New Bohemia Truck

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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.

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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!

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… 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bubba’s Fried Chicken (Quasi-Review)

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https://twitter.com/bubbaschicken
http://www.bubbasfriedchicken.com/

Our first Wisconsin emigrant food truck has arrived this year! I noticed Bubba’s Fried Chicken in downtown St Paul a couple months back, but with its very state fair concession-like trailer look, was rather cautious on the approach. Not to mention home research, both of them and their locations posted up through the Facebook page, informed me that their home base is in fact River Falls Wisconsin. As such, I knew I had to wait, see if the trip to Minnesota was a one-time only thing, or just REALLY infrequent, or if it became regular. As luck would have it, their travel down to our Twin Cities has continued to come around here and there, and on a recent day off that they happened to post their location in Mears Park (first, main location, and second, they annoyingly don’t update Facebook THAT much, so you’ll likely best run into them if you’re down in St Paul regularly or via luck on most occasions).

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Bubba’s Fried Chicken sells, what else, Fried Chicken, and not much else. The business itself originated in a storefront in their home state, but if I heard them correctly that sadly got shut down, leading, or at least encouraging, their food truck-forward business strategy. It would certainly explain why their logo includes mention of Fried Okra, Collard Greens, and Deep Fried Corn on the Cob, and yet on neither occasion did I see ANY of these. Which sucks, because fried corn cob sounds AWESOME as a food truck addition, perhaps of even Toe Ring significance if done right, and they’d complete its menu as a deep south/deep fried business. There’s not even much excuse; okra can be gotten year-round, it’s PEAK corn season, and they obviously have a friar and prep space, all that’s needed for those two items. Oh well, a man can dream.

The menu itself gives us an option between fried chicken baskets; 2 piece, 3, 4 Wings or 4 Tenders, all of which comes with house-cut Jo Jo Fries (I’ll admit, when I saw that on the menu, I thought it was the generic stuff that they probably bought frozen. So props in at least cutting their own potatoes). Though what they don’t tell you is that the ‘3-piece,’ probably like the 2, is just 3 drumsticks. It’s a real shame you don’t get the chance at the breast or thigh meat, a classic mixed-basket deal or something. But if you like Drumsticks best, or either of the other two cut options, then you get to have a whole bunch of it just for you.

And there are a few simple sauces available; a BBQ, Hot, and Ranch-ish, which I’m pretty sure are all made in house. The flavors and balance on each are all rather standard, simply enjoyable in what they are; to be thought of and used on the side as a typical condiment, nothing to really write home about.

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Food: 6.5 – a thinner-styled coating on this chicken before frying, so lack of audible crunch but it forms a tasty ‘fried’ layer that’s seasoned well, perhaps a bit heavy on the salt. The chicken underneath IS moist, with expected flavor but nothing outstanding. Standard fried chicken, executed well for the ingredients and methods used. The fries certainly are ‘Jo Jos,’ big, soft on the inside and soft on the outside, no real crunch; but that’s an expected trait of the style, so I won’t really knock them for it.

Holdability: 7 – Easy to eat-and-go, but still classically need a napkin just from the slightly greasy skin and moist chicken meat. I feel it’d be nice if we didn’t HAVE to have Jo Jo fries automatically load up every single basket, for both this and the price factor.

Price: 9 – $6 and $7 for 2-piece and 3-piece, leaving a good deal and option to upgrade to some more food, and $7-$8 for the Wings and Tender baskets. Overall good and affordable level, worth it for the AMOUNT you get, I find myself wondering about the price for just 4 chicken wings but then again realize that those might be the WHOLE wings, tiny drummy and other thing attached to each.

Speed: 10 – well the pieces and fries are ready to go… great for speed though maybe not what I’d ideally want from a proper fried chicken food truck.

Toe: 3 – Ultimately it feels like something that we see at a State/County Fair or some Music Festival Block Party, it’s hard to feel that complete personality which we find at other trucks; especially since it’s all just the few kinds of same-fried chicken and the potatoes. With those other items they promise, perhaps it’d help, contorting them to a full respectable menu with real options.

