Vellee in the Skyway with Burritos

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You know what the sorta funny thing is? There’s at least… what, 5 (likely much more) food truck restaurants and other standing operations that have opened up in the past two years that I STILL have yet to get to in the Twin Cities, and yet I literally only found out on Twitter about Vellee Deli’s Skyway place, located in the Baker Building off 8th and Marquette, on day 2 of their opening and I’m able to make it out there a week later! Well, guess it was the straw that broke this camel’s back, thank god I’ve finally broken down and accepted the need for using Twitter (shudders); I mean, I can’t miss out on my favorite truck’s new operation can I?

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And I’m not the only one apparently; whether it’s die-hard truck fans, other hipster-like foodies glued to twitter, or simply skyway workers really looking forward to the different, delicious fair, the line out the opening was well and long! Let’s hope it stays like that, as it should; if there’s any skyway food business that should stay successful for a long time, I think Vellee deserves it (who cares about the boring fast food companies?).

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An open-air kitchen filled with more than double the number of people that worked in the truck dealt with this line rather fast, serving out the large menu drawn in chalk, the same as on the truck but with a few extra, tasty items. I of course had to try one of these newer items myself, grabbing the Tofu Burritio (made with curry, zingy cream sauce, and some mushrooms and lettuce) and Chips w/ Pineapple Salsa.

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Yeah yeah, the guy who complains about the logic of ordering chips and guac from a truck got some here. Well it’s a sit-down restaurant so I have the right! And it was quite tasty… was a bit surprised seeing the tomato base, figured it’d be more ike the typical Caribbean, all-pineapple with some mix-in salsas, was very much worried about the flavors being too muddy/mixed… but it actually tasted really good. Fresh, tart and lightly sweet, tangy, not thick and very crunchable on the chips.

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Then there’s the burrito, I mean who can complain about their burritos? It’s practically an indulgent sin, but vegetarian… and after just coming out of a month of vegetarianism, I’ve found new appreciation for the product that is Tofu, along with other non-meat-based thingies. Safe to say, scrumptious and nummy, the only reason it took me 10 minutes to eat being because I had an 8-minute phone call after I started! Plus I can’t say no to a good dish of curry and rice… I’ll admit my nerves waned slightly at the notable inclusion of simple lettuce, but it fully heightened the experience (I need to stop doubting lettuce… I blame taco bell).

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Well, it’s no different than my other ravings on Vellee’s offerings. As always, I wish them luck and good fortune in all their ventures, and hope those reading get the chance to try their Minneapolis Skyway location sometime soon. Just remember it’s only open 10-3, like all the other locations up there (think they’ll start complaining about losing business to food trucks now? Haha). Now, what truck restaurant to visit next…

 

Oh, gotta love a fully stocked quality soda bottle section while you’re at it, no matter where you go.

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Citypage’s 100 Favorite Dishes, 2013-14 Food Truck Breakdown

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                It’s safe to say the press and attention our Food Trucks have been getting through local news, papers, and blogs has yielded a wide breadth of coverage, strong reviews, and some pretty fun and interesting online articles. For the past… well I guess it’s actually been half a year, I’ve been occasionally following one of these yearly “projects” posted in Citypages: they’re “100 Favorite Dishes” (of the previous year I’m assuming… and the beginning of 2014).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/100_favorite_di/

                I took notice a few weeks into their beginning of this year’s list after seeing a certain Food Truck’s mobile options as one of their favorite. After reading the article, considering things, I thought it would be fun to stick around and see who all else they might raise to inspired cravings. And let me say, our meals on wheels brethrens have racked up quite a few spots in the limited selection; not huge, but certainly not a puny few.

