Bark and the Bite

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http://www.barkandthebite.com/
https://twitter.com/BarkandtheBite
Main Location: Breweries, Minneapolis (Maybe?)

So I guess I need to pay more attention to CityPages on a frequent basis, since it made for quite the little ‘blind spot’ for me in not doing so. That said, it DID lead to a rather fun surprise near the start of a good night out, so maybe not so bad of a situation afterall.

Let me run you down what happened. Finally, after weeks of distraction or not having any reason to do so, I got the urge to force myself down to Tattersall Distilling; well that wasn’t so difficult, it was the finding someone to meet me there to make it an ‘occasion’ that took a while. Of course before I went I checked out their little event page, the place rather well known for nightly correspondences with Brooks High Batter and other food trucks; but just my luck that it was THAT Saturday that had no truck listed for nosh possibilities. Guess Brooks went elsewhere. But oh well, wasn’t necessarily even in the mood for food, but it’s fun to see options right?

So I drive there, finally find that little pain-in-the-ass alley-that-doesn’t-look-like-you-can-drive-through to get to the cocktail room and park, and what do I see as I’m driving by? Not just a food truck, but one that I’ve NEVER seen before, so the back of my brain starts thinking about the money I’ll have to lay down that night… then it notices that it’s a BBQ truck and that number rises a little more. It explains why the food truck spot was blank on the website…

After an Umeboshi Sour, but before a late night Baby Spice (both of them damn good by the way, I need to go back to try out more of their creations), I head out to my first visit of Bark and the Bite. Of course it’s just my luck that they are indeed a new Twin Cities truck and not someone from out of town, guess that means I have to eat their food. Oh darn. They’ve been on the streets since the start of September; or to be more accurate, on the doorsteps of various breweries. So it didn’t take me that long to find them, relative to plenty of other periods-of-ignorance you know I’ve had, and it makes sense considering I don’t get the chance to brewery it as much as I want… like, almost never.

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As a typical BBQ truck should, the forward-highlight of its menu is of course a basket of Ribs, theirs Dry-Rubbed and Memphis style. As opposed to others I’ve found, though, the rest of the menu is rather simple. One gets their pick of 3 ‘pulled proteins,’ such as the typical Pork, Chicken, and a vegetarian inclusion of ‘BBQ Jackfruit’ (oh I’m talking about this guy later), which can be gotten on small or big sandwiches and as a classic ‘pile of meat.’ One then picks their sauce: Cherry Bourbon, Vodka Chile, or ‘Bark’ Sauce (a mix of whole grain mustard, brown sugar, and I think chilies and/or other bbq things). We then of course get a list of typical, sort of, sides; Cider Vinegar-dressed Slaw, Baked Beans, Arugula Potato Salad, and of course Hush Puppies, ‘Honey Spiced.’

There’s even a cookie! Browned Butter Chocolate Chip (with Pecans). So I grabbed one of those, and a few other things, and got to chowing down, thankfully with help of friends! Thought I’d have to bring home leftovers…
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Food: 8

Okay, had to get the Ribs since it’s their purported favorite/specialty/focus, and for sandwiches that Pulled Pork and the intriguingly unique BBQ Jackfruit… though it was so hard not getting the Chicken, it apparently was coming right out of the smoker! But money… was spending enough as it was, especially with cocktails that night!

Also I was able to get a taste of a Hush Puppy! Oh and these are good ones, and very happy to say of a distinctly different ‘style’ compared to those found at Funfare, which were small, crispy and easy to munch. Comparably, these are big globes of moist cornbready denseness, in the good sense, and with a light honey sweetness just barely glazing the outside; enough to get your fingertips a touch sticky but not enough to even say they’re close to being ‘sauced.’ It offers an actual element to the fried bread, and there’s that happy guilty pleasure we get when eating cornbread and something deep fried.

I should mention here, before getting into the meat, that I actually got one of each Sauce; I asked them to assign as to what they think works best for each, but they instead just put them in cups so I could swap and choose at will! Not sure if that’s what they usually do anyways for sauce sides, but hey it was great here! They all tasted pretty darn good btw, I think I like the Bark as my favorite, but I’m a big fan of stoneground mustard; or just anything with that notably different texture and stronger, ‘pungent’ flavors.

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5 Ribs come out on top of a bed of Coleslaw (sounds like I should have a punchline for this doesn’t it?), of which didn’t stand out too much; just a basic Red Cabbage-based salad, good and decent but nothing exciting or standing out. The ribs on their own now, I actually prefer when they’re NOT on their own; with sauce, they are wonderful, tender and flavorful, a nice porkyness with that mixture of deep spices and wet tanginess. But unadorned, they’re good still, aren’t chewy, tender and sticks to the bone like smoked ribs should, but there is this little oddity in texture, almost a… I don’t want to say chalky, but maybe a slight off-dryness either from being smoked just a little too long or, I’m thinking, not nearly enough; I feel like the timing is probably good but the temperature and smoke level might need to be higher. That’s me spit-balling though, I’m no expert in BBQ problem-solving. Suffice to say they’re not perfect but still good.