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Brunch at Hola Arepa

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Getting to Hola Arepa’s Restaurant in Uptown, across the street from the legendary Pat’s Tap, was a long road in coming… now granted, I never paid attention to when they opened, so I don’t know HOW long a road, but I can figure at least a notable few months right? Having only two days off a week doesn’t help either, especially figuring they aren’t open on one of them (who’d figure it was Monday and not Sunday? Good thing there’s Brunch). But I got out recently so yay.

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I’m going to start off by saying this, I mean I expected them to be good of course (there’s a reason the truck’s been so popular), figured a really sweet Mexican lunch ‘sandwich’ spot reminiscent to a truck experience, but I didn’t think they’d be THIS good. Hell this was a TRIP on level with a trip to Pizza Luce, and you know how good they are.

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Especially during Brunch, which happened to be the time me and my dear sister ended up making it there. It was here that I discovered, to my intense satisfaction, how popular the spot has become, garnering a half hour wait for a table for two (so one can safely say that, unlike the truck, not the best spot for those trying to get in and out fast, at least unless you get to brunch early). Not that we minded, it gave us the opportunity to grab some rather badass cocktails.

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Here comes my first happy surprise, seeing a menu full of fun, modern Craft Cocktails reminiscent to some of our favorite finds at local bars such as NE Social, Pat’s, and Marvel. For my sister, the Seasonal Horchata Cocktail, based off a house-made ‘spiced whey horchata’ with flana cor 4yr rum, bitters, and cinnamon. A fantastic, thought-provoking improvement on the classic spiced rice-milk drink in the form of a ‘milk punch’ (look it up, they’re delicious and I want to make one). For myself, because the sister already grabbed the cocktail I wanted, something with the name of Paradise (okay, I forgot to steal or take a picture of the menu, thought the website would have it okay!? I was wrong) filled with Tropical flavored Aged Rum, Bourbon, Vermouth, Bitters, Lillet (if I remember correctly), and other cocktail things.

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Smooth, delicious, refined, definitely a great thing to sip on the benches outside during a beautiful sunny day. I absolutely love the pineapple flavor it got; subtly present, not super bright or artificial, just that deep tropical undertone lifted up and fused with the aged rum and whiskey spirits, mixing with the botanical-infused spirit elements to bring body, sweet complexity, and that amazing mouthfeel.

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But it was gone, and we got a table, and another cocktail was deserved, thus I grabbed an “Hola Fashioned” based out of well-aged rum with a dash of smoky Lagavulin Scotch to subtly tie in to the original cocktail, giving it just a light, subtle bit of that whiskey barrel-aged whiskey essence in the back while the rest fills with that delicious mix of orange aroma and rich sugar spirit. The sister got a seasonal Sangria, Red, with blueberries and another fruit. Let me just say, sangria is almost never something I crave or ever really FEEL like drinking unless it’s just in a fridge at a party (or offered to me), but THIS is one I’d go back to.

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But that’s enough talking about booze, let’s get to the actual food. There’s been plenty of articles written about this already I’m well aware, in fact I do wish I could go back for the Chicharone and Arepitas dishes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy my own experiences right?

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It’s not a trip without an Arepa, and I got to grab one I had yet to experience so far, of the ‘Breakfast’ Variety. Stuffed with a Fried Egg, Beans, the white cheese Cojita and some Tomatoes + Aioli, we decided to take the next step and also add in Pork. Which I’m glad we did, because without it I would imagine it’d be a very flat, not-so-full sandwich. Along with the meat, it certainly met the basic requirements, though I feel I’ve found more enjoyment with their other arepas (more of that rich, juicy experience, plus the dough today felt a little denser than usual). The real highlight of the order, though, was the Yuca Fries. God these fit literally every feature that I look for in PERFECT fries (at least of the thick-cut variety). Crunchy and crispy outer crust, soft pillows inside (maybe a bit more starchy than the really fluffy white potatoes), and big, these were a delight, especially with a side of aioli.

