New Bohemia Truck

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https://www.facebook.com/newbohemiafoodtruck/
https://twitter.com/newbohemiamn
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

With what’s likely my last solid truck review of the year (unless for some reason I’m actually able to find another yet-to-hit food truck in the upcoming insanely busy, hectic, and cold holiday season), I take on the result of one of the Midwest’s own growing bar concepts. Taking the heart of casual soul food that is German and Eastern-European faire, my favorite kind by the way, New Bohemia has opened at least 6 different locations based mainly around a wide selection of Beers and amazing sausages.

I’ve dined there myself a year or so ago, so I’ve seen the results of their work and atmosphere. Thus it was no surprise to chain adding a food truck to their lineup; there’s clearly both the ability and success for them to do so.

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Obviously their truck can’t shell out ice cold pints of frothy goodness, but they do have Draft Rootbeer and basically everything else! 10 different options for Bratwurst from basic Beer to unique/interesting Teriyaki Chicken to practically-insane Rattlesnake-Rabbit. These are split, grilled, and piled in a bun with the two toppings of one’s choice (Bacon Sauerkraut, Spicy Kraut, Sweet-Hot Peppers, Beer Cheese, Cole Slaw, or Beer Butter-cooked Onions); along with a veritable smorgasbord of different housemade Beer Mustards to squirt on at your leisure. Of course this also includes some Beer Cheese Curds, and… a ‘Giant Pretzel the Size of a Pizza’!? For $14, that thing better be huge!

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… yep, that’s a big pretzel. Could have eaten my food off of it… as much as I don’t care about pretzels for lunch even I’m highly curious about  what it tastes like. Moving on, then there’s the apparent chance for Fries, which similarly to the sausages gets the chance for 2 free sauces from its own group. Oh, and for whatever reason… two Salads (Strawberry Spinach and Apple Jicama).

As much as I’d like to try and think of a cutesy or informative paragraph to briefly entertain your reading, this article has been long enough coming and I need to get it out. With luck, in perfect time for the Turkey Day Season! So enjoy the last review for a while, cheers (toasts with a pretend beer since they wouldn’t give him a real one)!!

Food: 9

                Duck and Cilantro was my option of choice… because I’m too cheap to even go a dollar over for one of the ‘adventurous’ meats I love so much. Though to be fair, I DID try one of them a couple years back in the bar itself and loved it… just can’t remember which one. With a solid little snap, the skin is joined with extra flavor and texture from the ‘split-grilling’ method, whereas a link is sliced almost fully in half, spread like a butterfly, and griddled inside-down to cook for service. Always a delicious way to enjoy. Especially when the base sausage itself is just darn good, and if one can say anything about Bohemia, much like any decades-old family-run butcher/charcuterie, they’ve got their sausage recipes DOWN. Flavorful, balanced, peppery and/or herby and/or spicy and fatty where it needs to be. Num. If I remember correctly, the bun holder did not get any, or much, actual toasting, which would have helped to elevate the enjoyment even further.
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As for the toppings, of course I went for the Kraut, no complaints there! And the Beer Butter Onions seem to be quite a signature: they tasted good, but I was hoping for more cooking/grilled-caramelization, more beer flavor, and more BUTTER, I mean please it’s in the name. The sauces I tried for the fries, wasabi-ginger AIOLI and stout bbq, were both similarly well made as expected. And yes I got some fries to go with it; it’s classic, and much cheaper than getting a secondary sausage. Good texture on the outside, soft on the inside, addicting simple seasoning work, if one WANTS fries with their dog for lunch it’s definitely not an option you’ll regret.

Holdability: 7

                 For a sausage, the end-of-the-day verdict isn’t quite as ideal for holding as one would expect. Piled with that kraut and onions, or whatever toppings you choose, in a large soft bun, picking this up isn’t quite as clean and easy, so it’s good that it comes in a basket. Though of course the Curds, Pretzels, and Fries eat clean with fingers, but are again basket foods (okay maybe not the pretzel, but how often are you likely to buy that?). Part of me feels so ridiculous still talking about this… but the other part of me loves stubborn, weird consistency!!

Price: 8.5

                  A range of $6.50-$8 depending on your selected ‘level’ of sausage, which comes at a decent size so can be a nice stand-alone lunch. That said, if you want fries will have to fork over $3-4, so might as well get the larger option, making a complete meal not so bad considering (especially since they ARE good fries). We’ve already mentioned the $14 Pretzel (oh look there it is again), then there’s $8 for the Beer Curds (there better be a lot), and finally $5-8 for the Salads… which shouldn’t even be worth mentioning, guh.
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Speed: 6.5

It’s been a while since the visit, but I remember wondering why it took more than five minutes to grill a sausage, which should have been pre-cooked already and simply needing the searing. I know the fries weren’t an issue, I saw that they do batch-frying so that it was ready to just scoop into baskets as needed. Sides and sauces should similarly be heated and needing scoopage. That said it wasn’t truly a ‘long’ wait, just a bit more than I expected considering.

The TOE: 9

                  Though it’s from a pre-existing chain, the business itself has developed enough identity, feel, and uniqueness that it easily transfers onto the food truck to separate its own ‘air’ distinctly from others; if anything, it’s ideally suited for a mobile business.
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Tally: 40/50

Final Thoughts

Despite not having it myself, one should keep Bohemia in mind for one of the strong possibilities in acquiring quality drink consumption for your street-based lunch with their Local Draft Root Beer. I forget where it was from, but it wasn’t something I was immediately familiar with and sounded damn good. Speaking of unique things to them, though I find great curiosity and excitement in the idea, at the end of the day the ‘Giant Pretzel’ is just something kitschy, and likely not really worth it, especially for fourteen dollars. If they offered it for less, maybe at ten, then certainly consider it; but I know how much it costs to make, just ignore for now unless REALLY wanting some fun group snack to slather in mustard and various side sauces.

Truly, I cannot pick your guides in the world of all things linked, especially with all the little ‘categories,’ but a suggestion from each sounds fun right? Definitely do a Macaroni and Cheese-stuffed for the heavily affordable Classics, the Duck w/ Cilantro in Premiums (just solid goodness), and for those feeling experimental (which you really SHOULD be) the Rattlesnake-Rabbit is a rare white-meat treat. The Fries are NOT a bad decision, especially alongside Jalapeno Beer Cheese, Wasabi-Ginger Aioli, or Stout BBQ.

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Very much would I like to go back and ask what beer is in the Curds batter for yet another potential truck to get a good version from.

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Loud Mouth

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http://loudmouthmn.com/
https://twitter.com/loudmouthmn
Main Location: Minneapolis, St. Paul

I didn’t think it’d take this long for me to properly make it to this particular truck! My first sight of them was at the capital while hitting Filius Blue, but I had already gotten enough from THEM to make it quite difficult to focus on anything else. Though while stopping by I did ask about the place, somehow ended up with a little side salad (it was fresh and tasty, but hasn’t been featured since so I don’t feel like really focusing on it). My second time was during my visit to Sal’s, where my cousin DID get one of their items; but can’t base a review off of just one. So I set to wait until I could get the SECOND of the two sole items that appeared consistently from them, and found yet a third time in downtown Minneapolis, where I was waiting and ready to add into that day’s food truck tasting lineup… and saw they had MORE menu items. Distinct ones too. And I was spending enough money on other things that day anyways!

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But I finally made it down to visit them solely recently! Now it is the time to feature the Loud Mouth food truck! The idea may have started in 2013, but the truck finally realized itself early on this summer; if I remember correctly, actually, my first sighting of them was during their beginning week.

On first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a particular connecting theme amongst menu items, but further inspection and asking questions leads to finding out about where this all COMES from. The Beef comes from the owner’s own family farm, the Pig from a friend’s homegrown operation, and they even have a friend in Alaska working on a Salmon boat that flies in fresh, super-seasonal catches when available. Would imagine the accompanying vegetation is also kept local, fresh, and properly farm-grown as the proteins, though don’t quote me on this.

They bring these on the menu in the form of a Bacon Cheeseburger, Jerked Pulled Pork Sandwich (and I swore I thought I saw them make a ‘Cuban’ one day, but again don’t quote me), and Bowls often topped with some kind of Chicken, currently Thai with Rice and Pulled with Mashed Potatoes. When they have the Salmon on board, it usually comes in two forms; the ‘original,’ definitely noted on my first pass-by, where it’s simply plated with rice, Asparagus/Green Beans, and a Hollandaise I believe. The second form is a Taco with Pineapple, Pickled Onions, Cilantro and more of that sauce. Many of which come with your flavor choice of Dutch Kettle Chips… you know, just cuz.

Now let’s go ahead and see how if the food is as ‘loud’ as their name implies.

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Food: 7.5

                Got quite the collection of little things to try out for this one! Starting off is the Bacon Cheeseburger, topped with house-made Pickles and generic yellow mustard. The beef has that notable ‘charred pub/grillhouse’ style to it, and comes in tender, moist, and a very enjoyable mouth sensation alongside the cascade of cheese, meaty bacon, and subtly ‘pickly’ pickles. Overall I was very glad I chose to get a burger from here. Though talking about the bacon, which I’m guessing is made by them considering their sourcing and how thick it is, the moment the pickle toppings disappear (which can easily happen around halfway through consumption), it does end up making the burger a little too salty when combined with that notable grill char. I’d say this could easily be solved one of a few ways: add some Tomato-based element, like roasted or sauced; have the griddled/caramelized onions SLICED instead of that tiny dice, you barely really experience them like they are now and sliced would cover MORE of the burger easier; or make a sweet-tangy sauce. Any of those could help cut through/neutralize the little extra salty-fatty aspects. But that’s a rather minor concern here at the end of the day.
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A point that their OTHER sandwich, the Pulled Pork, also suffered from. Not on the salty side, but the fat… any regular can see that I do enjoy a gluttonous adventure of fatty goodness, but there ARE times and foods where too much can turn even me off, especially depending on the kind of fat. And sadly I just found this pile of pig to be rather on the unsavoringly heavy with the fat flavor and feel. Which is a shame, because there’s an easy way to fix it… Sauce. Which they top it with… but just not enough. I was rather excited going into this, as I LOVE a good Jamaican Jerk flavor, but I could barely taste it, except for one or two bites with a particularly concentrated amount. And theirs has a nice flavor, sort of more on the refreshing and soft aspect, barely any heat at all. But clearly it’s not strong enough with intensity to hold up. The sandwich either needs MORE sauce, a stronger flavor, or both. After which I would hope they start actually mixing and tossing it WITH the pork to help cut through the fat, both palate wise and physically too. Then again, I could have just gotten an unfortunately fatty scoop and a regular one is much better, but it’s something to consider.

