New Bohemia Truck

20151022_122906
https://www.facebook.com/newbohemiafoodtruck/
https://twitter.com/newbohemiamn
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

With what’s likely my last solid truck review of the year (unless for some reason I’m actually able to find another yet-to-hit food truck in the upcoming insanely busy, hectic, and cold holiday season), I take on the result of one of the Midwest’s own growing bar concepts. Taking the heart of casual soul food that is German and Eastern-European faire, my favorite kind by the way, New Bohemia has opened at least 6 different locations based mainly around a wide selection of Beers and amazing sausages.

I’ve dined there myself a year or so ago, so I’ve seen the results of their work and atmosphere. Thus it was no surprise to chain adding a food truck to their lineup; there’s clearly both the ability and success for them to do so.

20151022_122428

Obviously their truck can’t shell out ice cold pints of frothy goodness, but they do have Draft Rootbeer and basically everything else! 10 different options for Bratwurst from basic Beer to unique/interesting Teriyaki Chicken to practically-insane Rattlesnake-Rabbit. These are split, grilled, and piled in a bun with the two toppings of one’s choice (Bacon Sauerkraut, Spicy Kraut, Sweet-Hot Peppers, Beer Cheese, Cole Slaw, or Beer Butter-cooked Onions); along with a veritable smorgasbord of different housemade Beer Mustards to squirt on at your leisure. Of course this also includes some Beer Cheese Curds, and… a ‘Giant Pretzel the Size of a Pizza’!? For $14, that thing better be huge!

20151022_122416

… yep, that’s a big pretzel. Could have eaten my food off of it… as much as I don’t care about pretzels for lunch even I’m highly curious about  what it tastes like. Moving on, then there’s the apparent chance for Fries, which similarly to the sausages gets the chance for 2 free sauces from its own group. Oh, and for whatever reason… two Salads (Strawberry Spinach and Apple Jicama).

As much as I’d like to try and think of a cutesy or informative paragraph to briefly entertain your reading, this article has been long enough coming and I need to get it out. With luck, in perfect time for the Turkey Day Season! So enjoy the last review for a while, cheers (toasts with a pretend beer since they wouldn’t give him a real one)!!

Food: 9

                Duck and Cilantro was my option of choice… because I’m too cheap to even go a dollar over for one of the ‘adventurous’ meats I love so much. Though to be fair, I DID try one of them a couple years back in the bar itself and loved it… just can’t remember which one. With a solid little snap, the skin is joined with extra flavor and texture from the ‘split-grilling’ method, whereas a link is sliced almost fully in half, spread like a butterfly, and griddled inside-down to cook for service. Always a delicious way to enjoy. Especially when the base sausage itself is just darn good, and if one can say anything about Bohemia, much like any decades-old family-run butcher/charcuterie, they’ve got their sausage recipes DOWN. Flavorful, balanced, peppery and/or herby and/or spicy and fatty where it needs to be. Num. If I remember correctly, the bun holder did not get any, or much, actual toasting, which would have helped to elevate the enjoyment even further.
20151022_123144

As for the toppings, of course I went for the Kraut, no complaints there! And the Beer Butter Onions seem to be quite a signature: they tasted good, but I was hoping for more cooking/grilled-caramelization, more beer flavor, and more BUTTER, I mean please it’s in the name. The sauces I tried for the fries, wasabi-ginger AIOLI and stout bbq, were both similarly well made as expected. And yes I got some fries to go with it; it’s classic, and much cheaper than getting a secondary sausage. Good texture on the outside, soft on the inside, addicting simple seasoning work, if one WANTS fries with their dog for lunch it’s definitely not an option you’ll regret.

Holdability: 7

                 For a sausage, the end-of-the-day verdict isn’t quite as ideal for holding as one would expect. Piled with that kraut and onions, or whatever toppings you choose, in a large soft bun, picking this up isn’t quite as clean and easy, so it’s good that it comes in a basket. Though of course the Curds, Pretzels, and Fries eat clean with fingers, but are again basket foods (okay maybe not the pretzel, but how often are you likely to buy that?). Part of me feels so ridiculous still talking about this… but the other part of me loves stubborn, weird consistency!!

Price: 8.5

                  A range of $6.50-$8 depending on your selected ‘level’ of sausage, which comes at a decent size so can be a nice stand-alone lunch. That said, if you want fries will have to fork over $3-4, so might as well get the larger option, making a complete meal not so bad considering (especially since they ARE good fries). We’ve already mentioned the $14 Pretzel (oh look there it is again), then there’s $8 for the Beer Curds (there better be a lot), and finally $5-8 for the Salads… which shouldn’t even be worth mentioning, guh.
20151022_122420

Speed: 6.5

It’s been a while since the visit, but I remember wondering why it took more than five minutes to grill a sausage, which should have been pre-cooked already and simply needing the searing. I know the fries weren’t an issue, I saw that they do batch-frying so that it was ready to just scoop into baskets as needed. Sides and sauces should similarly be heated and needing scoopage. That said it wasn’t truly a ‘long’ wait, just a bit more than I expected considering.

The TOE: 9

                  Though it’s from a pre-existing chain, the business itself has developed enough identity, feel, and uniqueness that it easily transfers onto the food truck to separate its own ‘air’ distinctly from others; if anything, it’s ideally suited for a mobile business.
20151022_122000

Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

Despite not having it myself, one should keep Bohemia in mind for one of the strong possibilities in acquiring quality drink consumption for your street-based lunch with their Local Draft Root Beer. I forget where it was from, but it wasn’t something I was immediately familiar with and sounded damn good. Speaking of unique things to them, though I find great curiosity and excitement in the idea, at the end of the day the ‘Giant Pretzel’ is just something kitschy, and likely not really worth it, especially for fourteen dollars. If they offered it for less, maybe at ten, then certainly consider it; but I know how much it costs to make, just ignore for now unless REALLY wanting some fun group snack to slather in mustard and various side sauces.

Truly, I cannot pick your guides in the world of all things linked, especially with all the little ‘categories,’ but a suggestion from each sounds fun right? Definitely do a Macaroni and Cheese-stuffed for the heavily affordable Classics, the Duck w/ Cilantro in Premiums (just solid goodness), and for those feeling experimental (which you really SHOULD be) the Rattlesnake-Rabbit is a rare white-meat treat. The Fries are NOT a bad decision, especially alongside Jalapeno Beer Cheese, Wasabi-Ginger Aioli, or Stout BBQ.

20151022_123107

Very much would I like to go back and ask what beer is in the Curds batter for yet another potential truck to get a good version from.

Advertisements

Vito Lucco Pizza Co

20151022_125037
http://vitolucco.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Vito-Lucco-Pizza-co-845109742241236/
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc?

Another year, another Pizza truck added to our mobile vendor lineup. And this one was definitely a surprise, randomly running across it to one of my now-rare trips to downtown Minneapolis. No months of ‘anticipation’ and warnings through media like was given Tru, this was a true random encounter… and on their first day too! Something I normally avoid and espouse review visits on, you don’t have a clue how consistent that performance, good or bad, will stay. But it’s a fun occurrence to be able to record, so I thought why not for once?

Vito Lucco Pizza Co has a bit of a look and name that makes one think it might be an off-shoot of a small Italian café I’ve never heard of, but it’s a full family-based operation by a few guys that wanna sling pizza on the street for a living. I got to interact a bit with Joe and Uncle Ed during my visit, not sure if we’ll see any more of the ‘team’ on board in the future but that’s for another day.

20151022_125555

The focus is on personal-size, yeasted-dough pizzas cooked in a classic wood-fired oven. And I don’t mean the big aluminum pizza oven where the fire is made below to heat it, I mean it’s made IN the damn oven to plast the whole pizza with heat all around, like it SHOULD be. Just look at this zoomed shot I took of it!