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                The first pic, coming in rated at #94, is World Street Kitchen’s Kimchi(and blue cheese) Scones. Though, yes, this particular Brunch item is only available through the RESTAURANT, I do believe the originally street-savvy business deserves the credit. Especially since this would make an AWESOME item on the Truck; god, I would hunt their truck down in a SECOND if I knew they had this guy on its menu, total Toe Ring material. Baked in house, this soft and yummy pastry is twisted with an interestingly funky mix of fermented cabbage and the moldy cheese. They have other scones too, which all sound quite yummy as well, but I gotsa love me some Kimchi all the time.

 http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/asian_invasion_bulgogi_tacos.php

                Asian Invasion comes in at #90with their oh-so-signatory Bulgogi Tacos, as I made some mention in their review. Kimchi makes its second appearance in this list, joined by jalapenos and the sizzling beef. I still have yet to get my hands on this soft and delicious package, but soon… soon…

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/12/100_favorite_dishes_no_78_potters_coconut_curry_veggie_pasty.php

                #78was taken up by my own favorite, Potter’s Pasties, and the much agreed-upon choice in what’s likely the best of the classic opions (or at least in the running), the Thai Veggie. Don’t think I need to express any further opinions on this item, those who read know my love of the savory pastry cart. Though I will say, so far, these favorite selections are really quite Asian aren’t they?

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/01/100_favorite_di_54.php

                One of last year’s summer newcomers, Paulette’s quickly scores itself up to #61in Citypage’s highlights with their Chocolate Croissant.Though really they could have picked any the croissants they offered, what with their mutual use of that buttery, flaky handmade and folded pastry. Can’t blame them though, a good chocolate croissant almost being a work of art, and this really is a good chocolate croissant. I’ll have to write myself a note to have it again sometime soon.

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/02/100_favorite_dishes_moral_omnivore.php

                Not a surprise, Moral Omnivore comes into the ratings, and quite high at #48, easily edging itself into the upper half of this list with their BLTwhere the T stands for Terrifically-Fried-Tomato. There’s a reason both these guys and Paulette’s made it into my own Top 10 Truck list, and the items responsible are both featured here as well. Just simple, beatifull, and perfectly fun and street worthy. If one still has yet to visit them, you should, they were probably THE stand-out truck for me of 2013, if there ever was any (hold on, did Motley’s premier in 2013? If so than MO is #2).

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dishes_foxy_falafel_cheese_curds.php

                Foxy Falafel made it in at #28, but it was for the restaurant’s Cheese Curds, which I just found out typing this… it makes my feelings confused. On the one hand yes, it’s quite the accolade to get so high up on the list, and those local, cornstarch and dill-breaded curds look perfectly crisp and delicious… but come on, you have Foxy FALAFEL on a top 100 list for CHEESE CURDS!? I guess I should be happy it’s still a classic street fair food, but… but… falafel… please…

                -cough- Anyways. Drumroll please! The final Food Truck, which reached in all the way up to spot #23is….

–dadadadadadadada–(… in case you can’t tell, that’s a drumroll)

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http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/03/100_favorite_dish_world_street_kitchen_yum_yum_bowl_sameh_wadi_delivery.php

                -Gasp- World Street Kitchenagain! And it all comes full circle, and with the menu item that many could say launched their popularity: the BBQ Beef Yum Yum Rice Bowl! I still remember the many times I walked past them in the summer of our first Food Truck year. Even now, it’s still never an item that initially stood out to me that much, but when I finally had it one lone night did I get to experience the balanced beauty of this asian mixed bowl delight. Though not the most mobile, its origins hark back to the days of weary travelers getting sustenance from small roadside “cafes.” And the heart and soul has translated well throughout all these years.

                And with that ends this year’s iteration of the 100 best, my response posted notably later then I wanted it to be (they snuck the last one under my nose without me noticing for over a week, darn them!). A big congratulations to EVERYONE who made the list, this is truly quite the gathering of delicious food offerings. Maybe I should start another One Craving Project around trying each one of them? Let’s hope next year yields a similar level of Food Truck involvement. But until then, enjoy all your culinary adventures, whether they’re mobile or stuck in the ground. Good Luck and Good Eating!

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                Honorable mention towards Indeed’s LSD Alereaching #70, much love to our business brothers in the local Breweries, and Chef Shack Ranch’s Chicken Wingsat #37 (god I still need to go there… and other restaurants).

