Outlaw Grill

Main Location: St Paul, Outer Cities

Most are going into the food vending/service industry for the first time with their trucks, while others use it as an extension of their restaurant, and still others are based off some working Chefs who want to move onto their own business. The combination of factors and ways in which people get into the kitchen, stationary or mobile, has always made for interesting stories and comparisons. As I’ve found in my recent visit, hitting a truck with a little more interesting start-up conversation than usual.

Having spent 4 years working in their ‘little yellow trailer,’ the guys at Outlaw Grill spent most of their career frequenting not Minnesota but the Midway/State Fairs in a concession stand. As regulars at these events, they decided to take one of the more unique and creatively challenging strategies; instead of, like so many other established booths, focusing on a set food style wherever they went, they instead changed the food they served at every single location. From fried-bacon-wrapped hot dogs to lobster rolls to gyros (not to mention a deep fried ‘caramel apple ring’ that one Best Dessert at one fair in particular), their food ended up a success wherever they went, and proving they certainly could know a thing or two about slinging street food for the masses.

After heading to our own home state, the boys (and girls) set about building their truck… by themselves. Yeah, apparently they basically built it from scratch, or at least team member Darren did with ‘Lots of Coors Light, some cuss words, a 100lb LP tank with a sunflower heater, a million hours on eBay&Amazon, and a shot of ingenuity.’ God I need to get more long ass twitter conversations going with truck owners before doing these article out, amazing what you learn!

Like the fact that, much like their dear friends Motley Crews, they went to Creative Color to get their amazingly colorful, detailed and vibrant wrap job done. Considering the two guys I know for sure have received their work, and a good idea on what other trucks have likely received their service, I can say they crank out some fantastic and amazing designs for those able to hire them out. Speaking of the paint job, and Motleys, if one looks closely and carefully they’ll even see a little tribute plastered on one of the doors in honor of our deceased brethren.


Now, onto the truck itself! A hootin’ tootin’ attitude with a motto of ‘Eat it Like you Stole it!’ These down home country boys serve up a heaping pile of… Pita Wraps. That’s right you heard me, every item is served in a pita wrap, congealing into a distinctive menu theme notably different than what one imagines beforehand. But considering their past work with gyros and such, perhaps not so surprising. They then stuff these with grilled chicken and beef fillings, topped with hearty piles of cheese, sauce, veggies and other things. The main contender to face is the Outlaw, beef topped with bacon, grilled onions, cheese sauce and their ‘outlaw sauce.’ This is accompanied by a ‘Chicken/Pepperoni Parm’ with classic fixings, their version of a Philly called ‘Doc’s Holiday,’ and two other Chicken offerings in the Buffalo and Ceasar(served warm with melted cheese, not a cold salad), both topped with romaine, their classic cheeses, and a sauce. Of course they bring in some specialty and seasonal wraps every now and then, such as an Asian Glazed Shrimp with broccoli slaw that premiered a couple weeks before I released this article.

They don’t offer anything special in sides besides a nice brand of potato chips, not that I even feel the need for anything other than one of these puppies! Now we’ll see if I want to stop back after my first visit.


Food: 9

It’s certainly not fair to get a sense of these guys without getting the Outlaw, and it was certainly worth a visit. Simple soft pita bread enfolding a tasty, flavorful mass of shredded grilled beef reminiscent of that classic philly and Italian style we see used so often off the grill. The highlight definitely comes in the lightly caramelized, flavorful chunks of grilled onion, distinctive piece of bacon (nowadays one really has to love bacon that actually holds its place in a dish, rounding out those meaty, grilled umami-like flavors), that creamy cheese sauce to meld into the realm of craving delights, and finally cut through with their ‘outlaw sauce.’ Different in itself, that flavor comes along the line of many ‘house sauces’ in its use of Thousand-Island-Dressing like base flavors/style, a bit of that BBQ twang along with the ketchup/tomato component, but most importantly… that horseradish undertone, OH I love a good horseradish undertone, not overpowering at all, just perfect to go with some beef and cream. A practical and basic combination of flavors, done well, and in a pita of all things.