Though I’d say most of the focus is on ‘classic’ pizza toppings (ie red sauce, different meats, cheese, peppers, etc), there are a few more unique items and combos to choose from. Currently they offer 4 specific ‘options’ along with the ability to Build Your Own, which starts off with 3 of their toppings. Enzo’s PepperRari is a red-sauced Sausage, Pepperoni, Mushroom, and Bacon creation. The Casanova similarly has Andouille, Pepperoni, Bacon and Canadian Bacon. The Babe brings Alfredo sauce to Chicken, Bacon, Mushroom, Green Peppers and Broccoli. And finally there is the Shish Kaza, a more bare (probably garlic oiled) bread topped with ‘Tangy Chicken’ marinated in very Indian-ish flavors, sliced Onions and Peppers, Feta, and finished with Garlic-Yogurt.

20151022_124504

Before I continue, I would like to heavily note again that this WAS their first day out, and it is… readily apparent. One of the main reasons I don’t like reviewing on a truck’s first day, but it’s probably going to be a while before I’m back downtown and I have no clue if it’ll be easy or hard to find them again, so I dived in for once. Just note that this experience should not be assumed to be consistent through the next few months of growth; but there are certainly things to be aware of. Also, I would like to re-state, as I’ve mentioned in my ‘About the Blog’ section, that if anyone from the truck, or who’s a fan of it, thinks I should go back to give a second review, I am very well up to and interested in giving a business a second chance for a better score. But I’m not going to do it unless somebody ASKS me to, so please don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

Food: 8

                For fun’s sake, I decided to try the Shish Kaza. Though also since it didn’t LIST a sauce I figured it would automatically be the classic red… so I was wrong on that account (of course the yogurt still isn’t the main sauce, just drizzled on top). Still not sure what exactly was on the bottom, if anything; my guess is just some kind of oil, or there white sauce is the kind that sinks into the dough while cooking.

The chicken enveloped in that nice curry-like turmeric-cumin marinade was a happy surprise when mixed with the various other Mediterranean-esque toppings. Especially that poignantly tart and pungent Garlic-Yogurt, brought me back to a good Gyro or Curry platter with naan. Though classically charred on the bottom and outer rim, the dough even had this particularly stringy, doughy aspects near the middle which I absolutely LOVED with these flavors… on the first slice, when it was just a little bit. Then I had the others, and realized the truth of the matter: the dough, simply put, was undercooked, and still raw in a notable portion of the center. And though I’ll argue a little bit of this was fun in a middle-eastern way, like those sour pancakes you use to scoop up the food in Ethiopian restaurants, at this point it simply ends up as a flaw. Which is a shame, because I REALLY liked this pizza and its toppings; I’d like to go back and try some other combo again. Oh, and did I mention that this was actually the SECOND attempt, since the first pizza for me got notably burnt on one half so they had to start all over. Suffice it to say, they clearly need to learn how to use a wood-fire oven properly, and/or get their dough even THINNER before topping and cooking so that the middle has a better chance to cook through before the edges burn.

20151022_125752

I’m going a little easy on the score as I imagine this issue SHOULD get adjusted out rather quickly as they get more used to the oven, but note it’s still a dire effect into the savory pie as a whole, and one should be aware of the possibility in ordering while this truck is still young.

Holdability: 6

                 Of pizza styles it’s in the smaller and more portable style, though it’s nonetheless still a pizza! The kind that gets your fingers oddly tasty after eating; then one brings into play that undercooked center which makes the pull and lift not as clean as it could have been and having a few potential toppings stay on the plate.
20151022_124514

Price: 9

                  $7-$9 range on their pre-determined specialties, and you can build your own 3-toppinged for only $7 as well! ($1.50 to add further ingredients to it, not that you’d need) Overall the solid and good range for pizzas of this size.

Speed: 3

Well, let’s see. Not even considering the pizza that got over-cooked on one side that they needed to scrap and start over, an incident I normally wouldn’t count but since it seems to be a factor which could come up again and is a MAJOR part of pizza here it is, it can be quite a wait to get a pizza, as any restaurant-goer can attest. Every order has them taking the dough, stretching/flattening it out, loading with sauce and toppings, and waiting to go into the hearth. And not quickly mind you; time IS taken, I was actually able to leave during each pizza’s reign and go visit the guys at Outlaw for probably a 5 minute-minimum convo before heading back to re-get my pizza. Combine that with the fact that the small wood fired oven seems to only be able to do one, maybe two or three at the MOST, pizzas at a time, and one can imagine the kind of wait in the act of a palpable line of customers, let alone just one or two other orders in the window.

The TOE: 5

                  A very blank truck with simple big red letters for the name, on its own doesn’t really add much from walking up to it, for all one knows it could be a nameless BBQ or taco truck. Though I will say, something about the singularly large and red letters, the edge of the name, one DOES get that strong Italian feeling, so it actually does end up bringing something to the party. There are a few other factors in play, both helpful and not, all rather light and simple. I will say that I do love the effort to do a couple different, sort of ‘next-level’ pizzas as opposed to just sticking with plain sausage/pepperoni/veggies for everything; and it’s tasty too!

Tally: 31/50

20151022_125105
Final Thoughts

Definitely best for when one has plenty of time to sit down and enjoy their lunch or transport to other location, though if prepared with appropriate napkins Vitos offers probably the easiest truck-based pizzas to consume while on the go, assuming they fix the under-baked issue. If they ever start connecting with them, I could actually see this being a nice truck to have out at a brewery, when one can spend the waiting time casually and then easily plant down to enjoy a pizza and tasty beer.

As for options, we all know how personal pizza preferences are, but if it was ME I would definitely suggest starting out with the Shish Kaza for something fun or the meat lover’s Casanova to keep that classic red-sauced love.

Habanero Tacos

20150910_115925
https://www.facebook.com/Habanero-Tacos-636831153117512/timeline/
https://twitter.com/habanerotacos
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

Those who are somewhat familiar with my blog my notice a certain peculiarity to my archives, that being, except for a couple rare exceptions, I don’t really do reviews on Traditional Mexican Taco Trucks/Carts. Now the modern, bright, new-business, fusion/twisted, and other sort of taco-based trucks we see on our main downtown streets, sure. But as a general rule, I’ve made the decision to just ignore all the almost nameless, likely family-owned, no-frills and no-social-media-focus taco trucks that are so often seen in various parking lots, on the further outskirts of uptown and south Minneapolis, etc. You know the ones, the ‘taco trucks,’ those businesses that were likely the true precursor to our food truck industry in the US.

Note that this has nothing to do with any disdain or even disinterest towards these businesses; I absolutely adore taco trucks. They use proper masa tortillas, have a whole variety of usually delicious fillings, are NOT afraid to cook things like tongue or cheek or other offal (more people are coming to appreciate, but the rest of you are still pansies. Pansies I say!!), are often very cheap, and sometimes even offer a variety of options to eat with your desired filling; like going to Chipotle. There are reasons these kinds of businesses have succeeded for dozens of years.

But there are so many of them, parked who-knows-where half the time, usually with no online presence letting those unaware find them easily, and as much as I love the kind of truck… the fact is if you’ve been to one you’ve almost been to them all. The experience is rather identical; yes yes, there are little differences in flavor and quality between each, much like BBQ trucks, but it’s even less noticeable than that example, and I’m going to be happy either way. In my personal opinion, if I WERE to track down all the different taco trucks, I feel the only way to properly review them is between each other; or in other words, I’d have to start a whole separate blog, or blog page, devoted JUST to reviewing the aspects of the taco trucks themselves. And I don’t feel like doing that… yet. For now, it’s easier just to focus on the masses of every other kind, familiar and weird, that keep popping up in the Twin Cities.

