Lulu’s Street Food

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lulus-Street-Food/107004102822952   

https://twitter.com/LulusStreetFood   

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            It’s not often we see Truck’s expand their armada (though getting into restaurants is a whole different story); She Royal has branched to Brava, Potter’s added a second Pastie Truck to hit two cities… but that’s about it. But after only a few months of premiering, Lulu’s Street Food has already moved out another mobile operation, “The Red Pig & Truffle.” Supposedly rolling out later in the month, I of course look forward to giving it a full review when it does.

           This only stands as a sign to their growing reputation and success, exploding onto the scene much like how their design explodes over the eyes. Seriously, first time I saw this thing I thought it was a giant lifesaver… just wanted to lick it. Though I’m not sure if that’s the sign of a good Truck or some unresolved childhood issues…

            Well, getting back to the licking of organic matter, Lulu’s offers, well, “Street Food;” it’s really the best description. Menu items range in package, price, style, and flavors, but there are two things that connect them all. 1: they’re all based around the idea of classic and modern Street Foods, such as Tacos, Sandwiches, Rolls, Slider, etc; and 2: from what I can tell, most if not all menu items contain a Southern or Island/Caribbean base to them.

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            The Menu tends to change a LOT, and with at least 8 items (they have to use 2 blackboards!) usually on it, that says something. From what I can tell, some of the constant (or mostly seen) items include their famous Parmesan Truffle Fries, Cuban Chicken Taco or Sliders, Ahi Tuna Taco, and a Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich. Other items usually seem to contain Pulled/Roast Pork, Key West Fish Taco, and some Lobster based thing (either a Roll or, interestingly, Sliders). Whatever the situation, though, one is sure to find something suiting their particular tastes.

            Oh, and most of these items comes piled in some form of Coleslaw. Either way, let me just say I was very happy when they finally returned back to the Downtown Minneapolis streets after some weeks of outer explorations.

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Food: 9.5

            It took a while to decide, but I finally ended up with their Key West Fish Tacos and the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich.

             Again, when it comes to Island Tacos, I find no issue with the use of Flour Tortillas, which held the package in pretty darn well; though it would have been nice to have at least ONE extra, empty tortilla below the two for any drippage, cuz there is a quite a decent amount of Slaw, Aioli, and Pineapple-Mango Salsa. Which, I might add, is one of the few successful uses of pineapple I’ve found in our Truck lineup. The fish itself, Cod I think, was grilled properly on the grill in a very tasty spiced marinade; it ended up tender, rich, and flavorful.

            Now, something of slight disappointing note, my first taco had a noticeable proportion problem. I will say this, it DEFINITELY didn’t have too much coleslaw; I mean damn, that is a REALLY good, fresh-tasting, yummy slaw.. at that point where it’s so good you don’t care how much there is (plus the flavor wasn’t strong enough to overpower others). But it really didn’t have that much fish; like, one medium chunk and some small fragments. I did find that the OTHER taco had a decent amount more (see the picture below); my guess is that they just accidentally scooped more of the portion into one taco than the other. They don’t cook the fish in long “sticks,” but in this bundle of chopped up, marinated flesh.

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             As for the Fried Chicken Sandwich… Oh, My, God. Crispy, down-home comfort fried chicken, the shell very reminiscent of the style found on chicken tenders but, you know, GOOD, made with quality, so it’s a thick, sorta-chewy but crunchy coating that just holds up firm. Drizzled this with sticky, sweet honey, piled with that awesome coleslaw, and then shoved between and awesome, toasted Pretzel Bun. They have to either make it themselves or get it from a different place than others, as it’s a different texture, size, and shape than other pretzel bun’s I’ve seen. Either way, it works well; I mean it’s not really with the Southern theme, but who cares when it all tastes so awesome. It’s hard to describe how satisfying this guy is.

            Oh, and of course I had to top it with something from the Hot Sauce lineup they have.  

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Holdability: 7.5

              HIGHLY varying depending on item. All of them need at least two hands for eating (basket-based), but whereas the Tacos and some other options are very easy for walking around, certain sandwiches and other items definitely bring the requirement to SIT DOWN and eat it. Prime example, my Fried Chicken Sandwhich, seen here:

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            Look at that PILE of awesome, delicious coleslaw; it may taste great, but try as you might I doubt one can hold that sucker with one hand while walking. Not to mention all that sticky, drizzling honey coating down and to your fingers as you hold it. I swear, even if that aluminum wrapping was all around it like a classic burger, I doubt I’d still suggest eating it while walking… though that’s not to say you still shouldn’t eat it. Mmmm, that was good…

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Price: 6

             Towards the higher end, most items range between $8-$12, the two outsandings being the Lobster Roll at $15, which I have absolutely no idea how it varies in quality and amount vs Smack, and the Truffle Parm Fries at $5. Though what ended up a small basket of fried potatoes sprinkled in Truffle Salt (which isn’t as expensive as people think it is), I’m wondering if this price is a bit high for it. Overall, though, I would have to say that the food is WORTH the higher prices, at least from what I’ve had so far.