Then we come to the Salmon! The fish itself: tender, cooked well, delicious, classic seared salmon, no complaints. Love that they use masa tortillas with the classic double-layering, always adds a nice note. I THINK I recall wishing there was either more pickled onions or some other accompanying element; yes, because at the end of the day everything in here comes together as all one soft texture. It sorely needs more crunch. Overall though it TASTES good, it’s all nice together… but there’s something about it that doesn’t quite ‘click’ for me. I know I love and vouche for fusion and twisting a lot, but that highly classic/’fancy’ flavors of salmon and hollandaise… it just doesn’t feel quite right being put into a taco as so. I think, for me, it’s simply that its accompaniments don’t fully bring it into a category reminiscent of ‘street tacos;’ they taste good but it doesn’t feel like it’s been properly dragged kicking and screaming into the world of street food flavors. And considering they DID use masa tortillas as opposed to flour, it feels as if they SHOULD have applied those different flavors; like getting chipotle in a pineapple salsa or something.

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But, at the end of the day, I recognize that these particular inhibitions are probably just me. The item itself IS rather unique, a cross between two worlds, and still tastes good. For whatever reason I’m sure I just don’t quite ‘get’ it as well as other customers may. So take that little rant with a grain of salt.

Holdability: 7

                 We’re really all across the board here. Though it comes in a basket, the burger on its own wasn’t really much of a mess, in fact I could have probably handled it somewhat easily, maybe some mustard and burger juice on the hands, with a wrapping and one hand if I didn’t have to deal with the pork! Then of course I imagine those bowls to be rather convenient for a two-handed-required walk-and-consume meal with a fork, and we all can imagine the convenience of tacos; though their particular style, with pineapple and such, did tend to be a little ‘juicier’ and not so ‘tight’ as the more classic Central American street food. Of course I just can’t imagine the salmon plate having ANYTHING to do with eating on-the-go, need to find a place to sit for that one. And finally, the pulled pork WAS a bit of a fatty-overflowing mess, so I was glad I had the basket for that.
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Price: 7

                  $9 each for the Burger and Sandwich, I DO believe the Salmon Tacos were the same but that could have been more like 8; what I do remember is the ‘Salmon Plate’ on its own cost  $12, not necessarily bad but then again I’m not sure how much fish one actually gets. And the newer-to-menu items, the all-in-one Bowls, come at  $10.

Speed: 8

Only took about 5 minutes for that burger; average wait time, though rather decent for how long burgers this CAN take on a truck. Not to mention you get to occupy some of that time munching on your kettle chips of choice.

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The TOE: 7.5

                  Initial impressions during the first times I spotted Loud Mouth sadly weren’t all that overwhelmingly characteristic; I see a big truck that says ‘Loud Mouth,’ a crew that talks about their fun and creative attitude… and a menu that just has a Burger and Salmon. Probably the most generic and clichéd items one imagines a new culinary student would come up with. BUT, I’m very glad I got to wait for a more full experience. The menu expanded, they added a taco version of the salmon, the distinctive Bowl-focused menu items, it’s started to take a more solid and personality-driven shape. Then I actually looked on their website where they talked about the local, seasonal, amazing sources for their beef, pork, and salmon, and was like ‘Awesome! Now this has something that gets a part of me behind it!’ So much so that I WISH they were able to translate that more on the truck; like really listing it on the menu, getting something on the side of the truck, a ‘slogan,’ something… it would have been nice if they chose a name that might have expressed this about themselves JUST a bit more, something that would make us wonder about the story more [a-la Curious Goat did so well]. If possible, I do particularly wish they developed some menu items that felt more like that ‘local, seasonal, organic, etc’ feel to it; maybe incorporated seasonal produce a BIT more, or at least do more with that salmon dish than just Fish+Asparagus/Green Bean+Starch. If done successfully, I think their impressions on the customer base could become even stronger and quite distinctive.

Tally: 37/50

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Final Thoughts

Definitively set in the tier of trucks most ideal for those looking to have something a bit more substantial in their main lunchtime meal item, though not on the really heavy end; though I rarely care for getting fries myself, I would much prefer the option of having THOSE with the sandwiches as opposed to just getting a small bag of empty-calorie chips. I’d actually say the main highlight, to my own surprise, are the Bowls, especially the Thai Chicken which I hear is the bomb. That and the Burger; though it’s not my favorite that I’ve had from a truck, it’s a solid ‘grill-house’ sorta-guilty-pleasure kinda option.

I’m sure the Salmon Tacos will appeal highly to some people; they don’t fully ‘hit’ me but I won’t knock them, just my own personal oddness. Still I don’t see ANY reason to get the OTHER Salmon ‘option’… not until it’s worked on further. Finally, of course I am aware that the ‘extra fattiness’ of the Pulled Pork was probably more of an inopportune mistake on my particular order, and not something which consistently happens, but still I don’t think I’d want to have any pig-related menu items unless they’ve been officially improved with more sauce and/or other toppings.

(Whole) Sum Kitchen

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http://www.wholesumkitchen.com/
https://twitter.com/@wholesumkitchen/
Main Location: Minneapolis, Fairs, Etc

This has been quite the summer of simple, one-handed vending operations; popsicles, ice cream, coffee, hot dogs, you name it. And now, the juicing culture has invaded and pushed itself into our Minneapolis food truck scene! (Whole) Sum Kitchen is yet another new interesting addition and innovation to our mobile lineup, having entered a few months ago and grazing through various local fairs and festivals between downtown parking. Of impressive note, the truck actually braved our own State Fair (though I think they were parked OUTSIDE, not positive, but smart and it worked) in their first season! Strong move right out of the gate am I right?

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Owner Evan Tepper got the idea and drive after a year of international travel, where the constant indulgence into local, fresh, seasonal cuisine inspired the idea to produce a business that followed the same principles. So now he and his associate, who (if I’m identifying her right from facebook) has a dog named Smoothie, produce Smoothies and Juices from locally sourced, fresh, seasonally gotten fruits and veggies. The focus is mainly on the latter drink, made by running these things through a gigantic, high-powered dyson-like monster of a machine to squeeze out a tall glass of healthy, nutrient and carb-packed drink for thirsty travelers (though don’t forget, as we’re being reminded of nowadays, pure juice is HIGHLY concentrated so one only wants to consume at most, say, one a day to really get in most or all of your veggie/fruit requirements without overdosing on sugars and such. Hey, I’m rather health conscious, even if I do like stuffing my face with burgers, ice cream, and guzzling good soda… I don’t do it ALL the time…).

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The menu is likely to change its particular drink options rather often, especially as the seasons go and they do some more experimentation. On my visit, and a good sense of what they offer, they carried two smoothies: a Strawberry-Banana-Spinach and an Orange-Pineapple-Banana (no cooky names, for shame!). Juices currently offered were the Tahoe (pineapple-orange-basil), KoTao (apple-orange-carrot-ginger-lime),and El Nido (apple-cucumber-carrot-kale-beet).

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A few of them certainly sound interesting, though I’ll admit I’ve never actually gotten into the whole juicing ‘culture’ or consistent habit like other people, so I don’t have much to compare it to. So expect some haziness from my coming reviews, still can’t wait to take in some really fresh juice.

Food: 8.5

                As I said, I’m not really into the whole juicing thing myself, though I’d certainly make myself some more if I had a bomb-ass machine like that in my kitchen, so I’m not sure how EXACTLY these compare to other options that might be out there, but I do know I like fresh juice and these, overall, tasted good.

I ended up grabbing a cup each of the Tahoe and El Nido, the former of which certainly hit that craving spot filled only by a glass of cool, refreshing fresh squeezed orange juice. Not to mention you gotta love pineapple, though I really wish there was more of that basil, it made little to no presence in the final palate; and considering it’s the main twist and exciting flavor component, it shouldn’t be just a subtle little ‘accent.’ The flavors on the other one came in though; carrot, cucumber, bright apple and darker beet, even that bit of clorophylly bitterness from the kale that you know only comes from leafy things; it may also be subtle but one can still recognize AND there’s enough else going on you don’t require it to be bigger. It’s been a while since I’ve had vegetable juice, and I’ll say one thing; all those infomercials about juicing vegetables with fruit that say you don’t taste a thing, they’re liars. But I’m okay with that, because I LOVE the taste they bring; it’s like they’ve ditched all the earthy, savory components, yet still have that unique vegetable flavor in a super refreshing way. And then it’s mixed with some even brighter components, which the apple and cucumber fill nicely. And I love how those colors look when it’s being juiced!

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At the end of the day, I ended up sucking my drinks down rather faster than anticipated, so that has to say something right? No word on smoothies yet, but when are those bad?

Holdability: 10

                 One handed cup with a bendy straw? Check.

Price: 7

                 $4.50 for a 10oz and $7 for a 16oz of anything, noting that the smoothies can only be gotten in the bigger size. At the end of the day I feel I can buy the same amount of coffee, good coffee even, for a little less at the pint size, and decent meals from food trucks for the same or a dollar more, so I’m not sure how exactly I end up feeling about it here. I don’t think I mind so much for the smoothies, with the more substantial feeling aspect to them. I would say this is one where the score then MAYBE shouldn’t be taken to heart, it could be a good deal for juice lovers, just be aware of the prices going into it.
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Speed: 9

The best case is simply waiting on the vegetables to get pushed through that gigantic juice monster! That said, the server behind the window during my visit really ended up taking notably longer to simply cut the vegetables than it should have; obviously needs more practice getting used to holding a knife, that task itself should have really only taken bare seconds to make a few simple strokes. I’d say they should start doing some consideration on pre-cutting most of the ingredients to working portions; though maybe they do that for busy fair days. But I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt score-wise, as I’m sure when the owner himself is working behind, and when they’re both there during a busy period, that stuff gets done much faster at the ideal speed. But one should take note at the possibility of slower depending on situation.

The TOE: 8

                  It’s unique, it’s sort of fun, fresh and local, there’s clearly drive and focus towards their goal, the product is just as bright and refreshing as the air of the truck that serves them. I personally wish there was more options, I mean one only needs to rearrange some fruit+veggie combos, grab a few different citrus fruits or aromatics to spike up other possible drinks, etc. But it’s nice that they also, clearly, keep things seasonal and sticking to their vision. Again, I find myself a bit off-kilter from a full, large food truck that only offers juice, but that’s my issue, and I see the value in it as a whole. I wish them the best of luck, and hope I get the chance to try them again with some other food truck snackings!

