentiate it between the sandwiches one can find at any given, decent restaurant. Bun is plain, untoasted, which is expected for a “BBQ Catering” Truck’s style such as this, so it’s alright. Oh, and the actual sammies are pretty small; not like a slider, but for getting a single thing of cheap Pork, one expects more. (Sorry for no picture, I could have sworn I took one but… poof)

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            Now, the “Turkey Ribs.” They are… exactly what it says they are; they’ve actually taken the ribs from the Turkey, along with a big chunk of meat attached to it (I’m wondering if it’s bulk is from the Breast Meat). Smoked, slightly grilled, and sprinkled with their BBQ sauce, and one has a White(er) Meat version of a classic. As for the outcome, one is able to get a little bit of that smoke, not to mention a visual of that distinctively pink tinge from the Smoking. Sadly, though the thin areas right around the bone are nice, tender and flavorful, the giant chunk of white flesh attached betrays the obvious over-cooking of this piece of meat. It’s not the teeth-munching horror of past Thanksgivings, but one can clearly see the ½-1 hour in which it went over.

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            Most disappointingly, the one item we expect the utmost skill in the Southern-based culinary culture probably came through the worst. The Sweet Potato Fries were soft, limp, and at times seemingly close to being slightly raw. The possibility of a bad batch is of course there, but if I got them than logically someone else would have.

Holdability: 6.5

          They’ve made some pretty smart menu choices, at least in the entrée, with each item being something that one can quite easily pick up by hand (the “ribs” didn’t have too much sauce on, so it wasn’t even that sticky). However, as they almost automatically serve each item with those Fries,  everything comes in those big, clunky Styrofoam boxes, forcing us to either take it someplace or hope we have complete reign of both hands as we walk. Getting it without Fries one might hope to save the situation a bit, but then they immediately replace it with this big pile of salad that then requires a fork.

Price: 6.5

              With the fries, it’s all about $8-$9 across the board, with bigger prices for occasional “Specials” (like a really BIG Pulled Pork). THANKFULLY, one is able to get the food without Fries for $2 less, though you DO have to ask for it special, otherwise I was fixing to be really annoyed with a possible forced-menu-requirement.

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            I do want to say though, even with the option of no-fries, I’m a little upset with the price charged for their Pulled Pork. Not only was it lackluster in anything, it was barely twice the size of a slider, and ultimately just not worth the price they charge (among Food Truck items at least).

Speed: 7.5

             Average.

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The TOE: 4

              Being of that particular cut, this Soul Truck turned to the Downtown has yet to truly develop any of those qualities that epitomize our area Food Trucks. Viewing the action even from up close, it’s hard not to think one is simply at one of those BBQ Catering tables that’s just serving different options.

                        Tally: 30.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Not quite sure where this truck officially stands in the line-up, one may simply have to decide when it’s right for themselves to go there.

            For now, ignore the Fries; it’s more affordable without them, and I just don’t see them worth the extra $2 anyways (if Fries is your desire, so many other Trucks that do them better). With the quality derived from the 2 items I got, it’s hard to consider which items might stand above. If I were to go back again, though, the Tilapia Tacos and Jerk Chicken Wings would be the top on my list. The Former easily more portable and the later highly representing of their style (and difficult to screw up Wings!).

            The Turkey Ribs are fun for the adventurous, just have to hope it doesn’t end up dry. Either that or slather it in more of their sauce.

Tiki Tim’s

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https://www.facebook.com/TikiTimsMN

https://twitter.com/TikiTims_MN

Main Location: St. Paul, Etc

            Yay! The first post where I’ve been able to take and use my own pictures! I feel so happy and thrilled, no more reliance on Google Images for picture-perfect, news article-used images! Out-of-focus, weird-angled, purely amateurish shots are now the only ones good enough for this Blog! Just take a look at this one!

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            And that one.

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            And this one!

            AND THAT ONE!!

            … I just realized I didn’t actually take enough pictures to really fit that amusing “point and look” exercise I just tried to accomplish. Should probably just get rid of it all-together… but I do like being lazy…

            Anyway, back to the truck.

            My first exploit of the year into Trucks I haven’t yet tried, I took a drive South of St. Paul to the Summit Brewery Taproom. A fun note for Food Truck seekers, every Friday they open the taproom and have a Truck parked outside. The schedule is posted up ahead of time on their site. One gets their order, sits down inside and grab a pint or flight of beer. A fun little activity for a small group to enjoy.

            Tiki Tim’s is a big, steel-blue (or is it electric blue?) tiny mobile home-turned Island-based food depository. The menu is held up by three main items: Fish Tacos; Island-style Pulled Pork with Pineapple Coleslaw; and “Tiki Cakes,” crab cakes with shrimp, veggies, and jalapeno.

            Besides these, one can also find a couple interesting sides, such as the now bar-staple Fried Pickles. Sweet-potato Miso Soup will keep you warm in the cold winter, standing opposite to their cold macaroni-potato salad.