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Speed: 8

              Average, if not a touch above.

The TOE: 9

              I’ll admit, the menu is a bit intimidating when you first come up to it, with the difficult choices and somewhat higher prices (at least they have more than one, worthy $8 items), but I very much enjoy going here. It’s vibrant, high energy, and very fun and welcoming, and I’m not just talking about the colors. If I’d posit a guess, the feeling and concepts of the chefs behind the window really come through in the menu and service; sort of like when one goes to Travail or Victory 44, with the Chef Waiter/resses.

                           Tally: 40/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Lulu’s certainly fits the bill for a multitude of customer requirements. Whether you’re looking for a higher-priced item to take back and sit down to eat, or something to walk around the street with, you can probably find a good option here. There are many items to suggest, but here are the ones I’d probably lean to.

            The Ahi Tuna seems quite popular, and I’m guessing there’s a reason for it; with these kind of chefs behind the window, I’d definitely assume they’re making it right. Besides that, other Fish Tacos also bring a delightful experience (assuming they get the proportions right…), particularly for the walk-n-eat scenarios. Cuban items are sure to be done well, so it’s a valid focus. And I DEFINITELY suggest the Fried Chicken Sandwich if you’re able to sit down!

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            Sadly, there’s not too much here for those with a little lighter wallet. The Truffle Fries do offer a good snacking option, especially on Food Truck Days, though I still debate whether they’re truly up for a whole $5; they do seem like really quality-cooked fries though. As for the Lobster Roll, I don’t really see much reason to peddle so much out for an unsurety… if you’re curious, and have a bit of extra cash, maybe try the Lobster Sliders when they come out, get a feel of how it tastes to decide if you wanna have their Roll instead of Smack’s (also ask how the size compares).

Food Truck Wars!!

wbearft

… okay sorry, it’s not the actual show. But starting tonight, the 2nd Annual local “Food Truck Wars” with Twin Cities Live and 107.1 begins! Every Tuesday in June, from 4-7 in White Bear Lake Minnetonka, they will be tasting offerings from 6 various Trucks and deciding a winner! The starting lineup will be A Cupcake Social, Hot Indian Food, Melch’s Meat Truck, Tiki Tim’s, Cafe Racer, and Minneapple Pie.

With this selection contrasting offerings, it’s sure to be an exciting “showdown” to go and take part in. Now if only I didn’t live so damn far away from White Bear…

https://www.facebook.com/events/168931506609705/?ref=22

Tiki Tim’s

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https://www.facebook.com/TikiTimsMN

https://twitter.com/TikiTims_MN

Main Location: St. Paul, Etc

            Yay! The first post where I’ve been able to take and use my own pictures! I feel so happy and thrilled, no more reliance on Google Images for picture-perfect, news article-used images! Out-of-focus, weird-angled, purely amateurish shots are now the only ones good enough for this Blog! Just take a look at this one!

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            And that one.

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            And this one!

            AND THAT ONE!!

            … I just realized I didn’t actually take enough pictures to really fit that amusing “point and look” exercise I just tried to accomplish. Should probably just get rid of it all-together… but I do like being lazy…

            Anyway, back to the truck.

            My first exploit of the year into Trucks I haven’t yet tried, I took a drive South of St. Paul to the Summit Brewery Taproom. A fun note for Food Truck seekers, every Friday they open the taproom and have a Truck parked outside. The schedule is posted up ahead of time on their site. One gets their order, sits down inside and grab a pint or flight of beer. A fun little activity for a small group to enjoy.

            Tiki Tim’s is a big, steel-blue (or is it electric blue?) tiny mobile home-turned Island-based food depository. The menu is held up by three main items: Fish Tacos; Island-style Pulled Pork with Pineapple Coleslaw; and “Tiki Cakes,” crab cakes with shrimp, veggies, and jalapeno.

            Besides these, one can also find a couple interesting sides, such as the now bar-staple Fried Pickles. Sweet-potato Miso Soup will keep you warm in the cold winter, standing opposite to their cold macaroni-potato salad.