So it was with much reluctance that I passed by Habanero Tacos at a farmer’s market some months ago, making the difficult decision to ignore it and save some money for other truck visits. The truck certainly fits into the same category as other taco trucks I’ve been to, so they were a no go. That said, of late I’ve taken strong notice of the fact that they’ve been parking in downtown Minneapolis quite a lot, they have a twitter and Facebook handle that gets updated, and are otherwise rather in the public eye just as strongly as some of our other food trucks. So I feel it only right that I give them my full respect and offer a complete review to add into the ranks on this blog for all the effort they’re clearly going through to get known. Plus, I like to think one can then use this as an overall idea on where taco trucks in general rank on the ‘food truck scale’ for each ranking category.

As for some details, the menu offers the chance to get Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas, Alambres (meat sautéed with bacon, peppers, and onions; with melted cheese, I think it’s on rice or a big tortilla, basically an entrée), each with your choice of filling. One can pick from a list, slightly differing between item, including but not limited to: Al Pastor (Marinated Pork), Carnitas (Roast Pork), Carne Asada (Grilled Steak), Barbacoa (Shredded Beef), Pollo, Lengua (Beef Tongue), and Cabeza (Shredded Beef Head). One also has the chance to get a side of Elote (Mexican Street Corn, on the cob w/ lime, mayo, cheese, and spices) or Tortillas. Not to mention a full line-up of sodas, canned and Mexican bottles and guava juice (gotta love guava juice). That about sums it up, so let’s get down to it.

20150910_115915

Food: 9

                Can’t go to a taco truck without just getting the tacos; it’s a good way to try a couple fillings for cheap anyways. As expected, proper soft masa tortillas, double-stacked for each taco, garnished with onion, cilantro, and a section of lime for each taco. And yes there was a little thing of hot sauce, which I completely forgot to try on top of the tacos cuz they were SO GOOD; I love a proper taco from these kinds of trucks! But I did sneak a taste of the sauce on its own; has a kick, with some of those dried whole spicy chile flavors and some development start to finish.

Decided to go for the Al Pastor, ‘Marinated Pork,’ and the Cabeza, ‘Beef Head,’ for this trip. Both tasted great on their own terms, wrapped in their pillowy tortilla folds and with spikes of herby aromatics and bright crunchy onion. The pork’s marinade shone the most, with that distinctly unique tomato-chile-based (I think, maybe it’s a red mole or similar) sauce providing the most distinction; though on their own, the pork meat WAS a bit dry, luckily everything else balances it out enough to not really impact you. Oh but the head, fall apart tender and rich and juicy… well, not really juicy, in fact almost ‘slimy,’ but in a good way, like certain special Japanese noodle dishes. Bit of that fatty/collagen-y aspects from wherever they took that meat around the cow’s skull. And for those already trying to use excuses to be disgusted, shut up; it’s just like roast beef, amazing and super flavorful roast beef which is perfect like this. I only wish they had even MORE alternative cuts, like chicharrons, pig feet, brains, etc; but oh well.

They might deserve an even higher score, but I feel I’d need to try some other items for confirmation first; which also means it could just as well truly be deserving of lower, even if sticking with the fillings one knows are good. So as always, take these with a grain of salt; especially since I really just like this a general idea for all taco trucks anyways.

20150910_120122

Holdability: 9

                 Tacos are classic street food for a reason, they’re made to be able to pick up with one hand; and that classic double-tortilla design, as I’ve always said, is just so good. Can use it for extra support so none of the fillings fall out, or just use one tortilla first, let as much of that meat fall out as you can, and the leftovers turn into a second taco! Unless you only get one, which isn’t unlikely, one still needs two hands for basket holding. But there ARE options; yet another benefit to the classic taco truck; if one desires portability, the singular Burrito comes into play, not to mention the classic one-handed snack of Mexican Corn.
20150910_115703

Price: 10

                  $2.50 for each Taco, $8 for a Burrito, $7 for Enchiladas, $10.50 or $12 for the bigger entrée that is the Alambres, and $3 to get one of those classic Elote, this place has RANGE to fit exactly what you’re looking for. Whether one’s spending more on a big lunch, looking for a filling but more cost-effective option, or just wants to part with a few bucks for a soul-satisfying snack, or just to sample, these kinds of menus have it all. Yet another notable proof of evidence towards the taco truck’s success in engraining itself as THE classic American street food/food truck operation.

Speed: 8.5

I imagine it technically depends on the item, but most of the proteins/fillings are pre-cooked, may get a TOUCH of griddle time at the most, so they only need the filling time and come out quick. Alambres and Enchiladas will get more attention to cook everything together, I expect average wait on those, faster turn-out on others; they get those tacos out to you quickly! Just like any good street food stand.

The TOE: 9

                  My initial reaction when first seeing the truck a while ago, considering its plain-ish look, wasn’t all that inspiring; as evidenced by the delay in actually ordering from them. But then again, I was judging whether it qualified as one of the ‘modern’ food trucks which I mainly focus on. Truly, this IS a Mexican Food Truck, and it feels like it when you’re there and ordering from it. It seems to measure up just about as much as the others; perhaps there’s been some attempts towards a more ‘attractive’ design pulls it a bit more away from that rather traditional, operating-in-the-parking-lot-down-the-street feel that sort of comes to mind with these, but it’s not so huge. Plus I admit it that feeling in myself may be skewed simply because they’ve been doing a lot of business in downtown with the other trucks.

Tally: 45.5/50

20150910_120309
Final Thoughts

Gotta love a good Carne Asada, and if you can find ANY part of yourself to try it, get the Lengua or Cabeza, they’re always so good in tacos. Besides those, I’d say you’re certainly safe with anything else Shredded or Grilled/Charbroiled, then it’s just figuring out what kind of edible packaging you want it in! That variability, versatility, is what makes these trucks perfect for any need: on a budget, grabbing a snack between other things, sampling multiple things, getting a full meal, looking to eat there or move to another location, etc. Chances are you’ll find SOMETHING that fits your needs here, so long as you don’t hate Mexican cuisine (you monster). And definitely give the Elote a chance if you still have yet to try one; it can be a quick, cheap, and satisfying grab-and-go treat that’s worth the minimal spending risk, or can add it onto another order as a ‘side’ of sorts.

At the end of the day, Habanero Tacos delivers their food, for the most part, in the same manner as what we expect to come from these glorious vehicles. I hope you’ve had the chance to experience it or one of the many other classic taco vendors in the cities, or that you do so soon.

Electric Burger Co. (or: Vin’s Italian, the Sequel!)

20150910_114233
http://www.electricburgerco.com/
https://twitter.com/burgertruckmn
Main Location: Minneapolis, Breweries, Etc

Whoever thought I’d have to redo a FULL review of one of our local trucks (little updates are one thing, I’m talking about the whole shebang here), but that’s just what Vin’s Italian has made me do! A couple months ago the guys completely rebranded their baby into the Electric Burger Co, changing their focus from the Italian Sandwiches to, you guessed it, Burgers and Fries and such. The reason, supposedly, being to offer a more appealing kind of food and menu when parked at breweries, their main gigs. And what can you say, people like burgers and beer!

At the time of hitting them, the menu itself is mostly focused on basic hamburger, cheeseburger, and ‘Deluxe’ (the basic topping combo) options, which can all get bacon or an extra patty for additional cost. These are paired with their Coleslaw, Fries, and the ability to get a Kramarczuk’s Hot Dog. Next to these, they’ll feature 1-2 ‘Special’ burgers, and even a dog at times, with some different toppings. This is only temporary, as the idea is that it’s currently in the ‘testing’ period; after they’ve done enough sampling of different specials, see what they like, certain ones will be added permanently to the menu. Popular ones so far are the ‘I Don’t Give a Shiittake,’ the classic mushroom+swiss, a Blue Cheese Bacon one, and the pickled jalapeno topped ‘It Gets Cheddar,’ which was on today.

