Big Mall, Little Sweets

SAMSUNG

                Recent exploits led me down to the Mall of America yesterday, my first visit since before Christmas I believe, where I ran across one of Cupcake’s small, vibrantly orange and blue cafes/stores. So I thought it’d be fun to explore and take a few pics!

SAMSUNG

                There’s quite the large display case of 35 different (I’m guessing standard) cupcakes to purchase, MUCH more than what we can get from the little car, and another 4 on the side. I’m assuming their seasonal, as opposed to a highlight of their winning group of cakes during one of their many Cupcake Wars spotlights, which they showcase on a flatscreen (at all times I guess) in the back.

SAMSUNG

                Everything looked just as smooth and delicious as always, if not better; I certainly wish I was able to enjoy one of the many styles I haven’t had yet, but my money was already set on a different traditional street-based sweet treat.

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

                That’s right, Gelato!! I discovered Paciugo on my last trip out here; situated in the South-Western corner (I’m pretty sure) on the 3rd floor, actually very close to Cupcake, I have to say this is easily one of the Mall’s newest and best-kept secrets. I absolutely LOVE this place! Their selection of Gelato is huge, and filled with all highly different flavors than the norm (and I’m including many a modern ice cream place in here). From vanilla and mint chocolate to traditional Italian stracciatella, hazelnut, and tiramisu; uniquely pure Italian flavors like rose(or other flowers) and black sesame to tasty sorbet mixes (cantaloupe pear, mango peach); awesome combos like chocolate-jalapeno to the completely wacky, unthinkable flavors like goldfish or durian. Everything about Paciugo’s fully embodies the feeling and elements of a TRUE Italian Gelateria, while bringing in a Modern American palette and sense of playfulness.

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

                Then you get to actually ordering; for those completely stuck on the many flavors they want, they give the perfect options! Just ordering a small, one can get 3 different flavors; larger sizes can bring in 4 or 5. I decided to grab a small consisting of Hazelnut-Chocolate, Chocolate-Jalapeno, and Caramel Apple. Though what’s a really fun option, and a great tie-in to the Italian espresso tradition, is the “Cappucino con Gelato”… which is just as it sounds. A scoop of any delicious frozen goods top with a bit of hot espresso; I had it on my first trip and it was DELICIOUS!! I think I got it with the Pana Cotta, which is one I would certainly suggest, along with any sort of hazelnut, chocolate, cream-based, spiced, or other gelato (you know what would be really good? Their “Malt” flavored gelato).

SAMSUNG

                End of the day, either of these places are a Must-go for anyone, local or tourist, visiting our well-known Mall, especially those street-food lovers among us. For those visiting the MOA sometime soon, particularly in the upcoming cold holidays, then I hope you get the chance to enjoy this fully. Good Luck and Good Eating in your travels my friends!

SAMSUNG

A Day of Mixed Experiences

               You know what it is they say about the “Best Laid Plans?” Well, that particular kind of bad-luck situation seems to cross my path quite often; in fact, almost every time I attempt to plan a day with someone else. Heck, I once scheduled a day to take off of school (special 1-time use card privelage thing) a couple months ahead of time, and it just so happened that day ended up being the 1 day after 10 years that we closed due to Snow.

                This of course was no exception yesterday, when me and Paige from Alcohol by Volume finally met for a day of Brewery and Food Truck mingling. So, after driving all the way down to Indeed, I suddenly found out that, not only do they open at 3 as opposed to the Noon time we had planned, but the Food Truck I was looking forward to was scheduled for Saturday, not Friday (darn their confusing Calendar). Called my meeting buddy to re-think, drove to meet at Fulton… which also wasn’t open. SO we just met at a bar Downtown, since she was already walking on Nicollet.

                So, after booking it all the way from Fulton to Nicollet and 10th (I had already found this awesome 10hr Parking Meter, paid 50c for 4 hours, I’m not letting that baby go) I entered “The Local” and went about searching. For those who haven’t been, it was my first time too, they have a fun old-school bar interior, divided right in half by a long, extensive woodwork. The rest of the pub is interspersed with private cubicles, glass dividers, wood stands, and other such patchwork forms of older-styled décor, designed mainly for creating senses of privacy. It’s a really cool and fun thing to walk through… but it sucks when trying to find somebody. I circled twice, and ended up having to sit and have her find me instead.