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

I’m not sure if this fully fits my usual drink-based Truck suggestion to add onto a full ‘food truck meal’ as the liquid refreshment portion, considering the price and I can’t say veggie juice, even delicious like this, is my go-to ‘street food accompaniment.’ Though that’s me. Where this REALLY excels is a super refresher during our big fairs, on hot days, or when you just want a hit of something healthy for the day! I definitely know I have those days, especially at events, where I crave a special smoothie or something.

I personally enjoyed my El Nido, and would also suggest going for the KoTao or any other juice with fun ginger, limey, veggie, or other distinct ingredient additions. The other ones taste good, but the whole ‘pineapple-orange’ flavor just seems too basic and everyday; if you’re spending the money, why not have yourself try something more specialty and ‘complex?’ On the Smoothie side, neither of them really stood out to me, but if I was going to do one of the options that day, it’d be the Strawberry w/ Spinach.

Habanero Tacos

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https://www.facebook.com/Habanero-Tacos-636831153117512/timeline/
https://twitter.com/habanerotacos
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

Those who are somewhat familiar with my blog my notice a certain peculiarity to my archives, that being, except for a couple rare exceptions, I don’t really do reviews on Traditional Mexican Taco Trucks/Carts. Now the modern, bright, new-business, fusion/twisted, and other sort of taco-based trucks we see on our main downtown streets, sure. But as a general rule, I’ve made the decision to just ignore all the almost nameless, likely family-owned, no-frills and no-social-media-focus taco trucks that are so often seen in various parking lots, on the further outskirts of uptown and south Minneapolis, etc. You know the ones, the ‘taco trucks,’ those businesses that were likely the true precursor to our food truck industry in the US.

Note that this has nothing to do with any disdain or even disinterest towards these businesses; I absolutely adore taco trucks. They use proper masa tortillas, have a whole variety of usually delicious fillings, are NOT afraid to cook things like tongue or cheek or other offal (more people are coming to appreciate, but the rest of you are still pansies. Pansies I say!!), are often very cheap, and sometimes even offer a variety of options to eat with your desired filling; like going to Chipotle. There are reasons these kinds of businesses have succeeded for dozens of years.

But there are so many of them, parked who-knows-where half the time, usually with no online presence letting those unaware find them easily, and as much as I love the kind of truck… the fact is if you’ve been to one you’ve almost been to them all. The experience is rather identical; yes yes, there are little differences in flavor and quality between each, much like BBQ trucks, but it’s even less noticeable than that example, and I’m going to be happy either way. In my personal opinion, if I WERE to track down all the different taco trucks, I feel the only way to properly review them is between each other; or in other words, I’d have to start a whole separate blog, or blog page, devoted JUST to reviewing the aspects of the taco trucks themselves. And I don’t feel like doing that… yet. For now, it’s easier just to focus on the masses of every other kind, familiar and weird, that keep popping up in the Twin Cities.

So it was with much reluctance that I passed by Habanero Tacos at a farmer’s market some months ago, making the difficult decision to ignore it and save some money for other truck visits. The truck certainly fits into the same category as other taco trucks I’ve been to, so they were a no go. That said, of late I’ve taken strong notice of the fact that they’ve been parking in downtown Minneapolis quite a lot, they have a twitter and Facebook handle that gets updated, and are otherwise rather in the public eye just as strongly as some of our other food trucks. So I feel it only right that I give them my full respect and offer a complete review to add into the ranks on this blog for all the effort they’re clearly going through to get known. Plus, I like to think one can then use this as an overall idea on where taco trucks in general rank on the ‘food truck scale’ for each ranking category.

As for some details, the menu offers the chance to get Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas, Alambres (meat sautéed with bacon, peppers, and onions; with melted cheese, I think it’s on rice or a big tortilla, basically an entrée), each with your choice of filling. One can pick from a list, slightly differing between item, including but not limited to: Al Pastor (Marinated Pork), Carnitas (Roast Pork), Carne Asada (Grilled Steak), Barbacoa (Shredded Beef), Pollo, Lengua (Beef Tongue), and Cabeza (Shredded Beef Head). One also has the chance to get a side of Elote (Mexican Street Corn, on the cob w/ lime, mayo, cheese, and spices) or Tortillas. Not to mention a full line-up of sodas, canned and Mexican bottles and guava juice (gotta love guava juice). That about sums it up, so let’s get down to it.

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Food: 9

                Can’t go to a taco truck without just getting the tacos; it’s a good way to try a couple fillings for cheap anyways. As expected, proper soft masa tortillas, double-stacked for each taco, garnished with onion, cilantro, and a section of lime for each taco. And yes there was a little thing of hot sauce, which I completely forgot to try on top of the tacos cuz they were SO GOOD; I love a proper taco from these kinds of trucks! But I did sneak a taste of the sauce on its own; has a kick, with some of those dried whole spicy chile flavors and some development start to finish.

Decided to go for the Al Pastor, ‘Marinated Pork,’ and the Cabeza, ‘Beef Head,’ for this trip. Both tasted great on their own terms, wrapped in their pillowy tortilla folds and with spikes of herby aromatics and bright crunchy onion. The pork’s marinade shone the most, with that distinctly unique tomato-chile-based (I think, maybe it’s a red mole or similar) sauce providing the most distinction; though on their own, the pork meat WAS a bit dry, luckily everything else balances it out enough to not really impact you. Oh but the head, fall apart tender and rich and juicy… well, not really juicy, in fact almost ‘slimy,’ but in a good way, like certain special Japanese noodle dishes. Bit of that fatty/collagen-y aspects from wherever they took that meat around the cow’s skull. And for those already trying to use excuses to be disgusted, shut up; it’s just like roast beef, amazing and super flavorful roast beef which is perfect like this. I only wish they had even MORE alternative cuts, like chicharrons, pig feet, brains, etc; but oh well.

They might deserve an even higher score, but I feel I’d need to try some other items for confirmation first; which also means it could just as well truly be deserving of lower, even if sticking with the fillings one knows are good. So as always, take these with a grain of salt; especially since I really just like this a general idea for all taco trucks anyways.

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Holdability: 9

                 Tacos are classic street food for a reason, they’re made to be able to pick up with one hand; and that classic double-tortilla design, as I’ve always said, is just so good. Can use it for extra support so none of the fillings fall out, or just use one tortilla first, let as much of that meat fall out as you can, and the leftovers turn into a second taco! Unless you only get one, which isn’t unlikely, one still needs two hands for basket holding. But there ARE options; yet another benefit to the classic taco truck; if one desires portability, the singular Burrito comes into play, not to mention the classic one-handed snack of Mexican Corn.
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Price: 10

                  $2.50 for each Taco, $8 for a Burrito, $7 for Enchiladas, $10.50 or $12 for the bigger entrée that is the Alambres, and $3 to get one of those classic Elote, this place has RANGE to fit exactly what you’re looking for. Whether one’s spending more on a big lunch, looking for a filling but more cost-effective option, or just wants to part with a few bucks for a soul-satisfying snack, or just to sample, these kinds of menus have it all. Yet another notable proof of evidence towards the taco truck’s success in engraining itself as THE classic American street food/food truck operation.

Speed: 8.5

I imagine it technically depends on the item, but most of the proteins/fillings are pre-cooked, may get a TOUCH of griddle time at the most, so they only need the filling time and come out quick. Alambres and Enchiladas will get more attention to cook everything together, I expect average wait on those, faster turn-out on others; they get those tacos out to you quickly! Just like any good street food stand.

The TOE: 9

                  My initial reaction when first seeing the truck a while ago, considering its plain-ish look, wasn’t all that inspiring; as evidenced by the delay in actually ordering from them. But then again, I was judging whether it qualified as one of the ‘modern’ food trucks which I mainly focus on. Truly, this IS a Mexican Food Truck, and it feels like it when you’re there and ordering from it. It seems to measure up just about as much as the others; perhaps there’s been some attempts towards a more ‘attractive’ design pulls it a bit more away from that rather traditional, operating-in-the-parking-lot-down-the-street feel that sort of comes to mind with these, but it’s not so huge. Plus I admit it that feeling in myself may be skewed simply because they’ve been doing a lot of business in downtown with the other trucks.

Tally: 45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Gotta love a good Carne Asada, and if you can find ANY part of yourself to try it, get the Lengua or Cabeza, they’re always so good in tacos. Besides those, I’d say you’re certainly safe with anything else Shredded or Grilled/Charbroiled, then it’s just figuring out what kind of edible packaging you want it in! That variability, versatility, is what makes these trucks perfect for any need: on a budget, grabbing a snack between other things, sampling multiple things, getting a full meal, looking to eat there or move to another location, etc. Chances are you’ll find SOMETHING that fits your needs here, so long as you don’t hate Mexican cuisine (you monster). And definitely give the Elote a chance if you still have yet to try one; it can be a quick, cheap, and satisfying grab-and-go treat that’s worth the minimal spending risk, or can add it onto another order as a ‘side’ of sorts.

At the end of the day, Habanero Tacos delivers their food, for the most part, in the same manner as what we expect to come from these glorious vehicles. I hope you’ve had the chance to experience it or one of the many other classic taco vendors in the cities, or that you do so soon.

Electric Burger Co. (or: Vin’s Italian, the Sequel!)

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http://www.electricburgerco.com/
https://twitter.com/burgertruckmn
Main Location: Minneapolis, Breweries, Etc

Whoever thought I’d have to redo a FULL review of one of our local trucks (little updates are one thing, I’m talking about the whole shebang here), but that’s just what Vin’s Italian has made me do! A couple months ago the guys completely rebranded their baby into the Electric Burger Co, changing their focus from the Italian Sandwiches to, you guessed it, Burgers and Fries and such. The reason, supposedly, being to offer a more appealing kind of food and menu when parked at breweries, their main gigs. And what can you say, people like burgers and beer!

At the time of hitting them, the menu itself is mostly focused on basic hamburger, cheeseburger, and ‘Deluxe’ (the basic topping combo) options, which can all get bacon or an extra patty for additional cost. These are paired with their Coleslaw, Fries, and the ability to get a Kramarczuk’s Hot Dog. Next to these, they’ll feature 1-2 ‘Special’ burgers, and even a dog at times, with some different toppings. This is only temporary, as the idea is that it’s currently in the ‘testing’ period; after they’ve done enough sampling of different specials, see what they like, certain ones will be added permanently to the menu. Popular ones so far are the ‘I Don’t Give a Shiittake,’ the classic mushroom+swiss, a Blue Cheese Bacon one, and the pickled jalapeno topped ‘It Gets Cheddar,’ which was on today.