Moving on, my second item focused on the Chicken and Pepperoni Parm which, I should say, going in was a bit disappointed that the protein wasn’t breaded and fried like a classic ‘Parm’ style, as expected… but after dismissing the language, I didn’t care too much. Good chunks of moist, chickeny chicken, paired with that garlicky-spicy pepperoni, all moistened by a big glob of definitely robust tomato sauce, one reminiscent of those thicker pastes on certain delivered pizzas. My eyes were saddened that the mozzarella was not fully melted, adding to an overall flavor combination that seemed rather pedestrian, in fact reminding me of so many toasted meatball sandwiches I’d gotten at Subway… but a couple bites in and, again, I didn’t care. A certain craving runs through, that mingling of flavors that blatantly aren’t ‘high class’ but celebrate in a guilty late night mess of Italian ingredients that you eat straight from the fridge in shame yet can’t stop until they’re all gone, or if you have any sense reheat in the microwave for something better. Maybe the pita provides enough of a difference, and that fully soft texture that pushes you past caring for looking at contrasting aspects, to make one revel in the satisfactory experience. Would still like it if more of that cheese got melted and gooey though.


Holdability: 9

They may come in a basket, but ditch that and these guys are almost perfect for walking around. Like any good gyro, folded tight and wrapped with that foil, one could potentially walk and eat with one hand, though needing a bit of extra coordination with the second hand to peel back the wrapping every now and then. Some bulging stuffing and leaking sauce out the back does affect this final action though, so fully one-handed isn’t truly possible, but it’s easily one of the most portable truck items I’ve had in a while (so many new ones either adding in sides or having something that needs two hands or a basket). Good show.

Price: 8

$8 or $9 for the wraps, the lower prices doled out to the really simple Chicken Caesar and Buffalo, which mainly just consist of the meat, cheese, lettuce, and dressing/sauce. More unique and signatory options, with that added oomph, go for the latter price.


Speed: 8.5

With a menu and kitchen built for speed, they’re able to crank out your wrap in only a couple minutes, mainly requiring the time to heat the chicken and sear that beef or other meats on the griddle. Though, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t mind a little EXTRA time to get that cheese fully melted and gooey (or broiler-ized for bubbly golden goodness if possible), but extra points here go for getting things out smoothly.

The TOE: 10

A vibrant and kickass truck wrap, wild attitude, menu focused on a singular and unique item (and a pleasantly surprising one at that), all overall converged to create a sum lifted higher than the individual parts. I really can’t think of anything to knock them for here, they’ve really hit the nail to make an exciting and strong thrum of air about them, all that’s missing is an amazing Toe Ring. And I’ll admit, I really didn’t expect to find an outcome like this when I first heard about them; pretty sure it’s been all those BBQ trucks I’ve been hitting, made me expect some general, boring grilled-meat-in-a-bun place with a ‘oooooh look we have personality’ attempt around them. Thankfully I was wrong, and instead found a truck highly reminiscent of that Kingpin of the Twin Cities streets, Motley Crews. Hopefully we can see their truck restored to its rightful state of affairs soon after the restaurant opens and see these two businesses riding together in a blaze of grilled meat sandwich glory.

Tally: 44.5/50

Final Thoughts

When you’re definitely looking for some hot food on the go, and without the normal wait, Outlaw will fit the bill. They even offer some of those saucy, savory diner-mess satisfactions that should fit into a brewery if they ever park outside one. Sad to say they don’t offer any of those cheap, fun grab-and-go snacks that have made friend Motley’s so perfect for that scene, but they’re certainly in the same lane for the rest (and help to fit the empty hole that needs filling while the truck is gone).

Ultimately, despite my enjoyment of the chicken, I’d say the beef-based options of the Outlaw and Doc’s Holiday make the best experience; either that or one of the fun Specials they have going on during the day. One should also be warned not to look at their Chicken Ceasar like a ‘mobile healthy salad;’ I mean it sorta is, but overall it’s offered hot, melted parmesan on top, and big chunks of romaine, it really reads more like a hot sandwich with a lot more lettuce (I almost got a picture of one, but as usual the orderee just beelined straight down the street after getting the thing, no luck…). Still good, just be aware of what you’re getting into. Overall I’m quite eager to see what they do from here.