SAMSUNG

                Took about an hour, but finally got the day kicked off. The rest went smooth and simple. Shared some talk over a beer; being quite tired from the run, I needed a creamy Kilkenny, and to our luck we found they held a Harriet, so she went for that. After expressing the interest, the bartender decided to find a growler of their Saison and poured us each a taster.  Really had that characteristic Harriet Fruity-Hoppy complexity on the nose, though my more experienced colleague pointed out its characteristics technically weren’t along what a true “saison” should be. At the very least we agreed it still tasted good.

SAMSUNG

                Feeling the need for a change of venue, specifically one that held food, I offered two main ideas, and we headed off towards Marquette. Since, sadly, we only found one Truck still parked, I decided to take her to option #2: Devil’s Advocate. Shockingly this was the first time she had even heard of it, so I thought it’d be a fun experience, even if Food Trucks weren’t involved.

SAMSUNG

                A nice, complex and darker Winter Ale for her, and my first glass of Dragon’s Milk Stout, and we went for a simple order of meatball sliders. Pretzel roll double of Beef w/ Red Sauce and a Single Chicken w/ Mushroom; it was my first time trying the fries too, which I definitely give them much applause for in their perfection of soft inside and crispy outside. It was my first time seeing their dessert menu, too, and I definitely suggest your next visit include one of their seemingly simple yet slightly twisted items. The cheesecake we ordered, for instance, was made with Mascarpone instead of the typical Cream; made a bit smoother and not as heavy.

                Talks had no real common thread, ranging from the complex and storied past of Finnegan’s Brewery to the practices of separate city Brewing Clubs (of which I’m thinking I might look into for joining), between Hidden Bars and Donny Darko, and a particularly noted discussion of various food-related TV Shows.

SAMSUNG

                The day ended at Fulton, where at least I was able to show off one of our prided Trucks, Little G’s. Inside, I had my first glass of their newer War and Peace stout. Very powerful, punchy in style, you really got the bitterness of the Malts and Hops; a fun little version of one of my favorite malt-bases. To our delight, we also found out about their recent foray into making their own sodas, and we both just had to share a glass of Juniper-Blueberry. Much like all homemade sodas, it was awesome.

SAMSUNG

                We ordered an Italian (Sausage, Onion, Pepper), a simple heavy style to fit their thicker, doughier crust. She certainly approved, though sadly was full from our trip to Devil’s to eat more than one small square. Finishing our drinks, we called it a day and went our separate ways.

SAMSUNG

                It was certainly a fun get-together, and I enjoyed the chance of being able to share our respective loves and interests in these two growing culinary scenes. Very much looking forward to the next little experience, hopefully I’ll actually be able to show off more than one Truck next time. Until then, we’ll both keep on tasting and trucking for your reading pleasure!

SAMSUNG

                Oh, one final note. Since I had another hour on my meter, and was still a bit affected from the drink, decided to stop into the nearby Saffron for a little waiting snack. Sadly, they didn’t have the Lamb Brains available (could have sworn I saw it on one of their Happy Hours at one point, but apparently I was wrong), so I tried a little dish of house-cured beef called “Bastirma.” Rubbed with Turkish spices, one could really get that gentle complexity in the aroma, and the chew was nice with the clean fat and concentrated meat. Certainly a nice, simple appetizer to end the day with.

SAMSUNG

Devil’s Advocate, Downtown

da3

               Those who are familiar with my posts know that I don’t normally write about restaurants, other than an off-handed mention in one of my ramblings. However, spending the day with my cousin, we decided to stop at Devil’s Advocate for a large lunch/dinner (helped that we also had a groupon for it). Now, I’ve already stopped by before, but I only had a single slider and some Devil’s on Horseback (dates, stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon); haven’t had the chance to really explore the rest of their menu.

