Funfare Global Street Eats

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https://twitter.com/funfaregse

http://www.funfare-gse.com/

Main Location: St Paul, Etc

It’s a good thing I did some last-minute twittering, I was seriously about to put up a post saying these guys didn’t have a website! It’s tricky to find via google, but I got their twitter id and it led me straight to ’em! Still didn’t tell me too much else about them that I feel like putting down, but that might be the laziness. I do definitely suggest looking into the website to get a good clue to their personality.

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This truck also comes out as yet another build from local Chameleon Concessions, go lizards! After doing so many articles on the side for a certain southern truck builder, it’s always nice to come back and see the fruits of our own Minnesota-based team out on the street in their wonderful mobile glory.

But to get back to the truck itself, my adventure this day leads me to Funfare, or Funfare Global Street Eats, depending on how one prefers calling them that day. As the longer version suggests, along with the very postcardy décor on the side of their big red behemoth, they focus on providing a variety of classic International street foods from various world regions.

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And boy do they really accomplish this. For the past few weeks the menu has hold fast to offering the choices to grab a Cubano (from Cuba throughout Central America), Shrimp Po’Boy (Louisiana), Filipino BBQ Skewers (do I need to say this one?), Pork Steam Buns (Japan), Baja Fish Tacos (Mexico), Chicago Jumbo Dog, Cheese Curds (go Midwest!), Hush Puppies (more Southern Love), and Baklava (Middle East) for dessert. I hear they plan on changing the menu up soon, but I expect at least a few of these will either stay on or see frequent resurgence from time to time, so a good starter.

By the way, they sell Kool-Aid as a drink option… actual vibrant blue Kool-Aid. I’ll just leave it at that and get on with things.

Food: 9

                Suddenly I find myself loading up with FOUR of their menu items, two bigger and two snack-ish. So I’m gonna see if I can actually go through each briefly for once…
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First off, best Hush Puppies that I myself have ever experienced. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, like your favorite corn dog, but not dry in the slightest on the inside, still ‘moist,’ in sort of a touch spongey/doughey sense, hard to quite express. I was very happy to find a version of these fried cornmeal balls I enjoyed, with that notably soft onion-chive-y addition of flavor; a shame there’s NO sauce to dunk them in, some pepper aioli on the side would have catapulted these to perfection.

The best part of the Pork Steamed Buns is the first bite; it’s just that total pork bun flavor, with moist pig, perfect ratio of springy/chewy/tender steam bun texture (it’s so unique and distinctive), a bit of that slaw, and that marinade! For those who’ve had a pork steam bun, there’s that specific sauce flavor that’s unique purely to them, a sweet-tangy Japanese bbq sauce of sorts, and it is up front and center in the best way in combination with that pillowy dough bag. And of course I have to make mention of the interesting little form for these guys, like a Japanese bun taco. Which is cool, but whereas the first bite from the ‘top’ was perfect, the second ends up notably lacking filling, which is understandable and fine, the real issue is that this section of bun, folded over and almost double-layered, ends up notably… not drier, maybe ‘denser’ is the better word? Clearly inferior to the ideal, not uniform like the classic round buns would be.

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So I was going to go for the Po’Boy, just to be different, but then I saw someone else with one… and I’m sure it’s good, great looking veggies and toppings, but come on, that guy just needs more shrimp, it looks sparse. Those BBQ Skewers though… damn that glaze and char, reminded me of the Korean grilled pig in my favorite banh mi.

Then I saw a couple Cubanos come out and was like “Oh yeah, THAT’S what I’m getting.” Full press, flat and crispy top, melted cheese that strings properly when pulled, pickled which are THERE but don’t screw with the sandwich structure, mustard is present, and PIG. Ham and pulled, they got it… inane mention I know, but I’m still reeling from a recent cubano disappointment. This ultimately ate, tight and crispy but not hard crunchy, like I expect a Cubano to, with all the flavors. They nailed it, I was satisfied and happy, though I found there was no single item that really brought it to that AMAZING level, which any sandwich that everyone knows really needs to be in order to get that top class mark. Either a big mass of super gooey-melty cheese, this one was still simple and thin, or just bigger mass of extremely flavorful pulled pork, as again the meat was still rather standard but done well.

20150803_175101And finally, since I was at a bee-focused event, had to get that honey-soaked Baklava. I was hoping that finally, after so long, I would get a baklava from a stand that would be moist and tender and delicious, and they did not disappoint. Seriously, so used to having to choose between small squares of baklava, which are good but tiny, or big triangles which are just dry layers of phillo dough. And this was just a full mass of distinctly moist, sweet honeyed flavor and texture, not soggy at all and with a top layer that is JUST a little crispy-dry, combining with that soft and nutty paste of walnuts/almonds in the typical way. It was just refreshing and happy; if I really looked deeper, and had more experience with good homemade baklava, I’m pretty sure I could make certain points to the soaking syrup and nuts used. But when you really don’t care about thinking about it, this little dessert can just make your day, especially for the day.