 

Asian Invasian

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http://asianinvasiontruck.com/

https://twitter.com/AsianInvasionTr

Main Location:St. Paul, Etc

            I’ve somewhat discussed the idea of trucks coming into business during the fall season, right after the busy summer has ended and gliding into the hard, hard winter months. How some of them make the decision is a mystery to me; how they actually survive to the warm weather is spectacular (we do make ‘em hardy in Minnesota don’t we?). So it’s interesting to see if and when anything happens during this season, to both the old and new guys, and any evolution that may happen as the snow falls and melts as it does.

            Coming into the fall of 2013, Asian Invasianhas easily survived the harsh winter with high popularity. Before year’s end, their bulgogi taco had already earned a spot in Citypage’s Top 100 Foods of 2013. Whether this is a result of, or one of the main factors in, their late-season survival I am not sure, but it certainly is something to say isn’t it?

            As the name suggests, Invasian deals in all items Asian-themed, mainly the more “well known” (or cliché) dishes from the big mainland countries. Dining options vary from rice bowls of Chinese Sesameor Lemongrass Chicken, Indian Pork Curry, and Chicken Fried Rice to Korean Bulgogi(short ribs) wrapped in Tacos. Vietnamese Pulled Pork Bahn Mialso makes its appearance, alongside with those iconic fried Egg Rolls and Wantons. My particular travel also saw a couple Hot Dog based “specials;” whether they often offer asian-flavored wieners is as yet unsure, but it’s a consideration.

            In reality I have yet to finish my travels to this particular mobile operation, as the main object of my desire had been unknowingly snatched away from me after ordering. That said I figure I have enough of an idea of them so far, and I will surely update if needed once I wrap my fingers around that beefy goodness.

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Food: 8.5

                My pursuit to get the Bulgogi Tacos was put to a quick halt as I later found out (a while after the order got accepted) that they had run out, so I grabbed the Bahn Miinstead. Similarly, they had run out of Pork Katsu Curry, but had a Chickenversion to try instead.

                Both items had noted ups and downs in my view. The curry itself was nicely flavored, and the meat and veggies cooked well, not quite amazing but better than one made with generic curry powder. Though then again I’ve always found that this particular style of yellow-spiced-curry is hard to identify high quality versions… sort of like root beer. Either way, I liked it. What I didn’t like was the giant mound of rice beneath it… or perhaps just the notable lack of curry that went on top of it. I understand potential cultural relevancies behind it, the habit of having a lot of rice to just chew on plain next to the meal, but we’re not in India or Japan. I want to be able to actually mix the sauce into all the rice without its flavors practically disappearing under the starch mass. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only local who wants to taste the already subdued flavors.

                There’s not much I can say about the Bahn Mi. They used a different bread than they should have, but they got a flat crunch on the outside which was nice (no inside crunch, but I don’t mind it sopping up stuff so long as there’s texture somewhere). The pork itself, though cooked well at least, was somewhat boring… it just reminded me of another pulled pork sandwich but without any sauce. I really wish they had a sauce. Or a different kind of pork, like something grilled and glazed or a pate, like is pretty proper. I guess the pickles were nicely acidic and tart, but that’s about it… still wondering if the jalapenos were cut a bit too big in mine. It’s part of the experience but I feel like I’ve had them thinner in other bahn mi’s.

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                I will say though… they’re really good at frying things. Don’t think this is me being passive-aggressive and snotty, I’m serious. The Sweet Potato Frieswhich automatically came with the sandwich had that perfectly thin layer of crispness on the outside with a tenderly soft inside; not the easiest thing to do (I doubt it’d last long, but no sweet potato fry ever does). And the chicken in the curry (also used in their Sesame), which was also deep fried, had that really nice tempura-ish crust, which stood up very well through the sauce, without overcooking the bird. Could tell it was an actual scratch-made batter too, not the generic thick sweet-and-sour batter used in almost every Chinese buffet or to-go restaurant. Either way, I was excited to eat it; and something about the texture reminded me of pork cracklings.