I’ll admit, I’m not as excited to see pretzel buns today as I USED to be, before practically everyone did it and ruined the specialty of using the ‘right’ bun for the trendiness, but they are damn good here. Or should I say they make them damn good; THIS is why I advocate toasted buns in most situations, for that moment when you bite into a sandwich, you get that mouth full of meat, sauce, flavor, bread… and then that thin layer of toasty CRUNCH to add that extra textural element, which is so needed with ‘tender-fillinged’ sandwiches like pulled pork.

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As for the fillings themselves, tender, not dry, toothsome and flavorful; the pig had that great distinctive ‘porkyness’ to it, though for a BBQ item I wish there was more smoke or spice flavor, I really couldn’t taste any. But that JackfruitSO cool. I mean look at the picture; can you immediately even tell which one certainly is the vegetarian pulled sandwich and which one isn’t? The only thing that helps is that the ‘bbq jackfruit’ is already mixed with some marinade flavoring, thus the added color to it. And god it was fun to eat; it wasn’t a complete ‘meat substitute,’ but it was actually rather close; had a full texture to it, soft but with a bite… if I had to compare the distinctive feel to it, though, I’d say the closest thing that comes to mind is the meaty quality of a good artichoke heart, but more shreddable. Then it had this little, sorta-pickled tang in the background of it, which also reminds me of some bamboo shoot dish alongside the texture… it is just so interesting. But at the end of the day, GOOD, vegetarian-required and curious will both enjoy this. Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure if any other BBQ truck or local business has offered a full, proper vegetarian substitute for a main entrée, and to such a degree.

Oh, and then there’s the cookie! It cost a dollar and… tasted like it. Not that it was completely horrible, you get the chocolate chips and the pecans, a bit of the brown butter… but after being baked and wrapped in that film for who knows how long, it certainly developed a not-so-great texture, rather crumbly without being crisp. May need to develop a better recipe, that comes out thicker and softer, or perhaps it was just an effect of staling.

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Holdability: 7

I got mine in ‘to-go’ containers, mainly as I figured I’d have quite a bit to take home, but they do use the classic baskets too, which aren’t AS cumbersome. As for the food, a little typical compared to other bbq places, nothing extraordinarily helpful via sandwiches, though the pork held together rather well. The dry style of ribs helped… though I did have the sauce on the side, not sure if normally choosing a sauce would have it on top; it’s either that, making it stickier, or it’s on the side, meaning something extra to handle. But not an overall mess. Forgot to grab a fork for that coleslaw though, but that’s likely my fault! And then the hushpuppies had that little tacky stickiness from the honey; not really messy, but has one licking fingers… a yummy trait indeed, but it should be noted as far as this category is concerned. I also imagine getting a ‘pile of meat’ gets one further involved with needing a fork; and since I doubt anyone wants to get that on its own, added sides will add more components to handle. Okay, list done.

Price: 7.5

$12.50 for the Ribs, of which you get about 5 plus a mound of that slaw, not to mention the chanced to get a ‘Loaded Platter’ of 2 sides along with a big sandwich or meat pile, a nice little deal for those who want the more complete BBQ meal. Without the platter deal, each of those entrée-like items goes for $9.50, and one can get those smaller pulled sandwiches at $5 a-piece to get a better chance at sampling the different fillings; and they’re not particularly small, still have a good little heft, so the price on its own is reasonable for what one gets, but can add up fast. Sides generally range between $2-$3, with the Hush Puppies at $5; one gets 3, but as you can see they’re a good size, and tasty… I say judge their value for price for yourself, it could go either way depending on personal opinion. Finally, the cookie, as mentioned, is $1.

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Speed: 8.5

Most prep comes simply in tossing things together with the various needed sauces/seasonings, piling it on the toasted bun or basket, and off we go; a little faster than average, but not near instantaneous.