                The groupon was for $50, so we ended up getting a LOT of food for the two of us. One of those dishes, however, so reminded me of that feeling, that SPIRIT of a Food Truck item, which I just couldn’t help but want to write about it. It just helps to reinforce my feeling that this Meatball-focused Bar should get a Food Truck, and soon (see my other Truck-pics Here).

da

                Before I get to that, though, a look at a few other things we had; ‘cuz they may be meatball-based, but that doesn’t keep them from making everything else above-and-beyond. We of course had some meatball sliders; one Chicken w/ Tomato, and my first try of the Beef w/ Pesto. Both were soft in all the right ways, juicy, filling; the Beef with that nice, rich undertone familiar with Roasts, and Chicken almost tasting like a Pork in how much flavor they got out of it. Sauces paired perfectly of course.

devilsadvocate_meatballs-300x224

                (Okay I forgot to take a pic and hate to use the ‘net. Still…)

                I also decided to try one of the “combos,” pre-paired dishes of two balls on one of their sides. The one that immediately drew my eye was the Pork w/ Polenta. I expected them to use the firm, baked polenta, but to my joy they did the uber-creamy, soft, spoonable style, my favorite! And it actually stayed creamy on the plate w/out stiffening (not everyone pulls this off), while being loaded with richness, cream, all that’s good with it. Topped with the spicy Pomodoro sauce, it made for a fiendishly hooking guilty pleasure… and found me licking the bowl at the end.

SAMSUNG

                Not much of a trip to the “Devil’s” Advocate without trying the “Devilled” Eggs, now is it? Not to mention they’re only a couple bucks, so it made a fun little bite. Small, quality eggs, cooked perfectly, with a creamy devilled-mixture, which I can only guess is made purely from the yolks, a touch of cayenne, and a highly flavorful integration of the ubiquitous Paprika, turning their Eggs into an (un)holy revelation of deliciousness. Almost wish I had more, but since it was Cousin’s first time I offered him the uneven extra half.

SAMSUNG

                We also had nachos. Yeah, I know, my thoughts were the same; sure everything else is good, but nachos of all items? So simple. But my cousin wanted to get nachos… and thank god he put in the order, because they are AWESOME. First off, and here’s the only thing I really NEED to say: they use MASA tortilla chips for it. Even some of the better places only use corn, so this was a great surprise. The rest of the ingredients are simple but combined nicely; ground beef, red onions, cheese, spicy-cheese-sauce, touch salsa, green onions (or chives, not sure), and a couple jalapenos. May not have been a huge platter compared to others, but I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite, as well as going on a ramble with my cousin on the wonders of true Mexican taco experiences and masa tortillas.

SAMSUNG

                Now, we get to the dish which made me want to do a Restaurant-post in a Food Truck-blog. As I’ve mentioned, some of the most lauded and memorable items in Street Food are the ones that take a familiar, nostalgic dish, and then give it a noticeable twist. This can be to add something to our nostalgia, offer something special, or to change an item that doesn’t fit their mold/focus (for so many trucks stay on one specific style) into their chosen unique style. This latter is what Devil’s focuses on, turning the ubiquitous Buffalo Chicken Wings into “Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls.”

SAMSUNG

                This is such a SIMPLE dish; and so easily done by a kitchen which spends 90% of its time (I’m guessing) making meatballs. But the spirit behind it is huge, and the result mimics. Tiny little meatballs of chicken, which are just as soft as their bigger brothers, are covered in buffalo sauce and served with skewers on the side.  The blue cheese is blended so it’s silky-smooth, turning that nice blue-grey shade, which I wish more places would do. You get the cheese taste in every bite, it sticks so much better to what you’re dipping into it, and you don’t have this little pile of chunky cheese on the bottom after eating all the actual dressing.

                This dish is absolutely perfect for Food Trucks. It tastes just like a buffalo wing, but… it’s just NOT. It’s soft, the meat even more flavorful, and the skewers make it fun to eat (and if they WERE in a truck, could easily spear all the balls on 1-2 skewers for service). I would certainly give it a Toe Ring if ever I ended up rating this concept.

                Overall, it was a fun day, but Dinner was the absolute highlight (sorry Cousin, I love the food more than you… I’m sure you feel the same though). I can’t wait to go back with someone else, try some more items and Beer (oh crap, I forgot to talk about the beer… oh well, that’s Alcohol-by-Volume’s turf anyways. Just know they have good stuff).