 

At the end of the day, the food has a great start and is headed in the right direction to what it should be, but because they’re so close to perfection, and sticky very purely to the traditional compositions, it’s ever clearer to see that they are STILL not quite there yet. If they can make just a couple tweaks here and there, really complete each item, then Funfare is golden.

Holdability: 8.5

               Despite the variety, each of the options are consistent in that everything needs two hands, being eaten from a basket, and is all surprisingly clean consumption. Even the Baklava, though a touch sticky, again isn’t soggy or anything, so it only needs a few delightful finger licks following complete eating. It’s only the BBQ skewers that come with rice, something that requires a fork, but besides those the only issue for walking+eating becomes what ELSE you might get. Though I guess sides and dessert can just be dumped in the same basket as your big guy; not like any sauces are coming over to mix and mingle.

Price: 7.5

                $10 for the big two sammiches, $8 for the Fish Taco and Filipino Skewers, $7 for those mini Steam Buns, $5 Chicago Dog, $3 each for the fried side items, and $2 for Baklava. A notable range of low to mid-high, providing some notable options for one’s situation and preferences. I would say the items tend to skirt the edge of whether they feel totally worth it if not a steal for the price charged, while others I would hope for maybe one extra bun (I mean it’s either an add-on, in which case it bumps the final price up considerably, or it’s supposed to be eaten on its own, in which case you want some more) or more fried shrimp before not worrying about whether I’m just being a cheap, nitpicky b*^@# food reviewer.
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Speed: 8

Distinctly depends on the item. Most are close to ready to go, can only take a few minutes, but the main boys will be an average wait; Cubano takes at least 8 minutes on the grill. That is proper though. I will say I would have liked it if they’d offer me the option to receive some of my other things first, since there were only a couple other orders, instead of having to wait what took 10 minutes for ALL of it.

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The TOE: 8.5

                I wasn’t thinking I’d score them too high for this, my premier thoughts and impressions on when I first spotted them in St Paul (happened to be their opening day! But I had other guys to hit then) was just another random ‘let’s open a food truck’ ideas, they do ‘international’ probably because they couldn’t think of anything else more interesting, like those who just do burgers and meat sandwiches; which can be great, but also uninspiring. But just as we can find a sandwich truck that brings us to our knees, so does Funfare come to grab my own attention. Whether it’s presentation, the distinctive look and taste of each food, or just plain doing it right, I can officially say they are the first truck that, in my opinion, successfully offers a menu that feels like it’s focusing on different world food regions. This as opposed to a certain one or two that really just seem to come from the Middle East and Asia, or  then go back to the US only to feature a burger and philly cheese (it’s always the burger and philly cheese…). Funfare chooses distinct and familiar, but not boring, menu items that do express some of our favorite eats from around the globe. To this, I myself am somewhat eager to see what other food items they explore and switch out with, if they continue on with strong hitters or fizzle out. Guess we’ll only see with time.

Tally: 41.5/50

Final Thoughts

Echoing my ultimate impressions on food, the truck as a whole stands as a very strong, ‘almost perfect’ business in their particular realm of focus, but it’s currently just one or two steps behind the point of ‘ideal.’ But I feel with time and some effort, if applied, they can easily reach the heights of food and personality impressions as some of my absolute favorites, like Home Street Home and SCRATCH.

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So I guess that means we just need to keep visiting and enjoying their various treats now doesn’t it? Now, it certainly is difficult to make suggestions for a future-changing menu, but I do believe I can confidently say the BEST strategy for taking hold of Funfare, at least for right now, is to attack the small-plates for snacking or mini-meal purposes. Whether it’s grabbing the almost-toe-ring-level Baklava for your sweet tooth, some Hush Puppies or Cheese Curds to pop in the mouth as you walk between other truck delights, or those Steam Buns just because they’re pretty darn tasty and good. If you DO want something more substantial, I still gotta try those BBQ skewers; they just look so good, and the additional rice will help fill you up; though I myself would rather just have the skewers for a dollar less to walk around with. That and the Cubano are my strong ‘entrée’ points for now. As for what else comes along, just do your best to have an idea on what they did well with THESE and try to imagine what other items would be crafted the best. To that, I finish with a good luck, good eating, and a hope I can get myself back out there snacking with all of you soon once more!

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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?