PepperJax Philly Express (Quasi-Review)

2014-05-10 13.02.28



                So apparently there’s been a certain mobile Food Truck out serving in St. Paul and certain other locations near the Twin Cities for almost a year now, and I only just learned about it from a random appearance at a recent Truck Rally. Boy do I detest my lack of information-gathering-skills at times.

                Though oft derision-based as it normally is, sometimes the application of my Quasi-review is purely necessary for the very simple reason that there’s not a lot that needs saying! Prime example, my very latent discovery of PepperJax Philly Express, who make, what else? Philly Cheesesteaks! What other menu options do they offer you ask? Nada! You get a beef philly, a chicken filly, or one without meatfrieson the side (if you want). That about sums it up.

2014-05-10 13.03.59

               Brief history for fun. Apparently the company story revolves around the owner meticulously trying to make the perfect Philly meat (despite the fact he lives and operates in Nebraska), patenting a certain cut of steak, and opening up this “new concept” quick-service casual restaurant sometime after retiring. PepperJax Grill was born, and over a hundred restaurants have popped up in the Midwest, including one very pretty far-roaming Food Truck.

              Thus I grabbed myself a sandwich, doused it with some sauce (you can either do Spicy Ranchor pick from a line of BBQ sauces… the latter which I don’t really understand), chowed down and got to it! See what this now-Minnesotan extension is like.

2014-05-10 13.29.05

              Oh, and they have this cute little chutein front of the wide window that your toasted Philly Roll/Bread slides down! It’s like your own personal delivery waiting for its scrumptious meaty contents before being shipped to your mouth.

               Food:9.5Spicy, beefy, melty cheese, soul food comforting goodness, it’s no wonder Pepperjax has grown so much. I love their bread! It is absolutely perfectly soft, absorbent but firm, with a great texture to it without being chewy. Probably one of the closest things to a true Philly we can get in the Midwest. However, close is still not the actual thing; eating through it, I do somewhat wish there was MORE cheese, and I have yet to feel it’s reached that Pinnacle of grilled meat perfection that calls out to the masses. Close, so very good and satisfying, but not quite there yet.

2014-05-10 13.31.44

                Holdability:7 – I guess one COULD walk and eat with it; I was standing and eating mine without quite as much problem as I thought I’d have. But it’s still a Philly, you look at that picture and tell me you’re not better off setting this giant bad-ass down on a table to dig in. It can get quite messy. And that’s without even considering the “Gunner”option… which I think I should do sometime…

                Price:9$8for the classic, $7.75 for the Chicken,$7for all veggie, with an additional $2 and $2.50 forFries and Double-Meat(Gunner) respectively. Considering how damn big these are, and good it is, I’d say these are pretty well priced. Would like it better if they had some discount snack item option, a $5 or under thing.

                Speed:9 – Each sandwich done one by one, once you actually get the order in, it’s made pretty damn quickly. I’d say it actually went from meat and veggies on the grill top to stuffed inside the bread in only… 1-2 minutes at the most? The only wait came in the person at the register.

I would like to make quick comment that, when finally stepping up to the long counter in front of the window in line, there seems to be a bit of a consistently awkward wait to see when you can actually order. Gotta wait for one of the cooks behind to guesture towards you, and apparently it’s usually later than I expected (it was actually the guy already halfway down the counter’s turn when I thought it was mine. Made a weird situation.). Fair warning.  

                Toe: 8.5 – Very singular, very good and delicious, going through the line itself is a little adventure in watching the grill top and the bread slide. They’ve created a bit of that feeling of the classic Philly shops, in that you know when you go there that it’s the only thing you’re going to get. There’s a little part of it that pulls back from the completion of the compelling atmosphere though, I find. Perhaps it’s just the seemingly obvious association and attachment of a restaurant chain, maybe the small logo amongst the big black truck pulls its impact back and makes it feel more like a catering van (I mean hey, when I first saw it I expected it was only in Minnesota on a very brief one or two-time event basis). Just saying.

