Red Smoker BBQ (Quasi-Review)

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                With quite the off and on schedule, Red Smoker BBQ makes its entry into my new list of “quasi-review” trucks mainly due to two little facts. First, I just can’t find ANY sort of website, twitter, facebook, you name it, concerning their business. And Second, as far as the past couple years have been considered, their presence in the Downtown area has been quite minimalistic and unpredictable; maybe a few days a month at best. Though it seems they’ve started appearing more often this year (or at least past month or so… maybe a slow catering schedule?), so I thought it about time they got the review they deserved, if only partial.

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                Serving from their little red back wagon (or whatever they’re called), sometimes decorated with a tiny awning (so cute!), the name of the game is, as one would expect, BBQ. Though this seems to only take the form of slow cooked and Pulled Pork and Chicken, used in Sandwiches or put into Chili (veggie if gotten w/out). A couple years ago, I think they may have had more things on the menu, they’ve kept the Brat, but now just the pulled stuff, served in multiple ways and sizes. They seem to have added a Pulled Meat Taco to better fit into the burgeoning Food Truck Scene.

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                I had the Pulled Pork about a year ago, which I remember enjoying very well. My recent visit I thought I’d try the Chicken; went with a cheaper alternative to the sandwich, getting two small “sliders,” though they didn’t serve with any slaw. The buns are untoasted, which is generally fine for Pulled Meat sandwiches I believe, though it felt a bit “thick”… coulda used more meat, haha. The chicken itself was fine, not bad but not something I would rave about. I think the full Sandwich with Slaw and such would tie everything together better. The Chili looks like it would be pretty good too, for those looking for a Hearty Soup on the street (or something similar).

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                Well, here’s a simple run-through of possible score.

                Food: 6-7

                Holdability: 7.5 – Sandwiches served in basket and cups of soup, not too bad

                Price: 8 – Good little range, $6-$8 mainly with some cheaper Veggie soups

                Speed: 9 – No cooking to order, just piling sandwiches together and such

                Toe: 5-6 – It’s a pretty fun little wagon, actually, potential for a nice “experience,” though the BBQ is ultimately basic, very little on the menu to actually “excite.”

                It’ll be interesting to see if they keep this up the rest of this season, and the next too when it rolls around; and if so, hopefully they’ll pull a website up.

A La Plancha

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https://www.facebook.com/alaplanchatc  

https://twitter.com/aLaPlanchaMPLS  

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            Spanish cuisine isn’t something our Trucks have hit on too much; general Latin certainly, and an obvious influence of Mexican flavors and wrappings through the street-food regular tacos. True, traditional Spanish cuisine, on the other hand, is still rarely ever touched on this sense, despite the obviously popular Tapas trend in various restaurants.

            A La Plancha hopes to fix that; starting out in Catering, Plancha has opened this year as our first Tapa-based Food Truck. Big and red, with a Mexican Wrestler (or “Luchador”) Poster festooned on just about every side, along with a whole line of “tapas.”

            Though the actual options are highly seasonal, there ARE many solid standbys to be seen. They hold two large sandwiches, a Cecina (seared beef and pimento) and Cubano, the latter also coming in Slider form at times. A set Gazpacho is often seen, along with Guacamole and tortillas of course. Various other tapas can and often include Croquettes, some form/s of Salad, Potatoes Brava (fried/sautéed with paprika), Empanadas, and some sort of “Tortilla,” which is actually very much like a very fluffy, thick omelette or frittata (traditionally with potatoes).  All of these being very traditional or close to traditional style and options, giving customers a comfortable way to ease into the new Truck cuisine.

            Hard to figure out where to start with all of this, but I think my first trip went well enough.

 

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Food: 8

             A Cubano marked my first meal at this Truck of Tiny Tapas (alliterations galore, yay!), yielding and interesting exploration to this pressed pickle, pork, and swiss delight.

             Placing between a Ciabatta (or ciabatta-like) bun, no toasting is done on the inside, I mean it’s a cubano, there shouldn’t be; instead pressing  to crisp the outside, bringing a nice, complete texture out of the bread (as opposed to the underbaked doughy flavors of certain other Trucks). However, they have yet to achieve anything near to the full squished, almost Panini-like press of many successful, traditional cubanos (I might actually suggest they think about getting a few machines, or change the bread to better press). Which is probably why the Swiss has only the lightest of melt on it, lacking much of that “goo” factor we look for in any griddled sandwich with cheese. As for the pork aspect; the Ham tastes nice, as does the actual Pulled Pork, but the latter is noticeably lacking in moisture and any “wow” elements.

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             The star of the show comes in the Pickles, which are of course housemade (and kept in various jars throughout the kitchen). Completely PILED onto the top bun, their tangy, sharp vinegar bouncing off the acidic and intense seeded mustard on the bottom, cutting through and lifting the meat and cheese in their crunchy texture and rich flavors. Ultimately, though it’s not too impressive compared to the “true” cubanos, as an actual sandwich it all comes together very tasty.

             This was served with a side of tortilla chips; fried themselves from Masa tortillas (I can tell). If one has the craving for this particular Truck lunch, and/or has a few extra bucks, and/or is smart, you’ll get a side of their Guacamole. I haven’t actually tried it myself, but the one behind the register (the owner?) gave me a peak at what it looked like.

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            Mmmmmm, that is some sexy, chunky guacamole. I’m not one for all the mixings of tomatoes and onions, but even that looks good to me; keeping it minimal, fresh and rich. That would be a good guac I’m sure.

