Brook’s High Beer Battered

20150822_213152
http://www.brookshigh.com/
https://twitter.com/Brooks_High
Main Location: Minneapolis, Select Breweries

The second of this summer’s most locally-anticipated food trucks, Brook’s High Beer Battered gained fame through their popular Kickstarter campaign, gaining press and interest through the sharing of their particular vision, one which quite a few people seemed to agree with. Definitely one of the sight’s biggest success stories, at least for Minnesota, the team here proves that, if handled right with an idea that truly appears to our local hipster masses, crowdsourcing creates a viable supplemental income source for your startup food truck operation.

And what is this vision which so many of us here have been so anxious to get on the streets you ask? Well, if you have yet to run across articles like This and This explaining it (once again, since they’ve basically been talked about for quite some time, I’m going to be lazy in my intro today), they focus purely on, as the name suggests, Beer-battered and Beer-focused menu items. But not just any beer; the fun comes in the fact that as they park at brewery to brewery, that day’s batter recipe will specifically feature some of the different beers from our local taprooms. So one day you could get a typical fried something made from a light ale, while another brings complex bitter hops, and yet another day try out a uniquely dark and savory batter made from a stout.

So far they’ve been working with Bauhaus, Lynlake Brewing, Fair State, and Tin Whiskers, while also parking at the explosively popular distiller and cocktail room of Tattersall. Of which they’ve already been parking at for over a month; my delay in being able to visit has, as one would imagine, been painful. But with their mention of the menu still being worked on a few weeks ago, my steely resolve had to set itself to wait… that and my schedule sucks. But I always prefer to get to a truck at its set point while being as close to opening as possible; hopefully I got to the right point this time.

20150822_220611

Southside Donuts w/ ‘Glaze’

For the food itself, topping the menu is their Fried Walleye (at least now, perhaps they may switch the fish out depending on occasion) Sandwich, followed by classic Beer-Battered Cheese Curds. When asked about upcoming items, since with still only 4 on the board during my visit, it seems plans for a Bacon-Beer-Mac-and-Cheese are underway for when the temperatures drop, along with some Beer Chili. There IS a Salad for the gluten-free and veggie-required people out there, but we shall not deem it worthy by even looking at that. And what’s a fried truck without dessert? Of late their Donuts, current flavors taken inspiration from their friends at Tattersall, have seen much feature.

Now is the time to see if they can live up to the hype, as those that invested and those that just really love the idea of this truck hope and pray for them to survive on our local roads. Let’s see what chance they have at this.

20150822_213859

Food: 9.5

                To my surprise the Fried Walleye Sandwich comes in two sandwiches, each with a single batter-fried walleye filet, their Citrus-Apricot-Coleslaw, Tartar Sauce (of course), and half a white country bun/baguette for each. I think I saw a picture once that had their sandwich in a pretzel bun, so not sure if I mistook it, it was for something else, or they just switch it out every here and there, like the batter. Let’s start with the fish. Heaven. There done? Oh I need more details don’t I? You get the kind of fish cooked to a point where the flesh is almost melting in how it flakes, and then surrounded by thick, crunchy-fried beer batter, hot from the friar to steam your mouth, forcing you to pause and take your time. A faint amount of friar grease makes itself present on the palate, and that being near the end of the night, which is rather impressive compared to some other fried foods I’ve had.

The slaw is delightfully refreshing and creamy, an one does get those notes of citrus every now and then, really distinguishing it as their own and proving why it’s so classically paired to ‘contrast’ the richly-cooked fish. Didn’t get a lick of the apricot though, not sure what that was about. I like the tartar sauce, tasted on its own one can see it’s of an unctuous ‘fatty’ style, probably from the amount of sour cream and mayo, with this sort of deep tang. And the bread was good, not toasted on the inside but the outside got it at some point so the texture was there while the softer inside cradled its package.

20150822_220633

I’ve had a lot of Cheese Curds, and a lot of them have used good cheese from local and/or organic/sustainable farms, but this feels to be the first time where it REALLY expresses this fact on the plate… er, basket… actually, in the mouth. The curds on their own were so creamy, gooey, and just plain craveable. If I had to pick my personal ‘ideal cheese curds,’ I know everyone has their favorite at the State Fair and whatnot, these would be it. Besides that cheese, the batter formed a completely even coating, thin but still crispy and textural. It made me very confused as to whether I liked it better with or without the wonderfully creamy and spicy ‘Baeoli’… aioli with beer.