If you like the names, you can get in on the action and suggest your own! Tweet them some really weird and funny name for a burger, and if they like it they’ll put it up on the street at least once! Just make sure it’s not something from Bob’s Burgers… there’s a list, look it up.

A note on the product; the burger patties come from Swanson Meats in Seward, and the buns via Denny’s Fifth Avenue Bakery. It’s always nice to see where things are coming from locally I’d say! The pickles are made by them though… gotta love a good pickle.

Had to wait a little while to get out to them, but I found a beautiful sunny lunch period in the middle of the recent week to hit up downtown Minneapolis. So here’s the new scores, with their comparison to the original displayed in () next to each.

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Holdability: 8 (+2)

                 I actually expected to take points off of this, since we all know how burgers can be! But they actually wrap it up in a perfect package, and the burger plus its fillings are small and kept rather tight in their bun… which has some other aspects to which I’ll get into later…

Price: 8 (+0.5)

                  More of a range than before, with the option to get a good $5 Hot Dog, basic burgers ranging between $6.50-$8, and the specials being $8.50. Fries and slaw are automatic, so again would always like the option for not-so, but it makes the price paid even more worth it, even if they’re a smaller addition it seems. $1.50 for Bacon and $2 for an extra patty though, not particularly pricey but they do give ya a hit.

Speed: 7 (-1.5)

Definitely took ‘em longer to cook the burgers than build their sandwiches, felt like a touch of a wait too but only a bit more so than average for a burger truck.

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Food: 4 (-5.5)

                So this is normally the first thing I start with in these but… ahhh, god, I just don’t think I can do all of this and then expect you to have then taken actual note of the other things. I was so looking forward to this guy, I remember clearly how good their Italian Sandwiches were… they had to make some pretty good burgers if they were gonna switch from that right? Apparently no. Apparently, they didn’t spend nearly as much time in development as they should have.

I’ll keep it simple as to why. The burger itself was thin; which isn’t a problem on its own, I’ve had thin patties which are good, but they still need to be moist and juicy, which this was NOT. The bun wasn’t toasted, and was a bit crumbly/’bready,’ thus there was way too much of it to eat with the burger. Toppings barely came through with flavor, which sucks because I love good grilled onions, and the idea of those pickled jalapenos, probably made by someone else, as the main feature of that burger was rather unexciting. And the cheese wasn’t melted… barely even warm, I mean come on. It’s just… disappointing.

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Overall, this wasn’t, necessarily speaking, a ‘bad’ burger, but it wasn’t memorable or particularly attractive in any way. And of all the burgers I’ve had from food trucks, it’s easily one of, if not THE, least successful in execution. They need to make some serious changes here; either by making a thicker patty with the same bun, but toasted, or a smaller burger bun and simply better executed, juicy burger. That and actually putting the darn cheese and toppings on the patty while it’s still on the grill.

Nice shoestring fries though, crispy and potato-y with a nice sea salt, I could totally handful my way through a big bag of these.

The TOE: 4 (-5)

Everything is great until you actually get the burger, and then it takes a dive. And not just because of the quality of the food; the whole name and concept and idea of it, especially knowing what the history of this truck is connected with, creates an electrical air of anticipation. But even by just reading the menu, even if it WAS filled with some of those other ‘special’ burgers, starts one embedding themselves into this trip of simplicity; and no, not the good kind. There’s no sense of unity, no SPIRIT left, just what feels like an idea that was thought up to fix an ‘issue’ that was probably barely even there, and then put into action before nowhere near enough thought and proper preparation/testing had been fully invested.

And the worst part is that this could be so much better. They can make great food, we know this, they’ve proved it in the past. I still don’t understand why they felt they needed to change… I mean, I UNDERSTAND, but was there REALLY a need for it? Whatever, the change has been made, and it wasn’t handled well, which in itself is baffling. Think, for a second, how easy, how lazy it would have been, yet at the same time absolutely AMAZING, if they had just made burgers and topped them with all their previous sandwich fillings. The only change they literally would have needed to make was making small sandwiches in a burger bun, with a burger, and then piling it with tomato sauce + mozzarella, or giardanera peppers, or that awesome fried eggplant, or whatever, and all that other stuff they have. It would have been SO good, super unique and cool, different, while at the same time keeping to their original selves. Could have done so many fun and exciting menu items that I know would draw people… but no.

Service: +0.5

                We’ll keep this, they’re still as amicable and friendly as before… makes me wish I didn’t have to say all that other stuff.

Tally: 31.5/50 (-9.5)

Final Thoughts

You know what, I just don’t even want to say anything else, I don’t think I can even… anymore, with this thing. Just take it as you will, hopefully I’m just the result of one monumentally unique bad burger, but I really hope that the guys here can actually take what I said to heart and make some proper changes and improvements. Seriously, if anyone from the truck is reading this… I think we need to talk, in person. That’s the first time I’ve ever felt the compulsion to say that to any local truck, I don’t ever try to assume they should seriously take major advice from me, but in this situation… well, clearly, there are things that need to be said.

… okay, if they can fix the burgers, but were to then keep the same specials that they’ve had so far, there’s a particular one with Plum Jam + Gorgonzola Cheese that seems fun, and should be completed quite nicely with bacon. So go for that. That’s my suggestion to customers so far.

Rockin’ at Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill in Lakeville

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Four months after the infamous and devastating explosion incident that destroyed one of our Minnesota Breweries’ most beloved food trucks, Motley Crew’s Heavy Metal Grill is back yet again, this time with their much-awaited standalone bar of the same name. Bursting out of the gate guitars blazing, the 40 days I myself have had to wait to travel down to their new location has been filled with packed nights, much local love, and a few ‘special visits’ from certain musical icons. As always I feel so rather crappy for not being able to go down sooner, this was the one truck-steraunt (patent pending?) that I actually wanted to make sure I was down for on opening day.

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But alas, the implantation of this brick-and-mortar (by the way, still hate the phrase, and yes I know that I have no proper reason for this) was straight down in Lakeville, 30 minutes south of Minneapolis and 50 from my own residence. So it sucks for me, but is a truly great thing for Lakeville; sadly, many a restaurant or other fun edible stop have been leaving the city over the past few years, limiting local options to only one or two places to dine out. Not only does Heavy Metal offer a different and totally awesome bar to change things up with every once in a while, which most of them have certainly shown appreciation for in these first months of business, but it’s only the first wave in a battalion of new businesses aiming to bring further fun and life back into the area. As anyone who’s been following the build of Motley’s restaurant is aware, a month or two from now will see the opening of a brewery-taproom in the same building, creating the perfect visiting experience. Not only that, but yet ANOTHER Brewery, this one with its own restaurant and apparently some kick-ass design ideas, will be opening in the space right BEHIND Motley’s, a trifecta of late night beer and bar food heaven.

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Though mostly bare on my visit, the walls of this hard rocker’s upscale-ish dive are already getting loaded with sweet guitars, flaming posters, and most notably Truck scraps. Yes, though the truck may be gone, its bits and pieces live on in glory within its successor, like a propane-fueled phoenix rising from the ashes… or scraps of twisted metal, whatever. If you look at the back of the menu itself, you’ll see a picture of the old truck parked outside their future space, already with their name on it… like a proud momma looking over her growing child. Sadly that was THE last picture ever taken of the old girl before the accident, displayed in yet another honorary position as part of this establishment.

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Currently we get to see this with some of the surviving classic attire so nostalgicly seen on the truck’s side, various stickers, license plate, and they hung the whole of the final menu in honor over in one of the corners. Then there’s the bar Hand Sink; who ever thought anyone would talk about a goddamn SINK in any business-related article? But one of the few surviving items from the vehicle, its hand sink festooned with stickers and all, has been given permanent place out front, still doing work and keeping its soul alive as part of the long working bloodline that is a restaurant’s kitchen and bar stations.

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And that’s just to start; if you get the chance to head down there soon, talk to Marty about decorations, that man has some PLANS for filling spaces. The original hood, or something, of the truck is going to be hung up in front between the air vents, one of the destroyed and sorta-twisted sides will garnish a wall, and an old logo that was GOING to be wrapped on the truck (but was way too big) is going on another wall.

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Keeping true with their old-school rocker lifestyle (the only kind worth living am I right?), they’ve also got a whole mess of other paraphernalia lined up and getting ready to go on display. Pictures, posters, guitars, Frisbees (some sort of big white disk, I claim all apology in completely forgetting what that was exactly), and various other things, signed by icons or just plain badass in their own separate ways. All awaiting their debut on the ‘bleak’ (inside joke, sorta, haha) and still quite-empty canvas; though I’m sure they’ve already gotten a few more things up by the time I finally get around to writing and posting this crap.

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But décor isn’t the only thing in development; as one should hope and expect, the menu keeps hold of every sandwich and beloved food item that the truck was known for serving for, two sections of which are filled with different steak/philly and chicken sandwiches. Of course one can still get a bag of the classic sweet and spicy pretzels from Sammy’s we so fell in love with from the truck, if there are any left that is!

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It’s not a truck-steraunt without new items though, to which they have quite a few… and they’re still adding more! The big focus so far is on their Burger list, filled with thick monsters topped by totally unhealthy things and given names such as ‘Kickstart my Heart,’ ‘Feed my Frankenstein,’ and ‘War Pig.’ A section of Chicken Wings compliments the proper atmosphere of the place, an ideal basket to eat with a big glass of draft from some of our local breweries (a small-ish selection for now, but growing, or at least in frequent rotation. Oh, and something cool, got the chance to go in the back with Marty, they actually have the kegs stored right behind the tap for easy handling; you’d think that’s obvious, but I’ve worked in kitchens, doesn’t always happen), dressed in classic sauces. Oh, and they have Seafood; Buffalo-style Fried Shrimp, which they plan on turning into a Po’Boy and/or other sandwich in the future, and Crab Legs. I shit you not, you can get a basket of simply steamed crab legs here. It at first seems so opposed to Marty’s opposition of places that just make their menu options as varied as possible, yet the singular point of ridiculousness with that ONE item makes it feel almost completely at home here.

