Rally Recap

With a busy weekend and class, it’s been a few days since I was able to get to my posts, so I apologize for the slow update.

 

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            Well, the 1st of what hope to be many MN Food Truck Association Rallies have come and gone, and to quite the success in my opinion!

            The overall day itself wasn’t the best; they claimed beforehand that they’d stick out rain or shine, and it seemed the former decided to put them to the test. I know I speak for all those out on the streets that day in expressing my flustered surprise at the blanket of grey clouds on what was supposed to be a fully dry, sunny day. Luckily it didn’t rain too hard, though the medium drizzles and lighter WERE quite persistently on-and-off wherever I seemed to go.

            But the Trucks got through this easily, much like the happy crowd who was able to come out. This led to the first appreciated surprise of the day; the crowds weren’t actually CROWDS. Despite the plethora of Trucks shoved into one parking lot, the actual lines coming out of them were… well, in many cases inexistent, or at least small; very much unlike the past 2 experiences at the yearly “Food Truck Fair.” That is not to say there was nobody there and eating, just that they weren’t all jammed in front of the iron behemoths.

            Though whether this was due to the actual plans and strategies of the Association or if the rain simply segued attendance enough so the crowd-issue didn’t appear, either way the result of the day was a much calmer, easier, actually ENJOYABLE event for us to take advantage of. Success is finally here for the large Truck Gatherings, and it wasn’t purely from chance.

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            Despite the relatively small space, as opposed to the blocks that Food Truck Fair uses, the overall lot still boasted a decent square footage, enough for them to actually plant tables and a tent in the middle. This allowed people to not only escape from the rain but actually sit DOWN with their Beer and Food; that is, when they weren’t heading back to the actual tap room area to sit and listen to music. The actual strategy here marks the first success in reducing those annoying lines; by giving multiple places for people to actually move to and spend time, we don’t have EVERYONE just hopping from one Truck Line to another, creating those crowds which garner the psychological need to get in there as soon as possible (even with food one just purchased somewhere else) to eat before closing.

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            Which is another thing; this was a nice, lengthy 10-hour event, double the time of the 5-hour Fairs of past. Though I didn’t stick around the whole time, or even arrive when opened, I’m quite sure there were many who came and went throughout the prescribed times. I’m sure the whole list of different bands helped with this as well, along with their sweet sweet siren music of course.

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            As for the Trucks themselves, having more is always better; even with my worry of the number in this enclosed space, one can’t help but argue that a number of trucks allows lines to divide and shorten for the customers which go; which once again have been much reduced in a minute-to-minute factor from the previous two discussed reasons.

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            Though we didn’t exactly have as many as wanted… which leads to my only annoyance of the event. It seems 4 of the Trucks decided to cancel either last-minute or the day beforehand, including that one at the top of my current Hunting List A La Plancha (the other 3 to cancel were Moral, Bloomy’s, and House of Hunger). The reason, supposedly, is that all or most of them decided that they weren’t capable of handling a 10-hour event like this, whether it was due to amount of product they had or simply the labor effort of staying out that long. Which leads me to 2 very important things I would like to say in response: first off, if you’re going to cancel on an event like this, THEN TELL US! Not a single one of these trucks actually updated Facebook or Twitter on the fact that they WEREN’T coming to the Rally they said they would. And that’s another thing; all of these Trucks officially said they would do this at least 1-2 weeks in advance (otherwise the Association, which they are PART of, wouldn’t have put them on the list of 12 trucks I’m sure); you should KNOW ahead of time exactly what kind of event it’s going to be, as well as what your general schedule is like (look at a Taproom’s truck schedule, it’s usually filled at least a month in advance). If your truck is unable to handle that sort of event, then you shouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place; and if you DO agree, then suck it up and go; if you run out you run out, if you have to end early then you do, at least you went and tried. Of course, special circumstances that force one unable to get on the streets is understandable, but that seemingly wasn’t the case here, so a rant is where I go.

            I should probably apologize a bit, I’m sure part of why I’m a touch more annoyed than usual is due to a last-minute cancelling of Tollefson Family’s Cart at Fulton, which I had drove to earlier to finally try and get them. And now my hunt for them continues…

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            As for the Trucks that did make it, we of course had AZ Canteen, R.A. Mac Sammies, Midnord Empanada, Potter’s Pasties, Lulu’s Street Food, Gogi Bros., Brava on Wheels, and Hot Indian Foods, all lined up around the edge like a delicious cage. I myself got the chance to try Gogi’s Tiger Balls!