                Oh, quick shout-out to my buddy Yohan! (sure I’m spelling it wrong, sorry!) Worked with him when I was at the Red Stag, he just happened to be our Waiter at Devil’s, it was fun!

 

What other restaurants or menu items just make you think of Food Trucks?

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?

 

Cave Cafe

cc3

cavecafeandcatering.com

https://twitter.com/TheCaveCafe

Main Location: St. Paul

            The joy of the wildly successful trend of mobile food trucks, is that it’s like having a totally different restaurant outside your door each day.” The very first thing written on Cave’s Menu page, it just so happens to be the exact thoughts that cross my mind whenever I think of them.

            An “Afro-Italiano” fusion Truck, Cave offers a selection of both plated and handheld dishes, including Wraps and Steak Sandwiches. Their main offerings centre around Rice dishes, such as Curries, including a certain dish known as “Tibsie.” This dish basically consists of vegetables and (sometimes) meat sautéed and mixed together with rice and seasonings; served with homemade Flatbread. Lamb is the most popular item, and will at times be offered in Special daily items along with Goat.

cc1

            They also serve a few breakfast items, though the only one seeming even slightly African is something called “Foule:” fava bean and vegetable puree, topped with garlic and served with French bread. On that same topic of “non-African” items, they also serve a regular Hamburger.

            I don’t really quite understand why they claim to be an “Italian-fusion” either. The only things reminiscent being the fact that one has the option for pesto in wraps and sandwiches. Oh, plus the Chicken Salad has an “Italian dressing.” Salad flavours itself are really more on the Greek side of things.

            Very tempted to say a few sandwiches are less African-inspired as well, but they do use French Bread, a part of their Culture developed from French invasions and travels into the Continent.

Food: 6.5

            I imagine the steak sandwich, wraps, and curry are all very flavorful and tasty within their own right. I, myself, grabbed the Beef Tibsie. Though only had the chance to enjoy half of it cuz it was a “Food Truck Sample Day” and I was getting full.

           The ingredients were all nice separately, and the spiced tomato sauce had a little zing and richness to it. Overall the entire thing tasted like something your parents tried cooking up with leftover vegetables when you were a kid. It all felt random and somewhat muddled together, the only real appeal I found being that “Hmmm, I could probably reheat this easily at home.”

cc2

           My favorite part, actually, was the slices of hot Flatbread they wrapped in foil and served alongside it. So soft, oily and flavorful, I could just eat those with butter and a spread all day; I wish they had given me more.

Holdability: 4.5

           Rice and Breakfast dishes are all served in a giant styrofoam box with plastic utensils and the bread, which is what one is encouraged to use for scooping. Very awkward to eat with on the go, especially since the flatbread is still so hot to handle, one really needs to find a table or bench for full enjoyment.

           They do have sandwiches and wraps, but served in a basket with chips, leading to more dependence on both hands (especially since Steak Sandwiches don’t have the best reputation for holding together easily).

Price: 6.5

           Range of $6-$9, with all Main Rice dishes staying on that higher end, Lamb and Goat specials getting into the double digits.

Speed: 5

          A noticeable wait to have them cook up any meats and vegetables, even when no one else is ordering.

The TOE: 5

          I love and admire the idea of bringing an African Truck to the streets. However, the menu they chose is really not suitable to a Food Truck at all; any items that ARE suitable on it aren’t African OR Italian. When you visit, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to a Truck; more like a Restaurant that you have to stand outside for… I guess that explains their quote.

          There are a lot of little things that I wish they would do to really change themselves into a better Beacon of their Culture. They could make smaller versions of the Tibsie and Curry (they do give you a lot), then shove them inside of a roll with toppings. All these regular sandwiches, wraps, and burgers need to go, replaced with ACTUAL Italian and African-styled fillings. Most of all, they need to make something with that PITA bread they make; it’s SO good, it should have a dish centered around itself. That’s not something I normally say; personally, I rarely even understand Truck dishes like tortillas-n-guac, pita chips-n-hummus. This, however, would work.