The TOE: 9.5

I love the feel and personality of the outside, the name and design finally gives me that feeling of the ‘modern bbq food truck’ that I’m familiar with seeing from other cities, as opposed to the old-school, plain-designed truck/trailer with the long classic options menu; nothing wrong with those, but it’s the difference between seeing an old Mexican Taco cart and a bright, colorful modern fusion taco truck. They hit it nicely in my opinion. And I mentioned menu, which is something I really appreciate here; the normal thing  is one has to go up to a BBQ truck and you have to choose… Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork, Chicken, maybe Wings, they got Sausage, and is-that-even-part-of-the-animal? Not to mention side listings. And when BBQ businesses are noted for having distinct personalities in each of their separate products, usually being ‘really good’ in 1-3 and ‘just okay’ in the rest, it makes that first choice hard… gotta hope you’re picking the right one. But here? Ribs, Pulled Pork and Chicken (and the Veggie of course, but you’re either doing that from the get-go or not); and one could get the pork AND chicken easily in two sammiches. It’s a lot more approachable, and nice to see a place that narrows down their focus, in my opinion. And with the names of different items, Memphis-style Ribs, Jackfruit, and particular options for sandwich/platter, the truck and menu does feel rather distinctive in personality compared to other BBQ trucks. Though we have been lucky in garnering BBQ food trucks in the past year that all set themselves apart from each other, but one knows what I mean still.

Tally: 40.5/50

Final Thoughts

The Pulled Meat is definitely where it’s at; whether it’s to grab a single mini for a low-priced lunchtime filler/snack (or a good way to sample BatB’s flavor cheaply during a food truck rally), or a bigger Sandwich/Pile to really load up on some BBQ goodness on whatever sauce style is your favorite. If you REALLY want the experience, and a nice loaded lunch, I say go for the Loaded Platter, Sandwich option (I’d really say any of the three, though you’ve got to try that Jackfruit at least once just cuz… I mean who else is selling something like it at the moment?), with the Honey-Spiced Hush Puppy and Potato Salad options… perhaps the Baked Beans too, though I haven’t tried it to confirm and I feel bean dishes REALLY need that confirmation.

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Twin City Fritter & Philly

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https://www.facebook.com/TCfritterphilly
https://twitter.com/tcfpmn
Main Location: St. Paul, Breweries, Etc

Food Truck Hunting is an interesting game, especially after your work schedule and various other distractions have increased to severely limit your ability at physical exploration. New trucks fly by under your notice, your own visits are sporadic and few in between, and an even higher percentage of trucks than before tend to elude your grasp, taunting you in a way reminiscent of the ghostly out-of-town vehicle, only this capture is destroyed more from the intervention of others than the prey’s silent evasiveness.

So is it that some of the more interesting events can unfold when one DOES go out hunting again. As it was when finally I thought I had cornered a coffee-infused rabbit of a prey after most of a year’s waiting and weak attempts at grabbing. A Food Truck Rally in the Fall, Harriet Brewery’s now annual event, in which the truck was listed, thus MUST be in attendance…  I nary had time to enjoy the full event for the smorgasbord of prey-set-to-music and drink it was, but I still had the chance to run in and spear my target before heading to work. Finally did I then arrive, stalking around the habitat of the ‘parking lot’ for my goal, only to find… it wasn’t there. Of course. EVERY time I almost have it they choose not to show. It’s like the Waffle Van Jazz Fest fiasco of 2013 all over again.

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Only this time I didn’t leave unrewarded. For where my original prey had disappeared, two new animals had taken its place. The just-reviewed Fro Yo Soul, giving a very quick kill with barely any waste to my resources, and the intriguing label of a deer named Twin City Fritter and Philly (hey look, it rhymes!). They weren’t the prize I wanted, but two surprising gifts instead of one isn’t that bad.

Thanks to the trip, I was able to finally discover both of these businesses. Fritter has been on the streets since June, apparently, a Family-run truck serving up their namesake sandwich and fried ball of dough. Only instead of serving a full, two-handed cheesy bread-box as usual, they focus on what they call ‘Fun Size’ sandwiches, offering both traditional Philly (with the grilled onions, peppers, and melted provolone) and Italian (simply covering the beef with spicy giardanera) in what looks like a thick bratwurst bun made out of Sourdough. These automatically come with a side of their trademark Fritters, cornmeal creations of cilantro and spices usually, though they also play with different flavors now and then (mine was a sweet creation studded with Mango and drizzled with icing).

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The menu, as I’ve found through research, isn’t always as indicative of what was shown during my rally visit. In the past, they’ve also offered Fries (or had them automatically on the side with the Fritters only available through separate purchase), big and small side baskets of fritters, a Fritter Dog (their own corn dog). But of particular interest to me, past menus have shown a secondary side with Whistler Soda! Love trying good, small brands, num.

Whatever one’s options during your individual visits to them, it’s like to turn out like mine, a little adventure.

