2013’s First River Day and some updating Reviews

            The first Lunch by the River has come and gone, and though I can safely say it was a fun and eventful time for myself, sadly I was one of the few to show up and experience this. As we all were able to see, the weather Thursday was grey and sprinkly, so not the best weather for these little events we thus love. I half expect it’s my fault for going, considering how many times this happens with the plans I make (though I’m now considering this may simply be a side effect of living in Minnesota…).

            As mentioned in a previous post, the particular Trucks stationed consisted of Home Street Home, Neato’s, Cupcake Social, and Café Racer, who mentioned a couple interesting things during a little back-n-forth rapport. Unlike previous years, this particular set of Trucks may no longer be a random group decided week by week. This is because of plans and discussions in the works of adding two more “River Lunch” Truck gatherings to the week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from what I hear. Due to this extension, more Trucks have an opportunity to take part in the gatherings; and with the larger selection, one brings in the possibility of scheduling specific Trucks as certainties on the Weekly schedule without infringing on other Trucks’ chances of taking part. With this, we can now officially have set Truck Gatherings on given days of the week, giving us some fantastic certainties in schedule. It’s really great for those who work nearby and aren’t able to stay abreast of daily Truck-stops, allowing them days to go out and say “Oh hey, ‘these guys’ are gonna be by Robert Wednesdays.”

            I am very excited at this new idea, particularly in how much of a sign it is at not only the growing interest and culture, but organization that our Trucks have been able to form this season (thank you Food Truck Association!).

SAMSUNG

            Back to the actual Trucks of the day, update time; I was also able to overhear that Racer will offer samples of many a menu item (definitely something unique compared to the others). But more importantly, they were out with a Full Menu, and I finally got the chance to try their Street Dog! Really one of the main, hell I still think it’s THE, highlight of the entire menu.

SAMSUNG

            Isn’t that just one of the most beautiful hot dogs you’ve seen? Sure it takes a bit longer than other dogs in Trucks, but it’s worth the extra couple minutes. All the flavors had that perfect, subtle balance between them, making for very happy bites! I’d say it was sort of sad ruining that picturesque food, but it tasted too good for me to give a crap.

SAMSUNG

            On another positive note, my Re-Review of Neato’s(Menu also pictured, look at those Burger options!) Duck Fat Fries has now been completed. For those who haven’t read yet, my first experience was not so positive compared to most people’s, which I later found to be due to issues with their Potato Distributor. Now having a new distributor, and set brand of potatoes, they’ve been able to crank out a more consistent product, so I can finally re-do my report on this particular item.

SAMSUNG

            Though there’s no reason to do my report purely on them. Since I was there, I figured I’d also try one of their chocolate malts alongside; it IS a Truck based off a Diner, gotta have a Malt. Of which, though it is tasty and enjoyable like other malts, I find there’s no real special quality to it; if anything, the malt is sorta thin, a little too much milk or whatever else they add to it. As for the fries, I can happily say that I SHALL be changing Neato’s Food score for the positive. These fries were clearly better than my previous experience, and the subtle flavor of the duck fat DID come through. The texture WAS soft, but I found the pieces that had some of the potato skin still attached offered little, interesting pieces of crispiness here and there. Overall, it’s not a perfect fry, but it does succeed in differentiating itself, and in a POSITIVE way; I hold no qualms in suggesting it as a buy (oh, and don’t forget that Aioli; boy that garlic is STRONG, and it goes very well with the particular flavor transferred from the Duck Fat).

SAMSUNG

            It’s not a Truck Day without dessert of some kind, and there was a certain little Cupcake vehicle to my right. Grabbed myself a Tres Leches, Dulce Leche frosting of course, which didn’t quite fill my leche expectations. Overall, definitely better than the “Guinness Cupcake” I had from Fork, the milk-caramel icing was smooth and delicious, but if one is going to base something off of Tres Leches, they REALLY need to get that thing soaked and infused. There was a little bit of squishy, milky cake in the middle, but they could have done more; I understand needing it to not be sticky in the hand, but they held off a little too much for my liking (I’ll admit, I have developed very high standards on certain things).

SAMSUNG

            On a more positive note (again, the cupcake IS good, just… MORE, GIMME!), I’ve discovered a really fun, fantastic opportunity on their menu! They apparently offer a “Cupcake Sunday” made from whichever cake+cream combo you want. “For the Hot Weather,” as they said, which sadly did not come through on this trip. However, think of this: You head to Thursday’s River Lunch, greeted by two Burger trucks (one old-fashioned Diner themed) right next to a Cupcake Sunday. That, my friends, is the making of that oh-so unique Full-on Food Truck Meal. This is what so many of us Foodies look for in our searches, that amazing little something that just can’t be found elsewhere, and creates that special feeling of amazement and nostalgia.

            Or something like that, not always that good at describing these things, even through text. Anyways, that ultimately rounded out MY Lunch-by-the-River experience; if anyone else has an interesting tale (either from this or previous years) feel free to share. I myself did have one more stop at Hibachi Daruma, but that’s another post.