It’s a shame I ended up on one of the few nights which they only had one beer to make the batter with (Bauhaus’ Wonderstuff by the way), though I’m not quite sure how much of a difference it would have made. Despite intense testing of the batter, on its own and with the food, I wasn’t quite sure I could notice any particular flavor from the distinctive beer itself. Structure, as I’ve said, certainly; I can’t recall the last time I’ve had fried beer batter that good, at least in Minnesota.

20150822_220743

We finish with the Southside Donuts, their little ‘donut holes’ served with a Juniper-Lime Syrup; they call it a glaze, but really it’s this thin syrup on the bottom of the basket, which I delight in rolling the donuts around to coat before popping in my mouth. I do wish the juniper flavor came out more in it too; the acidity is there, but actual flavors are subtle, and I really wish I could EXPERIENCE it, get it upfront. The menu said #BOOM… I wanted the boom –innocent little tear-. Donut on itself was… interesting. Not in a bad way, just in that I’m not sure how to exactly describe or judge the style; I think it’s similar to the brioche-dough-doughnuts. Given the style, I do believe the structure was done well, and once again is fried well, not dry or doughy. Sadly not what I had expected them to be; but now we know what they’re coming out with so you know what to get excited about.

20150822_220838

Look at that cheese stretch!

Holdability: 7

               Officially basket, and in the future bowl, food; besides the hand-picked donuts and curds, or fork-required salad, the slaw and sauce on these sandwiches seem quite eager to attack my fingers. Even when I tried actively pushing them down between fish and bun(an idea I used to unjustifiably inflate my own pride), still had some veggies and tartar notably fall out, so it was a good thing the basket was there; and yes you’ll want napkins as you thoroughly gulf down these bad boys in a creamy affair.

Price: 7.5

                $12 for the Sandwiche/s, $6 each for the other fried items, and $8 on that salad; so ultimately the main item, if getting for oneself, is a bit in the higher range for truck entrees, the curds seem about right, but do think we should be getting more of those simple donuts if having to pay $6 for them.
20150822_213433

Speed: 7

The wait felt noticeable; for the sandwich, that may have likely just been me, but I do swear the curds and donuts were longer than I expected for basket-snacks. And by that I mean a minute or two; also, NOT me saying this is taking longer than they should, they have definitely achieved that practically perfect deep fry, comes out hot and delicious… and one should be ordering this at a brewery anyway so, unlike me who has no life, you have a glass of beer and friends to keep company in those extra minute or two.

The TOE: 10

                What can I say about the truck’s concept and intrigue that hasn’t already drummed up excessive revenue for their kickstarter and media attention? Combine that with their strategic move of, as far as I can tell, ONLY parking at taprooms (or cocktail-rooms in Tattersall’s case) and events, which always have a strong local beer focus, and we have a big behemoth of a truck that melds fully into the environment while drawing us in with their appealing personality.

Want to mention the donuts again, mainly cuz, as mentioned, I was hoping they would be something different and reach a wholly unique (and again, more flavorful) Toe Ring status symbol for the truck. Perhaps if they covered it with a juniper-sugar, maybe a proper lime-frosting-glaze drizzled on top or on the side, or perhaps lime-scented white chocolate sauce…

Tally: 41/50

Final Thoughts

Now that Motley’s has gone to rest with their new restaurant, Brook’s High Batter comes in as one of the main trucks to stick to at our breweries. One could potentially get a basket for snacking at a festival, the only other place a deep-fried and beer-placed business such as this would excel in experience, but they do seem to be best when sat down alongside a nice big, rich glass of beer; ideally the one accompanying the batter-of-the-day.