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Main Course happened to be Cachapas (yellow corn pancakes) and Fried Chicken; the latter a drier style with thick crust, truly ideal in those ‘chicken and waffle’ experiences when you just wanna cut it up and get a big piece of peppery fried batter in every bite of food. The pancakes came super soft, naturally savory-sweet highlighted from the corn sprinkled on top, and acting as an amazing base to carry the flavors of the accompanying egg, bacon, jalapeno… and of course that syrup. Easily the best part on that plate, for it truly completed that smorgasbord flavor of the ‘full pancake breakfast’ we expect, and without needing to cover the whole plate in calories. Just a few drops over my giant forkfuls of food, and that distinctly unique and deep chipotle-maple flavor could be picked up amongst everything else. It was classic, yet modern, yet traditional in a different way, and all executed well to convene in a mass that hit everything I wished for at Brunch (unless I’m craving hash brown skillet sorta thing, but that’s another day).

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Let’s move on, two more small items to get through (btw, yes there was leftovers… not much, but some nonetheless). Nowadays I love granola, yogurt, fruit and honey in the morning, and their version is easily now one of, if not MY, absolute favorites. A simple Yogurt Flan (baked custard, panna cotta, etc) with fresh Blackberries and a Cornflake-Pepita ‘Granola,’ which if anything was more of a candied mix of the two, with some sort of syrup on bottom (my money’s on a flavored Agave, but who knows? Maybe it was just honey based). Whatever the details were, it was good, and a perfect way to have a little dessert at breakfast time; I want more of the ‘granola,’ that was just sweet and crispy and addictive, they need to make an actual cereal out of it.

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Despite that, I had to try a certain actual dessert, the Mini “Churro.” Both I and they use the quotation marks for good reason, because I’m pretty sure they don’t use the same crème-puff-style dough which churros are usually made from. It came out more… actually, now that I think about it, it was basically like a coffee cake. A really good one, covered in a thick layer of cinnamon-sugar, and then served with a chocolate-coffee sauce on the side. Which, may I say, was DIVINE. Silky, smooth, with that teasingly bitter flavor that makes you think of classic Mexican Cacao, all to dip and pour over your little ‘churro,’ which ate nicely (if not messily, and yes you MUST use your hands for this or you aren’t a proper Hombre). It’s not a churro on any real fashion besides the fry job and cinnamon, but it is still good for what it is.

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And that thus concludes my little round-up of my first, and hopefully not last, visit towards Hola Arepa. I know I don’t have to wish them any luck, so instead I shall simply set my feet, look forward, and continue on towards the next meal, wherever it shall take me. Certainly I hope you can do the same. Good Luck and Good Eating.

Asian Invasian

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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.

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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.

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                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.

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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.

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                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.

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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

                       

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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…

 

Jellybean & Julia’s

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http://www.jellybeanandjulias.com/  

https://twitter.com/jellybeanjulias  

Main Location: Etc

            With an Anoka-based Deli found in the basement of a building on Main, Jellybean & Julia’s rolled onto the Streets late last year. Though most of us central Food Truck goers may be unaware of this considering how much off the beaten track they usually are. With their main Truck-sites revolving around wide-distance Wineries, and other stops with similarly-far locations, visiting the mobile operation requires a lot of either luck or dedication. I myself only found the chance to try them during an “Anoka Sidewalk Show” (which I am… relatively close to, at least compared to Goose Lake) where they parked out front of their Deli.

            A big black truck with bright pink and electric-blue logos reminiscent of certain artificially-colored candies, the imagery of the van much belies their actual menu. Kept simple for the often un-truck-seeing wineries (I’m guessing), the stark white marker board offers a couple un-complex Burgers (Cheese and Loaded), a Pulled Pork, and two Bacon-centric items (one being a Wrapped Hot Dog, the other a Grilled Cheese). All of which one can get with a side of Fries. From what I garnered from the Chef/Server, this is basically THE set menu, with little to no other changes or additions.