Advertisements

Mr. Mustachios

SAMSUNG

https://www.facebook.com/mrmustachios

https://twitter.com/mrmustachios  

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Co-owned by the Manager of Nomad World Beer/Pub, where it’s been taking up residence for quite a while before now, Mr. Mustachios premiered just recently within the Downtown area. Among this recent change is also a new chef, as mentioned to me by Alcohol by Volume’s Paige. As for the name itself, apparently it came upon a long-lived joke of the owner’s inability to grow any mustache at all.

SAMSUNG

                  Painted as if it came right out of the 1920’s and covered in framed photographs of those bully, grand Mustache Men of old (and of course a giant Handlebar), Mustachios offers a supposed variety of pub-style grub to tastily season your lip-hair (or just eat regularly if thou hast none). Though mention of Fish Tacos and Sliders abound in various pages, it seems (at least for now) that the main Menu Item focus revolves around a variety of dogs and brats.

                 And what a selection of dogs it is. Naming them with a nod toward the various streets and areas of the Twin Cities, each item uses its own quality-sourced, unique dog/brat with the properly accompanying toppings. From Nordeast’s Kramarczuck Polish to a Bacon-Jalepeno for the Lyndale (topped with guac of course). Even a purely vegetarian “dog” makes an appearance, basically a carrot length that’s simply been simmered and marinated in a rich sauce (don’t ask me what, they wouldn’t divulge the secret), labeled after our “Seward” community of course.

              Almost makes you want to grow a handlebar mustache just so you can properly visit them doesn’t it? Well, that and a certain Jimmy Buffet song… or watching a Geraldo Rivera episode… or an old-timey boxing match…

 

Food: 8

                  Of the options to me, I decided to stick with the standard All-Beef Hotdog of the Nicollet. Almost reminiscent of something a stoner would put together late at night, this well-sized creation is covered in Nacho Cheese, smeared with BBQ sauce, and then covered in various teepees of Flaming Hot Cheetos and Fritos.

SAMSUNG

                Doesn’t this just hold the epitome of the Hipster Street Food movement? Not only is it formed of all pre-made condiments that go together deliciously, but one eats it at a place that encourages one of the oldest facial trends in popular history. The hot dog itself, for a sourced all-beef, is quite tasty; I very much enjoy the style of preparation, splitting each of their dog’s (well, the ones made of meat) down the middle and griddling. Creates an interesting presentation, spreads the dog’s volume out a bit, but ultimately I just love a grilled wiener (if I didn’t put the grilled in I think that would’ve sounded dirty… okay it still does a bit).

                Bun is nice and soft; I can’t tell if they make it themselves or source it (probably source), but either way it’s a very good quality hot dog bun. Though it brings up that oh-so-common and sore subject again that I wish they would actually toast the thing; if the dogs were simpler and more traditional, I would probably argue in the other direction (it’s just plain nostalgic, old-school rules; I couldn’t think of Natedogs in a toasted bun), however with the larger, upgraded meat and kicked-up toppings, the other components should follow through just as well.

                Sadly, I did not have the previous knowledge and foresight to order a side of fries, and I am now highly regretting it. Forming quite the reputation purely on these lovelies, Mustachios supposedly takes quite the twist and batters the thick potatoes before their final cooking phase. Though I try my best to base my opinions purely on personal experiences and logical conjecture, I can’t help but think this idea heard from word-of-mouth would yield anything but an interesting, tasty side to get with one’s dog.

Holdability: 9

                 … they’re all hot dogs, what else is there to say? Well, besides the fact that the toppings may be a BIT messy and, of course, ordering with the fries requires the use of two hands. Also, serving in a small basket immediately requires holding in one hand while eating with the other, but it’s almost completely unnoticed.

SAMSUNG

Price: 6.5

               The one really weird thing about this truck (and considering this is a truck with a giant Mustache painted on all sides, that’s saying something), they didn’t put prices on the chalkboard menu. Well, not for the dogs; Fries had a $3 tag next to it. The Nicollet itself is $6, and though I can’t prove it I assume the other dog-based options are the same. At the very least, differences in price should only span up to $7 maximum, probably $5 max for the Carrot-Dog (at least it should be… it’s a freakin’ carrot for god’s sake). It’s quite a bit of money for  dog, but the sausages used ARE bigger than average, and the buns are nice. However, comparing to Nate’s (Handmade) at $4, one logically starts to weigh the two back n forth.

              Mustachios stands out uniquely as one of the few (actually, I think it’s the only… to somewhat of a surprise) Trucks to offer a Fry-Drink Combo package with one’s meal. With a $2.50 pricetag, its competition with fast food may be… well fast food beats everyone, but for our Street culture it’s quite something.

Speed: 9

                Pretty darn fast, the dogs have… practically no real weight to them, just gotta get those toppings on. Fries are likely to take a little bit of time though, considering.