Order the Walleye Sandwich with a friend; not only is it a great sandwich one can actually share without worrying about trading spit (you know unless that’s what you’re into), you’re basically getting a single delicious and reasonably-sized sandwich for $6 apiece, turning it into a better deal again. Ideally, this should also be hit at a gig where they do indeed have at least two different beer-based batters; that way when you get your obligatory Cheese Curds (Get Them! Seriously!), or perhaps their upcoming Bacon-Mac and Cheese, you can enjoy the spirit of the different preparations. Plus then you could tell me if you can actually taste the beer notes in each…

Advertisements

S.O.B. (Quasi-Review, Winter Edition)

SAMSUNG

                Pop-ups seem like they just might be an upcoming trend in our local Food Truck scene (obviously it’s been a, if not THE, restaurant trend for the past 1-2 years). From Vellee’s recent 5-month lasting uptown restaurant to Chef Shack’s new place of business (ok, not a pop-up, but it sorta feels like it, especially after their place in Bay City), and one other pop-up thing I’m sure has happened but I’m forgetting right now…

sob2

                Then we get to S.O.B. Having been ransacked, stolen, and taken over by a shady group of masked culinary revolutionaries (… so yeah, not actually true, but it’s so much more fun to think of it like this!), Gastrotruck has been completely repurposed for the Winter Months.

sob

                Parking themselves in Downtown Minneapolis every Thursday and Friday at 6th St and 2nd Ave (or Marquette if there’s a -cough- police car in their usual spot), “Soup on Board” puts out one thing and one thing only (I should NOT have to say it). They offer 3-4 different options usually, served warm and steaming in a little to-go baggie.

SAMSUNG

                During my visit, options included a Apple-Squash Puree, Tomato Basil (actually I think it was Oregano based), and Chili. For those who have a hard time deciding, or just want to have them all, they happily sample out all they had, so I was able to get a great, complete sense of their food.

SAMSUNG

                Let me just say the Apple-Squash, made with two kinds of squash (Acorn + Dolcetta), apple Cider + Unpeeled apples (very important for that tannin and full, musty flavor), and topped with a Honey Goat Cheese was just plain beautiful. Smooth, with a dreamy rich squash that allowed the full flavors of the cider and apple to still come out, along with black pepper of course. Next to it, the Tomato stands in stark difference as a deep, rich, heavy concoction, made by caramelizing the Onions WITH Balsamic Vinegar, using both Fresh and Dry Oregano (very important, utilizing the positive aspects of each), and topped with housemade Garlic-Rye Croutons. So good, so yummy.

SAMSUNG

                For my lunch that day, though, I just had to get the Chili, made with Beef Cheeks (yay!). Though I don’t normally place a “Final Thoughts/Suggestions” in my Quasi-Reviews, and it’s very hard to do when every S.O.B. item is so equally worthy, I WILL say that the Chili (and those like it)is easily THE soup you want on the coldest of days. Along with the beef and chilies, they use both Pinto and Garbanzo beans, and Turnips instead of other starchy items, which I love cuz it gave a nice little sweetness.

                This is finished with your choice of Baguette or Hand-Fried Masa Tortillas (I of course had to get that crispy Masa goodness). It was a very good and very enjoyable lunch, especially on the warm day, and if I scored them properly it’d look like this:

SAMSUNG

                Food: 10 – it’s Gastro, as you can tell they put a lot of effort, care, attention, and deliciousness into their foods. And it shows in the Soups; if anything, it’s Proof (many an old chef considering the crafting of a proper soup as THE pinnacle of a person’s sense of palate and culinary skills).

                Holdability: 9 – Once out of the bag, it’s a cup of soup. Two hands only, easy walking, and it keeps the fingers warm too.

                Price: 10 – $4 for a smaller (but still filling) cup, $6 for the larger. Well priced.

                Speed: 9.5 – A bit of time to actually move it into the cup and into the to-go bag, along with the toppings, but fast.

                Toe: 10– A pure Soup Truck, doing all very thoroughly delicious options, just stands as a great Unifying Feature (I finally found a phrase to help describe this stuff! Woooh!). And doing it only in Winter, with an edgy little “taking over” gig, just seems to make the many little things even better.

SAMSUNG

                It’s a bit sad that this little operation will only be around for the cold months, but I’d rather have them here than not, and there’s always the following year to look forward to (and maybe Gastro will keep one or two more soup options on their everyday menu). Either way, I hope for the chance to make it out to them at least once more, and you definitely should too.

               

                A point of clarification I feel should be mentioned, for those that may be confused as to why I delegated a truck I’m so positive towards in the Quasi-Review “category” along with others I have openly showed to have little to no actual interest (comparatively to my full reviews). Though I dearly wish I could write a full-on, longly detailed review on them, the fact remains they’re ONLY around for 3 months, two days out of the week, with only 3-4 things on their menu. And it’s all soups, there’s not too much else I can say, even with it being so exciting. If you were wondering about this, then I hope the explanation cleared it up for you; if you weren’t, why’d you read the entirety of this last paragraph?