If you like the names, you can get in on the action and suggest your own! Tweet them some really weird and funny name for a burger, and if they like it they’ll put it up on the street at least once! Just make sure it’s not something from Bob’s Burgers… there’s a list, look it up.

A note on the product; the burger patties come from Swanson Meats in Seward, and the buns via Denny’s Fifth Avenue Bakery. It’s always nice to see where things are coming from locally I’d say! The pickles are made by them though… gotta love a good pickle.

Had to wait a little while to get out to them, but I found a beautiful sunny lunch period in the middle of the recent week to hit up downtown Minneapolis. So here’s the new scores, with their comparison to the original displayed in () next to each.

20150910_115112

Holdability: 8 (+2)

                 I actually expected to take points off of this, since we all know how burgers can be! But they actually wrap it up in a perfect package, and the burger plus its fillings are small and kept rather tight in their bun… which has some other aspects to which I’ll get into later…

Price: 8 (+0.5)

                  More of a range than before, with the option to get a good $5 Hot Dog, basic burgers ranging between $6.50-$8, and the specials being $8.50. Fries and slaw are automatic, so again would always like the option for not-so, but it makes the price paid even more worth it, even if they’re a smaller addition it seems. $1.50 for Bacon and $2 for an extra patty though, not particularly pricey but they do give ya a hit.

Speed: 7 (-1.5)

Definitely took ‘em longer to cook the burgers than build their sandwiches, felt like a touch of a wait too but only a bit more so than average for a burger truck.

20150910_114441

Food: 4 (-5.5)

                So this is normally the first thing I start with in these but… ahhh, god, I just don’t think I can do all of this and then expect you to have then taken actual note of the other things. I was so looking forward to this guy, I remember clearly how good their Italian Sandwiches were… they had to make some pretty good burgers if they were gonna switch from that right? Apparently no. Apparently, they didn’t spend nearly as much time in development as they should have.

I’ll keep it simple as to why. The burger itself was thin; which isn’t a problem on its own, I’ve had thin patties which are good, but they still need to be moist and juicy, which this was NOT. The bun wasn’t toasted, and was a bit crumbly/’bready,’ thus there was way too much of it to eat with the burger. Toppings barely came through with flavor, which sucks because I love good grilled onions, and the idea of those pickled jalapenos, probably made by someone else, as the main feature of that burger was rather unexciting. And the cheese wasn’t melted… barely even warm, I mean come on. It’s just… disappointing.

20150910_115147

Overall, this wasn’t, necessarily speaking, a ‘bad’ burger, but it wasn’t memorable or particularly attractive in any way. And of all the burgers I’ve had from food trucks, it’s easily one of, if not THE, least successful in execution. They need to make some serious changes here; either by making a thicker patty with the same bun, but toasted, or a smaller burger bun and simply better executed, juicy burger. That and actually putting the darn cheese and toppings on the patty while it’s still on the grill.

Nice shoestring fries though, crispy and potato-y with a nice sea salt, I could totally handful my way through a big bag of these.

The TOE: 4 (-5)

Everything is great until you actually get the burger, and then it takes a dive. And not just because of the quality of the food; the whole name and concept and idea of it, especially knowing what the history of this truck is connected with, creates an electrical air of anticipation. But even by just reading the menu, even if it WAS filled with some of those other ‘special’ burgers, starts one embedding themselves into this trip of simplicity; and no, not the good kind. There’s no sense of unity, no SPIRIT left, just what feels like an idea that was thought up to fix an ‘issue’ that was probably barely even there, and then put into action before nowhere near enough thought and proper preparation/testing had been fully invested.

And the worst part is that this could be so much better. They can make great food, we know this, they’ve proved it in the past. I still don’t understand why they felt they needed to change… I mean, I UNDERSTAND, but was there REALLY a need for it? Whatever, the change has been made, and it wasn’t handled well, which in itself is baffling. Think, for a second, how easy, how lazy it would have been, yet at the same time absolutely AMAZING, if they had just made burgers and topped them with all their previous sandwich fillings. The only change they literally would have needed to make was making small sandwiches in a burger bun, with a burger, and then piling it with tomato sauce + mozzarella, or giardanera peppers, or that awesome fried eggplant, or whatever, and all that other stuff they have. It would have been SO good, super unique and cool, different, while at the same time keeping to their original selves. Could have done so many fun and exciting menu items that I know would draw people… but no.

Service: +0.5

                We’ll keep this, they’re still as amicable and friendly as before… makes me wish I didn’t have to say all that other stuff.

Tally: 31.5/50 (-9.5)

Final Thoughts

You know what, I just don’t even want to say anything else, I don’t think I can even… anymore, with this thing. Just take it as you will, hopefully I’m just the result of one monumentally unique bad burger, but I really hope that the guys here can actually take what I said to heart and make some proper changes and improvements. Seriously, if anyone from the truck is reading this… I think we need to talk, in person. That’s the first time I’ve ever felt the compulsion to say that to any local truck, I don’t ever try to assume they should seriously take major advice from me, but in this situation… well, clearly, there are things that need to be said.

… okay, if they can fix the burgers, but were to then keep the same specials that they’ve had so far, there’s a particular one with Plum Jam + Gorgonzola Cheese that seems fun, and should be completed quite nicely with bacon. So go for that. That’s my suggestion to customers so far.

Rockin’ at Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill in Lakeville

20150823_120857

Four months after the infamous and devastating explosion incident that destroyed one of our Minnesota Breweries’ most beloved food trucks, Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill is back yet again, this time with their much-awaited standalone bar of the same name. Bursting out of the gate guitars blazing, the 40 days I myself have had to wait to travel down to their new location has been filled with packed nights, much local love, and a few ‘special visits’ from certain musical icons. As always I feel so rather crappy for not being able to go down sooner, this was the one truck-steraunt (patent pending?) that I actually wanted to make sure I was down for on opening day.

20150823_142133

But alas, the implantation of this brick-and-mortar (by the way, still hate the phrase, and yes I know that I have no proper reason for this) was straight down in Lakeville, 30 minutes south of Minneapolis and 50 from my own residence. So it sucks for me, but is a truly great thing for Lakeville; sadly, many a restaurant or other fun edible stop have been leaving the city over the past few years, limiting local options to only one or two places to dine out. Not only does Heavy Metal offer a different and totally awesome bar to change things up with every once in a while, which most of them have certainly shown appreciation for in these first months of business, but it’s only the first wave in a battalion of new businesses aiming to bring further fun and life back into the area. As anyone who’s been following the build of Motley’s restaurant is aware, a month or two from now will see the opening of a brewery-taproom in the same building, creating the perfect visiting experience. Not only that, but yet ANOTHER Brewery, this one with its own restaurant and apparently some kick-ass design ideas, will be opening in the space right BEHIND Motley’s, a trifecta of late night beer and bar food heaven.

20150823_142206

Though mostly bare on my visit, the walls of this hard rocker’s upscale-ish dive are already getting loaded with sweet guitars, flaming posters, and most notably Truck scraps. Yes, though the truck may be gone, its bits and pieces live on in glory within its successor, like a propane-fueled phoenix rising from the ashes… or scraps of twisted metal, whatever. If you look at the back of the menu itself, you’ll see a picture of the old truck parked outside their future space, already with their name on it… like a proud momma looking over her growing child. Sadly that was THE last picture ever taken of the old girl before the accident, displayed in yet another honorary position as part of this establishment.

20150823_125907

Currently we get to see this with some of the surviving classic attire so nostalgicly seen on the truck’s side, various stickers, license plate, and they hung the whole of the final menu in honor over in one of the corners. Then there’s the bar Hand Sink; who ever thought anyone would talk about a goddamn SINK in any business-related article? But one of the few surviving items from the vehicle, its hand sink festooned with stickers and all, has been given permanent place out front, still doing work and keeping its soul alive as part of the long working bloodline that is a restaurant’s kitchen and bar stations.