The TOE: 10

                 One of the very few times I feel I need to actually explain this; again, it’s called Mr. Mustachios and has giant handlebar mustaches displayed all around it. If one can’t go here and feel they’re taking part in the Foodie/Hipster/Unique-and-Quality-Street-Food culture in any way, then they just won’t be able to feel it anywhere.

                      Tally: 42.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Good both for those looking at a quick, small meal at lunch or more of a complete meal, grabbing a dog or dog+combo respectively. Far as I can see, all dog options are great and suggestible depending on one’s flavor interests, and if I were stretched to suggest certains I would deem it as such:

            The Nicollet is the main, and a great way to get a feeling for their entire idea on Pub Dogs; ultimately the option if one’s looking for something really fun. If you just want the best thing on the menu… I would probably go the Nordeast, Polish with Stone Mustard and Coriander-Sauerkraut, always fantastic; also check out various seasonal dogs. Also probably one of the best and most interesting options for Vegetarian street-goers; can’t say many (well, any) other places turn a carrot into a full-on delicious hot dog experience.

            Definitely one of the ideals to focus on when looking for a Side Dish in a Truck Day/Lunch, particularly in the Fry department (reasons are as previously stated).

            On one last note, I’m not sure if their Street menu (not including parked outside of Nomad) will ever include those other Pub Foods, but if they do I suggest staying away; already I cannot think of experiencing this truck without some delicious sausage between those soft buns… not to mention a hot dog (BOOM BABY!… okay I’m sorry…). Of course though, this is an opinion that may easily be changed upon experiencing it, which I certainly shall upon the soonest chance I have for a non-dog option from them.

            Until then, don’t forget to groom your (real or pretend) mustache and “Put some MEAT in your Mouth!”

SAMSUNG

Best Ofs and Blowouts

images

http://www.citypages.com/bestof/2013/section/food-and-drink-24/

            It’s been quite the wait for our local businesses, but our very own City Pages Magazine just released its “Best Of” listings yesterday for this year. Among the categories, a notable selection in the Food and Drink section is sure to appease many, especially us Food Truck Foodies. Giving quite the strong showing, 5 separate Food Trucks earned a spot in the listings, as well as an interesting little category relating to them (will detail in a bit).

csh4

            With little surprise, Chef Shack came out on top of quite the random category, “Best Restaurant Worth the Drive.” Not just alluding to the oh-so-familiar feeling us Foodies share in tracking Trucks to all their interesting destinations, Chef Shack takes the distance factor up a notch with their recent weekend-open Shop opening in Bay City, Wisconsin (I was wondering what all the recent facebook posts about Bay City were about… thought they just changed locations). Quite the accomplishment for being open for so short a time (I wouldn’t expect any less from our cities’ Food Trucks, especially Chef Shack).

ff2

            Speaking of Truck-turned-Restaurant, Foxy Falafel grabbed best in “To-Go.” As any truck should, Foxy successfully translates the “grab-and-go” aspect of the street to their new digs. Along with their Falafels, to quote the article, “The cold case is also stuffed with snack packs.”

            A particularly fun surprise, keeping the roll of Truck-staurants (phrase patent-pending… excuse the alliteration) going, the selection for “Best Sushi” went to Minneapolis’ very own Sushi Fix. I’ll admit, they’re not my first thought, but I haven’t actually had their full gambit of rolls and nigiri, reviews of which have been wholly positive. And considering the training and history of the main sushi chefs behind the concept, certain levels of success are to be expected.

sf1

              Outside the award, there was something interesting which caught my eye as I read Page’s little “posting” of Fix’s greatness. In my opinions, I cannot help but bring my point-of-view on the specific comment.

sf4

                “Edo-style sushi was served on the streets to the busy city dwellers known for having little patience. Not only is this a perfect business model for a food truck.” Though I certainly agree on the historical notes of Sushi as it relates to Street Food, as well as the commonality between some of the greatest Truck foods and their relation to history. But that doesn’t automatically equate all street foods to food trucks. This is especially true with sushi; not to say that Sushi Fix hasn’t made a great truck out of it, however I don’t think I’d ever equate the general idea of sushi to a “Perfect Model” for a Truck. If you’ve read my review on them, you know why.

              And here is where we start our impasse within this little “Best Of” featurette. For where there are salutations, disappointments are bound to follow, and City Pages just happened to make two very odd, very noticeable disappointments.

af1

              The first comes in the opposite trend of the previous three, awarding “Best Fries” to the restaurant-turned-truck Anchor Fish and Chips. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to let out a disheartened sigh upon reading this, with quite a few other restaurants and trucks pulling to get to the top of this list. Truthfully, I didn’t even know this one was in the running; maybe they knew the days Page’s guys were dining there, cuz I’m not sure I’ve gotten THAT fry yet (and I’ve been there TWICE). They do make one good point about the fries, though: “If you are looking just for flavor, it is hard to beat the “chips” at the Anchor.”

af3

              Very wise and accurate words; the one aspect Anchor’s fries has always had was the flavor from the oil (and savory brown potatoes). Now, if you’re looking for any aspects that actually make a good fry/chip, such as uniform/consistent quality and actual texture, then please, please run in the opposite direction.

