Stanley’s on Wheels (Quasi-Review)

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http://www.stanleysonwheels.com/

https://twitter.com/stanleyswheels

           Most people know of Stanley’sBar, if not having been there already; it’s a cornerstone of the NE University/Lowry area. Mid-2012, they made the decision to join the new street food craze, launching their catering truck onto the streets of Downtown Minneapolis. Of late, I haven’t seen them too much on the street, outside of certain events (then again I’m not able to get “on the street” as often as I’d like, and not everywhere I want); but I hear that they’ve been participating in a wave of Catering gigs, likely due to the bar’s name/popularity, and have been very successful in this venture.

            Which is good, because chances are if they had to depend solely on trying to survive on the streets and breweries next to our other Trucks, I doubt they would have lasted to this Summer. My original visit to this mobile eatery was a couple years ago, and I’ve been putting off writing the review for them for quite a while; though even after starting my Quasi-review habit, I at least wanted to go back once more to give them a fully updated chance to change my first opinion. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

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            Originally consisting of a bar menu (and pictures of the food) with options that one could expect to find at any sports stadium booth, Stanley’s initial focus revolved around multi-colored Nachos covered in Cheese sauce and, now, pulled pork, BBQ sandwiches made of said meat, Pretzel sticks paired with a shot of that cheese sauce to dunk in, and at one point a “Reuben.” My first visit had me ordering this, which they served by taking a big ice cream scoop of cooked corned beef and sauerkraut mixed together and plopping it on a simple bun, squirting their version of thousand island on top. Overall it was somewhat satisfying, not bad, but it felt quite lazy as far as proper Reuben’s go. Though I haven’t seen much evidence of them still selling it though, so I guess the fine details of that particular item don’t matter.

             Nowadays they’ve kept the Beef Brisket, uncorned, and use it and the Pulled Pork as fillings for Tacos, Sliders, and Sandwiches in conjunction with the other items I’ve mentioned. Unhappily I wasn’t able to get a picture of their updated Menu on my second visit, which was during their Bacon and Beer festival at the 2014 Art-a-Whirl. The event had them keeping a very simple menu of Nachos or ultra-simple Sliders of either filling, $2.50 each. I got one of each Brisket and Pork, and they both tasted about the same: overall pretty tasteless, with a generic and thin BBQ sauce flavor, not that exciting. At least they weren’t dry.

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              Too bad they didn’t at least have the regular sliders, which they apparently top with an “asian slaw,” and use a chili-soy-sesame sauce for. Those might not be bad options. But, with that meat, the Tacos look even less promising than what I’ve had so far; they’re apparently filled with some of the most boring and cliché ingredients, mainly lettuce, pico de gallo (salsa), cheese, sour cream, and/or cilantro depending on which taco it is. For the vegetarians, they have a Wrapof Red Peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, and Hummus. And as dessert, they celebrate in their “Rock Slide Brownie;” which they make sound so perky and hopeful on the sight but is basically just a brownie with caramel, topped with more brownie and caramel (and nuts, don’t forget nuts). Doesn’t it all just sound so exciting? No? Yeah I didn’t think so either.

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                Food:4 – The food options aren’t impressive, the food barely looks impressive (though I’ll admit the nachos and brownie don’t look half bad for what they are), and the food doesn’t taste that impressive. Not “bad” but… in the overall light of other street food options, meh.

                Holdability:6 – Basket of messy nachos, saucy pulled meat sandwiches, they’re not bad but they’re not great for it either.

                Price:7 – $7seems to be the set price for most main items, with $2for the brownie (not sure about their Pretzel “Sticks” with cheese sauce, I hope it’s barely anything more). Though the prices themselves are decent, as obviously expressed there’s not much

                Speed:9 – At the very least, most items are so simple in “plating” that it barely takes any time to pile them all together

                Toe: 3 – I just barely get anything from them, obviously (though that could be just me)

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                The sad part is, looking over their website and menu pictures and descriptions, it all doesn’t look quite that bad, at least based on the pictures alone. God, I hope the translated flavors aren’t the same quality as what’s served in the actual bar.

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Devil’s Advocate, Downtown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cruzn Cafe

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www.cruzncafemn.com/

https://twitter.com/CruznCafe

Main Location: Events?

            A phoenix rising from its flames, Cruzn Café returned to the streets last year with new, unique food items and special drinks. Starting out in the Downtown Minneapolis area, Cruzn left their main haunting ground after the first year, switching their focus to special local events. The sudden disappearance puzzled me, depriving me of my favorite Mexican Cocoa for which I cuddled in the cold Minneapolis mornings on my way to class.