Halloween Hookup (and a small seasonal verse)

Pumpkin-Beer-Keg-for-Halloween

               It was Halloween Night, and where do you be, crafting a brew or stuck in a tree? Have you been gallanting around for a sugar snack, or stuck in a bar as a friend’s best slack? Maybe it’s hazy from the fluids you chug, after all we are human despite being smug. Though this is the night we pretend to thus change, hours and hours mixed only with strange. And what do we have after all these precedings, but a locked away memory that’s ever receding. So we’re left at our house, or a bar, or a tree, looking forward to next year to what strange can be.

                And I shall still sit here, whether from trial or luck, still reporting on happenings around our Food Truck!

                (alright, I got the Halloween Rhyme out of my head, on to the actual post)

                Well, I’m not sure where all of YOU were last night, but I decided to pop down to 612, who was doing a little Halloween get-together with Motley Crew’s. Since I had plans that night, I thought it would be a fun, brief little stop to do on this spookiest of holidays.

                Though of course, out of every single customer in the bar (and there was a burgeoning little crowd as I left) I was the ONLY one who had actually dressed for the occasion… at first I felt like a bit of a douche, haha, but now I’m just disappointed in all of you. How dare you! Put on a hat at least! No more sharing of my street food and beer for you! (… okay, I wasn’t sharing in the first place, but it’s the thought that counts)

SAMSUNG

                As for my palette-based experience, I stopped out at one of my favorite trucks to be informed that they added some new additions to the menu. Though truthfully, all the “new” sandwiches are the exact same as the Hot Chick and Philly, they just use different sauces. It is nice for repeat customers, certainly, since it offers the favorite sandwiches but with variant base flavors so we don’t get bored (or just for those first timers that prefer BBQ over Thousand-Island-ish Motley sauce). I also found out late that they had started getting chili out, and I wish I didn’t! Woulda ordered a whole bowl of that good stuff!

                What I did order, though, was their Hawaiian Crews, piled high with grilled shaved Ham and Pineapple, and melted Provolone of course. These kind of sandwiches always make me nervous, so it was only fitting I try it to see how well they could salvage the usually-disastrous (not by nature, but by poor application) combo.

                And I enjoyed it, very much; it was a great, hot, messy ham sandwich. The pineapple didn’t overpower it, or get everything soggy, or anything. On the other hand it didn’t stand out or have any great “distinctive” notes to it (you could tell that pre-cut, canned pineapple was used… or at the very least that’s what it looked like), like a really good fresh pineapple with deep grill chars, but I can deal with that after the simple accomplishment of having a savory pineapple dish that everyone will enjoy. And the Motley Sauce provided a nice undercurrent, doesn’t stand out in opposition of the pineapple at all.

SAMSUNG

                To drink with, I decided to order a newer brew from 612, the Shere Khan. A distinctively dry hopped, Strong Amber Ale that’s been infused with “Indian Spices,” though really it’s just Cardamom and Saffron (can they use that description when they only use two, one of which is probably in minor quantities?). It was certainly tasty, though the hops were notably pungent and strong (not exactly the “sneak out from under the spices” they describe on the site). I’m not sure how much of the actual cardamom I got, though I think that’s cuz its natural aromas fused with the highly similar hops. And I have no idea why they used the saffron at all, except for maybe color; such a delicate, delicate spice should be going into even a medium/+ strength beer. Overall, I still haven’t found too much excitement in this adolescent brewery, though the offerings are certainly interesting.

                Oh, and an interesting little tidbit, the owner of Crew’s stopped in the bar for quite a while to chat with everyone (mostly on various Horror Movie details, awesome) and I picked some things up. First off, they’ve just recently bought the pretzel business that supplies them with the crunchy baked good for their sugary-hot snack. Secondly, and going off that, they’re working on getting a certain Food License, and once they do… let’s just say you’ll be able to enjoy more than beer at some of your favorite breweries, Truck or no Truck (I’ll make sure to keep you posted as things are finalized).

                Well, that was the start of my Halloween. Anyone else have a fun story, preferably beer or street food related?

Wild Side Cafe

SAMSUNG

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.

SAMSUNG

            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.