              Another decision I just can’t help but question comes, sadly, into the actual category of “Best Food Truck.” For some reason, and I don’t quite know why, out of all the Trucks which run our street, they gave the award to Dandelion Kitchen. Actually, hold that, I do know why; heck, they basically come out and say it themselves.

dk1

              “The choice of which truck to visit becomes more harrowing. We get but one lunch break a day! We can’t squander that precious time away from our desks eating subpar food.” Or, to put it simply, the reviewers work in Minneapolis and Dandelion is the closest lunch location, and one of the few consistently-located Trucks, with decent food. Though I think it’s funny they make mention of “precious time” in relation with Dandelion, especially considering the long, slow line I often see during their regular season.

              Certainly I’m not trying to knock Dandelion; as I’ve mentioned a few times in my review on them, they have some really good products, and do some fun home-made sodas. But in the selection of 60+ Trucks our city has generated, many of which have already lauded themselves up to quite epic proportions (and counting at least 6 so far successful enough to open a restaurant), can one truly claim for Dandelion to be THE best? Or is this a decision born from a simple sense of Favoritism formed from multiple visits and the ignorance of our many other hard-working businesses?

            Now I don’t want to end this post on such an objectable note, and there just happens to be one more interesting happening within the listings. I’ve already made a few mentions of some trucks which have opened up shop, and just recently made a visit to one of them. Seems me and the rest of the local foodies aren’t the only ones to take notice, as City Pages awarded the “Best Restaurant Trend” to, as they put it (-clears throat, reading-): “Food trucks go brick-and-mortar.”

           That’s right, the explosion has gone past the insiders and out to the public eye to be an official Trend. I was very excited to see the level of attention, praise, and respect this symbolized. It really shows how many people recognize the importance these Trucks are to our growing culinary culture. Once again, I’m very proud of where they’ve gotten to within these short 4 years. Whether the decisions are debatable or widely accepted, earning these 5 spots within the list is quite the feat; and that’s just this one.

             Can’t wait to see next year’s decisions, all I have to do now is survive the second winter of the year…

snow

Melch’s Meat Wagon

SAMSUNG

http://melchsmeatwagon.com/

https://twitter.com/MelchsMeatWagon

Main Location: Minneapolis

             New to the scene, Melch’s Meat Wagon is already making an impact with its Big Bull of a Food Truck, standing massively next to most any truck it’s parked by. Brown, rough, with a giant red steer decorating its side, Melch’s firmly identifies itself in the eyes of us seekers of the bloody, of the fatty, of the MEAT.

            True to their name, burgers is their game (well that and a fried pork and chicken sandwich). Toppings are pretty simple, they also offer a vegetarian black bean, but more importantly any burger can be either single or double. The true claim to fame, however, is the “Melch Me:” an artery-clogging, heart-stopping stack of a burger, chicken breast, two slices of cheese, and bacon, all held together in a toasted pretzel bun (as are their other burgers).  THAT is what I got on my first stop.

            In an interesting turn of events, it seems I wasn’t the only person reviewing Melch’s on the day in question. Right after ordering my burger, I see someone in a checkered cap pop out of their front door, waving a camera and telling me that my burger’s going to be the star of its own photo shoot. After watching him talk to the truck owner about where to take it, getting a base and napkin, etc, I finally had the chance to ask if he was with the truck or not.

To my delight, it seems Thrillist was doing their little post on it as well (it’s fun, see it Here), and we both got the chance to share a nice little talk about food trucks and the different sites devoted to them. Listings, mixed review, or the full focused blogs such as this own, it was fun to discuss the various benefits of each. He also mentioned the Owner’s plans on introducing the idea of “interesting meat items;” think game, but I have nothing to prove that. Either way, I’m already excited at the thought, and I’ll be sure to head straight back soon as they start.

SAMSUNG

Now, the real fun in the day came in being able to take a picture of the guy taking a picture of my burger! Look at him ANGLE that shot!

SAMSUNG

Yeah, that burger’s posing nice and sexy, that pretzel bun barely covers its skin. So indecent how it shows him its bacon too…

SAMSUNG

Overall, as you see they were able to get it into a nice, perfect little stack. As we joked, “It’s like a McDonalds commercial… only real.” Shared a laugh, I took my burger, transferred it back to the to-go box…

SAMSUNG

And immediately ruined the perfectness. Oh well, doesn’t diminish the taste.

 

Food: 9

              Let me tell you how good this burger is; by now, I had already eaten all of my House of Hunger dog (the monster that it is), and I had PLANNED on only eating part of the burger for now. Despite my obvious love for all that’s delicious and drags me closer to the verge of a heart-attack, I am currently watching my weight. Problem is, the burger wouldn’t let me… it was gone in under 10 minutes.