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            Oh, and not to be dissuaded from a lack of detail, they DO sell the Mexican Bottled Coke! I myself didn’t know that with the menu only saying “coke,” so I figured I’d at least help spread the awareness.

Food: 6

            With a limit of only one item for me that day (had a party later, I so didn’t need to eat multiple things beforehand), I limited myself to the Loaded Burger and a side of Fries. About a 1/3lb patty I believe, this little fella is topped with Cheese, Bacon (both a given), Grilled Onions and a Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise.

            Bun is toasted very nicely, and both the burger and toppings offer a moist juiciness to the palette. It ultimately is a good and enjoyable burger, however this comes in a very simple, average fashion; it’s the kind of burger one expects to find in a pub or bar. It’s definitely a good burger, with little real flaws, but again there is nothing in it that makes me really wish to rave and express the quality. Sort of like a Patty Melt… it’s all juicy and tasty and good, but really that doesn’t have too much to do with the actual burger quality.

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             Fries are highly unimpressive; though hand cut, or BECAUSE of it, they’re all soft and highly salted. I can’t tell if they’re fried only once or just not done all that well twice. They are sorta nice dipped into the Bourbon-Apple-BBQ sauce they have in the giant pump outside (though they really need the tart, sweet ketchup); would probably do well on the burger too.

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Holdability: 9

           Gotten without Fries, items seem to be easy enough to handle, sandwiches and dogs wrapped in foil to consume with one hand or two if needed.

Price: 8.5

            $6-8 for the bigger items, and a $4 Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog, the prices here are overall pretty fair and decent for the products; at least no obvious overcharging.

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Speed: 7.5

             Average speed.

The TOE: 3

              Amazingly Underwhelming… that’s just about the only two words I can think of to sum this up. I am so… disappointed in what I finally found, after months of trying to get to them. It’s not even that the menu is so boring, it’s how it compares to their actual Deli. You go to their site, you see all the things they offer from their original brick-n-mortar business; they have Paninis, and Wraps, Cupcakes, and other really delicious, tasty things, like something called the “Heart Attack.” All of these items, so perfect for a Food Truck, so EASY for them to be able to produce in that small area; they’re already doing the prep somewhere else. And how fun and awesome would it to be to finally have a truck that specializes in both sandwiches AND cupcakes?

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             But no… they serve a couple burgers and a grilled cheese, things that aren’t even on their original menu. It baffles me to think of how this decision came to be. Though however it did, this is nonetheless the final result, an odd contrast to the amusing and fun name and Truck design.

             I will say this; I can see it’s a good thing they stick to the outskirt events as opposed to the main downtown Truck venues. I don’t see how they’d survive otherwise.

                         Tally: 34/50

Final Thoughts

            IF one ever finds themselves going here, say if you’re at a winery and hungry, then I would probably say go for the Loaded Burger or Bacon Grilled Cheese. They griddle the bread and things nicely. Other than that, just go to their Deli; it’s a lot more fun and has better items… though it’s only open from 10-2.

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B-52 Slider Squad

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https://www.facebook.com/B52SliderSquad   

https://twitter.com/SliderSquad   

Main Location: St. Paul

            The Brainchild of B-52 Burgers and Brew, B-52 Slider Squad takes the obvious mainstay and miniaturizes it for the hungry crowds. Premiering along with various truck-patriots such as Hot Indian and Kabomelette, B-52 comes in to help fill out St. Paul’s obvious need for further new truck growth along with Hibachi.

            Offerings are almost entirely composed of, you guessed it, Sliders… or, “Sliders” (I’ll explain later), and of course the traditionally-accompanying Fries. One can get these in the Traditional Cheese Slider, a Bavarian (Onion and Mustard), a Veggie, and the New-to-the-Menu, and likely to make an appearance throughout the season as they mentioned, Pesto Slider. Besides these, one can also order a couple skewers of Corn Fritters.