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And that’s what’s here NOW. Inside scoop tells me (look at me trying to sound special, when I bet you anyone who even broaches the subject with Marty at the bar will get him telling you every little bit of the same information as I got from a computer screen) that we’re in store for some other special and fun ideas, such as a Juicy Lucy called the Iron Maiden, now-classic Peanut Butter-Bacon named Skid Row, and just a SIMPLE Cheeseburger (which they don’t have yet, for good reason in my opinion) named after Marty’s favorite phrase and one of his favorite bands, K.I.S.S.: Keep it Simple Stupid. Are you noticing a pattern with the names yet?

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Then of course there’s a burger topped WITH Philly Meat and cheese, a Philly served with Au Jus to make into a dive-bar Dip, Fried Cod (Sandwich version or non, former called Barracuda), Rib Tips, burgers made OUT OF Bratwurst, and a dessert of Cherry-Cream Cheese stuffed Tortillas fried and rolled in Cinnamon-Sugar known as Sixx Stixx (there’s quite the origin to this name, definitely try to get Marty to tell you about it if it’s not busy). One definitely can’t say any of this is high-class fare, or even gastropub, but we never really went to them for that kind of food in the first place.

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I actually went there with a buddy, so we got to try a couple things. Besides the always amazing pretzels, and a little sample of some ‘yogurt’-coated almonds made by the same guy that does the candied ones I oh so loved when they were in the truck, we each tried a burger and got those Buffalo Shrimp. Which are awesome by the way; deep-fried then slathered in sauce, what once was crispy is now almost soggy from absorbing that classic orange liquid, but I actually sort of LIKE that texture. Speaking of which, the shrimp were delightfully plump and bouncy, and there’s little beating the flavor of buffalo sauce, meat of some sort, and blue cheese dressing, which they also make from scratch in-house as any good restaurant should.

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That’s what you gotta get through w/ ‘Kickstart my Heart’

The burgers are monsters, that’s definitely the main point you go for with them; I’ll admit they’re not particularly juicy or of that perfect grind and meat that turns some burgers into massive balls of tender, squelching deliciousness, but they’re still cooked well and very enjoyable, especially considering the excess aspect. Just seeing them made us start talking about the ‘technique’ so often seen from Fieri on DDD, and then of course Marty comes over and asks us we got ‘the Hunch’ down! Perfect timing! My friend got Kickstart My Heart, a Double burger with 3 cheeses, 4 pieces of bacon, and a Fried Egg, and of course he then made it healthy with that ‘salad’ on top. I think we were able to get a good bite out of the bastard. Oh, and by the way, if you think your heart still has it easy for some reason, can order this one ‘Triple Bypass’ with yet ANOTHER patty, which has to be at least 8oz from the looks of it.

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‘Meatallica’

I felt I had to try the Meatallica myself: Burger, Bacon, Ham, a split and grilled Hot Dog (and not the skinny kind either), topped with Cheddar and… well that’s it. Lettuce and Tomato? Why the hell would I order that, this is the place that you shove those pretentions to the side! We don’t come to a place like this if we’re concerned about balancing our diets or looking at ‘perfect contrasting flavors’ for dinner that night. You go here to just shove a load of meat, cheese, and fried stuff down your mouth and enjoy it, washing down with beer. You can do that you know? You can take time every now and then to revel in something that’s bad for you… and this is coming from a guy who cares about food quality and crap. And I enjoyed my mountain of meat topped with cheap melted cheese and served with fries.

Speaking of which, I feel obligated to mention they DO have a house seasoning which they use on their fries, burgers, and probably some other things. It’s actually mixed in back, so not just season salt, and has an ingredient that provides a subtle little smoky aspect at times. I myself got the Cajun fries not realizing this, which I did enjoy, but one should certainly find interest that the ‘regular’ fries aren’t going to taste completely generic.

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Let’s see, final notes… there’s a big patio outside, looks great to take advantage of while the weather’s still nice. There’s a chair in each of the single-use bathrooms, no one knows why so don’t ask. The big sign outside lights up at night to look pretty cool. Glasses are monogrammed, and they always look into trying to get cool t-shirts made, so I’m sure there’s a few souvenirs one can buy if asked about it. And the whole team is awesome. Most of them are all from Lakeville and randomly got into the team through the kind of individual stories and happenstances that only a guy like Marty seems to keep walking into… like his baby duck.

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So, after having to wait over a month to finally visit and feeling rather crappy about taking so long… I now wish I had waited even longer! Now I have to find another good time and excuse to get back down to Lakeville once these decorations and new menu items get thoroughly engrained. Right now I’m thinking of a whole ‘Lakeville Day’ with friends and/or family, spend some time at the breweries once they’re in, start the day with lunch at a nearby Vietnamese place Marty says has quite the badass bowl of Pho, before finishing the day on another gut-busting tour of Motley’s expanded menu. If lucky, can do it at Pan-O-Prog or some other yearly festival.

The Truck may be gone, but the rockin’ spirit and attitude lives on! Though there is potential for mobile resurgence in 5 years or so, but for now we can satisfy our ‘cheesy-sandwich-deep-fried-goody’ happy needs down in Lakeville.

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Gotta get that commemorative picture in front of the Heavy Metal Grill rock idol centerpiece!

By the way, I’ll be making sure to upload a whole bunch of new photos once those upcoming truck parts and signed paraphernalia get jammed into the wall and ceiling. And what I can’t fit between paragraphs I’ll just jam in below here for simple viewing pleasures.

Tatanka Truck

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http://www.tatankatruck.com/
https://twitter.com/tatankatruck
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

The first of two long-awaited and highly-anticipated food trucks to hit the Twin Cities in the latter part of the summer, with articles and interviews and lots of retweeting about them both in the past few months, Tatanka Truck now hits the Minneapolis streets to serve the very anxious street lunch crowd. Brainchild of Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux and owner of the Sioux Chef catering and culinary educational business, he yet continues his journey to spread the true native Ojibwe and Dakota food traditions to as many people as possible. With the recent partnership with Little Earth, he finally got to add a Food Truck to his arsenal, bringing some of these natural dishes developed over the land back to our sight. You can see the truck around Minneapolis rather often, but its mobile nature allows Sean to take his business to various Native American events, businesses, and celebrations in Minnesota.

There’s more that could definitely be said about the owner and business itself, but it seems plenty of other places have been doing enough of that well before the truck even opened, like This and These Guys, so if you’re one of the few who still have yet to get bombarded with that information, those links have some rather intriguing informativeness behind them! (Sean really has been doing some great things, this is definitely the kind of thing I know we all love to see spread)

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Offerings focus on, of course, menu items made with indigenous ingredients and cooking methods developed in the Native American cultures, transformed to best enjoy on the street. The main features are the Indigenous ‘Tacos,’ a corn and bean ‘Bread’ round piled high with Heirloom Beans, Wojapi (a native berry sauce), and your chosen cooked meat topping. Cedar-Braised Bison (Tatanka) with Sunchoke, Smoked Turkey (Mizise-Wiiyaas) and Forest Mushrooms, Sumac-seared Walleye (Ogaawag), and Squash (Wagmu) are the options. Or one can choose similar protein toppings (or not) and pop it on a Manoomin Salad, chocked full of wild rice, seeds, cracked corn, and veggies. On the side one can grab some grilled Corn Cob (Wahuwapa) with Pesto (or not), Cedar Maple Iced Tea, or some Energy Bars: their own Native Granola and Seed Bars or Bison-Fruit Jerky which they get from native Tanka Bars.

Oh! And you can get a ‘hot sauce’ on the side with the tacos. I should have asked what they used, darn those busy lunch periods…

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A basket of Bison with that intriguingly pesto-covered corn

Food: 8.5

                Okay now this was a hard decision, figuring out which protein to get. I’m still playing the ‘what if’ card with the Walleye in my head, but I’m just gonna go with it! Luckily the two I was debating between, Bison and Turkey, had the former bowing out as the guy ahead of me bought the last portion, so I could pick the Mizise-Wiiyaas without guilt! The bison did look good though, especially mixed with sunchokes and, interestingly enough, DRIED bison alongside the braised.

Results of the turkey? Juicy, tender, a nice surprise as I expected the smoked bird to be firm as opposed to these juicy shreds, and seasoned well. The ‘bread’ underneath is really more like a Corn and Bean Cake, soft and moist as one pulls pieces off with your fork (can’t really pick it up). As you pull and mix and scramble everything together, a messy-looking hash of flavors you feel came right out of the backyard, one worries that the soft nature of all the items will lead to a textural wasteland devoid of anything besides mush, but thankfully the shredded greens on the side actually help to contribute, giving just that scoche (yes I used the term scoche, I’m watching Sideways and feeling a bit snooty, but not enough to actually elevate the grammer and writing skills of the review as a whole) of a bite to contrast. I will say I’m glad I got the Hot Sauce, one because it tastes pretty good (love a flavorful semi-hot sauce with a mass of starch an protein) and two because, as good as the ‘taco’ is, there feels to be an overall ‘blandness’ to it (not unseasoned, it’s salted and peppered well). One could say the flavors are all in the same realm, and I wish there was ONE other element, whether it’s a fresh and bright vegetable, that other flavorful sauce, dusting of spices, etc.

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Which, in hindsight, the berry sauce alone SHOULD have taken care of, so either I just skipped over it in my head and didn’t let it shine on the tongue, or it sadly just wasn’t sharp enough, or needed more OF it on top… perhaps the issue was that it blended with all the other tastes TOO much for the good of the dish as a whole.

The Corn was tasty, fully enjoyed the Pesto topping with the distinct herbal-garlic punch, though it did clearly feel like it hadn’t reached the true promise that good, fresh grille sweet corn should get to. Basically, one can tell that it’s grilled ahead of time, as it should be in order to achieve that full color and flavor on the kernels for service, and then kept warm and waiting on the side. Again I don’t hate it or anything, I actually love getting grilled fresh corn as a side like this, just pointing out it’s not heavenly; which is what we’re used to in sweet corn season like now right?

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The Granola, which I got to snack on from a free sample tray, was good; I could totally see getting bars of this for work snacks and lunch! Nothing better than a great one made by hand instead of machine. As for that ‘Cedar Maple Tea,’ it offers a clean, lighter version of your desired sweet tea, very refreshing. The maple and cedar notes ARE there, but one does have to search for them, quite subtle; something I was looking forward to trying, it satisfies my initial craving to grab though isn’t EVERYTHING that I hoped and wished for, sort of like the rest of the food and truck as a whole. Don’t take my thoughts harshly on that however.