            Aside from the burger itself, which I think is already at the point of rivaling Neato’s for best Burger Truck (I really need to go back soon to make the final confirmation), this single item is filled with everything it should be. The chicken is juicy and cooked well, pretzel bun is toasted fantastically and brings an extra flavor along with its firm base, and that bacon… it ain’t the thin kind. Taking a look at it, one may be dubious of the boring American cheese, but when used with the right foods one can see why they’ve become so popular in our culture.

            And the burger itself… cooked to medium-well, it still retains that nice burger juiciness. It has to be their own grind, or at the very least a mixing of good-quality, high-fat beef. It just has this little note, little angle in its flavor that reminds me of R Burger Bar, which, before sadly closing, was home to the best burger that I have eaten to this day (I still think of how heavenly my first bite there was). The fact that there’s even a slight reminiscence of this special note earns them huge a lot of respect in my book.

            As for fries and rings, though I haven’t ordered, from what I’ve seen in pictures and other plates, not to mention how well they must fry their pork and chicken, it’d be strange to consider them low or even average in quality.

Holdability: 6.5

            Juicy and served in a big to-go container, this is certainly a sit-down burger. Ultimate experience depends on the items; fried chicken and pork are likely to be much easier to eat and walk, but the Melch Me and Self-Centered (stuffed) would err on the other side.

Price: 8.5

 Prices range $6-8, with $9 for the awesome Melch Me, and one can pay only 2 extra dollars to make these burgers a double (they aren’t thin burgers, so it’s quite the little deal). Overall, the only price points which I dislike are the $3 and $4 for the fries and onion rings.

SAMSUNG

Speed: 7

 It can take a bit to get the burgers made, but that’s just going through the proper cooking of an awesome product (doing the pressings, bit of basteing, steam, etc). Definitely worth the extra minute.

The TOE: 8

             Having only started recently, Melch’s has already started paving its own path among our horde of Trucks, building a sense of self and reputation with their little bundles of meaty goodness. They’ve really communicated that specialization on the burger front, and I expect their future to be filled with hordes of loving fans. Ultimately, their pure identity isn’t quite there yet, but I think they’ll be pretty close once they get those game and alternative meat items going. I am very much looking forward to when they do, and will certainly be there to prove witness to their ongoing evolution.

SAMSUNG

                        Tally: 39/50

                        (So here’s a fun little piece of info; I just realized that Melch’s currently has the exact same score as their burger rival Neato’s. Further proof that these two are neck in neck in the goal of best Burger Truck)

Final Thoughts

            A must try, definitely one to go for if you have the chance to sit down after ordering, or if you’re just in a Burger mood. Of the selection, they’re all good, but I would go for the Cowboy or Self-Centered as your first item; the Cowboy itself is topped with Onion Rings, so it’s a good way to try them without having to order a side. If you don’t mind spending the extra couple bucks, though, definitely shoot for the Melch Me; combo of Burger and Chicken is always a fun, tasty experience. Same said for getting side of fries and rings; price is not one I would do immediately, but if you have the extra it’s a definite.

            If you absolutely have get something to eat here but still need to walk, the Fried Pork and Chicken Parm are your end-game.

Chefs in the Truck

               Taking in a visit to a busy Food Truck Lunchtime, it’s not difficult to see the many people behind the creation of each Trucks. Those based off of restaurants, catering companies, driven by local chefs… our little line-up has formed quite the expression of our growing Culinary scene. Throughout the country, Food Trucks have become a kaleidescope created by the hordes of Chefs and Foodies.

az5

               With the recent surgence of Andrew Zimmern into this fray with the acclaimed AZ Canteen, attention towards the actual people behind individual trucks has seemed to increased, both current and possible. Writing the review for his Truck, I myself have started to wonder about who may come out with the next Mobile Adventure; or, better yet, who would I WANT to…

              That in mind, I thought it would be fun to go over some of the various Restaurants and Chefs I would love to go into this field of Food service; whether realistic or not.

The Bulldog (NE or Lowertown)

bd3

                Still my favorite Food Bar in the city, Bulldog slings out some of the best kobe burgers around, with each base offering an extensive list of options that are actually UNIQUE, creative, and crave-worthy. Fries and tator tots have been constantly listed throughout Magazine Top 10 lists, and offer some of the best flavors and fatty aioli dippings (NE’s truffle tots still haunt my dreams). Not to mention the various hot dogs (of which Lowertown often serves seasonal Game Meats for now and then).

bulldog-2

               If one were to combine these three focuses, with maybe a club sammich, and a couple of their special beers in bottle, I would not doubt the potential for a fantastic Burger-based menu. Not to mention the fact their dessert menu is entirely cupcake-based. Might have to adjust prices, but so would any Truck in this List.

bd

Marcus Samuelson

ms

                Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised, Chef Samuelson creates some of the most International food that one can experience. With such a unique culinary background, one can’t help but wonder what kind of food this person could bring to the Street. And with his experience and skill, you know he’d be able to pull it off.