2014-05-10 13.04.11

                Hell, it’s trucks like these that I don’t need my “suggestion” section after the review, you know what to get! Go grab a Philly, be happy. Nom in the deliciousness of all those meat and veggies; no wussing out with the “scratch the onions/mushrooms” order, and if you do it better be because you’re allergic. Philly Cheesesteaks should be eaten in every bit of their glory… with maybe some of that spicy ranch sauce on top, probably not too traditional in the home city but it tastes pretty damn good here. As does the sandwich.

                Note: in respect for the business model and food truck deliciousness, though this is indeed a “Quasi-Review,” if the score ever shifts to put PepperJax into my top 10 listing, they will receive an official “seat” and not just an honorary mention.  

Twisted Fork Grille




Main Location: St. Paul, Minneapolis

            The Brick and Mortar hits the streets again, with Twisted Fork Grille bringing out a big, black van to shuck out restaurant favorites.

            Twisted offers a smaller version of their at-home menu, with a similar percentage between Apps, Salads, Sides, and Sanwiches (Entrees being the only section that’s cut out; though I think they DID make their Bison Meatloaf into a sandwich…). This includes “Modern Grill-based Restaurant” favorites like Walleye Cakes, Sweet Potato “Chips,” “Caramelized” Brussel Sprouts n Bacon, and a Burger (well, a Veggie Burger). These are joined by the Street-reminiscent Twisted Specialties of Pastrami Sandwich, Fish Tacos, and a side of Asian Slaw. And they of course have a couple salads, a plain Green and one with Smoked Salmon on Crostini.

            Yeah, not as long as my other Review Intros, maybe I’m feeling a bit lethargic from this taco I had earlier… (stick around for my next SFC post).


Food: 7.5


            Since it’s their signature, I just had to get the Pastrami. Thick, hand-cured pieces of glorious beef cooked on the griddle with a big wad of melty cheese before getting shoved between a toasted pretzel bun (which I swear is becoming less novel and more boring nowadays… though I won’t take points off for that). This is joined by crispy onion strings, a tart tomato, and some zingy-dressed arugula on the bottom (which provided an interesting little flavor surprise to my meat-heavy expectations; cut through the salt and fat nicely). Overall it’s a pretty damn enjoyable sliced-meat sandwich.

           And it doesn’t seem to be the only one on the menu; I ended up sharing a nice, Truck-related conversation with a fella chowing on the Corn and Black Bean Burger. A big, thick, and apparently tasty home-made veggie pattie in a nice soft bun; the person eating it wasn’t complaining.


           Though it looks as if their renown with vegetables stops just at the burger; I can’t help but find myself highly confused over the supposedly well-known signature of “Caramelized” Brussel Sprouts. First off, this is NOT caramelized; this is seared, sautéed, flash-burnt, whatever you wanna call it; REAL caramelization is made through long cooking, med-hi heat, browning the vegetable aaallll over, getting a rich and even broken-down crust. Of course one can never get it like caramelized onions, which is why when we made it in one of my kitchen jobs we would cook in some brown sugar near the end.


            These, on the other hand, are cooked on a hot surface for either too short or too long a time, ending up with a technical sear on top of a big wad of what’s highly reminiscent of what turned most of us off to Brussels when we were kids in the first place. And I appreciate the addition of bacon, as with all its uses, but just sprinkling it on dry here just seems like… might as well just have it on the side. It all falls apart with no stick-togetherness; if it had a dressing or some sauce to better mix the two, maybe make it into a ragout than just a simple sauté, the two would stand out ever better.

          As for other items, from what I spotted here and there… the Smoked Salmon salad seems a simple excuse to serve thin slices of lox from an establishment (though they’re probably good), the Sweet Potato looked pretty good, and the Walleye Cakes, though looking possibly tasty, are oddly small… you get 3 balls that are a little bit bigger than a pingpong.

Holdability: 7.5

         Seem to be two main extremes here: the wraps and salads offer pure one-handled eating, even despite the gluttonous amount of meat and product inside, being served in a solidly-wrapped “foil” that one could easily peel back as needed. On the other side, baskets of salads, a couple of their sides, and those Fish Cakes (which are served with… salad)  need eating with a fork, and could be easily more comfortable sitting down; especially if ordering a side WITH something else.


Price: 9.5

           Pretty damn good prices, most “entrée” sized items being $7, with those small Walleye Cakes at $6 and Fish Tacos at $8. Sides are $2-$4, and the Salads come in at $5 for the simple and $7 for the big Smoked Salmon.