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            Damn those are big balls… sticky too (I need to stop…). I thought they were quite yummy and tasty, with a nice, rich spice to them from the sauce, and of course a crispy crust and soft, tender inside. I only wish there was more Kimchi though… I’m sure they probably got a lot of the “flavor” of it in, but if you say “kimchi rice balls” then I sort of expect a lot of those actual fermented veggies just stuffing the mixture. Not that I’m gonna complain about the gooey pepperjack center and pork studding it, but the kimchi (from a visual perspective) seems not just an afterthought, but nonexistent. Still delicious though.

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            Oh, and they got the decal on their van! Wooh!

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            Where to go next was actually a tough decision for me, but I settled on Hot Indian; not only haven’t I actually HAD a full burrito yet, I still hadn’t tried the Spinach Paneer… so I took care of both of those! And wow, I thought the Roti was just for the tacos; they make big ones for the burritos too, awesome! Yeah, these guys are still total Food Truck personified. And of course it’s delicious; I think I actually enjoyed it more than their meat-based stews, which isn’t surprising, Veggie-based Indian dishes are always so good.

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            No beer for me that day, sadly; maybe if I was able to stick around longer, but the person I was meeting that day had to cancel and I had to get somewhere afterwards. Speaking of which, I didn’t actually see any specific items listed to pair well with the beers… maybe you had to ask about it, but oh well, I myself didn’t mind that too much. Though I saw the band play for a bit and took a look at the fun menu they had. Speaking of which, snapped a couple picks of some truck menus that did a little changy and update since last I saw them.

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            Whether they dodged a bullet due to bad weather or enjoyed success from actual planning, the MN Food Truck Association kicked off their first Rally in a noticeably positive way, and I myself can’t wait for the next one. Whether the weather is the same or better (or worse), I’m sure they shall be there, as shall I to report their attempts at these odds-defying gatherings.

            Until then, Good Luck and Good Eating to all, I hope those who went enjoyed the Rally as much as I did!

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            Also, for a separate and also well-done report on the event, see Here.

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Gogi Bros

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https://www.facebook.com/GogiBros?filter=1  

https://twitter.com/GogiBros

Main Location: St. Paul

            As we slowly become aware of various new and traditional food cultures throughout the world, us Foodies sooner or later form a deep, hidden “desire.” It’s inevitable; in fact, one could theorize this is what predicates the switch between average food-lover and “Foodie” (though there are other theories and opinions and situations too). At one point or another, we will learn about one, or often MORE, culinary styles/traditions/events which we can’t help but just WANT to do. Then we search for it, try to find the most authentic form of it we can, and either enjoy our exploits or fall into silent despair at our continual inability to experience something we crave. In my opinion, I feel each Foodie may in fact be marked more by what they HAVEN’T experience yet than what they have, for this is what truly drives our continual seeking of Flavor and Tradition.

            For me, one of the few antithesis’ of my un-found cravings is Gogigui: Korean BBQ. That thing where families go to restaurants with the big, domed grill in the center of the table, and special cuts of meat grilled are front of them (either by themselves or waiters) with big loads of Kimchi, maybe rice and such. I LOVE Korean flavors, but have never yet had the chance to experience this truly quality, fresh way of experiencing them (can’t even think about the last time I had Kim Chi)

            So then, what do I find this past week but a little Truck called Gogi Bros, a new addition to St. Paul’s lineup who just happen to specialize in Korean BBQ. Though of course, one can’t go up and grill their own meats over a special metal dome, but we can experience the same foods and flavors as if we went (plus a few little extras).

            The menu itself consistently forms two parts: snacking sides of Mandu (Potstickers), Kimchi-Riceballs, etc, while the main focus revolves around baskets of BBQ-d Meat, rice, and kimchi. Various meats can make the cut, though Galbi (Shortribs) and Bulgogi (BBQ Beef) remain constant. With that, one usually only finds 3-4 options each visit, making easy picking based on one’s required needs.

            So watch out for the giant Truck-shaped Tiger with the randomly high window when roaming the streets.

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Food: 6.5

              Started my meal off with a box of those little Mandu. Edged with slight lines of crisp, a gently soft dumpling shell wraps around the pork and veggie filling, the flavor soft and gentle on the palette yet slightly rich. The veggie (probably scallions) offers a nice aromatic, along with an overall transforming flavor that is certainly not one-note. At the end of the day, however, I wouldn’t find the overall experience something spectacular to write home about; definitely good and tasty though.