           They have a great start with flavors and Tradition, but adjustments need to be made if Street Food is really where they want to go.

                        Tally: 27.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Currently, Cave Café is mostly suited for those looking for a bigger sit-down lunch or something that they can reheat later for dinner. There are possibilities for those looking to walk around and eat, but the ones that seem really worth it and indicative of their “culinary focus” are limited.

            Steak Sandwich and Lamb Gyro Wrap should be one’s main goals for the “Street Food” category. If one still wants to visit and buy a Main dish, I would stick to the Curries; always a good, flavorful option to get for lunch. Also, look on their Specials, little stickers or writings on the side of the Truck of options they might have that day. If you see any Goat or Lamb dishes, inquire; they’re always a good fun option to try if you haven’t had it yet.

            For those still wanting to try Tibsie, Lamb is the only one that still intrigues me. Just know that this, along with any Lamb/Goat specials, are going to be in the low double digits of price. As such, not suited for those conscious of space in their wallet.

Saucy Burt’s

sb3sb4

saucyburts.com/

https://twitter.com/SaucyBurts

Main Location: Minneapolis           

            My introduction to Saucy Burt’s was a small article in the Vitamn Restaurant section. It was lucky for me that I just so happened to read that week’s issue too, otherwise I doubt I would have ever noticed and found it to this day. Very small and discreet of a cart, Saucy can be missed quite easily if you aren’t looking.

            Located on Nicolette, usually a couple blocks up from Dandelion’s spot, Saucy serves one item and one item only: the Meatball Sub. Spending months of time on research in recipes and bakeries, Sarah Burt combines the three chosen items into one fantastic, thought-out sandwich. 

Though this solo idea may not last for long; Sarah’s thinking of slowly adding items to the menu plans. Next time you visit, you may find your Veal-Beef-Pork Meatball sharing the list with a Chicken Cacciatore.

sb1

Food: 5.5

                  I was very shocked after ordering my sub. Who would have thought that after all the testing and research the Chef had done, the end result would be… disappointing.

                Do not get me wrong; the meatballs are fantastic and tasty, paired with a rich and creamy tomato sauce. The sauce, however, does that thing where it doesn’t actually STICK to the meatballs; all the tiny tomato pieces just slide onto the bun. Talking about the bun, there is noticeably too much of it en ratio with the 3 small meatballs. It just makes that thick, chewy cold bread-flavor in your mouth while you eat. There’s no toast on it either; just sliced from the package and filled. Even if it has to be done long ahead of time, some texture and crunchiness would improve greatly and take down on the ratio issue. That, and using a smaller torpedo roll, or adding 1-2 meatballs.

                If one is going to sell only one menu item, and a very traditional one at that, every single point needs to excel and keep to traditional standards. That means component ratios need to be perfect, and the sauce needs to COAT and surround the meatballs completely. It is still a very tasty sub, but these little off-kilter mistakes can make the mistakes glaring, at least for people like me at least.

Most of the readers probably won’t care, I understand, but this is how I see things, and I think it should be a shared and known viewpoint.

Holdability: 10

                 As it is, the meatball holds up really well; could easily ditch the basket it’s served in. Though I feel this is contrasting to how meatball subs usually should be…

Price: 8

                 Only $7, a very affordable price, though as it’s the only one it leaves little room for variable options. Plus, with the uneven quality of the sub, it only just reaches that full $7 worth.

Speed: 9.5

                 Very quick, especially considering she knows what everyone is ordering, simply requires the layering of meatball and sauce in roll. Though I don’t quite get why she doesn’t keep the meatballs IN the sauce; makes things go a couple seconds quicker, and can always have some non-sauced on the side just in case.

The TOE: 8

sb2

                A single-person operated, small cart selling only one item holds a fun little appeal all too familiar with traditional street foods. Putting one’s all into making a “perfect” item also holds a lot of risk and admiration. Personally, I actually hope they stick with just one item; you lose some of that special appeal when you expand, whether the single item needs cleaning up or not.

                       Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

            I say see if they make changes similar to what I’ve noticed or just don’t go at all. If you do feel the need to scratch it off a list, again it’s not THAT bad of a sub, and only $7 so you aren’t sacrificing much. Plus, if the Cacciatore is added, it would probably be a good option to try.