                That said, one can expect that the wontonsand egg rollsare to be cooked well; I’m also giving them the benefit of the doubt with the Bulgogi and the Pork Katsu (sounds like they’re deep-fried meatballs) that I was not able to sample at this time. So I’m giving them a little higher score than I normally would have. Hopefully I’ll be able to try the Tacos soon to properly update the blog with.

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Holdability:7.5

               So far, every item seen has been giving in some form of “bowl” (to-go aluminum version) or basket of plastic or regular composure. Everything requires two handedness, many require a fork, fried “apps” have a dipping sauce one needs to take into consideration (non-covered), and even potentially high-mobile sandwich is grounded by a side of fries. The Tacos and Hot Dog Specials are probably the only truly mobile options, with the latter possibly only needing one-handedness depending on how much topping it’s given (though I’m sure it’s served in a basket, one can just readjust on their own).

Price:7.5

                Basically the same pricing structure as the recently-visited Butcher Salt, with all main items at $8 and smaller onesat $5, but I feel the quality for cost is very divergent among them. As for the cheaper things, the Hot Dog Specials (at $5) may be a good deal, though that also depends on the dog used and how much they’re garnished. On Fried, I’m a touch uneasy; the Pork Wonton/Fried Dumpling yield a good option, but one only gets two okay-sized Egg Rolls (they look tasty, but not much there; at least with Vellee they gave 5 finger sized ones, it seems more bountiful), and Cream Cheese Wontons are always just that.

                As I mentioned previously, with the bulk of the rice dishes being quite obviously the, well, rice, it’s difficult to contemplate the price justification. Though the Sesame seemed quite loaded in comparison, and the Pork Katsu meatballs do seem like they could lift the dish nicely; if only they hadn’t run out. The Bahn Mi is, as one can see, quite small compared to other Bahn Mi’s, and should probably be served for a couple dollars less, though they use the automatic inclusion of Sweet Potato fries to justify. Bulgogi is quite likely to be the one item that stands at the peak of price quality though.

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                Of course this little session of me whining over whether prices are worth it should be taken in a sense of minute quantities, one dish vs the next, and not in too major a fashion (maybe next to other trucks though). Obviously these prices are still much better than lots of restaurants.

Speed:8.5

             It’s pretty hard to judge this properly, as though my Curry came out rather quickly (a couple minutes, and there were other tickets in the window), I actually had to wait at least 5 or more minutes before the guy leaned out the window to inform me that they were out of my Bulgogi Taco order. After that, though, I don’t believe I had to wait too long for the Bahn Mi. Others around me weren’t waiting more than a couple minutes between orders, ish. Certain items come out faster than others. Overall not too bad seemingly.

The TOE:8.5

                There’s a great “theme” to this place. It’s a great idea, has a fun decoration and logo and feel to it, and there’s been something about it during the chase that really made me quite excited at the prospect of finally getting to it. However, I will say that in hindsight, the fact that many of their items are based on the most cliché Asian items sort of takes a decent chunk of the experience away for me. Now they’re good versions of each, I will definitely give them that (it’s one of my big highlights), so props in not sticking to the crappy take-out recipes or whatever they all get for that. But it’d be nice to have seen either some more in depth, non-everyday regional Asian dishes, or Twist their applications some more (like putting the bulgogi in tacos and the curry-topped hot dogs). Overall, Strong showing in “ambiance,” pretty good in Technique (with some noted exceptions), lacking in creativity/interest.

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Service:-2

                Alright, so… they ran out of things a lot. Which sounds douchey to use for a deduction, and normally I wouldn’t; shit happens, sometimes things run out, even bacon (-gasp-). But these guys ran out of quite a few things on their menu, pretty vital and simple things too: Chicken Fried Rice, Pork for Curry, possibly a wonton, and worst of all the Bulgogi Taco, their mainstay item. Thing is, by the time I got there they hadn’t been on the street that long, good chance of only an hour’s worth of service. I doubt they had that much traffic, there was one moment of a little crowd when I got there but that’s it, since it was pretty gray and chilly out. There’s not much reason I can find for the lack of, besides highly insignificant prep.