ms2

The Devil’s Advocate

da3
da

               Just had my first lunch here last week, and I am officially hooked. For those unaware, Devil’s Advocate is a Craft Beer and Craft Meatball emporium; 40 highly seasonal beers (as in, when they run out of a keg, they get something else), along a menu focused only on 4 meatballs, sauces, and how many of them you want (and packaging). Besides Saucy Burt’s, we really don’t have any other meatball-focusing Trucks in tow. How fun would it be visit a place where the only questions are “What kind of meatball and how many do you want?”

da2

Katsuyuky Yamamoto and Alex Chase

ma

               The two Executive Chefs of Masu Sushi and Robata, both men show an extreme level of passion for each of their areas in the Japanese culinary tradition. With Yamamoto heading the beautiful portraits of Sushi and Chase reigning over the Noodles and Robata Grill, these men have helped to launch Masu into one of the best Japanese restaurants in the State. If there’s anyone who knows about and can execute True Japanese street food, it’s going to be these two. Sushi may be a no-no, but I could see them dishing out quality tempenyaki and bowls of warm, hand-pulled ramen.

masu-sushi-robata
Masu5

Serious Pie

sp

               The… best… pizza… I have ever had (so far). Based off of the genius mind of Tom Douglas out in Seattle, Serious Pie is jam-packed every single night with people who want their pizza. The wait for their food is at least an hour.

sp2

               However, this is mainly due to the fact that they only have a couple dozen seats; it’s a very small restaurant, so it takes a while to flip enough tables for one to get in. Pizzas don’t take long to cook, and they are the most quality-focused, delicious things one can consume. Makes me wonder how much faster one could get served for Lunch when simply lined up in front of a Truck Window. (I’ve actually heard it’s much easier to just order To-Go from the restaurant itself)

              Little G’s has shown us that we can attach a wood-fired Brick Oven to the end of a trailer, so the idea of Serious Pie may certainly not be that far-fetched. Here’s hoping Seattle’s Food Truck movement starts pressuring them.

Jose Andres

ja2

              One of the most Contemporary Chefs in the US, Jose Andres is the leading man behind such restaurants as Minibar, Zaytinya, and a few others. Easily one of the main figures in the U.S.-es’ cutting-edge scene of cuisine, Andres is very well known for incorporating what many deam “molecular gastronomy” (-shudders- lot of us culinary people really don’t like that term… would tell you why, but it’d take an hour or two) around his quality-focused food.

            I highly doubt a Food Truck could ever be properly made around the many different things he does, such as Foi Gras cotton candy, but if for some reason a Chef with a style like this was able to do it, Jose Andres would have to be the front-runner. He really just loves having fun with it, and brings that spirit to his food.

ja

            There are so many others I could mention for Food Trucks; in the “molecular gastronomy” (-shudders-) world in particular, could bring up Travail, Moto, Chef Wylee Dufraine (I know I spelled that wrong, I’m sorry…), and Heston Blumenthal. It is such a fun concept to think about, there being so possible people and places throughout the Country that we love to follow. And with the ever-growing trends and movements of people onto the street, who knows? Maybe we’ll see somebody slinging Meatballs, or flipping Kobe Patties, or shoving an Ethiopian Stew into a flatbread sometime in the years to come. But until now, we can only wonder and wait for the next to idea to grace our ever explorative tastebuds.

              I just hope I don’t have to wait too long.

 

              So what Chefs or Restaurants would YOU like to see open a Food Truck? What kind of specialty cuisine would you like to see that we haven’t yet been able to explore?

 

Anchor Fish and Chips

af1

http://www.theanchorfishandchips.com/food-truck1.html

https://twitter.com/AnchorFoodTruck

Main Location: Breweries, Events, Etc

              A subset of their successful British-based restaurant, Anchor Fish and Chips launched their Truck of same menu around 2011. Offering traditional British Street Foods, Anchor serves, as you’d guess it, Fish and Chips. Alongside these, one can also purchase a couple Pasties, Battered Sausage, traditional Sides, and a couple sauces.

            Somewhat flexible, all Main items can come with or without Chips, which on their own can come plain or topped with Gravy or Curry (See Potter’s Pasties for a review of Britain and Curries). Eaten with a beer at whatever Brewery they park next to; one can find that almost-traditional British experience right in the city.

            And without having to go to a restaurant.

af2

Food: 6

            The Fish is HUGE, you definitely get the bang for your buck on that. Batter is crispy, thick, and flavorful, covering the still-juicy meat completely, resulting in a very well done fried fish. Drip some of that Vinegar right over the top, you get that salty-tart heavenly goodness, and that’s without the Tartar Sauce. I haven’t had the Sausage or Pasties, but I imagine they’re both almost as good as the fish. Though, I would somewhat doubt their pasties’ overall flavor to be better than Potter’s.

            These are where the Highlights end.