SAMSUNG

            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.

SAMSUNG

            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.

SAMSUNG

             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.

SAMSUNG

             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).

SAMSUNG

             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.

SAMSUNG

               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).

SAMSUNG

              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.

SAMSUNG

  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.

Red Smoker BBQ (Quasi-Review)

SAMSUNG

                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.

SAMSUNG

                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.

SAMSUNG

                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).

SAMSUNG

                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.

To Elevate the Simple

(Alright, THIS is my last post before I leave, I swear!)

            When we take a look at some of the most iconic, some of our favorite items offered out of the various Food Trucks throughout the country, we tend to see a hodge-podge of different approaches taken to elevate the food to such heights. Some keep purely traditional to their style, just doing it fantastically. Others look to fuse and twist, add a little extra something, while others purely take certain dishes and channel it to the Street styles. They work hard, do a lot, and come out with a fantastic product.

SAMSUNG

            Of these different approaches, there is one more that has recently been standing out to me, and which I think many may not be giving the credit it’s due. That is, leaving something as it is, but in its best version (yes, I will explain what I mean here). Taking a very simple, very staple menu item, not changing it in any sense, and making sure each element is of heightened quality. This particular style has been seen in a few of my recent burger reviews, such as Melch’s extremely simplified burger, elevated purely by the quality of the meat and the fantastic pretzel bun. If anything, though, my last post on AZCanteen’s burger offers an almost perfect example.

SAMSUNG

            The use of goat may be debatable, but it has no differing in burger flavors and formula in any sense besides that. Onions and Tomatoes are just roasted, the bun is Brioche, and the handmade Pickles are still of the traditional variety. Already this combination is fantastic, yet somehow this strategy, this ideal, of sticking to the true nature of the dish itself with only changes of quality, is somehow able to increase the quality of it all in an exponential way, creating an eating experience at the same level, if not even higher, than some of the other previously mentioned.

            Though I didn’t really start thinking about this until dinner last night. We decided to do a good ol-fashioned Chili Dog meal, as we already had a can of Hornel in the pantry, and it was my job to grab the dogs and buns.

SAMSUNG

            Yeah, not homemade or anything, but it’s still chili. As this was one of our last meals before vacation leave, however, I wanted to make it a little special, so my eyes were peeled in the store.

SAMSUNG

            My first find was a Jalapeno-Cheddar stuffed bratwurst. Grilled up, it offered a simple, juicy brat with flavors to match the traditional chili.

SAMSUNG

            And what is a chili dog without its bun? What did I happen to find but a small 4-pack (exactly what I needed) of Pretzel Roll Buns. Sliced and toasted, these offered a fantastic way to eat these awesome dogs, while still keeping in the whole “bar food” feeling.

SAMSUNG

            Didn’t have everything I’d need to TRULY elevate these (would love queso fresco on top, then make my own beer chili) in the same style as AZ, but it turned out tasty, and we both ended up very satisfied at the end.

            So next time you’re on the street, or at the store, and you wanna try a new version of a particular craving (burgers, dogs, taco, etc), maybe edge away from something “different,” and think about finding a way to make it as-is, just better.

            And yes, this shall be the last strange and oddly-worded post that you’ll have to read through for at least 12 days

Fork in the Road

fr3

forkintheroadtruck.com/ 

https://twitter.com/forkNroadtruck

Main Location: St. Paul

            “The Big Orange,” Fork in the Road has settled itself into a St. Paul truck staple, being one of the first Trucks to receive news attention after their release. Focusing on familiar foods with their own house-made additions and twists, Fork offers a variety of different options that switch daily. The bulk of their menu containing sandwiches of one type or another; such as grilled, subs, sliders, hoagie, taco, etc. They also serve soups and salads, both pasta and leaf styles.

            With no real singled-out area of protein, a trip to Fork can yield any type of meat-laden option surrounded by bread (or tortilla). Guinness-braised Bratwurst, pulled chicken and pork, meatball and salmon sliders, cured sliced meats in a sub… one can find practically everything you would expect to on the street.

            So many options, it is difficult to determine which ones really shine above the others. From many reports, though, the sandwich to get is the Grilled Cheese with BBQ Pulled Pork and Caramelized Onions. They also sell a Buffalo Chicken Sanwich, BLT with Avocado-Mayo, and Guinness Chili.

