MoonDog

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https://www.facebook.com/MoondogFancyMeats

Main Location: St Paul, Farmers Markets, Lift Bridge/Alternative Breweries

Either I completely forgot about this guy, or I hadn’t heard about him at all until I saw info on a Food Truck Rally for the U of M’s ‘Bee Research Facility’ (or whatever it was) opening party this past Monday! I wanna say I forgot, simply to give myself at least SOME credit that I had paid attention to his existence for at least one point in time… anything to make myself look better…

Either way, I got to stop over and officially visit Moondog for a long-awaited visit, as the guy normally trucks his shiny metal specialty Hot Dog Cart out to the more out-of-the-way Breweries like Lift Bridge and Hammer Heart, amongst many other locations not normally so close to my Twin Cities stomping grounds. I feel I should also say that I was heavily debating just doing a Quasi-Review for this, small dog cart where most of the stuff speaks for itself; but if Natedog gets a full review than so does this guy! I show no favoritism, except when I’m biased! (Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right…)

And this little silver box on wheels has some interesting facts unto itself. Firstly the fact that 10% of all sales goes to the 2nd Harvest Heartland charity.

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Though they aren’t handmade by the food slinger himself, all Hot Dogs and Brats ARE produced locally by Big Steer Meats in St Paul. They use All-Natural, Grass-Fed, Hormone + Antibiotic Free meats, all of which are Smoked for cooking/curing purposes; the tastiest form of preservation (don’t tell Gravlax I said that, she’s still bitchy I haven’t called her in forever). The specific wurst selection is sometimes changing, for instance I overheard him mentioning having a Jalapeno-Pepperjack brat on that day, they usually keep a staple selection of: Hot Dog, Pork Bratwurst, Beef Bratwurst, and Bison (+ a bit of pork) Bratwurst. These are then topped with choice of classic fixings; you know, onion, hot peppers, relish, kraut, ketchup, regular+brown mustard, with an option of sriachi for the hipsters (and yes I debated it… while wearing a fedora… you shush), none of which I’m sure is made by himself besides the diced onions, but what hot dog vendor does one expect them to be?

AND of course there’s the typical options of bags-o-chips and cans-o-soda for sides + refreshment, all standard, though at least the chips are semi-interesting and not just Ruffles or Lays. I think I’ve run out of things to say now, I feel I had SOME thoughts on the philosophical side of mixed spiced meat, the nirvana of casing and excitement for local food carts… but who wants to read about that?

Food: 9

                Best parts of a Dog and Wurst are a good snap, which they have, and a tasty interior, which they also have. The hot dogs used aren’t of the same purely-pink, emulsified mold as we’re most familiar with; not that there’s anything wrong with that when it’s done well. Instead it’s blended with other spices and goodies, reminiscent of a seasoned Italian pork sausage, giving a more personality-focused wiener to which to enjoy our toppings; of which I chose the giardanera-like hot peppers.
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Sauerkraut and brown mustard topped my Bison Bratwurst, since I’m always a fan of the Germanic classics. Again the flavors were good, the wurst didn’t quite wow me as MUCH as I wanted to, was hoping for that deeper, denser Bison/Beefy flavor; there felt a ‘thinness’ to the flavor, almost like a good drink that’s had one extra ice cube added, and I myself would have heavily enjoyed some added seasoning in which case to bolster.

Holdability: 10

               What can I say? There’s a REASON hot dogs are classic street food.

Price: 8.5

                This is why I partially wish I started this blog at the same time as the trucks came out; go back to an old post to compare menu prices for scoring, and it was of course in the time where I wasn’t taking damn pictures cuz I had nothing to take them for! Thank god for Google Images right?

With dogs at $4, Brats at $5, ‘Meals’ (+chips and a soda) $1 extra, and ‘2 Dog/Brat Meals’ basically just double the price of a single wiener in each category, the costs are a buck or two higher than competition and local sausage god Natedogs, a guy who makes his own amazing condiments mind you. The meal deals are better priced, in fact cheaper, but then again they don’t have the specialty sodas. Apologies for doing this via comparison, btw, but in this situation it’s a very effective and direct measure. Oh, and obviously prices are still rather awesome for street food as-it-is; especially when one of the items can be made from Bison.

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Speed: 10

Technically it takes like half a minute if getting toppings and/or multiple dogs, something I would normally bop down to like a 9.5, but that IS up to us; one can have instantaneous if needed.