            And finally, they were kind enough to be handing out little sample containers of their Gazpacho to various people who enquired about it. Tomato based, they blend theirs with Honeydew and Peppadew; the tomato brought in richness and acid, the melon gave that fun little pureed-fleshy texture, and the pepper some zing and an extra note, not to mention the other little spices and such they added. A really tasty cold soup.

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Holdability: 8

             Highly dependent on what one gets. First off, I’d say the sandwiches are actually pretty darn easy to hold in one hand (with the basket under the other); sorta like Brava’s Lamb. Soup seems pretty simple, not sure what kinda container they use for the bigger guys, but could probably just drink it down like a smoothie. Most other items are sure to be similar two-handed, though things like Potatoes Bravas and various other seasonal possibilities may lead to things which need to sit down or stand still to consume comfortably.

Price: 8.5

              Bigger, sandwich entrée-like items hang around the $8-9.50 range, with cheaper eats like quac and gazpacho at $3-ish. I’m unsure of the various other seasonal items, though I don’t think it’d be too much of a stretch to envision other items around the $3 with things like empanadas or tortillas between the two extremes. Dependant on when one gets there, can possibly load up with a bunch of fun little fellas.

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Speed: 8.5

             Once again, depends on the item; soup and guac are instantaneous of course, I assume fried items like croquettes are a little faster than average, and sandwiches and others come in at average waiting periods.

The TOE: 8

             Not too much I think I can say at this point; they’re definitely on their way, they have a fun little truck with a new idea in our mobile scene. When going in those times which they have a fuller tapas menu, I think one can enter into quite the interesting experience, especially during special events and Food Truck Days. And it doesn’t hurt they have a big, colorful Luchador decorating the sides.

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                           Tally: 41/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Certainly an interesting truck compared to others. Definitely a great stop for multi-truck snackings or if one wants to grab multiple items for cheap. Though it’s not too bad a place for the larger, sandwich-based lunches.

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            If you’re a stickler for a very traditional quality Cubano, this probably isn’t the one for you; though it’s still a good sandwich item in general, especially for pickle and mustard lovers. For those who love getting the Guac and Tortilla sides and various Trucks, I think this is the place for you; get your rear out of Hola’s line and grab this nice, chunky dip of goodness.

            And of course where is a suggestion here without the various small items? Definitely go for the Croquettes once they start frying, not to mention the Tortillas. Empanadas I’m unsure of, not having tried them yet… if the price is low enough, certainly give them a shot, though if you’re craving a meal of them and Midnord is out I wouldn’t put my money and risk on a place that only makes one.

            Don’t forget the Gazpacho when the day is hot; who needs soda when one can get a good cup of cold soup?

Gai Gai Thai

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www.facebook.com/gaigaithai

https://twitter.com/gaigaithai

Main Location: Markets, Etc

            I should say this flat out and get it out of the way; as far as I know, Gai Gai Thai doesn’t have a food truck. Normally, that qualification alone would make me completely disregard any notion of writing a review on them for my blog. However, reading through their page, visiting them, I have such respect and pride for what it is they do, that I just can’t bring myself to not share them with those who don’t yet know.

            GGT is, as one would imagine, a Thai and Asian-flavor based Market Stand that focuses on using local farm produce in their dishes. Their menu items change very often, depending on what’s available, and most likely, their mood, which makes it very fun to come back to. Dishes themselves don’t even present themselves as street food; these are things that one would usually expect to find in a restaurant setting. Bowls, rice dishes, salad with fried polenta sticks, you name it.

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            Breakfast/Brunch items seem to be a favorite for them, going along with the Asian coffee they crank out. The one time I visited, I had a simple dish of rice, egg, and hot sauce in the morning… I’ll let you know about it in the ratings.

            I’m hoping that more people get a chance to try them, because they do such a wonderful job with the small, comforting home-like dishes that they create.

Food: 9

           As I mentioned, the food here is like something one might find in a restaurant, and the flavor is the same indication. The dish of  rice and eggs I got at the time only comprised three ingredients (plus seasoning), yet I couldn’t get enough of it. It was so good; if anyone has ever had that PERFECT, properly done fried rice, you know what I’m talking about.

           I’ve only had that single item, and their menu comprises a variety of much different things, so I can’t fully score them. But if that rice dish is an indication, I don’t think one has to worry about what they order.

Holdability: 4

           Again, restaurant food, not street food. These are bowls, noodle dishes, salads, etc. They are made in a way where it is not difficult to eat them even while walking, but points are still going to be shaved off.

Price: 6

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            Reflecting the local produce, these are higher priced menu items; even my simple rice and eggs wasn’t that friendly on me. But it’s good, and most definitely worth it if you have the cash.

Speed: 6

            It takes a while longer to prepare food like this. That’s something one can’t get around. I myself had to wait a little longer than usual because the person cooking accidentally goofed up the egg and had to start over. But, at the same time that’s an admiral quality in someone cooking your food; they take the time to make it right. I was so happy for that. I certainly wasn’t impatient at all, and was rewarded.

The TOE: 5

            Again, this isn’t an actual food truck, and as such there are certain little things which are missing because of it. Keeping to local products, however, and that striving to make these very flavorful items filled with their love is still part of that Street Food Culture. It earns a lot of my respect and admiration.

               Tally: 30/50

Final Thoughts

            I’m not sure if this is one I would “seek out” just to get this, because you really would just be getting this. However, if you decide to go to one of the Farmer’s Markets where they happen to be located and are looking for something to eat, certainly stop by and order an item. They make a great breakfast, give good coffee, and are a good local business to support.

            The final score may be lower than a lot others that I post on here, but I still think they are a must-try for when you’re relaxing from chasing Food Trucks.