            I gratefully grabbed my order, a “combo plate” of Taco and Cake with a side of the mayonnaise-based salad, grabbed a Saga IPA, sat down and enjoyed. No reason to try and pick apart the Summit, they always make a pretty good beer. For those looking to enjoy, hoppy styles such as the IPA certainly proved themselves great with the slightly spicy foods of the island. Certainly can’t wait to visit again; seems Cajun 2 Geaux will be visiting in about a month…

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Food: 9

            I’m going to start my high point on something that’s usually a low. Tacos here are wrapped in Flour Tortillas, not masa, and only given a single tortilla per. Normally, this would emit a lower score for Taco trucks, but this TRULY shows no connection to any real Latin twists or flavors. It is exactly how they might form a taco on an island. Plus, on an even tastier note, the tortillas are grilled to slight crispiness before wrapping. A nice way of getting in that extra dimension of experience.

           The white fish used is very flavorful, as is the crunchy batter they used to fry it. I am happy to say that, after my first experience of OVERWHELMING Cabbage and Veggies to tiny Fish, they have subsequently fixed the ratio to a properly-proportioned Taco. With the tangy flavored cream sauce, crunchy fish, and zippy slaw, this easily comes in as one of the best Tacos in our Truck Lineup.

           When getting the little patty of crab and shrimp, I was first reminded of the panko crust of an eggplant that I had deep fried for way too long, and left myself to anticipate the worst.

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           My thoughts were happily disproven.

           The inside is so refreshingly moist, fresh, and flavorful. Vegetables and herbs adding great notes of island aroma. Despite its appearance, the crust is thin, light, and offers that perfect texture in contrast to the soft inside. Best part, of course, to this and any other crab cake, is the lack of “filler” flavors, such as supplied by breadcrumbs.

           Sauces are all very creamy and flavorful, with a nice zippyness from any garlic or spices used. This is just as true in the Mayonnaise dressing for their cold salad. Let me just say, for those still holding doubts based on old deli-style potato or pasta salads, this is one you should try. The macaroni and potatoes are toothsome but soft, peppers and veggies add a nice little texture without any harsh flavors (for once they don’t just cram the entire thing with raw onions, uck). The dressing brings in that nice little refined creaminess that makes a GOOD potato/pasta salad.

           Spice delivered via dressings is more of the “Gentle warmth,” building a little bit over time without taking over the palette. These are not the aggressive, spiking shoots of pure burning that the pain seekers seem to enjoy.

Holdability: 6

          Tacos, as mentioned are pretty well stuffed, and only use a single taco,. The many vegetables actually stay in pretty well. It thus is less of an “overflow” dish and more of a simple “messiness,” with the thick garlic cream wanting to ooze out the most. Pork Sandwich is a two-handed thing, and sides come in their own, making any order of Main + side (which is hard not to get) drawing one to a sit-down situation of some sort.

         Tiki Cakes are just presented as crab-cakes, no bun for holding, so one is given a fork. I just ate it with my hands anyway, they actually hold up very well. Though, I still think they need to make some sort of “mini-burger” out of them, would it not just be a fantastic Street Menu Item? I’d almost consider it a Toe Ring of some sort.

Price: 7.5

         $7, $8, and $10 respectively for different menu items, with two of the sides costing $4. The side of Salad is only $2, and automatically comes with an order of Tiki Cakes (probably why they charge $10 for it).

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         They offer a really great deal for Foodies though; a “Combo Plate” that holds one Taco and Cake allows one to have a taste of two main items while only spending $8. Sides can of course increase this.

Speed: 8

         Average, simple.

The TOE: 7

        Carrying a fun name and Truck design, Tiki really brings that feeling of the unique, specific food category of their choosing. Though I would not extend that to the food; very tasty, I do feel that their STYLE is… “reserved,” not exactly hitting the true island feel that they are trying to develop. I would say it’s similar to going to a Tex-Mex restaurant on the border; very good food, carries those flavors, but not actually at Mexican.

        I really wish that they would turn the Tiki Cakes into a sandwich!! They have such potential to stand out as a popular Street Food in the city; all it needs is bread and some light slaw.

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                      Tally: 37.5/50

Final Thoughts

         Better for those who can take their times to enjoy a more complete Lunch/meal from a Truck, with some place to rest down and enjoy. Though walkers can still get a plate of just Fish Tacos for roaming the city and be happy. I DEFINITELY suggest first timers go straight for the Combo Plate as a way to try two dishes. Potato-Mac Salad is a must get on the side, simply due to the very few times one can actually find a quality cold, mayonnaise-based salad such as this.

         Don’t get the Pulled Pork until they’ve made some improvements (see my experience of it Here). I, myself, don’t see any reason to get the fried pickles, as they can be found so often these days. The soup would be a good quick-buy when out on a cold day, needing something to warm you up without spending too much.