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Holdability: 7

               So, here’s the thing. I don’t mind if a food truck uses the term ‘taco’ for something that isn’t really a taco; I understand, it’s a cool and easy way to let people connect to a different food, not to mention emphasizing the street food idea of it. That said, if you’re GOING to use the moniker, I expect to be able to actually pick it up in one way or another, and not only do these little ‘cakes’ not hold in any of the toppings, I doubt one could even lift them on their own without parts of them falling off. As such, I’m gonna have to knock a point or so off, seriously.

That aside, the side items on their own are easily consumable by hand, while the mains really do require a fork for consuming, mixing-and-matching can certainly razz things up depending.

Price: 8.5

                $9-11 for the protein tacos, $8 on the Squash, $5 for the Salad with a $3 upcharge to add your meat of choice. The whole menu has a great range, with the ability to get that side of Corn for only $2, the energy bars for $2-4 depending on type and size, and $4 for the Tea. Though it can definitely add up to a decent total, since it seems hard to get JUST the ‘taco’ bowl.
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Speed: 9

 

It didn’t take too long at all; a quick run across the street to take a picture and feed the meter, and when I got back a couple minutes later (if that) the basket was waiting in the window.

The TOE: 9.5

                Whatever lingering effects from media attention aside, the fact remains that not only is this a unique truck serving distinctive offerings, the goal and focus of it all comes through very clearly. Not to mention it’s colorful, felt surprising and hollow but one has to appreciate a good design at the end of the day.

The Cedar Maple Tea feels almost a Toe Ring, though I myself wish there was some more impact to it; either more distinct maple flavor, a spice mixed in, or just something to really ‘feel’ that clean and natural sweetness. Still good though, don’t get me wrong.

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

For the ideal experience, head over when they’re at the park near the Minneapolis Government center on a beautiful day, grab a the Bison, Fish, or whatever ‘taco’ you might be craving, and sit down to relax and enjoy your meal completely. Also a great stop to pick-up a Grab and Go snack, the Granola or Tanka Bars, or when craving an interesting drink, either to complete some truck lunch thing or just when needing refreshment, whereas the Cedar Maple Tea should be tried at least once if one ever gets the chance.

Misfit Coffee

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http://www.misfitcoffee.com/
https://twitter.com/misfitcoffee
Main Location: All Over Minneapolis

A couple years back, a certain person attempted a modern coffee cart in Downtown Minneapolis; seems quite a few people are rather aware of this fact. Alas, they didn’t make it, yet another casualty in the mobile service world; I partially feel bad for never making it, though also partially relieved I didn’t forsake my then-even-narrower wallet on a review that would never be able to happen. If you’re wondering where this is going… no, the owner is not back, I have no clue what the heck they’re doing now (if you’re reading this, best wishes! Please don’t hate me…).

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It is today that the next generation makes their attempt as Minneapolis gets its second in the line of coffee vending businesses, only this time it’s a full-on Trailer with… well, you’ll see. Misfit Coffee comes to us from across the border, the three co-owners of Marcus, Mitch, and Alex hail from Milwaukee. All three of these guys have been working since age 13/14, Marcus in particular having gone into all levels and aspects of the coffee world, the leading thought man behind the business idea after they all decided to get into the mobile food world. Putting their heads and money together, these three friends (well, two are brothers; hinty, names share the same starting consonant!) set out to fully develop their immersive, quality-focused coffee experience in the Twin Cities.

Having only opened a couple weeks ago, the trailer is still finding promising locations to keep regular residence, hopping around various spots in Minneapolis to give access to as many people as possible. Of note, they’ve served so far in front of the Guthrie, Downtown, the U of M, and in Uptown in front of the Apple Store. After catching up to them at the Mill City Museum, I got the chance to interview the three owners and dragged out quite a bit of information (so prepare yourself for a much longer review than usual)!

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Apparently they chose Minnesota (note they only had the ONE showing in their home city to make sure everything ran smoothly; sorry Wisconsin, they’re all ours now!) due to our personal love and acceptance of food trucks, particularly our openness to ‘specialty’ and unique trucks vs the older classics. Not to mention the tie-in fact that it’s easier to get the licenses here. As Alex puts it, “Some places are rather iffy, not sure if they wanna let you in, here they’re TRYING to let you in.”

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The trailer itself was made to focus on a ‘curbside exposure,’ a fully open-air design that not only allows one to truly witness the zen experience of these brews being crafted, but also to allow for connection and conversation between the guys and yourself. They even have magazine for perusal! Oh, and some led lights inside, in hopes of late-night ventures where they can turn off all other lights and get that cool color-changing glow and atmosphere.

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As for the coffee, beans are sourced from Valentine Coffee Roasters in Wisconsin, a producer which Misfit obsesses over from the quality of the roast to the sourcing of the beans; particularly in the expression of body and ‘terroir.’ They currently offer 5 kinds from different countries for their pour-overs: Bali, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and also a Decaf variety. Now note, they didn’t make their sourcing decision lightly; much time was spent trying coffee and roasters all over the country, from Nashville and Atlanta to Chicago and us, apparently close to 100 cups worth of ‘samples,’ before their decision to stick with the Wisconsin homeboys.

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These can then be ordered in the typical wide variety of options that we’re so familiar with having access to, but with a twist. Whereas they do indeed have the classic mixes, such as Cappuccino, Mocha, Americano, Latte, etc, one will also find a few more intriguing and different mixes not commonly seen… and a few modern techniques to boot. This culminates in the whipped dairy offerings of Con Panna and Cortado, but lower we explore some, let’s call them ‘espresso cocktails,’ called Chata’Lata (mixed with homemade Horchata) and Spro-da Pop(espresso and Mexican Cola). THEN there’s the different pour-overs, like the Chemex and Siphon (and no, I do not know anything nor did I ask about those… I had a lot of information as it is, cut me some slack! So demanding…)… but all that pales in comparison to the Nitro Cold Press. Cold pressed coffee, made in batch and then stuck in a pressurized tank, to which they inject with Nitrogen and let sit, waiting to be poured from a ‘tap’ and over ice when ordered. Basically it’s like the method for making Nitro beer, but with coffee; I’ll describe the results later.

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By this point you might be wondering about the equipment; I mean, I wasn’t, but you’re all most likely better people than I am. As you can see though, and will through various pics, as much attention that went into sourcing the beans and coffee went into the machines that handle them. The big white behemoth of the espresso machine itself is a Synesso model, made in 2008 but I think based off a model from the 1900’s, and cost $10,000 on its own. And lying on top of it… actual coffee cups? Yep, for those who don’t absolutely have to go and travel with their caffeine needs, they will pour your coffee or espresso into one of their various special mugs, like these copper dealies with glass extenders to fit it all and also see any layering effects, to enjoy on the side of the trailer while you relax. This allows one to fully experience these different brews and mixes, for the container one smells and sips from can make all the difference (just ask a wine snob, like me!).

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But that’s the kind of effort they go to for everything, which we can see just by looking at something like their Horchata recipe. After trying the best cup of this Mexican rice milk from a certain vendor at home, the group obsessed with trying to reproduce it, or find something better, but couldn’t; and after resorting to weeks of begging after begging, finally squeezed this heavenly mixture of creamy rice and cinnamon drink. I had the chance to try a tiny taste of it on its own, and believe me when I say the effort was worth it. Following that, all their ‘flavorings’ are made only with the best ingredients, using real vanilla beans, hand-made caramel, and chocolate from Indulgence vs the normal cheap syrups we so often see.

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Of course they also offer some quality Teas and other coffee-free options for people to choose from, like those Mexican Colas.

A final fun note, if one looks at the back of the trailer, they’ll see the very well-known Apple quote, a company which Misfit follows quite intently in their respect of the how and why they do things. “’Here’s to the Crazy ones, the Misfits, the Rebels, the Troublemakers, Round Pegs and Square Holes.’ They inspired, kind of, the name a little bit… -and we understand how they are, to not go by the status quo, we’re trying to DO something different and be ourselves and, you know, take a risk and take a chance. So it was really cool to be in front of Apple and to get the support too that we got from them was awesome cuz, you know, they understood us, we’re misfits.” – Marcus

Food: 10

                In terms of the coffee world, Misfit truly occupies itself in the top tier for our community; with amazing quality and distinctly regional beans with personality; both traditional and fun style offerings; much effort spent in ingredients/recipes and development;  all of which comes through clearly with their fantastic execution. As someone who’s not really a ‘coffee drinker’ in any sense, but wants to get into the world of it to be able to experience and recognize the fine craft, I myself have felt disappointment trying cups of jo at good places like Spyhouse yet still found struggles in trying to find the particular ‘palette’ of the bean that was written up; those notes of berries and chocolate sadly eluded me. I figured it was like cigars and red wine; you REALLY just need the time to develop the palate, get it used to the flavors, before seeing this, something I’m sure most people who drink coffee on an almost, if not, daily basis automatically have. Thus has my appreciation for certain establishments like this grown when I come to discover clear differences or personality traits in what I try that day; that in fact there IS a world and approach to coffee that anyone can began at while learning about distinct flavors and changes from the beans, roasting, and handling.
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For example, the Cortado I had, a double-shot espresso layer with steamed milk if I remember the style right, was made with the Brazilian coffee beans (all items under the ‘Espresso Bar’ category are made with a single bean variety that they choose and grind on the day of), a variety they said displays peanutty, dark chocolate, and those earthy notes, and I could clearly taste peanut butter and other such things through the creamy soft concoction. It was fun seeing the distinct layered effect through the copper and glass cup reserved for these styles, not to mention being able to enjoy the full texture and flavor one can only get through this glass, as opposed to the paper to-go cups. It certainly pays to be able to sit and enjoy these with the fellas when you’re not on-the-run!

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Now, follow this up with the Peruvian bean, a cleaner, lighter kind of coffee, with some citrusy notes and more of a milk-chocolate body. It was perfect in the Nitro on a hot day, served on ice; as for the actual unique nitro style… everything I love about nitro beers, mainly that thick but super smooth texture that just aches to be drawn down one’s throat. Then there’s the added creaminess. The guys make sure to advocate that customers try it plain first before adding creamer, because guess what? You don’t need it, the effects of the foamed carbonation really do mimick that bit of steamed milk or other dairy that’s added in, making it seem richer when it’s just a straight cold press. Absolutely delightful.

And finally, a return visit on the same day (I was lucky) had me trying the Con Panna; basically much like the cortado or a cappuccino, only using pure whipped cream as the source of dairy. Thus one would get a result that’s super thick, super rich, on its own practically a total caffeine ‘cheat;’ like starting off a day with hot chocolate. Only I then decided to use the opportunity to try one of their ‘additions,’ the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt sauce, which just made it sinful, pure dessert in coffee. Oh god I just had a terrible thought… what if they had ice cream and used this for an affogato? Run!