Speed: 7.5

             Mostly average, some a bit quicker some a bit slower; I’m a bit surprised that the Pastrami takes that long, though it IS actually being grilled to order w/ cheese on top. Just note it’s not a quick-assemble cold.

The TOE: 7.5

             Though that feeling of a Restaurant remains, I think Twisted has chosen the right menu items and adjusted themselves to the scene enough to drive a Truck feeling whenever we go.

                        Tally: 39.5/50


Final Thoughts

            A good, affordable Truck for those in the St. Paul area, it has some great items when needing high abilities to eat while traveling, though some extended options for those who can sit down to enjoy. It’s also a fantastic option to try some of Twisted Fork’s restaurant items for a little bit cheaper than the original menu.


            For Sandwiches, the Pastrami and Bean Burger are at the top of the list, though that’s not to dissuade you from the other entrée items. For Sides, I’d probably suggest sticking to the Sweet Potato Chips; they’re only $2, the Brussels are a no-go, and one can find good Asian Slaws almost everywhere. And for Salads, though once again I still don’t see the point, the Smoked Salmon offers a generous portion with added elements to at least give a “full” lunch.

            And those are about the items to mainly pay attention to; though we’ll see if there are any other things they switch out (if they bring the Meatloaf in, that would probably be a pretty good fella too).

BBB: “Burger Before Break”


             With my leave for a 10-day vacation looming, I’m a bit determined to get at least one more Truck experience done before Thursday. Though as we can see, Minnesota’s trying to take us on a mass-delorian trip back to December, which isn’t really helping any of our Trucks get outside. The whole “Food Truck Day” I had planned with my cousin for yesterday became cancelled, leaving me to re-think my strategy.

            Luckily for me, I didn’t need to re-think too much, my daily plans leading me to downtown Minneapolis and straight towards AZCanteen. Finally returned after a long winter in Florida and other states, AZ has been making up the time lost, parking in all sorts of weather conditions despite any obviously-lacking crowds. It was a particular fun stop in the day for me, one for meeting up with an old classmate who happens to work in the Truck now, but secondly because I finally had the chance to get the Cabrito Burger.


            Just a reminder, I definitely suggest one’s first try of the Burger be from the Truck as opposed to the Stadium. Not only does one get the “Truck Experience,” the line probably won’t be as long, and it costs $4 less than their $13 charge at a Twins game.

            Overall an interesting little experience; good chance I shall be adjusting some of the scores on my review. The wait was pretty long for the burger vs my other orders at the previous excursion; not that I had anywhere to go, and it was nice to see them take their time, shift the burger around, really cook it RIGHT. It’s quite a thing to see, watching the cook turn it ever-so slightly, nudge here and there for heat distribution, all while your little pile of onions and tomatoes just sit caramelizing on the griddle.


            They finish the burger with an herb butter, let it melt on the grill, and finally move your perfect little bundle of ground goat and lamb(?) to the griddle-toasted brioche bun. No cheese required, the only toppings one gets being the stained-glass pile of grilled onions and roasted tomato. A little cup of their handmade pickles, to add with your own preference (aka, pile all of it on your burger cuz they’re delicious and awesome), and the plate is finished. Have you ever had those thoughts of making a gourmet burger and wondering what it would look like? Well, here you go:


            Now that’s just plain picturesque. Just burger, bun, tomato, onion, and pickles, all kicked up to their most simple deliciousness. And for those who always like having a bit of spicy with their food, jalapeno and ancho chile hot sauces stand guard to the side (I tried a bit of the ancho on half of mine)… need a lot though if you wanna taste it, I didn’t get too much of mine.


            As for the taste, what else is there to say? It’s all highly flavorful, the condiments are just plain IDEAL, and the bun is crispy. Well, crispy at first; it has a LOT of juices it needs to handle, and even this crispy bun can only hold out for so long. But hey, crispiness is ideal, but if it’s lost texture simply from all the flavor and juices it soaks up, I guess we don’t mind suffering.