The TOE: 8

                Normal hot dog stands have a hard time excelling in a section like this I’d imagine, there’s too much of that ‘mass production/see-it-everywhere’ feel. Having your own and outfitting it with a unique name and your select sausages from a local place, however? That does pretty damn well, especially when you clearly communicate through signage and personality how special and awesome these products are, which Moondog does. In my opinion I think it’d be nice if the cart itself got some extra decoration/paintjob, and if one went the extra step to get some unique and special, ideally homemade, toppings in addition to the dogs themselves. Little things like that round it down from something purely distinctive and experienced down a few pegs, but it still stands out strong as an independent cart, there’s no way I’d mistake any memory for that of the often-boring ‘vienna wiener’ carts.

Tally: 45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Wanting something portable? Want it at a good price? Want a classic piece of Americana street food? Want it to satisfy your soul a little? Want to not have to wait for it? Well it sounds like you want a hot dog or bratwurst. And if you’re at a brewery or event that Moondog happens to be at, a visit there will fit any of these qualifications; not that anyone has needed an excuse to buy a hot dog, from what I’ve seen. Do I need to even promote something like this?

I’d say the main interest for me would come in seeing what different Bratwurst selection he’s got for the day, getting something interesting and special in that category, or just enjoying the classic but unique Hot Dog. But at the end of the day, everyone has solidly developed their own preferences on what kind of sausage and toppings they get at carts like these, so I’ll leave the final decision to you, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Food Trucks Giving Back Article

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A recent article on M&R Trailer’s Blog site discusses a few of the food trucks that have taken part in charity work, in honor of the time of year, and I thought it’d be nice to share the link. It features a few trucks located in or near Florida, like Manna From Heaven, a Vietnamese truck who set aside part of their profits for homeless meals. The post also includes interviews with a non-profit bakery called All Things Sweet, an old member of a charity truck group called ‘Food Trucks for Families’ named Sweet City Gelato, a business that seeks out as many charity-benefitting catering jobs they can to offer their HipPOPS to, and American Disaster Relief’s own Tamale Truck.

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It’s always great seeing people take the time to support local causes, certainly hope for all the best luck and support to them that I can.

Harriet Battle Roy-ally

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http://www.youthlinkmn.org/food-truck-battle/

So apparently Harriet Brewing is hosting a full-on Food Truck Battle on the Saturday of September 13th… and I’m gonna be working during it! Ohhhhhh the humanities!

For those like me who haven’t heard about it yet, Youthlink’s First Ever (indicating possibly more events year to year) ‘Gilded Spatula’, with a portion of the profit going to help homeless youth. The battle itself start at Noon and goes ’til Three, with each of the 8 trucks making a completely New Entrée dish, never seen before, to be judged by a panel. Entry fee during this time frame is $45, which not only allows one to watch the proceedings but to also sample each and every contestants’ food yourself along with two, count them, two of Harriet’s Beers to keep yourself amused while waiting.

Of course, if you don’t mind not being there when the judgment is called, not being able to sample the creations, or waiting a little longer in the day to start, these mobile contestants will be sticking around the parking lot until 7pm for a Free-to-Enter Rally after the show. Bands and music will of course be playing all day as-is Harriet’s custom, and beer will now need to be purchased, but it’s all gonna be a grand ole’ time like usual.

Competing Trucks will be: Cupcake Social, Big Brother Almighty BBQ, Brava on Wheels, Cave Café, GastroTruck, Gogi Brothers, Scratch Food (I’m laying my bets on them, GOOO Scratch! -holds up foam finger-), and Tru Pizza.

Tickets can be purchased Here, along with extra donations if you’re able.

Finnegan’s Reverse Food (Drive) Truck

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In 11 days, the non-profit local beer company “Finnegans” is launching a great new idea in Food Drives with their “Reverse” Food Truck, which The Current recently wrote a great article about after sitting down with CEO Jacquie Bergland. Read and listen to it Here: http://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2014/02/27/interview-with-finnegans-jacquie-berglund-reverse-food-truck

It may not exactly fit the mold of something I can review, but still I hope for the chance to be able to make it out to one of their stops in the upcoming months. Definitely am wishing them all good luck in this venture, and happy hunting for all those others looking to help!

1st Annual Great MN Food Truck Rally!

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http://mnfoodtruckassociation.org/events/

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/07/1st_annual_mn_food_truck_rally.php

http://www.harrietbrewing.com/event/the-1st-annual-great-minnesota-food-truck-rally/  

            We’ve all felt it at least once in the past two years; that aching sense of disappointment garnered by the poorly planned, clusterf@#% of the giant Food Truck events. Though it seems some of us have finally had just about enough of sitting around being sad and moved to actually stand up and show what these events could be!

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            That’s right, I’m talking about the very first event of the Great MN Food Truck Rally, set up and organized by our own MN Food Truck Association as a new annual phenomena. Though of course it’s not just annually; described as a “series” of Food Truck Rallies throughout the Twin Cities Metro, it sounds like we can expect more than just the one special gathering in the coming month… you know, so long as they aren’t just putting us on (like that one girl in my chemistry class… -cough-).