Messy Giuseppe

giuseppe1

www.messyg.com/

https://twitter.com/MessyGTruck

Main Location: St. Paul

            Our cities’ first Italian-based truck, Messy G’s (as they like to call themselves… I think…) takes our childhood sloppy joe and ramps it up with the rich, spiced tomato sauce and hot… well I don’t know what kind of meat, secret recipes and all. They then top this special mix with a slice of provolone, letting the conserved heat of the sloppy melt it down to gooeyness.

            Besides the Joe, Messy G’s offers quite a few other Italian-based hoagies and sandwiches, using cured and cooked meats with various toppings. Giardinara, basically a spicy Italian vegetable relish with larger cuts of various veggies, is used often, and a prize topping to get if you still haven’t tried yet. They also offer a grilled cheese with honey, basil, and tomato on Vienna bread… mmmmmm, if I go again that’s my main goal.

Food: 6

            It all looks and sounds good, but the meat in a lot of the hoagies can seem somewhat hoagie-generic; like what you’d find in a restaurant who’s focus is something else but still serves. The sloppy joe tastes good, but the meat is very loose (well, loose for a sloppy joe). When I had mine the spicyness just seemed to stand out too much. There was not really any “depth” to the spice either, felt like just heat (and I’m good at picking out flavor depth in spicy foods, why I love curry so much).

            The food is still good, and there are nice gems here and there, the grilled cheese for example. However, I still feel there might be better options out there when it comes to flavor.

messy-gs2

Holdability: 4

             You cannot walk with the Messy Giusseppe at all; you have to sit down, grab a few napkins and buckle down. If you can pick it up and eat at least half with just your hands (both are required), then good onya; but at some point you will need a fork and, possibly, knife to get the rest.

             Other sandwiches are a lot easier to hold and walk with, but they are served in a basket, and some risk a little spillout from giardenera and other toppings. I debated raising the score a bit because of this, but the Messy G Sloppy Joe is the item most people get, it’s what they advertise, so that shall act as the bulk of the score.

Price: 7.5

             Tends to be slightly higher around the $8-9 range. The hoagie with cured meats is probably worth it; they use some nice cuts for that.

Speed: 9

              A lot of pre-made, ready-to-assemble items; all they need to do is spread the buns, push in the meat and let the toppings explode (… sorry, I hang out with a very dirty crowd at times). The Sloppy Joe is very quick itself, so one has very little of a wait.

The TOE: 6.5

              They have a great concept, they have taken a beloved childhood food and made it adult-worthy. Many of the other sandwiches are pure on-the-go focused. Truck design itself is very fun, bright, and appealing, with the people behind the booth exactly what you want to see. However, once you get the food, a lot of that just becomes… a little skewed.

              Way I see it, they are VERY close to that little “wavelength” of what true “Food Trucks” feel like, but they just aren’t there. That can make it feel weird when thinking about it. It is that “ahhhh, so close!” event that seems to distort it even more than if one was just a little farther away.

                      Tally: 33/50

mg3

Final Thoughts

            I understand that a lot of people really like this truck, and that it has been voted best in the Twin Cities by one or two local magazines. To tell the truth, I am really hoping that maybe I just had a bad batch of sloppy joe, and that the other pictures taste a lot better than they look. I expect to get some flak from this particular post.

           I have studied these things, been around them; I trust my taste buds, and I know grey meat when I see it.

          Now, as for my suggestions: when you can sit down, certainly still get the Sloppy Joe; it may be spicy, but it’s a good fork n knife meal. When walking is required, either go to another truck, or grab the Grilled Cheese or the Hoagie; it has some nice cured meats on it.

          Ultimately, there are probably a few better options out for same or similar prices; if you crave Italian or options are limited, it is still a good stop.

Little G’s Mobile Pizzeria

LittleG-1

 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Little-Gs-Mobile-Pizzeria/223022501065262

Main Location: Markets, Events, Etc

 

             As far as I can tell, besides Little G’s there is no other actual Food Truck within the state that sells Pizza (again, this is for Trucks only). Luckily, it’s pretty easy to pick out of a crowd, just look for the trailer with the giant brick oven sticking out of its back end.