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            To tell the truth, I don’t have too much more to say about them than this. Maybe I’m not feelin’ the “preachy” vibes tonight, or maybe they’re just that straightforward of an operation, or maybe I drank a bit more than I should have in my other writings, haha. Either way, think I’m gonna just get right into it tonight.

 

Food: 8

            Well I can’t go here without getting a Slider now can I? So I decided to go for their Bavarian. Though they label it, and a few other items, under “Burger” on the menu, all patties served ARE“Sliders.” I put it in quote as, unlike most sliders one sees in Trucks, White Castle, etc, the patties here are all ¼lbs of deliciousness. Oh yeah, that’s a big slider; though I’m sure there are many who would immediately disallow it from using the term. What I know, though, is that despite the amount used, they’re still pressed into that square patty and shoved into that soft, square, oh so nostalgic slider-like bun, only it’s a bit bigger. Ultimately, one still gets what is for all intents and purposes a slider, even if it’s a little bigger than usual; and hey, it still doesn’t reach the size most of us consider for a PROPER burger anyways.

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           Now, onto the actual quality. The Bavarian, shoved between a special Pretzel Slider Bun and topped with a white onion and some good European mustard, comes with some nice sharp flavors and textures. The bun is soft, toasted a bit but still soft in the middle like it should be. And the meat used is of nice quality, but cooked all the way to well-done, which I guess it probably should for a true slider. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t contain much real qualities of the “omg heavenly” one finds in the best grilled meats, though that’s not to say it’s poor in quality, because it isn’t.

            It’s not the greatest Burgers from a Truck out there, but you won’t be disappointed.

            As for the Fries, I’ve been thinking of a good way to describe them, and I can’t help but be stuck on this one idea. Think of what would happen if McDonalds didn’t work in low-quality bulk and made their fries bigger; like, actually restaurant-thick. That’s basically what we have here. It’s got that similar light-crisp outside, the soft inside, but more noticeable starchiness from its size. Oh, then they toss it in some seasoning. It’s pretty darn good.

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            And finally the Fritters, skewered Dango-style for our enjoyment. Bonus points for mixing in the fresh corn, jalapenos, and cilantro, so it’s not just one-note. The outside is crispy, though I’m sort of unsure of the actual filling texture; it’s quite noticeably cornmeal filled, though I think that comes with many of its positive and negative qualities. Eating it, I felt like the flavor reminded me of something… and all I can think of that might be close is cornbread; particularly the sorta-overcooked kind. Though I found the actual fritters weren’t really dry, this does clue you into something very important about them; it is VERY hard to get through eating all 8 of them, even with the palette-exciting flavors mixed in.

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Holdability: 9

            They have a fun way of serving the burger and fries, putting them BOTH in the old-fashioned paper bag, as opposed to the random paper baskets we keep seeing. If done right, one could thus require only one hand to eat the burger with; the same could be said for the Fritter Skewers, as long as you moved them into the paper bag they are served on top of. Of course, would need two hands when going for the fries… unless you tipped the bag up to your mouth (YES!).   

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Price: 9.5

           Some really good price points, with all items in the $5-$8 range, only one item being $8. Though all sliders automatically come with Fries, one can order solo sliders for only $1 off.

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Speed: 9

            Pretty damn speedy, I really didn’t have to wait long for either item… I’m guessing the Fritters are fried and skewered ahead of time then. But the burgers are cooked quick too (maybe they grill them half of the way beforehand, I worked in a restaurant that did that for when someone ordered well-dones).

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The TOE: 9

            FINALLY we have an all-slider Truck in our midst! I’ve been waiting for this day ever since I found out Gastro pussed out and just went to large sandwiches. And they certainly don’t disappoint. It’s a nice menu, a fun trailer design, and the food comes out in that little nostalgic package (and skewers for the fritter), making for an enjoyable experience for those on the grab-n-go.   