            I gratefully grabbed my order, a “combo plate” of Taco and Cake with a side of the mayonnaise-based salad, grabbed a Saga IPA, sat down and enjoyed. No reason to try and pick apart the Summit, they always make a pretty good beer. For those looking to enjoy, hoppy styles such as the IPA certainly proved themselves great with the slightly spicy foods of the island. Certainly can’t wait to visit again; seems Cajun 2 Geaux will be visiting in about a month…

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Food: 9

            I’m going to start my high point on something that’s usually a low. Tacos here are wrapped in Flour Tortillas, not masa, and only given a single tortilla per. Normally, this would emit a lower score for Taco trucks, but this TRULY shows no connection to any real Latin twists or flavors. It is exactly how they might form a taco on an island. Plus, on an even tastier note, the tortillas are grilled to slight crispiness before wrapping. A nice way of getting in that extra dimension of experience.

           The white fish used is very flavorful, as is the crunchy batter they used to fry it. I am happy to say that, after my first experience of OVERWHELMING Cabbage and Veggies to tiny Fish, they have subsequently fixed the ratio to a properly-proportioned Taco. With the tangy flavored cream sauce, crunchy fish, and zippy slaw, this easily comes in as one of the best Tacos in our Truck Lineup.

           When getting the little patty of crab and shrimp, I was first reminded of the panko crust of an eggplant that I had deep fried for way too long, and left myself to anticipate the worst.

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           My thoughts were happily disproven.

           The inside is so refreshingly moist, fresh, and flavorful. Vegetables and herbs adding great notes of island aroma. Despite its appearance, the crust is thin, light, and offers that perfect texture in contrast to the soft inside. Best part, of course, to this and any other crab cake, is the lack of “filler” flavors, such as supplied by breadcrumbs.

           Sauces are all very creamy and flavorful, with a nice zippyness from any garlic or spices used. This is just as true in the Mayonnaise dressing for their cold salad. Let me just say, for those still holding doubts based on old deli-style potato or pasta salads, this is one you should try. The macaroni and potatoes are toothsome but soft, peppers and veggies add a nice little texture without any harsh flavors (for once they don’t just cram the entire thing with raw onions, uck). The dressing brings in that nice little refined creaminess that makes a GOOD potato/pasta salad.

           Spice delivered via dressings is more of the “Gentle warmth,” building a little bit over time without taking over the palette. These are not the aggressive, spiking shoots of pure burning that the pain seekers seem to enjoy.

Holdability: 6

          Tacos, as mentioned are pretty well stuffed, and only use a single taco,. The many vegetables actually stay in pretty well. It thus is less of an “overflow” dish and more of a simple “messiness,” with the thick garlic cream wanting to ooze out the most. Pork Sandwich is a two-handed thing, and sides come in their own, making any order of Main + side (which is hard not to get) drawing one to a sit-down situation of some sort.

         Tiki Cakes are just presented as crab-cakes, no bun for holding, so one is given a fork. I just ate it with my hands anyway, they actually hold up very well. Though, I still think they need to make some sort of “mini-burger” out of them, would it not just be a fantastic Street Menu Item? I’d almost consider it a Toe Ring of some sort.

Price: 7.5

         $7, $8, and $10 respectively for different menu items, with two of the sides costing $4. The side of Salad is only $2, and automatically comes with an order of Tiki Cakes (probably why they charge $10 for it).

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         They offer a really great deal for Foodies though; a “Combo Plate” that holds one Taco and Cake allows one to have a taste of two main items while only spending $8. Sides can of course increase this.

Speed: 8

         Average, simple.

The TOE: 7

        Carrying a fun name and Truck design, Tiki really brings that feeling of the unique, specific food category of their choosing. Though I would not extend that to the food; very tasty, I do feel that their STYLE is… “reserved,” not exactly hitting the true island feel that they are trying to develop. I would say it’s similar to going to a Tex-Mex restaurant on the border; very good food, carries those flavors, but not actually at Mexican.

        I really wish that they would turn the Tiki Cakes into a sandwich!! They have such potential to stand out as a popular Street Food in the city; all it needs is bread and some light slaw.

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                      Tally: 37.5/50

Final Thoughts

         Better for those who can take their times to enjoy a more complete Lunch/meal from a Truck, with some place to rest down and enjoy. Though walkers can still get a plate of just Fish Tacos for roaming the city and be happy. I DEFINITELY suggest first timers go straight for the Combo Plate as a way to try two dishes. Potato-Mac Salad is a must get on the side, simply due to the very few times one can actually find a quality cold, mayonnaise-based salad such as this.

         Don’t get the Pulled Pork until they’ve made some improvements (see my experience of it Here). I, myself, don’t see any reason to get the fried pickles, as they can be found so often these days. The soup would be a good quick-buy when out on a cold day, needing something to warm you up without spending too much.