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But I want to be able to express that the sauce, while not just made from top quality chocolate and salt, came through very distinctly without fully overpowering anything. I love it when you can TASTE the sea salt, too, without it being ‘salty;’ it can be tricky to accomplish, but such a good balance. Overall this was like salted chocolate-coffee mousse in liquid form… only get when you’re feeling naughty and just don’t care.

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I would like to finish with this note that, as was mentioned by co-owner Marcus, Misfit in general tries to focus on an older ‘original’ style of ‘roast profile’ from their beans. Whereas many modern coffee businesses in the US usually focus on turning the beans into a coffee that ends up ‘fruitier, cleaner,’ simple bursts of flavor, they themselves keep to those natural earthy, spicy, ‘terrestrial’ flavors emblematic of the area they’ve grown in and the people who’ve handled them (very clear in that deep nutty, but not roasty, notes of the Brasil). In a sense, seeing the ‘terroir’ of coffee. As a fanatic of the wine and alcohol world, this particular idea actually tickles me to no end, as it seems to perfectly mirror the different styles of ‘old world’ (France, Italy, Spain, etc) and ‘new world’(US, Australia, Chile, etc) wines; the latter of which are very FRUIT forward, made for solo drinking while the old world all distinctly have some sort of EARTHY aspect to the palate, and excel alongside food.

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Look at that foam line, ever reminiscent of the ‘Angel’s Lace’ phenomenon in properly poured beer

So if you’re still wondering why I’m talking SO MUCH about these guys, my deep and pure love towards the world of food and spirits, how things connect and how completely different ‘products’ can have such similarities throughout their life and how people enjoy and experience them… things like that are what stoke the red-hot coals of my excitement centers. And the great thing is that we all have this interest for food and drink in one form or another, no matter how mild; we’ve all developed special memories that things like these has been a part of, it really is an integral part of what connects people nowadays, and I am one of those who just loves to delve deep into that topic in conversation and express it to others whenever I can. So, to cut this short, now you have an even better understanding to WHY I won’t just shut up sometimes (believe me I wish I could), and I do apologize and thank you for reading through my additional ramblings!

Holdability: 10

               Whether it’s in a to-go cup or the nicer for-here, it’s still coffee in a cup.

Price: 9.5

                Most 12 and 16oz cups range between $3-$6, while 8oz only ever get up to $4 at the most. The more fun coffee-free specialty items themselves also go $3-$5 dependent on item and size. $0.75 extra to get one of the sinful flavor additions, or a dairy alternative. And of final note, the Nitro coffee charges for $4.50. Overall a nice wide but lower range for a coffee joint.
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Not only are these prices, on an overall scale, equal to or better than one’s typical Starbucks/Caribou, they’re better than they SHOULD be. With the clear amount of effort and quality that went into the developing of these recipes, ingredients used, etc, all of these drinks should clearly be at least a couple bucks more; and if they were in a café they would be. It’s likely only because they started in a trailer, an overall better (but still expensive as heck) startup vs most brick-and-mortar businesses, that they can list these at awesome competitive prices for top-quality coffee.

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Speed: 9

There are quite a few options, simple and fun, that are basically ready-to-go, a couple that may only take a minute, but make no doubt about it, for the rest you WILL have to wait (again, beans are ground and dripped to order)… I mean, like 3 minutes or so. Which for any boutique coffee place a-la Spyhouse is typical for the specialty drinks, and still faster than ordering food at most trucks. Plus one can spend the time easily chatting up at the window, so that time can fly.

The TOE: 10

                You know, with everything that I’ve written so far, and my obvious zeal towards wanting to talk these guys up, I don’t think there’s any additional explanation I need for this score I’ve chosen today. And as you can see, I got in as many pictures today as I could! (the following section sort of replaces this too anyways)
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Service: +2.5

                Simply with the act of taking a picture of the truck from behind, which they spotted through their secret tiny window (Damn them!), did an immediate conversation start up from nothing, leading to an unexpected amazing hour-long start to my day. I cannot stress too much how willing these guys are to get into their product, their process, the street food scene, or just any sort of chatty, friendly conversation. I myself rarely seek out anything like this when I do my visits, but they just ended up pulling me in, and apparently I’m not the only one; heck, near the end there was a female customer who ended up getting a picture taken holding their copper water pot. From this one can only imagine what their daily customer service is like in making a great experience to go along with their product. Either way, of all my truck visits, the optional ‘service’ section has stood out the most here, so I only think it fair the score matches, whether it’s truly differential to other truck businesses or not.

Tally: 51/50

Final Thoughts

Do you like coffee, or want to learn about it, or are just sort of curious about why some people actually drink it? Perhaps maybe you like Horchata (anything with this, by the way, awesome) or Tea? Do you live, work, or otherwise ever get down to the Minneapolis area? If any of these apply, then go to Misfit, at least once; see for yourself what they’re like, get a chance to talk to Mitch, Marcus, and/or Alex if possible. For the in-depth coffee hipsters and aficionados, you can experience some of your favorite coffee styles, an even a couple I’m sure are new even to you, in heavenly form and at a damn reasonable price. For those just starting out, you can spend only a few bucks to try something new, different, and I promise delicious.

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As for suggestions… it’s all good. Whatever kind of drink you’re craving, they’ll have something to fit it. From the super-rich, devilishly dessert-like creations of Con Panna, Hot Chocolate, or anything with their Caramel and Chocolate additions. Or if you’re looking from a finely crafted espresso+steamed milk/other dairy creation, the kind with the pretty designs on top, like Cortado, Macciato, or the oh-so-classic Cappuccino. Then again, simple Pour-Overs, of various kinds, can hit the notes of anyone looking for simple purity. If there WAS one thing that is a must-have, especially considering the idea that it might be a hot day, it’s the Nitro Cold Brew.

And the best part? Whether you need to grab-and-go fast or can sit down and relax for a while, absolutely any needs can be found and expressed here to acclaim. I obviously had the time of my life here, and I don’t even drink coffee. Go on and be a misfit along with these guys, chances are the rush will be from more than just caffeine.

Funfare Global Street Eats

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https://twitter.com/funfaregse

http://www.funfare-gse.com/

Main Location: St Paul, Etc

It’s a good thing I did some last-minute twittering, I was seriously about to put up a post saying these guys didn’t have a website! It’s tricky to find via google, but I got their twitter id and it led me straight to ’em! Still didn’t tell me too much else about them that I feel like putting down, but that might be the laziness. I do definitely suggest looking into the website to get a good clue to their personality.

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This truck also comes out as yet another build from local Chameleon Concessions, go lizards! After doing so many articles on the side for a certain southern truck builder, it’s always nice to come back and see the fruits of our own Minnesota-based team out on the street in their wonderful mobile glory.

But to get back to the truck itself, my adventure this day leads me to Funfare, or Funfare Global Street Eats, depending on how one prefers calling them that day. As the longer version suggests, along with the very postcardy décor on the side of their big red behemoth, they focus on providing a variety of classic International street foods from various world regions.

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And boy do they really accomplish this. For the past few weeks the menu has hold fast to offering the choices to grab a Cubano (from Cuba throughout Central America), Shrimp Po’Boy (Louisiana), Filipino BBQ Skewers (do I need to say this one?), Pork Steam Buns (Japan), Baja Fish Tacos (Mexico), Chicago Jumbo Dog, Cheese Curds (go Midwest!), Hush Puppies (more Southern Love), and Baklava (Middle East) for dessert. I hear they plan on changing the menu up soon, but I expect at least a few of these will either stay on or see frequent resurgence from time to time, so a good starter.

By the way, they sell Kool-Aid as a drink option… actual vibrant blue Kool-Aid. I’ll just leave it at that and get on with things.

Food: 9

                Suddenly I find myself loading up with FOUR of their menu items, two bigger and two snack-ish. So I’m gonna see if I can actually go through each briefly for once…
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First off, best Hush Puppies that I myself have ever experienced. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, like your favorite corn dog, but not dry in the slightest on the inside, still ‘moist,’ in sort of a touch spongey/doughey sense, hard to quite express. I was very happy to find a version of these fried cornmeal balls I enjoyed, with that notably soft onion-chive-y addition of flavor; a shame there’s NO sauce to dunk them in, some pepper aioli on the side would have catapulted these to perfection.

The best part of the Pork Steamed Buns is the first bite; it’s just that total pork bun flavor, with moist pig, perfect ratio of springy/chewy/tender steam bun texture (it’s so unique and distinctive), a bit of that slaw, and that marinade! For those who’ve had a pork steam bun, there’s that specific sauce flavor that’s unique purely to them, a sweet-tangy Japanese bbq sauce of sorts, and it is up front and center in the best way in combination with that pillowy dough bag. And of course I have to make mention of the interesting little form for these guys, like a Japanese bun taco. Which is cool, but whereas the first bite from the ‘top’ was perfect, the second ends up notably lacking filling, which is understandable and fine, the real issue is that this section of bun, folded over and almost double-layered, ends up notably… not drier, maybe ‘denser’ is the better word? Clearly inferior to the ideal, not uniform like the classic round buns would be.

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So I was going to go for the Po’Boy, just to be different, but then I saw someone else with one… and I’m sure it’s good, great looking veggies and toppings, but come on, that guy just needs more shrimp, it looks sparse. Those BBQ Skewers though… damn that glaze and char, reminded me of the Korean grilled pig in my favorite banh mi.

Then I saw a couple Cubanos come out and was like “Oh yeah, THAT’S what I’m getting.” Full press, flat and crispy top, melted cheese that strings properly when pulled, pickled which are THERE but don’t screw with the sandwich structure, mustard is present, and PIG. Ham and pulled, they got it… inane mention I know, but I’m still reeling from a recent cubano disappointment. This ultimately ate, tight and crispy but not hard crunchy, like I expect a Cubano to, with all the flavors. They nailed it, I was satisfied and happy, though I found there was no single item that really brought it to that AMAZING level, which any sandwich that everyone knows really needs to be in order to get that top class mark. Either a big mass of super gooey-melty cheese, this one was still simple and thin, or just bigger mass of extremely flavorful pulled pork, as again the meat was still rather standard but done well.