                        Tally: 44.5/50

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Final Thoughts

            Definitely one of the highlight Trucks for those looking for cheaper eats on the street, a quick grab, and easier holding while walking. Of course I can’t write a review on this without suggesting a Slider and Fries to order. If one doesn’t want to just do the Traditional, I think the new Pesto may be the Slider I’d lean towards most. I’m not sure how much I would actually suggest the Fritters (they’re interesting), but if you DO want them, then I would require you do one of these two things: either make sure you have 1 or more other people to share it with (again, they’re dense and hard to get through all 8 palette wise), or ask if you can just have one skewer for less.  

            I almost wonder if they should start doing shakes… but then I remember that this is a BAR, not a Diner. We’re just here for rich burgers and fries.

Hot Indian Foods

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https://twitter.com/hotindianfoods

https://www.facebook.com/hotindianfoods

Main Location: Minneapolis + St. Paul

                 With a business idea for a Contemporary Food Brand, owner Amol Dixit soon realized that his wrapped product would work amazingly in Truck form. Using the Truck to build the brand while trying out various products; a mobile test lab, if you will.

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            Basing off of his heritage and recent interests, Hot Indian Foods serve, what else, Indian cuisine. The particular name of the game is “Indurritos,” Burritos filled with various curries, Tikka Masala, stews, and other Indian-spiced mixes. I find it can be difficult to choose between the various fillings, but despair not! The Hi Flight offers customers the opportunity to try 3 different flavors over rice or as a selection of small “tacos”.

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            On the same line of thought, one can also purchase a combo meal (so called the “Thin Moustache”), pairing the unique burrito with “Indi Frites” and one of their special, glass bottled Indian Sodas (though I saw they also had cans too… not sure if they switched or if it just depends on the day). It also seems, continuing along their concept of “testing,” breakfast Indurritos of Lamb and Egg are already finding their way on the menu.

            With these kinds of options, I don’t think I mind being a test subject.

 

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Food: 9

               Grabbing a Hi Flight and Combo, I took the chance to try the Chicken Masala, Lamb, and Vegan Channa, each topped with a flavorful slaw of cabbage, mango, and cilantro (among other things). Though originally made from Tortilla, they now take to wrapping both Tacos and Burrito in Roti, or Indian Flatbread, for that next-level cultural experience and Truck Twist (again, I’m so sorry for confusing this with Raita!!). Each filling had that nice balance and richness one expects to find in Street Taco fillings, the soft stewed meat paired nicely along the crispy veggie-fruit topping. I almost wish I remembered to ask for some “heat” on one of the tacos just to see how it tastes (Indian food always does the good kind of spicy).

                 I’m gonna say it, I LOVE their fries! Using both regular and sweet potatoes, which are properly double-fried, the tubers seem to be dredged in flour (probably seasoned) before the fry, guaranteeing a big crunchy outside while the inside stays delightfully soft. This is a particularly great technique for the hard-to-fry sweet potatoes, and even more so when one cooks two kinds at the same time, ensuring consistency throughout the batch. Finally tossed with a sprinkling of Indian spices, these are paired with a deliciously sharp and powerful Garlic Mayo, matching nicely with their spices.

                 Though it’s not actually made by them, I feel I HAVE to bring up the sodas: a Lemon-Lime called “Limca,” which seems pretty popular already, and a Cola known as “Thumbs Up.” Being the Cola lover that I am, I had to get the latter, and I suggest you do too! A very nice, simple cola flavor boosted with the familiar rose water and other floral flavors found in the cuisine. I find it was balanced very nicely, offering up quite the pleasing experience.

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                Overall, a great job on the food. The one point I find disappointment in, however, lies in the 3 mixes; though individually they all tasted great, there was little to no flavor distinction between the options. It seems a very similar, if not the same, spice and stew mix is used among the three fillings. One can of course still tell Chicken is chicken, Lamb lamb, etc, but it would be nice if each option had its own individual identity and flavors to further distinguish. Keep the Masala on the Chicken, maybe do a fresh Herb-Garlic mix on the Lamb, and maybe a different stew on the Vegan; there are so many flavors and vegetables I’ve seen done, maybe they can play with them more.