20150823_133256

And that’s just to start; if you get the chance to head down there soon, talk to Marty about decorations, that man has some PLANS for filling spaces. The original hood, or something, of the truck is going to be hung up in front between the air vents, one of the destroyed and sorta-twisted sides will garnish a wall, and an old logo that was GOING to be wrapped on the truck (but was way too big) is going on another wall.

20150823_123547

Keeping true with their old-school rocker lifestyle (the only kind worth living am I right?), they’ve also got a whole mess of other paraphernalia lined up and getting ready to go on display. Pictures, posters, guitars, Frisbees (some sort of big white disk, I claim all apology in completely forgetting what that was exactly), and various other things, signed by icons or just plain badass in their own separate ways. All awaiting their debut on the ‘bleak’ (inside joke, sorta, haha) and still quite-empty canvas; though I’m sure they’ve already gotten a few more things up by the time I finally get around to writing and posting this crap.

20150823_142120

But décor isn’t the only thing in development; as one should hope and expect, the menu keeps hold of every sandwich and beloved food item that the truck was known for serving for, two sections of which are filled with different steak/philly and chicken sandwiches. Of course one can still get a bag of the classic sweet and spicy pretzels from Sammy’s we so fell in love with from the truck, if there are any left that is!

20150823_130403

It’s not a truck-steraunt without new items though, to which they have quite a few… and they’re still adding more! The big focus so far is on their Burger list, filled with thick monsters topped by totally unhealthy things and given names such as ‘Kickstart my Heart,’ ‘Feed my Frankenstein,’ and ‘War Pig.’ A section of Chicken Wings compliments the proper atmosphere of the place, an ideal basket to eat with a big glass of draft from some of our local breweries (a small-ish selection for now, but growing, or at least in frequent rotation. Oh, and something cool, got the chance to go in the back with Marty, they actually have the kegs stored right behind the tap for easy handling; you’d think that’s obvious, but I’ve worked in kitchens, doesn’t always happen), dressed in classic sauces. Oh, and they have Seafood; Buffalo-style Fried Shrimp, which they plan on turning into a Po’Boy and/or other sandwich in the future, and Crab Legs. I shit you not, you can get a basket of simply steamed crab legs here. It at first seems so opposed to Marty’s opposition of places that just make their menu options as varied as possible, yet the singular point of ridiculousness with that ONE item makes it feel almost completely at home here.

20150823_131617

And that’s what’s here NOW. Inside scoop tells me (look at me trying to sound special, when I bet you anyone who even broaches the subject with Marty at the bar will get him telling you every little bit of the same information as I got from a computer screen) that we’re in store for some other special and fun ideas, such as a Juicy Lucy called the Iron Maiden, now-classic Peanut Butter-Bacon named Skid Row, and just a SIMPLE Cheeseburger (which they don’t have yet, for good reason in my opinion) named after Marty’s favorite phrase and one of his favorite bands, K.I.S.S.: Keep it Simple Stupid. Are you noticing a pattern with the names yet?

20150823_125914

Then of course there’s a burger topped WITH Philly Meat and cheese, a Philly served with Au Jus to make into a dive-bar Dip, Fried Cod (Sandwich version or non, former called Barracuda), Rib Tips, burgers made OUT OF Bratwurst, and a dessert of Cherry-Cream Cheese stuffed Tortillas fried and rolled in Cinnamon-Sugar known as Sixx Stixx (there’s quite the origin to this name, definitely try to get Marty to tell you about it if it’s not busy). One definitely can’t say any of this is high-class fare, or even gastropub, but we never really went to them for that kind of food in the first place.

20150823_130036

I actually went there with a buddy, so we got to try a couple things. Besides the always amazing pretzels, and a little sample of some ‘yogurt’-coated almonds made by the same guy that does the candied ones I oh so loved when they were in the truck, we each tried a burger and got those Buffalo Shrimp. Which are awesome by the way; deep-fried then slathered in sauce, what once was crispy is now almost soggy from absorbing that classic orange liquid, but I actually sort of LIKE that texture. Speaking of which, the shrimp were delightfully plump and bouncy, and there’s little beating the flavor of buffalo sauce, meat of some sort, and blue cheese dressing, which they also make from scratch in-house as any good restaurant should.

20150823_131729

That’s what you gotta get through w/ ‘Kickstart my Heart’

The burgers are monsters, that’s definitely the main point you go for with them; I’ll admit they’re not particularly juicy or of that perfect grind and meat that turns some burgers into massive balls of tender, squelching deliciousness, but they’re still cooked well and very enjoyable, especially considering the excess aspect. Just seeing them made us start talking about the ‘technique’ so often seen from Fieri on DDD, and then of course Marty comes over and asks us we got ‘the Hunch’ down! Perfect timing! My friend got Kickstart My Heart, a Double burger with 3 cheeses, 4 pieces of bacon, and a Fried Egg, and of course he then made it healthy with that ‘salad’ on top. I think we were able to get a good bite out of the bastard. Oh, and by the way, if you think your heart still has it easy for some reason, can order this one ‘Triple Bypass’ with yet ANOTHER patty, which has to be at least 8oz from the looks of it.

20150823_131608

‘Meatallica’

I felt I had to try the Meatallica myself: Burger, Bacon, Ham, a split and grilled Hot Dog (and not the skinny kind either), topped with Cheddar and… well that’s it. Lettuce and Tomato? Why the hell would I order that, this is the place that you shove those pretentions to the side! We don’t come to a place like this if we’re concerned about balancing our diets or looking at ‘perfect contrasting flavors’ for dinner that night. You go here to just shove a load of meat, cheese, and fried stuff down your mouth and enjoy it, washing down with beer. You can do that you know? You can take time every now and then to revel in something that’s bad for you… and this is coming from a guy who cares about food quality and crap. And I enjoyed my mountain of meat topped with cheap melted cheese and served with fries.

Speaking of which, I feel obligated to mention they DO have a house seasoning which they use on their fries, burgers, and probably some other things. It’s actually mixed in back, so not just season salt, and has an ingredient that provides a subtle little smoky aspect at times. I myself got the Cajun fries not realizing this, which I did enjoy, but one should certainly find interest that the ‘regular’ fries aren’t going to taste completely generic.

20150823_142333

Let’s see, final notes… there’s a big patio outside, looks great to take advantage of while the weather’s still nice. There’s a chair in each of the single-use bathrooms, no one knows why so don’t ask. The big sign outside lights up at night to look pretty cool. Glasses are monogrammed, and they always look into trying to get cool t-shirts made, so I’m sure there’s a few souvenirs one can buy if asked about it. And the whole team is awesome. Most of them are all from Lakeville and randomly got into the team through the kind of individual stories and happenstances that only a guy like Marty seems to keep walking into… like his baby duck.

20150823_133737

So, after having to wait over a month to finally visit and feeling rather crappy about taking so long… I now wish I had waited even longer! Now I have to find another good time and excuse to get back down to Lakeville once these decorations and new menu items get thoroughly engrained. Right now I’m thinking of a whole ‘Lakeville Day’ with friends and/or family, spend some time at the breweries once they’re in, start the day with lunch at a nearby Vietnamese place Marty says has quite the badass bowl of Pho, before finishing the day on another gut-busting tour of Motley’s expanded menu. If lucky, can do it at Pan-O-Prog or some other yearly festival.

The Truck may be gone, but the rockin’ spirit and attitude lives on! Though there is potential for mobile resurgence in 5 years or so, but for now we can satisfy our ‘cheesy-sandwich-deep-fried-goody’ happy needs down in Lakeville.

20150823_125726

Gotta get that commemorative picture in front of the Heavy Metal Grill rock idol centerpiece!