                Though, in itself that’s not too bad at all, I’m not really upset or feel too lacking for that in itself; though it does make a point that they probably shouldn’t have that many items on the menu, if they prep so little of some that they run out easy. What gets it for me is the fact that I wasn’t informed of the bulgogi loss until 5-10 minutes after ordering and waiting for my food. Not to mention the fact that not once did they offer to comp the meal, add an order of free wontons, or anything of that matter, which most establishments do (or should do) after such annoying circumstances come up. Either way it’s something to think about.

                       Tally:38.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            I find there are a couple needs this could place could satisfy, one just needs to choose carefully for each. For the basic Street Food delighter on-the-go, Bulgogi Tacosare the way to go, than and possibly a Curry Hot Dog(or other fun hot dog specials). These can also be used to satisfy “snack stops” for Truck samplings or when one just needs the small stuff; I would also lead towards the Fried Pork Wontons/Dumplings(the Cream Cheese ones are good I’m sure, but they can only get so exciting in my opinion).

            As for those in the mood for a sit-down, something to take back to the office, or just needing a replacement for skyway Chinese food, the Sesame Chickenand Pork Katsu Curry are your destination. Maybe see if you can get more sauce though…

 

Ice Blocks and Snow (with an Asian Twist), NOT Brick and Mortar

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http://blogs.mspmag.com/dara/2013/12/vellee-deli-pop-up-at-crema/                  

                  So, Vellee Deli is doing a Pop-up, Dinner and Winter-only Restaurant in Crema Café come January huh? Well now doesn’t that just brighten up our spirits? Just think, a Latin-Korean Truck Winter-Premiering in an Old Italian Ice Cream spot, it’s a hipster’s dream and I swear if they were opening now it’d be the start of a new Holiday Carol…

                   Let me just say I’m not gonna even try and expound and contribulate and philosophize about this happening in the slightest, I think the article above does a good enough job at it to warrant the respect of me not trying to “compete.”  Some base details, again, is that Vellee is opening this in January, lasting until May, in the Uptown Crema Café, known very well for their small-batch, handmade Ice Cream (gelato I hope), and of course Espresso. It’s dinner-only, as mentioned, and suffice it to say I can’t wait until the New Year’s. I’m so going down there the first chance I get, and I suggest you do the same.

                   So excited!

 

Top 10 Trucks, 2013

               The sky is grey, the weather is chilled, leaves are covering the ground and now soaked from overnight rain, and it is literally the middle of October. Sad to say, it seems the 2013 open season for Food Trucks on the streets has ended; we of course still have our various rallies and brewery-connected days, but the midday lunches of Trucks crowding the Twin Cities’ downtown area is just about over. Though this sad news brings much in lamentations of the missed bevy of our beloved street foods, it also means it’s time for the release of the 2013 Top Ten List of Minnesota Food Trucks!!

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                We’ve seen quite a few new trucks this year, and I’m happy to say that a couple were able to push themselves into the top rankings of my scoring system. And though many of the same trucks from last year still remain, that’s not to say there hasn’t been some interesting jumbling and a fun surprise abound. So let’s get to the big reveals then shall we?

 

10th Place: AZ Canteen with 46 points

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Sliding down to 46 points off of last year’s 48, AZ moves to the 10th position after a full review of their burger sadly ended up taking off points in the Holdability factor, not to mention some increased prices in a new Hot Dog. But they’re quality in food and dedication to the unique and authentic street food experiences are still top-notch, reserving their place in the top 10 for another year to come.

 

7th Place: Three-way tie at 46.5:

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            Chef Shack, MidNord Empanada, and Tot Boss

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            Same as last year but sliding down a notch, the 3 kings of Street Food, Empanadas and Fried Potato still stand as testament to what completely different kinds of cuisine focus can accomplish in the Truck world, each of these giants garnering a huge fan base in their own right.