            Not to mention they do love using Texas Toast for some of the sandwiches (and no, not the thick, frozen kind we find in the supermarket… I think).

fr1

Food: 7.5

                The Pulled-Pork Grilled Cheese really IS good and yummy, with that perfect grill and the whole nostalgia+ thing going on; and it’s hard to not like something with caramelized onions. From the continued business and sound of the menu items, I doubt there are very few things that simply aren’t well made and add up to a good lunch.

                I very much appreciate what it is they do, but I find overall the food tends to lack a bit of… “soul,” of “focus,” that a lot of  other Food Trucks have in spades. I would go on, but I think it’s best to read the TOE section for a full explanation and understanding of where I’m coming from.

Holdability: 7.5

                Sandwiches are served cut, in a basket, surrounded by potato chips. Luckily they’re usually easy to pick up, at least the grilled ones are. I am not too aware of the hoagies and salmon sliders, those may be more iffy.

                I cannot imagine that the salads are ones which you would be walking down the street to enjoy; those seem more “find a nice bench or go back to the office” items. Soups are a little easier, supposing one only gets them and nothing else. With their hardiness though, I don’t see that as an issue.

Price: 9.5

                Very good prices, $6/$7 for full items (you can get salads in half orders, which cost $4), and I would say it easily makes a great deal for the food options being served.

Speed: 8

               Pasta salads and soups made ahead of time, grilled sandwiches come fast, and others come at the expected pace, leading to a good speed.

The TOE: 6

              Fork in the Road has a big tendency to stand out from a crowd; the color really brings out that positive quality for them. Also, I think this is another case where the name used actually ADDS a little bit to that dining experience.

fr2

             As to the food, after a bit of thinking, I actually sort of like the idea of the pasta salads; it’s nice to see a place that does them well. Salads in general for Food Trucks always puzzle me, but these are a good addition, and there are always people that want a salad with lunch. Soups are never a problem, and I love the fact that they use Guinness instead of a regular Ale; brings that rich, dark chocolate and coffee flavors that work so well in chili.

             When I talked about the idea of “generalities” in my review of Gastrotruck, this is what I meant. Go on Fork’s website and look at their menu, and you’ll see what the problem is:

             There are way too many things there.

             Now granted, they only use a small amount of those options each day, but every single menu option is different. The only common ground is that MOST of the items are sandwiches, and even those you have Italian, Southern, Bar Food, Salmon, Fresh, Meaty, EGG SALAD… there’s no focus. They do a taco and a wrap; not TACOS and WRAPS, just a single of each.

fr4

             All of these are good, solid menu items, but they distract from any attempt to try and solidify what exactly it is they do. There isn’t a single thing on here that really FEELS that special, and nowhere near are they to having a Toe Ring.

            I personally think that they should draw some of these options back, figure out what works best and keep those, with maybe a couple more new regular items of a similar style, just different formula. As for ideas, I’m not them, I can’t say where their hearts lie, but if it was me I might consider doing a mostly Grilled Cheese styled concept. The BBQ Pork Grilled is a really good sandwich; it needs to shine among a group of its own kind, not shouldering itself with a mass of differences. Plus, the cities don’t even have a Grilled Cheese-themed Restaurant (which is surprising, I mean come on we’re Minnesota). A truck like that would stand out COMPLETELY and add that great uniqueness to the entirety of our Food Scene and Culture.

            So keep the salads and soups up, and let’s hope that there is some more streamlining with the main menu items.

                     Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Okay, let’s get salad and soup out of the way: stick with the Pasta Salads, particularly I might try the Orzo if they happen to have it on. You can find a decent leaf salad in most restaurants, but the pastas done well are rarely handled. All their soups are the rich, belly-filling ones, but I would stick to the ones that lay on the more extreme end in that respect. Guinness Chili and Loaded Baked Potato are easily gonna fill that need for the down-home beer drinker; not to mention fill your stomach for a really low price.

            After looking over the menu, here are my suggestions for sandwiches:

  • BBQ Pork Grilled Cheese (no more explanation needed, just good)
  • Meatball Sliders (easy to walk and eat, smoked gouda gives a different, tasty note)
  • Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (for the bar food lover, creative twists on this are usually fun)
  • Santa Monica BLT (for the health conscious; on a whole wheat, avocado + blt is almost always a good, balanced combination)