            The First and only-listed actual event will be held exactly 7 days from now (… July 27th… a Saturday) from Noon to 10pm (with some/all Trucks supposedly starting service at 2? At least that’s what it says on Harriet’s site) over with their friends and partners at Harriet Brewing! Really turning this into a dual event, this beginning rally will really stand as a showcase to that amazing symbiotic relationship our Trucks and Breweries have created and expanded upon. With food serving, beer pouring and music blasting (oh yes, there SHALL be bands… I mean it’s Harriet after all), each Truck has then set out to highlight/create one special dish to specifically pair well with one of Harriet’s Brews! So if you’re having trouble deciding what to eat, or drink, just see which option/s match your Food or Beer (whichever you grabbed first).

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            Oh, and of course it’s Free to Attend (just need to verify age for a Drinking-wristband); though the Food and Beer are a different story. So don’t be afraid to spend extra money on amazingly delicious drink and dishes, especially since part of the proceeds will be Donated to the Second Harvest Heartland charity.

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            The attending 12 trucks will be: AZ Canteen, R.A. Mac Sammies (god, I haven’t seen them in a while), Midnord Empanada, Potter’s Pasties, Bloomy’s Roast Beef, Lulu’s Street Food, House of Hunger, Gogi Bros., Brava on Wheels, Moral Omnivore, Hot Indian Foods, and A La Plancha (who I am VERY much looking forward to visiting for a review!). A very large and very impressive lineup, one can’t help but feel a bit excited just in seeing who’s there!

            However, this does lead me to my one worry about the event. Anyone who’s familiar with both past-truck-fair experiences and/or the brewery seen has probably caught onto it already, but… Harriet’s not that big of a place. Sure it’s not a small brewery by any means, they even got their own little patio thing set up, but as far as Events go they still come a little under Indeed and 612 as far as space goes. With most of the Trucks, I’m assuming, lining the Street NEXT to Harriet, they may be able to better spread things out, leaving any of the “cluster” for the actual brewery… but there’s still much potential for bad shit going down.

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            And don’t get me started on traffic and parking! I think I heard something about a second lot available for use, but even then I’m still scared to think about how I’ll have to get down there and park…

            But either way, I’ll be there! I’ve got a Truck to review, and I missed the last Fair, so I’m obligated to at least report on this one! And of course I shall do my best to try and keep updated on any of the other upcoming Rallies for us all.

            Until then, Good Luck, Good Eating, and I’ll see you at the Rally!

The Moral Omnivore

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http://www.themoralomnivore.com/ 

https://twitter.com/Moral_Omnivore

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Opening right at the beginning of the 2013 season, Moral Omnivore (MO for short… really, they call it that, I’m not trying to be a smartass here) already stands out from the crowd. Big and green, the contemporary-reminiscent color-scheme and tree-design separates it from the crowd immediately, and only helps to communicate this Truck’s theme. Owned by Philosophy Major Ross, who also works as a restaurant GM, and his wife Linnea (also philosophy graduate), MO’s goal stays pure and simple to a sustainable, organic, and ultimately ETHICAL mission statement (Not surprising with a name reminiscent of a certain Michael Pollan novel).

            Looking at the menu, one might think they’re trying to shove vegetarian and other healthy ideologies down our throats. In reality, these mostly healthy food options only act as a beneficial side effect to their real cause. Options themselves seem to range in a few key styles, the regular focus being their signature Fried Tomato BLT and Beet Sliders (regular or gluten-free buns), followed by a couple Salad options, and some changing items that, ultimately, all stay very well within the “street food” range. On my visit they had an amazing looking “Wellington Burger,” and at times they have a Curried Lentil Taco made with a WAFFLE SHELL! I want that so bad right now!

            On side notes, they also offer a possibility for “Fries” made from Portobellos dipped in batter (I believe they said it was gluten-free… or just organic, but either way good), fried, and seasoned with curry. They also hand-make cookies from an organic recipe; I may not have been in the mood for one at the time, but they do look tasty. A few Minnesotan sodas line the drink options.  

            Along with their Menu choices, MO regular takes part in Food Shelves and other such charities. Holding an “Eat Your Heart Out” day every week, 5% of all proceeds that day goes to Minnesota charities; so don’t be afraid to seem gluttonous if ever catching them at those times.

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            I’m still not done talking about things they do. Besides carting around various options of ethical, delicious food, MO also sells bamboo silverware sets, hand-made tiled blackboards (I think… maybe they’re just for decoration), and I’m guessing various other sustainable items at some point in the future.

            I could probably say more, but I’m starting to get hungry and semi-disappointed in my life choices, so onto the Food section so I can finish and get something to eat.