Holdability: 9

                Rice bowl options (don’t HAVE to have it in a burrito… said nobody) and fry combos aside, the Burritos are an ingenious way to get these classic flavors into our stomach with only one hand. The Hi Flight option, though, with its 3 tacos, requires a bit more consumer attention while mobile (especially when getting the combo. I basically had to stand still with the soda on the ground).

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Price: 7.5

               Burritos stay at $9 or $10, a little high of an average for food trucks, but the Hi Flight offers a great deal to try multiple things at only $10. Follow that with a $13 Combo, one can spend only 3 extra dollars for good fries and quality soda, which is pretty darn good for a generously sized lunch such as that.

Speed: 8.5

               Though being stuck behind a plethora of other orders, I didn’t find my wait to be too ridiculous, and I would expect a shorter-than-average wait from this simple-to-build item (though still not instantaneous, especially for fries).

The TOE: 10

               Definitely fits into the unique “Food Truck” category, Hot Indian offers a simple but different, highly portable way to enjoy traditional flavors. I am SO digging the new Roti addition with their Tacos, once again a Truck making something I’m somewhat debating for Toe Ring material. There’s not much else I think I can say, this bright orange wagon brings everything we expect the Street Food experience should.

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                         Tally: 44/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            A fun one for those seeking to-gos, looking to sample, or needing a specialty beverage for whatever. The Hi Flight is great to try multiple flavors, but in the Street Food practicality sense it’s much better to just get a single Indurrito. Besides, one can get tacos in so many other places.

            From the current list of fillings, my suggestions would lead toward the Chicken Tikka Masala, always a tasty classic, and the Spinach Paneer. As for the latter, it doesn’t even have to be for vegetarian needs; Indian cuisine tends to have natural strength in the vegetarian department, so veggie dishes are almost always a sure bet when it comes to enjoyment. And this one I feel may be more unique and enjoyable than the Vegan Challah.

            Definitely one of the new top stops when looking for Fries. And of course, if needing a drink on the street, stop by to try a Thumbs Up.

The Waffle Van (L’Etoile du Nord)

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https://twitter.com/TheWaffleVan   

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Waffle-Van/154816037921188?fref=ts  

Main Location: ???

               Long has this elusive van been in business on the streets, and long have I been trying to track it down in my spare time. For the longest time I could not tell if they truly only ever came out once every couple months for specific special events (such as Rock the Cause, Art-a-Whirl, etc), which I always missed or couldn’t go to. OR if they’re out semi-frequently in some out-of-the-way area and just don’t inform anyone about it. If only I was there in their first year of 2011 when they actually seemed to care about it.

            I have a lot I’d like to say about this particular fact, especially concerning the day they wrote to me that they were going to be at a certain all-day jazz fest. Well, not only did they not show up (I was there for 4+ hours too), but they didn’t even post anything saying why… ever… even after I posted asking why. –sigh- Well, again I’d go on, but if I did it’d take up more of the post than is rightfully fair.

            Based out of L’etoile du Nord Café, owner Olivier spent his time roasting coffee for the local Cyclist scene. With his Belgian roots calling, it wasn’t long before he opened up The Waffle Van, pedaling out this Belgian delight to those… ummm, pedaling up the road? (Sounds cheesy enough, I’ll go with it)

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            Well, it seems he does two things and does them well. Which is good, because they’re the only two things on the entire menu (except for French Fries, but as far as I know that might just be for big Fairs/events). One can get Coffee, and one can get a Waffle, and that’s basically it. There are of course toppings, what kind of Belgian Waffle place would it be without it? Sticking PURELY seasonal, one only has one option depending on the time of year. My visit found a mound of Nutella with Bananas and whipped cream, though he admitted that the coming few weeks is likely to find him gathering bunches of Rhubarb for a tasty preserve.