            For a place where Chips/French Fries embodies half of their name, I find the potatoes sorely disappointing. Unevenly cut in a noticeable way, they are also unevenly cooked, any crispiness from the friar is lost after a few seconds. Bigger, “steak fry” sized cuts are the norm, resulting in that soft, potato-y flavor to them; but not the good kind. Worst of all, they have a habit of absorbing that strong, not-so-pleasant flavor of used oil. Not so bad at first, but as you’re working your way through them it starts to grow and become noticeable.

            Ultimately, mediocre chips at best, nothing to really proclaim about. Makes me wonder and doubt what their other sides are like.

af4

            I find the curry a bit unsuitable for the menu as well. A Yellow variety, it certainly has a nice flavor to it, though I do think the spices are used a little lighter than they should be. It should really have a much stronger, richer curry to handle the potatoes which they go with. My main issue is consistency; when I saw “Curry Chips” on the menu, I imagined it made more like a thickened sauce, Gravy-like if you would. But really it is more along the lines of a clinging chunky soup. Can’t really “dip” the chips in with that much success, and I don’t think I’d want it poured over either.

            I’ve actually had the good fortune of eating Indian Curry in Britain, and I will tell you that the sauces they use don’t look at all like Anchor’s.

Holdability: 7

            Depends on what one gets, I have actually found it not too difficult to walk around with the Fish and Chips, even with its size. Only real issue I’ve found is residual heat. The main consideration is if one wants to get a side or sauce to go with; or possibly a beer (I would actually suggest it, as the Fish and Chips really need some drink to cut the Rich Fat and Saltiness). Find a place to sit is then imperative, but no real worry; Anchor usually shows at places with tables and other sitting spots.

            A good idea if you want to get curry or gravy; just get the Curry/Gravy Chips, and then order any fish/pastie/sausage on its own to put on top. They don’t charge any differently than if it was on the side.

Price: 5

            They charge you if you want tartar sauce. I’ll say that again. They CHARGE YOU if you want TARTAR SAUCE, with your FISH AND CHIPS. It’s only 50 cents, and at least it isn’t one of those tiny little cups you can’t even use, but that doesn’t matter. There are only a few singular rules that we as of nation have developed when it comes to how we eat fried fish and potatoes. One of those rules is this: TARTAR SAUCE COMES WITH FREE. Whether you have it with or without the sauce, no extra charge is given.

            This isn’t my only problem with the menu prices. If you want a side of Gravy or Curry, which I think is a great thing for people to try on their first trip, it costs an extra $3. For a menu soup or snack item, that’s cheap. For a little SAUCE on the side, on a Food Truck? It is simply ridiculous. I couldn’t fathom how they could charge more than a dollar for it, then I finally ordered one and understood; they give you an entire soup cup’s worth, maybe even more. WAY more sauce is given then is actually needed, and because of this they deem that they can charge more (despite the fact that the actual COST of what was given is only a few cents more than if they had given you half).

            What’s most annoying is they offer no way of skirting prices through different menu options, combos, etc. Every single combination of food costs the same as if you got all the items individually. So no matter what one does, they end up paying in full whether they agree with a price or not.

            Now, as for the entrée items, they all range between $5 and $7, with an extra $2 added if getting with chips. For how much you get, that separately can come in at a pretty decent price. Just don’t get any sauce.

Speed: 8

             Average speed, mainly just have to wait for Chips and Entrees to Fry, sides and sauces being pre-made.

The TOE: 5

           Bringing a Truck like this is a great idea, offering all the main British Street and Comfort Foods outside of just the restaurant. They have some of that feeling of a Food Truck, and reading the menu almost transports you to a British Stand.

            At the end of the day though, this Truck is based off of a Restaurant, and the way they handle their foods and pricing are reflective as such. There are many factors within a Truck that, even if practically nonexistent, doesn’t affect the feeling you get when you visit; that’s just their style, or they might just need time to improve. But pricing is the one thing I will NOT budge on, as you will see, because THEY are the ones who make the conscious choice of what they put on the menu and what they charge for them.

           True Food Trucks do not practice ways to sneak you out of the extra dollar here and there in such obviously unneeded ways. A True Food Truck is about giving you what they can, having extra sauces and pickles on the ledge to dress your taco however you want, and offering that little special something that makes you want to come back. If you spend an extra $3 dollars whenever you go to a Truck, it’s because you’re buying something that you REALLY LIKE and that actually DESERVES to cost that much, if not more.

          This may be just my opinion, but it is strong, and I do not think little of it, especially when it comes to our Food Trucks. Just because you are based off of a Restaurant, does not mean your Truck should be designed in the Exact Same Way.

                       Tally: 31/50

Final Thoughts

            Really good, enjoyable Truck for the sit-down lunches. I would suggest visiting them on the days that they are next to Fulton or one of the other local Breweries, because it just makes the experience.

af3

            The Fish is a must-have on your first visit. Sadly, I must say to avoid the Chips, they just aren’t that worth getting; there are a lot better fries throughout the City. Though, if for some reason Anchor and Neato are nearby each other, go buy yourself some Duck Fat Fries and make your own special experience.