By the way, I’ll be making sure to upload a whole bunch of new photos once those upcoming truck parts and signed paraphernalia get jammed into the wall and ceiling. And what I can’t fit between paragraphs I’ll just jam in below here for simple viewing pleasures.

Sassy Spoon Cafe Visit

20150607_100828

As many have been made aware of by now, in a rather loud fashion, Sassy Spoon (for those unaware, read my review to get an idea of their theme and what my opinion of them has been so far) got themselves a little café in South Minneapolis! I finally had the opportunity to visit on a recent Sunday with the folks, and for Brunch time which seems to fit their theme and atmosphere oh so well, and check yet another local truck-staurant off my list!

20150607_101521

Let me start off by saying that I am very happy for them, or maybe it’s more accurate to say in REACTION to them, based on two different things. Firstly, though I really cannot comprehend how they got the popularity and capital to start up a brick-and-mortar (oh well, my opinions aren’t everyone’s, I accept that… still think there are at least other trucks that should have gotten to this point sooner), we finally have an environment that fits their food style! No more do I have to bitch about their very non-street food going on the streets, this stuff was really made to be served up on plates and eaten in a diner or café of some type, and now we can do that!

Secondly, I’m not sure when they did it (I know it wasn’t in the beginning at all), but they’ve shed their main advertising face of general “healthy and nutritious food” focus and openly narrowed their culinary focus to a “Gluten Free” façade. Now, that’s something I can get on board with! It fits, it makes sense, there’s nothing in the food to non-corroborate it, and I would bet if they used this excuse/marketing strategy since the beginning I would not have complained so much. I mean really, when you’re only offering piles of meat with either slaw, sweet potatoes, and creamy cauliflower, it’s not the kind of food that REALLY screams nutrition is it? Say what you will, no one really cares about the Atkins diet anymore… but gluten free, in a café, and the menu gels, my urges to contradict and bitch gone (well, sort of, I still have those memories…).

20150607_101527

Oh well, I’m shutting up now about that and getting onto the actual café! You can tell it was designed by the truck owners, the inside is just as bright, appealing, sorta-modern and welcoming as the big pink truck used to be. There’s a little wrap-around bar to the side of the order ‘window’ and dessert/drink display case. Which has some not-so-bad looking sweets in there, would be very interested in trying the Beet Cake myself one day… (gluten-free cookies scare me though)

20150607_101553

First up, of course, is drinks. Besides the classic morning coffees, juice and tea, one can of course find some trendy Kombucha, specialty soda, Organic Milk, and a few interesting shop coffees. This includes something called a “Maple Cream Cold Press” and a “Spiced Butter Coffee,” which my mom picked up, and I swear it smells like biscoff cookies! But sort of tangy, makes me wonder if it’s a nicely acidic coffee bean or something else added; really good and tasty, I can see the appeal of this new ‘butter in coffee’ craze, kept in control of course.

20150607_101957

I leaned more towards the booze of course, they having a nice little selection of wines but, more importantly, Local Beer, Cider, and Mead (which I’m only noticing now after looking through pictures, damn if only I knew before!). I myself got to try the Loon Juice; yay, another Minnesota Cider besides Sociable that I get to say I’ve had!

20150607_101504

Food is mainly comprised of the truck classics, the Sweet Potato Hash w/ Egg, Turkey Meatballs, Miso Pork/Tacos, and a Salad, with some notable extra options, especially during brunch. Goat Cheese-stuffed Dates, “Yucca Patties” w/ Olives and Jalapeno dipping sauce (I’ve been intrigued by this one), Wild Rice Black Bean Salad, and some eggy breakfast dishes in Omelet, Scramble, and Basic structure come together. Of course sides based off of these, breakfast, and apparently the option to buy cups of $4 broth is also available.

20150607_101837

A group of plates for our little party had us trying the Sassy Scramble, Yucca Flatbread, and Buckwheat Pancakes; the last being the definite highlight, just being super fluffy and flavorful, stuffed with delightful blueberries with a tasty citrusy syrup, one of those ideal modern brunch offerings we seek out nowadays after being exposed to places like Pizza Luce and Hola Arepa. Mixed with goat cheese and spinach (and onion), the scramble in comparison certainly TASTES really good, nice and healthy, but I myself have never really appreciated scrambled eggs that have gotten brown from the pan. Maybe it’s me, I know some professionals still consider the perfect omelet acceptable with some brown on it, but the texture in scrambles like that just end up too firm, not the light/fluffy or moist/silky expressions that actually show a sign of quality. And considering they’re probably using really good quality organic eggs here (they seem to stick to the local farm product theme for whatever they can), I end up feeling somewhat sad for what these proper eggs were probably turned into.

20150607_103238

My focus was the Flatbread, curious as to what the crust was actually like. First off, let me just start off by saying come on, let’s just call this what it is: a Pizza. I know the flatbread and pizza label are rather interchangeable these days, but we all have some impression of a flatbread, usually thick grilled or some artisan crisp dough topped with some unique sauce and/or cheese and/or garnish, really embodying a perfect appetizer for sharing. Just one look at this guy, red sauce and mozzarella with that apparent golden brown painting across the top from the hot oven, and clearly it’s nothing other than pizza; tell me that does not remind you of the frozen pizzas you bake at home (visually speaking, not quality wise, I’m not THAT much of a douche or imbecile). Why don’t we just call it pizza and get it over with?

As for flavor, as a pizza I did enjoy it in that similar manner; firm crunchy edges, a softer but still-holding and fully-cooked dough bottom, tasting red sauce and stretchy cheese. I added the pepper mix on mine, which for the price additions seems to be the only thing worth it, and was quite happy. As a gluten free pizza, the crust did a great job substituting; I’m wondering if they used something like yucca flour for it, but considering they have it elsewhere on the menu, my guess is more on the lines of mashing and using in a ‘potato flatbread’ manner. It’s not the best flatbread or pizza in the city, by far, but it fits a certain style and craving well enough.

20150607_101847

One big complaint and note we all had was the pricing, a lot of the items are rather pricey considering what we’re getting, which seems to be a common thing with most ‘healthy/organic/gluten-free’ based businesses. With luck the place actually delivers or provides something that IS totally awesome along with the healthy stuff and we don’t care, but in a café like this it seems to stand out even more. I mean, a BASIC breakfast on their menu is $11.50; that’s supposed to be one of the simpler, affordable options on a menu, not one of the most expensive (unless it’s one of those modern ‘deconstructed’ things, which are usually downright awesome). Not to mention a side of Bacon, which the mother got to add to the pancakes, cost $4, for TWO measly strips. We wouldn’t even normally care, you know, if we got two nice, thick-ish pieces. But even if it is from a local farm, we ended up with a barely cooked, thin, sorta fatty couple pieces that just aren’t worth it; feels a bit insulting actually. Same with the pizza topping add-ons; $0.75 for the veggies, okay, but $2 for each meat (which they only have two kinds to begin with)? It’s already $11 for just cheese and sauce man!

All that said, I’m not necessarily saying one shouldn’t go; it’s a fun and different place for the gluten-free required to find a meal in a welcoming environment! Or to grab yourself a local drink or butter coffee with a meal. Just make sure to pick the right items, I definitely suggest the buckwheat pancakes; not only have they likely been the best things I’ve had from Sassy in my trips, but they’re the best price too (Mom still says $8.50 for only two café/diner pancakes is larceny, but for special, delicious, and gluten-free affairs in a place like this, I don’t mind it). And the service and staff ARE absolutely great, nice, and fantastic and all that. I myself just won’t be going there again. Ever.

Harriet Battle Roy-ally

2014-09-03 13_11_42-Youth Link Food Truck Battle & Rally _ Harriet Brewing - Internet Explorer

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.