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4th Place: ANOTHER three way tie! At 47.5:

            Eli’s Donut Burger, Paulette’s Bakery, and The Moral Omnivore

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            With an explosive start of their run and a well-placed sneak into the morning timeslot, Moral and Paulette easily insert their way into the top 10 with their first year of service, joining the rarely-seen Eli in score and bumping off both Scratch and the original 3-way tie.

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                And it’s certainly deserved. With a menu based solely on quality coffee and, more importantly, simple  and delicious hand-made croissants with various fillings, Paulette has successfully rolled out to personally kickstart the movement in the Minneapolis Food Truck breakfast scene (it may not be too present right now, but if rumors are true it’ll get there). Next to them, Moral has premiered as one of my favorite new trucks of the year, handing out successful Street-based versions of sustainable and healthy food in delicious packages (very well done sliders). They’ve even managed to make portable salad “boxes” that even I’M tempted to get.

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3rd Place: Vellee Deli with 48

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            With AZ Canteen down to 10th, the Mexican-Korean fusion trucks stands alone to occupy the 3rd place moniker, claiming its giant medal of bronze over one of the hottest styles/trends in the list of National Trucks. Though it may seem not as remarkable among many of the new and old trucks of our city, their ability to extract rich flavors and glazes in a very approachable, friendly, and simple menu, while giving a variety of options that all still tie together (among many other almost intangible factors) has kept them at the top of our line-up for so long, and will continue to do so for the years to come.

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And finally, to wrap it up nicely, still holding the top two spots with 49 and 50.5 accumulated points respectively are:

2nd Place: NateDogs and

1st Place: Potter’s Pasties

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            Is there anything else I can say about these two that I haven’t already? When it comes to the scoring criteria I base the truck idealistic by, these guys simply dominate; it’s no wonder Potter’s has been able to not only get a second truck for their lineup AND set up their own shop (I’d say restaurant, but it’s so not even close, and so perfect to their style). And though I’ve found many an amazing and perfectly-garnished hot dog in various trucks (Racer and Emconada have given us something nice), Nate still stands as the Ruler in the rich, encased sausages and their classic toppings.

 

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                Well, that’s it for this season, back to trying to dredge through the cold months of reduced Truck traffic. Whether any other entrepreneurs decide to open in the coming months or wait it out until spring is still up to see, but for now I’d say it’s been quite the eventful and successful season. I can’t wait until next year, not to mention the various little events that are sure to happen until then. But as always, until that all rolls around, I’ll be here reviewing and reporting on the various Truck-related happening in our northerly state. For the rest of you, Good Luck and Good Eating!

 

*Note: all lists, both now and future, are purely based off the cumulative score garnered in my Ratings System. It is not based off of only one aspect at a time, though if there is interest in that I can always form a Top Ten based purely from “Best Food,” “Speed,” or others.

Wednesday Rally after a break

         First, let me apologize for my absence this past week; with the Independence holiday ALONG with an intense Midterm on Monday I had to spend a week studying for, I haven’t exactly had much mental time to put reviews or things together.

         That said, it’s about time I update and recap on a few things I’ve noticed in my away time! Though I of course can’t give a full count on all the Truck-related events going on during the 4th (way too many, and again was busy).

           I still have yet to see any full review on how the 2nd Food Truck Fair went, though some facebook comments are quite enlightening. It seems despite the hopeful attempts and free admission (or possibly due to it), once again we see long, crowded lines and waiting. Consensus is high that they once again piled all the trucks in too tight an area, and need to either reduce these numbers or, better yet, spread the area out (like a “throughout Uptown” thing). I am thankful I did not have to witness it myself, and hope they’re able to try and improve the event even more the coming year. Oh well, though, at least no one had to waste money on the debacle (well, besides those wanting drink wristbands).

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Gogi’s just added Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps to their Menu! Great idea for them, though they still serve the things in a damn giant styrafoam box…

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          Moral Omnivore has got a fun, snazzy new menu design!