              When done right, short ribs are one of the best joys in life, thus their popularity as Galbi in Gogigui. The particular incarnation here find a simplified and well-prepared grilled version with bare marinade, highlighting the simple richness of the meat as-is. Sliced thinner than seen in many US restaurants and cooking quickly, as opposed to the long braising, these short ribs do NOT experience a softening and tenderizingness in their texture. This sadly resulted in a noticeably chewy quality, which I’m a bit 50/50 on; on the one hand, I actually enjoyed the interesting little texture. But on the other, I feel it still needed more time, a little lower temperature, as parts of it were just that bit TOO far into unpleasant, especially around the cartilage and bone. Again, a good and enjoyable item, but nothing to write home about (maybe if they did that thing where they cut a LOOOOOOOONG line of meat off of a single piece of bone; much less chewy cartilage to deal with).

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                As mentioned, this dish is served with rice and kimchi, the rice itself being pretty good as-is. I never got the chance to judge the kimchi, however, as it seems they had run out; which is a shame as what the dish really needs is something on the side one can drag and mix into the rice with the meat to make into a little Korean Jambalaya, get those flavors blended. In any other post, where I might have found this in the Downtown streets, this comment would stop here; they’re still just started, and things tend to run out. This particular situation, on the other hand, finds me compelled to say a bit more. Because they weren’t on the street on a random weekday.

             The time I had visited was a Saturday. At a Brewery. Where there seemed to be some sort of event going on (band, little raffle, either way CROWDED in a sense people would know ahead of time). They were serving for 9 whole hours. And they ran out of Kimchi, the one ingredient that exemplifies Korean cuisine, after only TWO of those hours. This was something that simply should NOT have happened, new or not; the actual meat and rice should run out before the kimchi does.

               Let’s hope they’ve clearly learned their lesson during the incident in question, and something like this doesn’t happen again.

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Holdability: 7

              Styrofoam to-go container based. Mandu make a fun, easily portable snack, very much in the same vein as Vellee’s Eggrolls in multiple ways (might even be as good… guess I’ll have to visit Vellee again to “test” it, oh the horror). BBQ dishes can be somewhat tedious on the go, however; especially the Galbi. The chewy cartilage, having to pick up bones to naw around, then trying to get it in with the rice can be quite a non-mobile thing. Though at the very least, it’s not messy (sticky rice tends to stay where it is).

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Price: 7

             The two main items cost $9.50 (Galbi) and $7.50 (other) respectively, with about $3.50 for a set of 5 Mandu (oh, and those Kimchi Rice balls come in at $3). Overall, I think it’s all worth the prices set (at least when one can get kimchi with their BBQ dishes…), and the Mandu serve a great cheap option for the light snacker.              

Speed: 7

              About average wait.

              Also, I would normally bring this up in a Service section, but for some reason I just don’t feel right taking noticeable points off it for this time; too many uncertainties (maybe it was just cuz they were at a brewery). But it took a noticeable amount of time to take each person’s order (not counting credit card thingies), with the taker often jumping back into the car for a bit either for change or doing random things. Luckily the line didn’t get long, but it’s something potential customers should be aware of for now.

The TOE: 7

                The paint job isn’t exactly the best (seriously, get next to it and take a look; some of the “stripes” are actually peeling!), but there’s some appeal to that and the design is still fun and at the end of the day I’m there for the Food. Though I do wish they’d actually put their logo on the truck somewhere… it’s such a great design! Just look at one of their shirts:(Actually, ignore this thought, looks like they put it up recently! And I got a picture of it here!)

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                Though the novelty and intrigue at the new cuisine is there, making for a jolting exploration at a much-desired food style, its overall experience as a Food Truck is slightly lacking. Maybe it’s the simple, almost banal “school lunch” configuration of their BBQ plates; it could be the containers themselves. Possibly it’s the highly basic menu; the food is nice, but a good potsticker is no more than another potsticker. Or maybe even the lack of kimchi was a bigger tipoff to an overall understanding of the entire experience. Then again, it could be something else.

                I will say, however, that though I didn’t have it, the Kimchi Rice Balls could easily make up for some of these lacking qualities as a fun, interesting Toe Ring for walking around.

                           Tally: 34.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Get here early if you want one of the BBQ plates; no need to risk not getting any Kimchi. Overall, I would mainly suggest these plates for taking somewhere to sit down. If you WANT to and have no issue spending the extra couple dollar, the Galbi is their signature and not too bad of a meal in general. However, I myself believe the better experience (both in palette and wallet) will actually lie in the Bulgogi and other meat dishes.

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            The real Value here, though, is in their small items. This is a great Truck for the wallet-minded to get a lunch snack, or for quick Sampling during Food Truck Days. Both the Mandu and Kimchi Riceballs fill a great role in this respect; though no reason to get the latter if ALSO getting a BBQ plate.