            Alright, you’re gonna have to buy the Tartar Sauce; I think it’s stupid myself, but at least it’s only 50 cents, and you should really have some with your first Fish. If you’re looking for a Side, Coleslaw or Heinz Beans (Mush Peas are rarely good even in England).

            After that, maybe try the Sausage or Pastie, see how they relate to Potter’s. But personally I have no real urge to go back here again, price or not.

Neato’s Burgers

neatos

www.neatosburgers.com

https://twitter.com/NeatosBurgers

Main Location: St. Paul

             My second stop on what I’m thinking of calling “The Storming River Lunch,” (see Home Street Home)Neato’s is one of a pair of Burger-focused Trucks. The beef is ground by Stasny’s, using locally-sourced meat, then pattied by hand to be grilled for you.

            These fellas are then topped with a variety of fun, unique, pre-designed garnishes by the working chefs. Besides a clichéd deluxe, one can find a jalapeno-popper style with raspberry jam, a peanut butter-pickle with mayo, and a Mexican corn with lime mayo and cotija cheese.

            Here’s the thing: that’s not the draw.

            All these burgers are juicy and tasty, but customers both new and old come around for a whole different reason. This is one of the few places in both cities (restaurants included) that makes fries cooked in rendered duck fat. Served with homemade garlic aioli (fancy word for any flavored mayonnaise), these babies have recently made quite a few local Top Ten Fry lists. They even put them on one of their burgers (along with duck-fried onion).

Neatos-Burger-fries-500x333

            Did I mention you have to order these separately? Not automatic; and allows you to just get fries, yum.

            You combine the fries, burgers, and milkshakes made with small-batch ice cream, and you get that nostalgic, 1950’s diner food; kicked right up to 11 (that’s one higher than 10 you know). It’s even served in the red and white checkerboard paper.

Food: 6.5

Note: changed from a previous score of 8.5

             The burger itself is easily better than the average, though I can’t rightly place it in the top list as a standalone. However, they have an amazing series of burgers with interesting and delicious toppings, which are sure to elevate it to a pretty decent level. I haven’t had a milkshake (No longer true, see my thoughts on it Here), but come on… it’s a milkshake, when have they ever been bad? Or neutral even?

             Now, the duck fat fries… they’ve had some issues with them in the past, but those have been resolved and now yielding to a more consistent deliciousness. They lack complete crispyness (still have a bit with the skins, which is sorta nice), but it’s a good kind of soft, and the fat comes through in a properly subtle way (only a bit, but you don’t actually have to search for it). The aioli they serve with it is absolutely perfect combo, really strong, fresh garlic flavor to stand up and highlight that duck fat cooking.

Holdability: 6.5

             Getting things individually holds less issues, but you don’t order a burger without the fries… fries without the burger maybe. The problem with this, sometimes fry and burger come in separate baskets, as opposed to basket + fry baggy (what I got). Burger itself is the traditional slightly-messy pile, not the most compact eatable item.

Price: 8

              Prices are controlled around the concept that burgers and fries are ordered separately. As such, all burgers are only around $6, with $4 for the simple cheeseburger ($3 for hamburger), while fries cost a few dollars as-is. This makes great cost control for those only going for one or the other, and an affordable-on-the-higher-end when doing the “combo.”

Speed: 8

             As a burger place, can take a bit to cook properly. From the sound of it, potatoes are single-fried as opposed to double (first fry done much earlier at low temp for tenderness, second fry done to order at higher for crisp), which usually takes a little longer to cook through, though I could be wrong here.

The TOE: 10

            Once again, we find a truck that goes nostalgic, this time with pure burger diner, while kicking multiple qualities up to a delicious notch. Not to mention duck fat fries is always a sign of putting in the extra effort to make something fantastic. It’s also a prime example of those small, simple items with just that “something” added to them that magically lifts the entire truck in our minds (I’ve alluded to this idea before, see R.A. Mac Sammy’s)

            Hmmm, I’ve mentioned this twice already, but still don’t know how to describe it simpler. I think I’m going to make up a word for it. Since both times have been in this particular section, think from now on I’ll call them… “Toe Rings.”

                        Tally: 41/50

Final Thoughts

            Unless you’re able and planning to come back one or two more times, go for one of the special burgers. Any of them are good, dependent on taste. HOWEVER, the Mustard Tiger uses Duck Fat Fries as a topping, so you can try both without having to order a whole basket separately.

nburger

           If you’re going to be coming back, then I would start simply with the deluxe; two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion. Burgers like this are always a great way to get a full view on a kitchen; how thick is the burger, how juicy, what ratios of bun-topping-cheese-meat do they use? All this and more can be learned by such burgers (for some reason I imagined old Obi-wan Kenobi’s voice when I read this in my head).

          The duck fat fries are a must get for yourself. Whether you are or aren’t hungry for a burger, when you go by Neato’s for the first time order some fries to snack on. Don’t always get the chance for duck fat fries, so take them while you can and determine your level of love.

         Do I even have to do a shpeal about milkshakes?