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           And I just popped down to the Wednesday Lunch by the River! For those who haven’t attended it yet, their weekly line-up includes 128 Café, Fork in the Road, Gastro, Vellee, and Simply Steve’s (though they didn’t show on the day I went). All parked on Kellogg and Wabasha, the ORIGINAL Lunch-by-River location! Oh how nostalgic it was by that odd little cement triangle… so conveniently next to Rice Park too (not that there were many trucks there today).

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         That’s about it, how was YOUR Food Truck experiences during the Holiday Week?

          Oh, and reviews for Lulu’s and 128 will be coming soon.

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.

Vellee Deli

vellee

href=”http://www.velleedeli.com/”>http://www.velleedeli.com/

https://twitter.com/VelleeDeli

Main Location: Downtown Minneapolis

            It feels right that the truck that first got me into the Culture is the one which I create my first post around. There are VERY few trucks which I have and will go back to repeatedly, mainly due to my limited budget and focus on trying out as many NEW as I can. I can now count on two hands how many times which I have eaten at Vellee.

And you know what? Every single time was absolutely worth it.

            One of the earliest trucks on the scene. Vellee is now officially recognized in multiple papers as one of, if not THE, top in many categories, Vellee Deli is a Mexican/Pan-Asian fusion truck that focuses mainly on intensely flavorful Asian ingredients wrapped in a Mexican package (overall a pretty popular theme in National Food Trucks, but there’s a reason for that). Their menu is divided simply with a couple items per category: Bahn Mi, Burritos, Tacos, and Enchiladas, plus some hand-made Eggrolls at the bottom.

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            With an across-the-board exceptional standard in every category that makes a Food Truck a Food Truck, Vellee has always tied if not beaten my top picks in Best Area Food Truck; you’ll see why when you visit.

                   Food: 9.5

        I haven’t had a single item here that I didn’t love. It is still one of the best Bahn-Mi’s, if ever second it’s only to Scratch (to be fair that’s all they do). The pork is glazed beautifully, the pate is a rich, subtle smear, and the bread is exactly how it should be. Their Burrito has Short Ribs in it (for those unaware of how heavenly short ribs are…. Just eat this burrito, you shall see), the Sausage Bahn Mi is full and spicy (and sells out early), and the tacos are exactly what they should be.

         A half point is held simply because, though always good and consistant, it just barely falls short of that Orgasmic Perfection… though they are damn close.

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Holdability: 9

         The Tacos and Enchilada are served in small baskets, so they need two hands, but despite those everything else is highly hand-holdable (we should make this a word….); the ones that aren’t have little to no risk of mess. Even if they do, the Tacos still have the double-tortillas to scoop things up (the best sign of any Taco selling place, they use TWO tortillas for each to sop up any juices and lime left over from the first, a great snack for after).

                 Price: 9

         Most things on the menu are either 7 or 8 dollars. If you’re looking for just a snack, they have Eggrolls for $4-5: you get 5 finger-sized, greasy good rich pork filled fellahs with a dipping sauce. Every item is indeed a full bang for your buck.

                 Speed: 8.5

        Never felt like I’ve had to “wait,” proper speed, which is pretty impressive for their not-so-simple items; not exceptional or super-fast, but I doubt anyone should be angry for their wait.

                 The TOE: 10

        The fact being, whatever it is, Vellee’s got it. You go there, you get the food, and when you walk away all you can think, besides the awesome food in your mouth, is that “this is a Food Truck, and what they should be.” Not all that over the top, but exactly what it should be in all the simplicity. And the name is a fun pun… it will probably haunt your dreams for a few nights.

                  Service: +2

         The guy at the Front remembered me every time I returned, even if it was a bit of a while between visits. I’ve had some nice chats and convos with them when there wasn’t a giant busy line. It’s a great atmosphere to have with a place.

            Tally: 48/50

Final Thoughts

              Go when you want a typical Food Truck experience and are craving either an Asian flavor or aren’t sure if you want a sandwhich, taco, or something else. If you’re doing a multi-truck sampling, get the Eggrolls, good snacks. Also great if you just need something to fill you up for cheap.