Asian Invasian

20140423_115544

http://asianinvasiontruck.com/

https://twitter.com/AsianInvasionTr

Main Location:St. Paul, Etc

            I’ve somewhat discussed the idea of trucks coming into business during the fall season, right after the busy summer has ended and gliding into the hard, hard winter months. How some of them make the decision is a mystery to me; how they actually survive to the warm weather is spectacular (we do make ‘em hardy in Minnesota don’t we?). So it’s interesting to see if and when anything happens during this season, to both the old and new guys, and any evolution that may happen as the snow falls and melts as it does.

            Coming into the fall of 2013, Asian Invasianhas easily survived the harsh winter with high popularity. Before year’s end, their bulgogi taco had already earned a spot in Citypage’s Top 100 Foods of 2013. Whether this is a result of, or one of the main factors in, their late-season survival I am not sure, but it certainly is something to say isn’t it?

            As the name suggests, Invasian deals in all items Asian-themed, mainly the more “well known” (or cliché) dishes from the big mainland countries. Dining options vary from rice bowls of Chinese Sesameor Lemongrass Chicken, Indian Pork Curry, and Chicken Fried Rice to Korean Bulgogi(short ribs) wrapped in Tacos. Vietnamese Pulled Pork Bahn Mialso makes its appearance, alongside with those iconic fried Egg Rolls and Wantons. My particular travel also saw a couple Hot Dog based “specials;” whether they often offer asian-flavored wieners is as yet unsure, but it’s a consideration.

            In reality I have yet to finish my travels to this particular mobile operation, as the main object of my desire had been unknowingly snatched away from me after ordering. That said I figure I have enough of an idea of them so far, and I will surely update if needed once I wrap my fingers around that beefy goodness.

20140423_120734

Food: 8.5

                My pursuit to get the Bulgogi Tacos was put to a quick halt as I later found out (a while after the order got accepted) that they had run out, so I grabbed the Bahn Miinstead. Similarly, they had run out of Pork Katsu Curry, but had a Chickenversion to try instead.

                Both items had noted ups and downs in my view. The curry itself was nicely flavored, and the meat and veggies cooked well, not quite amazing but better than one made with generic curry powder. Though then again I’ve always found that this particular style of yellow-spiced-curry is hard to identify high quality versions… sort of like root beer. Either way, I liked it. What I didn’t like was the giant mound of rice beneath it… or perhaps just the notable lack of curry that went on top of it. I understand potential cultural relevancies behind it, the habit of having a lot of rice to just chew on plain next to the meal, but we’re not in India or Japan. I want to be able to actually mix the sauce into all the rice without its flavors practically disappearing under the starch mass. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only local who wants to taste the already subdued flavors.

                There’s not much I can say about the Bahn Mi. They used a different bread than they should have, but they got a flat crunch on the outside which was nice (no inside crunch, but I don’t mind it sopping up stuff so long as there’s texture somewhere). The pork itself, though cooked well at least, was somewhat boring… it just reminded me of another pulled pork sandwich but without any sauce. I really wish they had a sauce. Or a different kind of pork, like something grilled and glazed or a pate, like is pretty proper. I guess the pickles were nicely acidic and tart, but that’s about it… still wondering if the jalapenos were cut a bit too big in mine. It’s part of the experience but I feel like I’ve had them thinner in other bahn mi’s.

20140423_121417

                I will say though… they’re really good at frying things. Don’t think this is me being passive-aggressive and snotty, I’m serious. The Sweet Potato Frieswhich automatically came with the sandwich had that perfectly thin layer of crispness on the outside with a tenderly soft inside; not the easiest thing to do (I doubt it’d last long, but no sweet potato fry ever does). And the chicken in the curry (also used in their Sesame), which was also deep fried, had that really nice tempura-ish crust, which stood up very well through the sauce, without overcooking the bird. Could tell it was an actual scratch-made batter too, not the generic thick sweet-and-sour batter used in almost every Chinese buffet or to-go restaurant. Either way, I was excited to eat it; and something about the texture reminded me of pork cracklings.

                That said, one can expect that the wontonsand egg rollsare to be cooked well; I’m also giving them the benefit of the doubt with the Bulgogi and the Pork Katsu (sounds like they’re deep-fried meatballs) that I was not able to sample at this time. So I’m giving them a little higher score than I normally would have. Hopefully I’ll be able to try the Tacos soon to properly update the blog with.

20140423_121020

Holdability:7.5

               So far, every item seen has been giving in some form of “bowl” (to-go aluminum version) or basket of plastic or regular composure. Everything requires two handedness, many require a fork, fried “apps” have a dipping sauce one needs to take into consideration (non-covered), and even potentially high-mobile sandwich is grounded by a side of fries. The Tacos and Hot Dog Specials are probably the only truly mobile options, with the latter possibly only needing one-handedness depending on how much topping it’s given (though I’m sure it’s served in a basket, one can just readjust on their own).

Price:7.5

                Basically the same pricing structure as the recently-visited Butcher Salt, with all main items at $8 and smaller onesat $5, but I feel the quality for cost is very divergent among them. As for the cheaper things, the Hot Dog Specials (at $5) may be a good deal, though that also depends on the dog used and how much they’re garnished. On Fried, I’m a touch uneasy; the Pork Wonton/Fried Dumpling yield a good option, but one only gets two okay-sized Egg Rolls (they look tasty, but not much there; at least with Vellee they gave 5 finger sized ones, it seems more bountiful), and Cream Cheese Wontons are always just that.

                As I mentioned previously, with the bulk of the rice dishes being quite obviously the, well, rice, it’s difficult to contemplate the price justification. Though the Sesame seemed quite loaded in comparison, and the Pork Katsu meatballs do seem like they could lift the dish nicely; if only they hadn’t run out. The Bahn Mi is, as one can see, quite small compared to other Bahn Mi’s, and should probably be served for a couple dollars less, though they use the automatic inclusion of Sweet Potato fries to justify. Bulgogi is quite likely to be the one item that stands at the peak of price quality though.

20140423_115658

                Of course this little session of me whining over whether prices are worth it should be taken in a sense of minute quantities, one dish vs the next, and not in too major a fashion (maybe next to other trucks though). Obviously these prices are still much better than lots of restaurants.

Speed:8.5

             It’s pretty hard to judge this properly, as though my Curry came out rather quickly (a couple minutes, and there were other tickets in the window), I actually had to wait at least 5 or more minutes before the guy leaned out the window to inform me that they were out of my Bulgogi Taco order. After that, though, I don’t believe I had to wait too long for the Bahn Mi. Others around me weren’t waiting more than a couple minutes between orders, ish. Certain items come out faster than others. Overall not too bad seemingly.

The TOE:8.5

                There’s a great “theme” to this place. It’s a great idea, has a fun decoration and logo and feel to it, and there’s been something about it during the chase that really made me quite excited at the prospect of finally getting to it. However, I will say that in hindsight, the fact that many of their items are based on the most cliché Asian items sort of takes a decent chunk of the experience away for me. Now they’re good versions of each, I will definitely give them that (it’s one of my big highlights), so props in not sticking to the crappy take-out recipes or whatever they all get for that. But it’d be nice to have seen either some more in depth, non-everyday regional Asian dishes, or Twist their applications some more (like putting the bulgogi in tacos and the curry-topped hot dogs). Overall, Strong showing in “ambiance,” pretty good in Technique (with some noted exceptions), lacking in creativity/interest.

20140423_120152

Service:-2

                Alright, so… they ran out of things a lot. Which sounds douchey to use for a deduction, and normally I wouldn’t; shit happens, sometimes things run out, even bacon (-gasp-). But these guys ran out of quite a few things on their menu, pretty vital and simple things too: Chicken Fried Rice, Pork for Curry, possibly a wonton, and worst of all the Bulgogi Taco, their mainstay item. Thing is, by the time I got there they hadn’t been on the street that long, good chance of only an hour’s worth of service. I doubt they had that much traffic, there was one moment of a little crowd when I got there but that’s it, since it was pretty gray and chilly out. There’s not much reason I can find for the lack of, besides highly insignificant prep.