            The one thing of note I have, though the burger is flavorful and nice, it really does NEED all the condiments and herb-butter. On its own, the meat is sort of dry, which is to be expected as ground goat is one which sometimes needs COMPLETE cooking through; and well-done or medium-well it was, which explains the wait. Again though, as an entire package it’s all pretty damn good. Think it’s a fun little comparison to Melch’s, whose excellence is purely based on the burger patty, as opposed to AZ’s elevation in condiments (their Buns are tied… I knew a girl who liked that once actually).

            For one little visit, it was a pretty fun experience, and now I NO LONGER need to go to AZ again! (…. that’s not to say I won’t… just ask Vellee) I think I can safely head out on my little vacation without regrets now.

            Let’s hope Minnesota finally gets over its little temper tantrum and accepts the fact we’re done with winter when I get back. I’ve still got Trucks to review, and I will be looking forward to getting those done for people as soon as I get back!

SFC: Grilling Excitement

                You know, I came to a surprising realization last night after dinner: after 5 years of going into the food and cooking industry, yesterday was the first time that I actually cooked lamb. Bit of a shock, really; it’s not THAT difficult of an ingredient to come by, I really like it, and am quite eager to cook different things. I mean heck, I’ve cooked Goat in class, but not lamb. Just an odd little situation it seems…


                Oh well, it happened. And it left me with a big bin of juicy, leftover meat to do with as I please. It just so happened, this morning I was pleasing for a little Lamb Taco or two.

                Now, for actually cooking the lamb, I just used the “Alton Brown Grilling Method” found here:


                Guy just does fantastic recipes. An important note, though; apparently I was using a Leg of Lamb, completely different cut, and it took longer to cook. So, if anyone wants to follow this recipe with a Leg, make sure you use a lot more coals.

                So, the Lamb I got was a “Semi-Boneless” piece… which makes me wonder what makes it Semi when it has this giant club of a bone going right through it. Either way, I got that fella out, cleaned the Leg up a little bit, and scored for some nice cookmarks. Only later did I find that there were some pretty big rivers of Connective tissue on the INSIDE that I needed to get too… soooo be careful of those home viewers.


                Don’t forget to save the bone and other scraps. Roast them up someday and you can use for the base of an awesome soup/broth/sauce/ice cream (You heard me…. There’s a place in San Fran that flavors one of theirs with roasted Prosciutto Bones).


                Next, make your favorite marinade mix, flavor generously with Mint, Rosemary, and Brown Sugar for glazing purposes. In my case, I used some Mint Jelly, dried Rosemary, and Molasses… I work with what I have. Slather it all over the meaty insides and undersides, save the fatty top for halfway through grilling. Then Truss it up (hopefully better than I did) and transfer to the grill.


                Look how nice and roasty that looks… and yes I did a Hobo Packet of squash and veggies for a side.

                The dinner was nice, the lamb’s unique gentle grassy/gamey flavors really came out nicely. Now it’s onto breakfast, cubeing up a slice of the leftovers and sautéing in a pan.

                I felt like keeping a little Mediterranean , gyro-like feeling to the dish, so I topped with some yogurt instead of sour cream. Slices of cherry tomato and onion, few leaves of cilantro (in place of mint, also keep that latin feel), and since it’s lamb I have to have just a bit of the good stone mustard. Finish with a few drops of hot sauce and wrap in a corn tortilla (no masa in the pantry sadly), and I’ve got a tasty taco. A good morning for me!


                Can’t wait to enjoy the rest of this leftover juiciness. If it seems street-food related, I’ll make sure to post some follow-up pictures.


                And speaking of things I’m excited about, tomorrow looks to be quite the monumental day! Me and Alcohol by Volume’s Author will be getting together for a joint venture of Brewery and Food Truck visits. I can’t wait to share and discuss ideas with my fellow Foodie, have her show me the ropes on our cities’ Beer Scene (I’ll certainly be doing the same for our Food Trucks). We’re both gonna be in for a stroke of luck, too; not only is tomorrow’s weather gonna be fantastic, “Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill,” new to our streets, will be parking outside the first brewery. It’ll be my first visit, and I’ll be sure to have a review of it out by Monday, right after the post that will surely be soon to follow my review of the day’s other events.

                Until then, good night, good luck, and good mobile eating to all!