 

            The first time I saw it myself, I was quite surprised (something which does not come to me easily, especially with food) and thrilled at the same time (though that always comes with the discovery of a new truck to our growing wheeled scene). Sadly, I was not destined for pizza that day, as I did not have the time nor the stomach to order.

 

            It was almost an entire year before I saw them again. (This due to a break of the street they had to take, focusing on catering)

 

            When I finally saw their post, I rushed down to the city, found a tight parking spot, and ran straight for… well, another food truck, I had another thing I wanted to eat that day. Then I got my pizza, sat down near an office, and chowed down.

 

It was worth the wait.

 

The Crust is of the thicker, chewy variety, handmade of course. The bottom is swept in that charcoal-covered toast from the oven (the good kind, not the burnt kind). The cheese is thick, gooey and full of grease and fat in all the right ways, piled on along with the rest of the ingredients. Sauce is of the stronger, thicker variety; not exactly delicate.

 pizza

            They practice a variety of topping styles, generally keeping the traditional pepperoni and sausage on top, but changing out others seasonally. Quite often you will see something on the lines of Prosciutto with Spinach Pesto, Goat Cheese, etc; something a little heavier like a Nordeast (Polish Sausage and Sauerkraut, my favorite); and others.

 

            Personally, I would suggest you avoid any toppings that seem of the more “delicate” and “lighter” variety, like the Prosciutto kind; it does not suit the pizza and crust at all. The crust is big, flavorful, and chewy, and the toppings need to be heavy to compensate. Not to mention the cheese is piled on, so that alone completely takes over any subtle flavors that a good, thin slice of cured meat is supposed to dance with.

 

Stick with the big, artery-clogging reminders of the good old days, because those are the exact types of pizzas they SHOULD be making with that crust (I did have a good blue cheese, fig and apple; the blue cheese is a strong enough flavor to make due); it just makes it so satisfying and perfect.

 

They also stock the simple canned soda, cookies and brownie desserts, which I think may be handmade. However, as are most desserts made for a catering vehicle, I doubt their exceptional quality.

 

 

Food: 9

When you do the right toppings, this is one of the best pizzas in the city. It may not be seen as technique driven, artsy, high end as opposed to other city pizzas, but the fact of the matter is it tastes DAMN GOOD; it makes you HAPPY in the purest of senses. The crust works fantastic with the brick oven. If you still haven’t had the chance for a brick oven pizza, then you haven’t had Pizza yet (there is a reason the best reviewed pizzas in the US are made in them).

I’m really hoping that sooner or later they figure out that the heavier styles of toppings are what they really need and start to focus on creating more of and perfecting those styles (I have ideas if you wanna queue me!!).

 

Holdability: 3

What can you really say, it’s a pizza, and a pretty thick and messy one at that. You can’t eat this without sitting down somewhere. I would suggest having a napkin; at the very least they wrap it up for you so it’s easy to carry. Luckily for us, they usually come out at events where finding a place to sit down isn’t too difficult.

 

Price: 8.5

Prices range from $9 to the low double digits. Since you’re getting a pizza that one could easily share with another, it’s a pretty darn good deal… though I tend to want one just to myself, so look for someone else.

 

Speed: 8

Pretty good speed for a pizza place. Then again the line is never very long the times I’m there, so can’t put effort into scoring.

 

The TOE: 7

                It is a very good food truck, but sadly it doesn’t have quite as much of an “aura” about it as others do. Now, the giant brick oven brings it up pretty far and a unique standout. Still, the only pizzeria food truck out there, so it has a lot of that moxy, but that seems about it, stops right there.

 

            Tally: 35.5/50

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Again, get the heavier, richer toppinged pizzas; if they have the Nordeast jump on it, it is SO good. If looking for more of a deal, split the cost with a friend/family member and split it (I’d say split with a group, but you might end up stabbing someone’s hand to get at their slice…).

Also, I’ve seen them do both triangle and square cuttings, so whatever the preference I suggest you ask during the order to ensure you get what you like.