 

Food: 9.5

                  Lucky for us, much like Tiki Tim’s, MO offers a combo option for a couple of their favorite items. As such I was able to get both the Beet and Fried Tom BLT. Still, I very much wish I could have gotten more, so many of their items looked very interesting and tasty.

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                Each slider comes in a small, fluffy handheld package of joy, the bread very well suited (and TOASTED) to eating these tiny sammiches. As for the fillings, I can safely say they stand up completely. To my surprise, red tomatoes are used in the Fried BLT, vs the traditional green for cooking; still, I found the flavor was nice, and staying closer to the traditional blt, while overall it still held its structure just as well. The bacon must be special, as I can swear it tastes better than others; and considering their motto is “from bacon to beets,” it’d be weird if it wasn’t awesome in some way. My absolute favorite, though, was the Beet, and for one simple reason: Texture. When people cook beets (especially when sliced like that), one of two things usually happens: it’s either undercooked and still firm, or it’s really soft (still tasty and delicious though). While cooked completely, this slice of beet still had a texture that at first made me worry was undercooked, but one’s teeth cuts right through, achieving a perfect “al dente” that just accentuates the false meaty qualities of the Beet. The smoked gruyere was a nice touch on top. As for the various mustard sauces, slaws, etc used on top of their respective, all made very well.

                Salads all look pretty good, with actual effort put into making them, roasted some nice root veggies to act as a base. As for the burger, I have no idea what “buffalo-caramelized onions” are, but I’m damn sure to find out soon… the burger I saw going buy looked quite the epitome of juicy goodness.

                I have slight worries about the mushroom fries, considering the higher water content naturally in the fungus, frying them can be tricky. Though considering the level of the simple vegetable sliders, and a pic I saw of them in Thrillist, I would hold little to no doubts of their capability of delivering.

Holdability: 9

                 Though seeming almost overflowing, the sliders hold the various stuffings surprisingly well. In fact, minus the highly loaded burger, all main items seem to offer easy eating in one form or another. Both hands required due to basket, but again little issue. The real star here though is the salad; placed in a small sphere of plastic, then kept in small pieces, they’ve created an almost perfect way to enjoy these on the go.

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Price: 10

               Great range, $6-$8 for mains, they offer a $7 combo, and an amazing price for a salad option, only $3. With a volume of small-cut , very well prepared veggies and leaf equivalent to a large clenched fist, this equates to one of the better deals in the Truck industry. A cookie is $1.50, and the basket of “fries” is $4.

Speed: 8

                 Simple basic speed, any amount of wait makes sense. Salads are prepared ahead of time and offer immediate satisfaction.

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The TOE: 10

                 With all intents and purposes, this is not a Truck one can even slightly hope to misunderstand, let alone refute, what their mission goals and styles actually are even upon first visit. They state it clearly on the Truck, follow through in the Menu, and add a few extra points just-in-case. One goes here, and they get that clear sense of “place,” that one really is experience something true to its own self.

                Let me say this too; Sassy Spoon could learn a few things from MO. Almost all (hell, it actually is all I think) of their items are already sticking to or similar enough with the “Nutrition/Health Food” style of Sassy’s, only they’ve actually succeeded in transforming them into proper Street Food at reasonable and logical prices. And at the end of the day, they do it simply, without any actual effort, while still sticking true to who they are. Once again, they’ve proven my point on how not difficult this process actually is, and the sort of results it can lead to.

                  I am so proud of and impressed with this upcoming Truck, and truly wish them all the best luck in their future endeavors.

Service: +1

                  Very bright, open to conversation, and highly accommodating (I actually thought their burgers didn’t have any buns at first when I saw one, only to find out it was just a request for that customer, haha). They hold a very warm sense to them, which as one can see is highly communicated among customers (thus the added point).

                       Tally: 47.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Few specific draws, overall a great Foodie truck or for those just getting into the Food Truck Culture. I will definitely say, if you’re looking for a Salad during your lunchtime adventure and need it to-go, this is certainly the place to be. They do them well, in a good lunch-time portion, and at a very good price (probably better than most salads one gets in the skyway… or restaurants).

            When visiting, my suggestion is pure and simple: Beet and Fried Tomato Slider Combo. This is great for those, like me, who rarely visit places often, thus allowing one to try more than one option at once for the same price. Both of these sliders are also highly delicious and worth it. The other option I would stress is that Taco made from a Waffle Shell whenever they have it; it’s quite the fun, interesting menu item, very Foodie-appealing.

            At the end of the day, if ever one starts to raise their curiosity about carbon footprints and looks to places that which it can be reduced, the Moral Omnivore is certainly a place to pay attention to.