Main Location: St. Paul
My second stop on what I’m thinking of calling “The Storming River Lunch,” (see Home Street Home)Neato’s is one of a pair of Burger-focused Trucks. The beef is ground by Stasny’s, using locally-sourced meat, then pattied by hand to be grilled for you.
These fellas are then topped with a variety of fun, unique, pre-designed garnishes by the working chefs. Besides a clichéd deluxe, one can find a jalapeno-popper style with raspberry jam, a peanut butter-pickle with mayo, and a Mexican corn with lime mayo and cotija cheese.
Here’s the thing: that’s not the draw.
All these burgers are juicy and tasty, but customers both new and old come around for a whole different reason. This is one of the few places in both cities (restaurants included) that makes fries cooked in rendered duck fat. Served with homemade garlic aioli (fancy word for any flavored mayonnaise), these babies have recently made quite a few local Top Ten Fry lists. They even put them on one of their burgers (along with duck-fried onion).
Did I mention you have to order these separately? Not automatic; and allows you to just get fries, yum.
You combine the fries, burgers, and milkshakes made with small-batch ice cream, and you get that nostalgic, 1950’s diner food; kicked right up to 11 (that’s one higher than 10 you know). It’s even served in the red and white checkerboard paper.
Note: changed from a previous score of 8.5
The burger itself is easily better than the average, though I can’t rightly place it in the top list as a standalone. However, they have an amazing series of burgers with interesting and delicious toppings, which are sure to elevate it to a pretty decent level. I haven’t had a milkshake (No longer true, see my thoughts on it Here), but come on… it’s a milkshake, when have they ever been bad? Or neutral even?
Now, the duck fat fries… they’ve had some issues with them in the past, but those have been resolved and now yielding to a more consistent deliciousness. They lack complete crispyness (still have a bit with the skins, which is sorta nice), but it’s a good kind of soft, and the fat comes through in a properly subtle way (only a bit, but you don’t actually have to search for it). The aioli they serve with it is absolutely perfect combo, really strong, fresh garlic flavor to stand up and highlight that duck fat cooking.
Getting things individually holds less issues, but you don’t order a burger without the fries… fries without the burger maybe. The problem with this, sometimes fry and burger come in separate baskets, as opposed to basket + fry baggy (what I got). Burger itself is the traditional slightly-messy pile, not the most compact eatable item.
Prices are controlled around the concept that burgers and fries are ordered separately. As such, all burgers are only around $6, with $4 for the simple cheeseburger ($3 for hamburger), while fries cost a few dollars as-is. This makes great cost control for those only going for one or the other, and an affordable-on-the-higher-end when doing the “combo.”
As a burger place, can take a bit to cook properly. From the sound of it, potatoes are single-fried as opposed to double (first fry done much earlier at low temp for tenderness, second fry done to order at higher for crisp), which usually takes a little longer to cook through, though I could be wrong here.
The TOE: 10
Once again, we find a truck that goes nostalgic, this time with pure burger diner, while kicking multiple qualities up to a delicious notch. Not to mention duck fat fries is always a sign of putting in the extra effort to make something fantastic. It’s also a prime example of those small, simple items with just that “something” added to them that magically lifts the entire truck in our minds (I’ve alluded to this idea before, see R.A. Mac Sammy’s)
Hmmm, I’ve mentioned this twice already, but still don’t know how to describe it simpler. I think I’m going to make up a word for it. Since both times have been in this particular section, think from now on I’ll call them… “Toe Rings.”
Unless you’re able and planning to come back one or two more times, go for one of the special burgers. Any of them are good, dependent on taste. HOWEVER, the Mustard Tiger uses Duck Fat Fries as a topping, so you can try both without having to order a whole basket separately.
If you’re going to be coming back, then I would start simply with the deluxe; two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion. Burgers like this are always a great way to get a full view on a kitchen; how thick is the burger, how juicy, what ratios of bun-topping-cheese-meat do they use? All this and more can be learned by such burgers (for some reason I imagined old Obi-wan Kenobi’s voice when I read this in my head).
The duck fat fries are a must get for yourself. Whether you are or aren’t hungry for a burger, when you go by Neato’s for the first time order some fries to snack on. Don’t always get the chance for duck fat fries, so take them while you can and determine your level of love.
Do I even have to do a shpeal about milkshakes?