            There is ONE last thing they offer, but it has nothing to do with the Food. Being Belgian, it seems Olivier can’t stand the idea of a lacking drink list. So, instead of the stereotypical cans of generic soda, the window of this truck is lined with various Belgian beers and quality Wine. The selection of course changes upon whim and availability, which, along with the special permits and other hoops he has to jump through just to sell them shows the level of effort and attention they go through just in their drinks.

            Since this blog is about food, however, I think it’s about time I wrap things up and actually GET to that.

 

Food: 9

              With only one product, there’s not too much that needs saying. The waffle is rich and flavorful; not “crispy” on the outside, but not soft, that kind of solid texture one expects from a good waffle. But the inside, ooooooooh, the inside; thick, soft but moist, not really “chewy,” but sort of dense in all the right ways. This isn’t an “airy” little thing, it’s a rich little lattice of Belgian goodness, topped with whatever the season yields. Though I haven’t tried any of his fruit toppings, the fact they’re seasonal and he makes them himself are sure to be tasty.

             Fries look basic, similar to what one may find at almost any Fair stand; not that I want them to be anything else, I’m there only for the Waffle.

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Holdability: 8

             With toppings, as one would imagine, handheld once again takes a back step. However, its tenderness makes for very easy eating, the plastic forks cutting right through with little to no actual tugging required. Two hands required, but the capability to walk is still there. Though if you want to eat a plain one, it’ll probably hold better than a Pasty.

Price: 9.5

            With toppings, the waffles come to a solid $5, getting a large palm-sized pastry for your reward, piled with the topping of the day. If wanting it plain, however, the charge comes to $4. For a delicious and specialized item such as this, which one still can’t get in any other truck, this comes to a very fair price and a good deal.

Speed: 9.5

              Cooking them almost continually, fresh waffles are usually ready when one orders, leaving the time spent only to pay and top the Belgian delight (that is if one gets it topped).

The TOE: 7.5

             Fast, highly specialized (as in only offering ONE item), unique concept compared to other trucks, spiffy design, and they have an interesting clientele demographic! (you know, the cyclists…) They hold many of the little feelings and aspects that make the great food trucks.

              Normally, I’d probably give a truck like this a great big 10. However, the past couple years they’ve refused to update their location except for very specific large events, which even THIS year they didn’t even do themselves, with most Truckie hopefuls relying only on the very few posts by those who had the luck to eat there (which of course came either PURE last-minute or the next day when they’re gone). Combine this with the blatant lie and lack of apology/acknowledgement I received concerning the jazz band last year, and I can’t help but feel this entire attitude towards potential customers is nothing but disrespectful and insulting. Thus only letting those “lucky” enough to live near them or just happen by them to get the chance to sample. Whether it’s agreed on by others or not, I find this is an issue that not only needs to be brought up but counted towards them as a Food Truck as a whole.

              As such, points shall be taken off, and I myself now hold no interest in going back until they fix this particular point of themselves (I’ve already eaten there once for blog purposes, that’s all I need), and I would ask those who can to do the same.

                        Tally: 43.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

              Hmmmm, what to get what to get, so many things I could suggest… though I guess if I HAD to settle on JUST ONE thing… it’d probably have to be a Waffle! Load it up while you’re at it, get the full experience. If one requires something more portable, getting it plain is cheaper and still very enjoyable. Actually, it’s probably quite the fun idea to get a plain waffle with a cup of their coffee; a great pastry substitute, it’ll make for good dipping and tasty flavor matches.

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              Ignore the Fries; when people go here it’s for one thing and one thing only. Well, two things; this place stands as one of the pinnacles of the “Beverage Stop” for “Food Truck Days” or outings at a Fair. Not many places have such nice beers on display in a mobile setting, and for only $5, that’s not too damn bad.

            Of course, these words are only to be taken into consideration after they’ve started updating their locations once more. I still hold my main opinion that we hold some form of boycott against this truck until then. If they don’t hold any concern in trying to reach out to new customers, I don’t see why we should show any concern in even going there.