20150803_175101And finally, since I was at a bee-focused event, had to get that honey-soaked Baklava. I was hoping that finally, after so long, I would get a baklava from a stand that would be moist and tender and delicious, and they did not disappoint. Seriously, so used to having to choose between small squares of baklava, which are good but tiny, or big triangles which are just dry layers of phillo dough. And this was just a full mass of distinctly moist, sweet honeyed flavor and texture, not soggy at all and with a top layer that is JUST a little crispy-dry, combining with that soft and nutty paste of walnuts/almonds in the typical way. It was just refreshing and happy; if I really looked deeper, and had more experience with good homemade baklava, I’m pretty sure I could make certain points to the soaking syrup and nuts used. But when you really don’t care about thinking about it, this little dessert can just make your day, especially for the day.

 

At the end of the day, the food has a great start and is headed in the right direction to what it should be, but because they’re so close to perfection, and sticky very purely to the traditional compositions, it’s ever clearer to see that they are STILL not quite there yet. If they can make just a couple tweaks here and there, really complete each item, then Funfare is golden.

Holdability: 8.5

               Despite the variety, each of the options are consistent in that everything needs two hands, being eaten from a basket, and is all surprisingly clean consumption. Even the Baklava, though a touch sticky, again isn’t soggy or anything, so it only needs a few delightful finger licks following complete eating. It’s only the BBQ skewers that come with rice, something that requires a fork, but besides those the only issue for walking+eating becomes what ELSE you might get. Though I guess sides and dessert can just be dumped in the same basket as your big guy; not like any sauces are coming over to mix and mingle.

Price: 7.5

                $10 for the big two sammiches, $8 for the Fish Taco and Filipino Skewers, $7 for those mini Steam Buns, $5 Chicago Dog, $3 each for the fried side items, and $2 for Baklava. A notable range of low to mid-high, providing some notable options for one’s situation and preferences. I would say the items tend to skirt the edge of whether they feel totally worth it if not a steal for the price charged, while others I would hope for maybe one extra bun (I mean it’s either an add-on, in which case it bumps the final price up considerably, or it’s supposed to be eaten on its own, in which case you want some more) or more fried shrimp before not worrying about whether I’m just being a cheap, nitpicky b*^@# food reviewer.
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Speed: 8

Distinctly depends on the item. Most are close to ready to go, can only take a few minutes, but the main boys will be an average wait; Cubano takes at least 8 minutes on the grill. That is proper though. I will say I would have liked it if they’d offer me the option to receive some of my other things first, since there were only a couple other orders, instead of having to wait what took 10 minutes for ALL of it.

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The TOE: 8.5

                I wasn’t thinking I’d score them too high for this, my premier thoughts and impressions on when I first spotted them in St Paul (happened to be their opening day! But I had other guys to hit then) was just another random ‘let’s open a food truck’ ideas, they do ‘international’ probably because they couldn’t think of anything else more interesting, like those who just do burgers and meat sandwiches; which can be great, but also uninspiring. But just as we can find a sandwich truck that brings us to our knees, so does Funfare come to grab my own attention. Whether it’s presentation, the distinctive look and taste of each food, or just plain doing it right, I can officially say they are the first truck that, in my opinion, successfully offers a menu that feels like it’s focusing on different world food regions. This as opposed to a certain one or two that really just seem to come from the Middle East and Asia, or  then go back to the US only to feature a burger and philly cheese (it’s always the burger and philly cheese…). Funfare chooses distinct and familiar, but not boring, menu items that do express some of our favorite eats from around the globe. To this, I myself am somewhat eager to see what other food items they explore and switch out with, if they continue on with strong hitters or fizzle out. Guess we’ll only see with time.

Tally: 41.5/50

Final Thoughts

Echoing my ultimate impressions on food, the truck as a whole stands as a very strong, ‘almost perfect’ business in their particular realm of focus, but it’s currently just one or two steps behind the point of ‘ideal.’ But I feel with time and some effort, if applied, they can easily reach the heights of food and personality impressions as some of my absolute favorites, like Home Street Home and SCRATCH.

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So I guess that means we just need to keep visiting and enjoying their various treats now doesn’t it? Now, it certainly is difficult to make suggestions for a future-changing menu, but I do believe I can confidently say the BEST strategy for taking hold of Funfare, at least for right now, is to attack the small-plates for snacking or mini-meal purposes. Whether it’s grabbing the almost-toe-ring-level Baklava for your sweet tooth, some Hush Puppies or Cheese Curds to pop in the mouth as you walk between other truck delights, or those Steam Buns just because they’re pretty darn tasty and good. If you DO want something more substantial, I still gotta try those BBQ skewers; they just look so good, and the additional rice will help fill you up; though I myself would rather just have the skewers for a dollar less to walk around with. That and the Cubano are my strong ‘entrée’ points for now. As for what else comes along, just do your best to have an idea on what they did well with THESE and try to imagine what other items would be crafted the best. To that, I finish with a good luck, good eating, and a hope I can get myself back out there snacking with all of you soon once more!

MoonDog

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https://www.facebook.com/MoondogFancyMeats

Main Location: St Paul, Farmers Markets, Lift Bridge/Alternative Breweries

Either I completely forgot about this guy, or I hadn’t heard about him at all until I saw info on a Food Truck Rally for the U of M’s ‘Bee Research Facility’ (or whatever it was) opening party this past Monday! I wanna say I forgot, simply to give myself at least SOME credit that I had paid attention to his existence for at least one point in time… anything to make myself look better…

Either way, I got to stop over and officially visit Moondog for a long-awaited visit, as the guy normally trucks his shiny metal specialty Hot Dog Cart out to the more out-of-the-way Breweries like Lift Bridge and Hammer Heart, amongst many other locations not normally so close to my Twin Cities stomping grounds. I feel I should also say that I was heavily debating just doing a Quasi-Review for this, small dog cart where most of the stuff speaks for itself; but if Natedog gets a full review than so does this guy! I show no favoritism, except when I’m biased! (Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right…)

And this little silver box on wheels has some interesting facts unto itself. Firstly the fact that 10% of all sales goes to the 2nd Harvest Heartland charity.

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Though they aren’t handmade by the food slinger himself, all Hot Dogs and Brats ARE produced locally by Big Steer Meats in St Paul. They use All-Natural, Grass-Fed, Hormone + Antibiotic Free meats, all of which are Smoked for cooking/curing purposes; the tastiest form of preservation (don’t tell Gravlax I said that, she’s still bitchy I haven’t called her in forever). The specific wurst selection is sometimes changing, for instance I overheard him mentioning having a Jalapeno-Pepperjack brat on that day, they usually keep a staple selection of: Hot Dog, Pork Bratwurst, Beef Bratwurst, and Bison (+ a bit of pork) Bratwurst. These are then topped with choice of classic fixings; you know, onion, hot peppers, relish, kraut, ketchup, regular+brown mustard, with an option of sriachi for the hipsters (and yes I debated it… while wearing a fedora… you shush), none of which I’m sure is made by himself besides the diced onions, but what hot dog vendor does one expect them to be?

AND of course there’s the typical options of bags-o-chips and cans-o-soda for sides + refreshment, all standard, though at least the chips are semi-interesting and not just Ruffles or Lays. I think I’ve run out of things to say now, I feel I had SOME thoughts on the philosophical side of mixed spiced meat, the nirvana of casing and excitement for local food carts… but who wants to read about that?

Food: 9

                Best parts of a Dog and Wurst are a good snap, which they have, and a tasty interior, which they also have. The hot dogs used aren’t of the same purely-pink, emulsified mold as we’re most familiar with; not that there’s anything wrong with that when it’s done well. Instead it’s blended with other spices and goodies, reminiscent of a seasoned Italian pork sausage, giving a more personality-focused wiener to which to enjoy our toppings; of which I chose the giardanera-like hot peppers.
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Sauerkraut and brown mustard topped my Bison Bratwurst, since I’m always a fan of the Germanic classics. Again the flavors were good, the wurst didn’t quite wow me as MUCH as I wanted to, was hoping for that deeper, denser Bison/Beefy flavor; there felt a ‘thinness’ to the flavor, almost like a good drink that’s had one extra ice cube added, and I myself would have heavily enjoyed some added seasoning in which case to bolster.

Holdability: 10

               What can I say? There’s a REASON hot dogs are classic street food.

Price: 8.5

                This is why I partially wish I started this blog at the same time as the trucks came out; go back to an old post to compare menu prices for scoring, and it was of course in the time where I wasn’t taking damn pictures cuz I had nothing to take them for! Thank god for Google Images right?

With dogs at $4, Brats at $5, ‘Meals’ (+chips and a soda) $1 extra, and ‘2 Dog/Brat Meals’ basically just double the price of a single wiener in each category, the costs are a buck or two higher than competition and local sausage god Natedogs, a guy who makes his own amazing condiments mind you. The meal deals are better priced, in fact cheaper, but then again they don’t have the specialty sodas. Apologies for doing this via comparison, btw, but in this situation it’s a very effective and direct measure. Oh, and obviously prices are still rather awesome for street food as-it-is; especially when one of the items can be made from Bison.

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Speed: 10

Technically it takes like half a minute if getting toppings and/or multiple dogs, something I would normally bop down to like a 9.5, but that IS up to us; one can have instantaneous if needed.

The TOE: 8

                Normal hot dog stands have a hard time excelling in a section like this I’d imagine, there’s too much of that ‘mass production/see-it-everywhere’ feel. Having your own and outfitting it with a unique name and your select sausages from a local place, however? That does pretty damn well, especially when you clearly communicate through signage and personality how special and awesome these products are, which Moondog does. In my opinion I think it’d be nice if the cart itself got some extra decoration/paintjob, and if one went the extra step to get some unique and special, ideally homemade, toppings in addition to the dogs themselves. Little things like that round it down from something purely distinctive and experienced down a few pegs, but it still stands out strong as an independent cart, there’s no way I’d mistake any memory for that of the often-boring ‘vienna wiener’ carts.

Tally: 45.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Wanting something portable? Want it at a good price? Want a classic piece of Americana street food? Want it to satisfy your soul a little? Want to not have to wait for it? Well it sounds like you want a hot dog or bratwurst. And if you’re at a brewery or event that Moondog happens to be at, a visit there will fit any of these qualifications; not that anyone has needed an excuse to buy a hot dog, from what I’ve seen. Do I need to even promote something like this?

I’d say the main interest for me would come in seeing what different Bratwurst selection he’s got for the day, getting something interesting and special in that category, or just enjoying the classic but unique Hot Dog. But at the end of the day, everyone has solidly developed their own preferences on what kind of sausage and toppings they get at carts like these, so I’ll leave the final decision to you, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.