Food: 8

                Considering the name, and menu’s lacking of some of the other options that have been offered at least in the past (wish I coulda tried some of those sodas, mm-mmmm I love exploring new, good quality carbonated sugar drink), of course I had to try the Philly. It’s too bad they weren’t doing their usual fritters on the day-of, but at least this way I got to see how well they transform it to other flavors.
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I’ll start off by saying that if you’re looking for a true, down-home, soul-filling replica of a proper PHILLY, this doesn’t really hit that mark; it’s not that loaded with the gooey cheese (and no option for whiz), not to mention it doesn’t have that little kick of heat many Phillies do. Also, I forget if they do pop the buns on the griddle in Philadelphia, but I know that Fritter doesn’t. THAT said, it is still a GOOD Beef sandwich. The meat is juicy, some of the jus sorta soaking into the soft sourdough bun, the onions and peppers are soft and piled on top… it’s satisfying, and a shame they don’t offer really large versions of it. Not to mention a bit of that mess factor as half the vegetables fall off when you try forcing some of that good stuff into your mouth. As a sandwich, I do feel they need a bit of sauce on it to add one more aspect to the flavors; either that or make sure they load more cheese and/or just, maybe crack some black pepper over the top before serving.

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Concerning the fritters, I’ve come to find in my travels that there are those who make their savory and sweet fried balls from a certain kind of batter, as opposed to a dough, that creates this particularly firm and crusty outside while the inside retains not a smooth, even doughnut-reminiscent result but something mealy. In particular I once had this thing that was labeled a beignet but was instead an over-fried ball of greasy, thick crust and  mealy and dense interior… not sure how the hell they ended up serving that, let alone labeling it a beignet. Rant aside, this particular style is seen particularly in cornmeal fritters, dough to how they integrate, and they rarely if ever impress me as something I’d desire over other fritter styles.

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Fritter’n’Philly, however, has done it pretty damn well. The crust is the right thickness, crunchy, and not greasy, while the inside is almost fluffy and soft, though one can still tell it’s cornmeal based, with just a tad bit of mealiness for texture. The mango came through surprisingly nicely, and the icing drizzle was interestingly welcomed; when eaten with the sandwich, it almost reminded me of having that Donut Burger at Eli’s. At the end of the day, if I had a fritter of different style yet equal level of execution I would probably prefer it better, but the fact they reached this pinnacle with their cornmeal batter is something that I feel should be noted. Such a shame I wasn’t able to try their original, fully-savory cilantro-based version.

Holdability: 7.5

               A little messy, sticky frosting and juicy, overflowing sandwich, but still easy to eat with fingers even while walking; one may simply want a napkin.
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Price: 8(?)

                There’s an interesting divergence in menu style from the time I visited compared to a photo they took of it a month or so ago. Besides, of course, the lack of Fries and Fritter Dog during my recon (which could have simply been due to the day, having hit it during Harriet’s Fall Rally), which both clock in at $6, the Sandwich and Fritters plate was listed at $8, compared to its earlier price of $7, which is what I think I was ACTUALLY charged… they probably forgot they changed the price, haha. Interestingly enough, the $8 instance only came with 2 Fritters, while the earlier $7 had 3… but then again, the original cilantro fried dough balls could be smaller. Of a final note, though one could get a thing of fritters on their own for $2 (or $6, also seen on an early menu, though I’m guessing that was a bigger bowl instead of a side of 2-3), one does not have the option for buying a Philly or Italian on its own for less money. I’m quite disappointed that that isn’t offered, nor the option to have one BIG sandwich, at least if one were to ask, as it seems like a common sense service.
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Speed: 8.5

 

Food came up relatively quickly, about a minute after ordering.

The TOE: 7

                There’s a certain ‘steak sandwich shop’ atmospheric feel to this place that reminds me of a visit to the Steak and Shake or other meat-sandwich-Kiosks. The automatic pairing of the sandwich with this unlikely side creates a psychoactive intrigue at the little uniqueness that the place offers. Overall it’s somewhat tantalizing and curious during the visit, with a notable personality, though somewhat even-toned.

Tally: 39/50

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Final Thoughts

When you’re not in the mood for a physically large lunch but still need some weight in flavor (as opposed to a light salad), grabbing the combo of fritters with half-sandwich seems to fit the bill quite well. Everyone usually has their preference between Italian and Philly styles, but if you’re not sure then of course start off with the Philly’s. On a secondary note, ordering the side of Fritters is a fun option when in need of a snack, either between trucks or whatever the situation is. The question is whether they’re only offering the particularly-cheap side of 2 fritters, great for one person, or a $6 basket, which I suggest sharing with friends. They seem to do both sweet and savory styles well, so no need to wait for specific flavors. And if you’re on the look for something unique and nostalgic the Fritter Dog may be a fun replacement for your favorite corn dog. I’m curious to try it myself, may even reach Toe Ring status.