            Highlighting themselves with a focus on drinks, Cruzn advertises Italian espressos, Smoothies, and Mexican Cocoa (a wonderfully sinful blend of cocoa, cinnamon, and ancho chiles). With their recent menu change, Lemon/Lime-aids and Sun Brewed Ice Tea join the team as refreshing additions in our hot summer days.

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            The change mostly deals with additions, so most other previously served items still remain. These involve a few simple options of oven roasted pulled pork/chicken, a couple hot dogs, and nachos, some of which also have pulled pork or chicken (your choice) on top.

            Though I haven’t seen or tried the new menu myself, rumors and pictures showcase the use of smoked and other meats. Dishes include a spring roll, some sort of corn dog (I wanna try), tacos, and garlic roast beef to name a few. What I CAN tell, in regards of flavor, is that every picture I’ve seen looks scrumptious.

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            Note: the rating that follows is purely based around my experience with the truck before the change, with slight consideration to what I have heard. I plan on, and can’t wait to find the truck again this coming year to fully sample and understand their new approach. Upon which I shall make any changes necessary.

Food: 8

            I’ll level with you; the ballpark-style food they serve is decent, but it’s only mediocre in the wide variety of Food Truck-offered selections. The new menu is quite set to change this, though, so expect a possible upgrade in the near future.

            Again, the real focus here are the drinks. All well done, the smoothies are delightful, the espresso is dark and rich, and the Mexican Cocoa… ohhhhhhhh the Mexican Cocoa… I still have dreams about this. So rich, with that drier, really COCOA flavor (not chocolate, cocoa, there’s a difference), sliding down your tongue with those noticeable hints of spices dancing along with it.

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            You will have an option to have it made with water or milk; DON’T DO MILK!! This is a very traditional drink, and should be enjoyed that way, with hot water. You can have a milky-creamy hot chocolate from any old pre-made powder, treat this one special. Oh, and don’t do whipped cream on the top unless you’ve already had it plain and want a little more fun on the second or third go-round.

Holdability: 7.5-9.5

            This is a bit of a change for me (guess I’m being influenced by the truck, haha), and this is probably the only time I’ll ever put a score like this. I was originally thinking of scoring this higher; drinks are quite obviously one of the easiest walk n’ enjoy items, and any food they serve only needs two hands with little mess. But then I realized that, for those going that full experience, it can be hard to get food without getting any of their drinks, and vice versa (especially now with the new menu additions). As such, finding a place to sit can be imperative; if you’re lucky to get two items that both require only one hand, you’re made, but those are much limited.

            Because this is the only truck where both drinks and food are such an integral part to the experience, I’m placing a small score range instead of the usual. The final score then is dependent on how you yourself would order from here.

Price: 10

            Very good prices, the food range from $2.50-$7 options, and all drinks will be only $4 at the very most, and those are for the large (which I still haven’t had much of a need to get anyways). Cost-friendly is a definite.

Speed: 8.5

            It’s only one person behind the window, so be wary of crowds, but all-in all orders don’t take too long. Food items are the simple kind and made quickly, while most good drinks need a minute or so to create. Many of the newer good ones are easy-pour, though.

The TOE: 8

            For me, ballpark food just never really screamed “Food Truck” in that special sense. Very good street food it can be, but there’s that slight generic-ness that can bring the special feeling a bit down (unless of course one’s able to really unique-it out). Word of the new Change gives me a lot of hope, though, and a lot of props I think should go to Cruzn Café for continuing to try and improve and grow. There are many Food Trucks that just stick to the same menu items and dishes since they’re successful and have no “need” to keep striving for new; it’s a little refreshing to see one making new risks like this.

           I might have scored this a little lower, but Cruzn really does have quite a Toe Ring on their feet, that Mexican Cocoa. Always worth a visit.

                         Tally: 42-44/50

Final Thoughts

            Always get one of their drinks when you visit, especially the Mexican Cocoa. Do that on your first trip there, then if you want to sample others, save its purchase for the cooler months. Of their older menu items, I would simply just avoid as-is, though the Dirty Dog and Nachos look like they could be quite fun, especially if you’re looking for that ballpark-type lunch item with a twist.

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            Definitely try the new menu; a lot of good things that I’ve seen and heard, and I need more feedback as it is, haha.