                Though, in itself that’s not too bad at all, I’m not really upset or feel too lacking for that in itself; though it does make a point that they probably shouldn’t have that many items on the menu, if they prep so little of some that they run out easy. What gets it for me is the fact that I wasn’t informed of the bulgogi loss until 5-10 minutes after ordering and waiting for my food. Not to mention the fact that not once did they offer to comp the meal, add an order of free wontons, or anything of that matter, which most establishments do (or should do) after such annoying circumstances come up. Either way it’s something to think about.

                       Tally:38.5/50

                       

20140423_115553

Final Thoughts

            I find there are a couple needs this could place could satisfy, one just needs to choose carefully for each. For the basic Street Food delighter on-the-go, Bulgogi Tacosare the way to go, than and possibly a Curry Hot Dog(or other fun hot dog specials). These can also be used to satisfy “snack stops” for Truck samplings or when one just needs the small stuff; I would also lead towards the Fried Pork Wontons/Dumplings(the Cream Cheese ones are good I’m sure, but they can only get so exciting in my opinion).

            As for those in the mood for a sit-down, something to take back to the office, or just needing a replacement for skyway Chinese food, the Sesame Chickenand Pork Katsu Curry are your destination. Maybe see if you can get more sauce though…

 

Taco Cat and Other News

tacocat

                   Recent texts with friends and the spying of a certain CityPages article today has made me aware of what seems to be quite the exploding topic at the moment. Articles, press comments, and many a hipster are doing what seems to be their very best attempt to bog down the company from being able to actually perform their “soft opening” which they so wished for tomorrow. Though considering this particular business to be… two years in the making (? they trademarked the particular kitty logo in 2012), one can’t blame a bit of excitement among those aware of this upcoming venture for quite a while. Taco Cat is Here.

http://www.tacocatmn.com/

                   Their slogan, much like their website and view on life (life meaning tacos), is simple: Call Number, Get Tacos. By bike, in the uptown area, no going to a café or shop to get them (they don’t want company). You are to wait for their delivery persons to bike over to where you are and deliver the crunchy, awesome packages of handheld tortilla goodness. I would have said “Mexican goodness,” though they only seem to have two Mexican tacos… the others use things like Bulgogi Steak, Mock Duck for a Bahn mi enspired creation, and a Pork with Caribbean Mojo sauce.

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/04/taco_cat_call_n.php

                   Again, as I’m probably one of the later news-bringers for this particular business, everything’s already been said via other greedy, non-lazy publications and bloggers (blegh). So my attempts at making really bad, cheesy, snappy comments have already been null and void by those who have already gotten there before me. Oh, and they probably have more information on the company or whatnot…. so feel free to leave me forever and get all your hot, sweaty news needs fulfilled by other better-endowed keyboard typers. Besides, this may not be my last word on them… I’m debating getting myself to the uptown area and hitting up their number for an interesting Quasi-Review experience. Not a food truck, but they are quite mobile aren’t they?

tacocatmap-thumb-470x470

                  I definitely suggest going to the website, just to read their hilarious QnA section.

                  In Other News, our awesome MNFoodTruckAssociation has updated and changed the format of their website! It looks very pretty, much easier to navigate, and actually makes you believe they’re a proper organization (not like I didn’t before…. though it’s nice to see they’re still doing stuff). Best of all, though, is an actual event schedule page! Which not only reveals the date of the next, very long awaited Spring Truck Festival (I tought they were doing something in the winter… maybe I was wrong… coulda been someone else), but the dates of every Festival and any other event they do the whole year. Thus making it official, each Harriet Festival is a seasonal thing (little different than what they first advertised for it, but at least it’ll keep happening), every one filled with the awesome music, beer, and crowd of trucks that we’re already used to. I know I already can’t wait and hope to be able to go to the next one on Saturday, May 10th. Will see you there after my Tortilla Kitty!

A Reluctant Saturday Night Review, aka La Belle Crepe at Harriet

               I’ve been antsy lately, and last Saturday night didn’t help. It’s been… what, 3 months since I was last able to review a new Truck? And that was just temporary winter pop up version of something already existing. And now, with the snow melting and weather warming, teasing me with urges to go outside with visions of Truck rallies to come, only to be roped away with work and the realities that it’s still winter (well, not technically, but for MN…).

SAMSUNG

                Thought I would have had this fixed a couple weeks ago with a great chance off to go to Harriet with a friend when the new Butcher Salt was out… and then work screwed me over. Again a clear ray of hope showed this past week; yet another new truck at Harriet, “La Belle Crepe,” and a friend available to join in a fun night of music, drinking and food.

                Well, there was a $5 cover, I didn’t find out until after I got there that the friend had a double shift, and the “truck” was just a catering table in the back corner. Can’t quite say which part I was most disappointed with, but how ‘bout we just focus on the food aspect?

SAMSUNG

                That just really, really sucked… you don’t know how excited I was when I thought La Belle Crepe had started their own mobile operation. I’ve been to their café in downtown Minneapolis (you should too; it’s this tiny little closet-shop, like you’d find in France, just before 9th on Nicolette Ave), and they’re pretty good. We’ve been needing a GOOD, proper Crepe Truck for a long time, something with tasty components and a fun attitude.

SAMSUNG

                Let me tell you why they would have fit the bill. Firstly, as one would expect, the crepes are awesome; good thickness, SOFT, really reminiscent of what the proper French pancake should feel and taste like. Add that to a copious variety of homemade fillings in the style of sweets, savories, and breakfast, and we have a delicious bundle of joy perfect for mobile eating. They aren’t all classic fillings either; one can get Caramel Apple, Orange dream, Spicy Chicken and Crab, Gyros, dill & Lox, Benedict, etc.

SAMSUNG

                But wait, there’s more. Not only do they offer crepes, Belle also makes other French classic comforts like Gelato and Croque-Monsieur/Madame. Oh, and Vietnamese food, tasty tasty Vietnamese food like Pho and Bahn Mi. Reminded me of the Korean-Crepe truck my friend had found in Texas, only not quite so Fusion; Vietnamese cuisine HAS had a lot of French influence, so it makes sense with the concept.

SAMSUNG

                Well, I had already paid the $5 entrance fee, so as much as I didn’t want to spend extra money it would have been a waste to just leave the place as-is. Thus I was able to actually sample one of their sandwiches, the Hoisin Pulled Pork. Oh boy was that good, each side completely slathered in the Hoisin Mayo, all those dressed and pickled veggies just shoved and stuffed in there (you should see them pile it on and push it in with the spatula), and the pork wasn’t too bad either.

                A little bit of sirachi on half with the tart veggies, it went really well with Harriet’s version of Sahti, a Sour Ale brewed with juniper berries and cedar chips instead of hops (tasted a bit like lambic, so I was already in a bit of a happy place).

SAMSUNG

                The bread wasn’t the best sadly, being served without feeling the loving embrace of a searing hot grill or oven, but to be fair that was due to the setup. They DO toast it at the café, and I would assume if able to go mobile they would ensure a proper heat source to do it for orders as well. Also, the Cilantro (which there was a ton of, thank you! So good), served in whole bunches, was a bit… sagging. But again, I had ordered a sandwich about 5 hours (at least) after they got there with no proper refrigeration unit besides a cooler.

SAMSUNG

                At the end of the day, they offer a fun concept with delicious, portable offerings, and I sorely hope they might get on the streets soon to properly replace a certain Other Truck. As for me, I still sit here, antsy and stuck, ever waiting for my first proper shot at a new truck this year.

               -sigh- At least it’s getting warmer.