PepperJax Philly Express (Quasi-Review)

2014-05-10 13.02.28

http://www.pepperjaxphillyexpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/PepperJaxPhillyExpress

                So apparently there’s been a certain mobile Food Truck out serving in St. Paul and certain other locations near the Twin Cities for almost a year now, and I only just learned about it from a random appearance at a recent Truck Rally. Boy do I detest my lack of information-gathering-skills at times.

                Though oft derision-based as it normally is, sometimes the application of my Quasi-review is purely necessary for the very simple reason that there’s not a lot that needs saying! Prime example, my very latent discovery of PepperJax Philly Express, who make, what else? Philly Cheesesteaks! What other menu options do they offer you ask? Nada! You get a beef philly, a chicken filly, or one without meatfrieson the side (if you want). That about sums it up.

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               Brief history for fun. Apparently the company story revolves around the owner meticulously trying to make the perfect Philly meat (despite the fact he lives and operates in Nebraska), patenting a certain cut of steak, and opening up this “new concept” quick-service casual restaurant sometime after retiring. PepperJax Grill was born, and over a hundred restaurants have popped up in the Midwest, including one very pretty far-roaming Food Truck.

              Thus I grabbed myself a sandwich, doused it with some sauce (you can either do Spicy Ranchor pick from a line of BBQ sauces… the latter which I don’t really understand), chowed down and got to it! See what this now-Minnesotan extension is like.

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              Oh, and they have this cute little chutein front of the wide window that your toasted Philly Roll/Bread slides down! It’s like your own personal delivery waiting for its scrumptious meaty contents before being shipped to your mouth.

               Food:9.5Spicy, beefy, melty cheese, soul food comforting goodness, it’s no wonder Pepperjax has grown so much. I love their bread! It is absolutely perfectly soft, absorbent but firm, with a great texture to it without being chewy. Probably one of the closest things to a true Philly we can get in the Midwest. However, close is still not the actual thing; eating through it, I do somewhat wish there was MORE cheese, and I have yet to feel it’s reached that Pinnacle of grilled meat perfection that calls out to the masses. Close, so very good and satisfying, but not quite there yet.

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                Holdability:7 – I guess one COULD walk and eat with it; I was standing and eating mine without quite as much problem as I thought I’d have. But it’s still a Philly, you look at that picture and tell me you’re not better off setting this giant bad-ass down on a table to dig in. It can get quite messy. And that’s without even considering the “Gunner”option… which I think I should do sometime…

                Price:9$8for the classic, $7.75 for the Chicken,$7for all veggie, with an additional $2 and $2.50 forFries and Double-Meat(Gunner) respectively. Considering how damn big these are, and good it is, I’d say these are pretty well priced. Would like it better if they had some discount snack item option, a $5 or under thing.

                Speed:9 – Each sandwich done one by one, once you actually get the order in, it’s made pretty damn quickly. I’d say it actually went from meat and veggies on the grill top to stuffed inside the bread in only… 1-2 minutes at the most? The only wait came in the person at the register.

I would like to make quick comment that, when finally stepping up to the long counter in front of the window in line, there seems to be a bit of a consistently awkward wait to see when you can actually order. Gotta wait for one of the cooks behind to guesture towards you, and apparently it’s usually later than I expected (it was actually the guy already halfway down the counter’s turn when I thought it was mine. Made a weird situation.). Fair warning.  

                Toe: 8.5 – Very singular, very good and delicious, going through the line itself is a little adventure in watching the grill top and the bread slide. They’ve created a bit of that feeling of the classic Philly shops, in that you know when you go there that it’s the only thing you’re going to get. There’s a little part of it that pulls back from the completion of the compelling atmosphere though, I find. Perhaps it’s just the seemingly obvious association and attachment of a restaurant chain, maybe the small logo amongst the big black truck pulls its impact back and makes it feel more like a catering van (I mean hey, when I first saw it I expected it was only in Minnesota on a very brief one or two-time event basis). Just saying.

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                Hell, it’s trucks like these that I don’t need my “suggestion” section after the review, you know what to get! Go grab a Philly, be happy. Nom in the deliciousness of all those meat and veggies; no wussing out with the “scratch the onions/mushrooms” order, and if you do it better be because you’re allergic. Philly Cheesesteaks should be eaten in every bit of their glory… with maybe some of that spicy ranch sauce on top, probably not too traditional in the home city but it tastes pretty damn good here. As does the sandwich.

                Note: in respect for the business model and food truck deliciousness, though this is indeed a “Quasi-Review,” if the score ever shifts to put PepperJax into my top 10 listing, they will receive an official “seat” and not just an honorary mention.  

Spring Food Truck Rally 2014, full of New!

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So, I was going to start this post off remarking about the good weather; the Spring Food Truck Rallywas this Saturday, and it was my first time at one of Harriet’sgatherings that it was just Sunny and warm the whole time! The curse of the rally being held in days interspersed and mixed with rainy sunshine was over!

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Well apparently that was just me, as I was only there for the first couple hours. Seems rain came down later… and the pattern continues. I swear it’s the weirdest thing isn’t it!? Every single one, different seasons, same basic weather. Maybe if they had one in Winter they coulda broke the spell…

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My luck in dodging the chance to get wet, the Rally itself was quite the fun success, as usual! Though boy did they crama LOT of food trucks in that lot, I can’t tell if there was more this year… or maybe just more people. There was a nice crowd, people everywhere, a big bustling horseshoe alleyways of those wandering for food, ending as usual with the shaded beer tent leading towards the taproom.

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Standing testament to their success over a certain other yearly truck fair, even with the noted crowds, people jostling for beer and food, listening to music, it was still a very comfortable atmosphere. No one was shoved “elbow to elbow,” most of the lines were quite small except for a couple relatively popular ones on that day, and they weren’t quite as torturous to wait through (well, maybe one). Interestingly enough, this was the first year that I have EVER seen the taproom band area floor NOT completely jammed with people, let alone almost empty (besides the chairs and couch). Guess most people didn’t mind listening at the many outside tables or during their edible adventuring.

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It’s a bit too bad most seemed to regulate their beer-buying at the outside tent, which casked four of the more popular options for fast retrieval. Unlike them, the INSIDE taproom offered those same beers and another four special, intriguing options. And though I love their Saison, I just had to get something unique for the occasion: a Barrel-aged Raspberry D.O.No, I don’t know what DO meant, I shoulda asked, but either way I found the yielding glass to be quite nummilicious (…I have got to stop using some of these words, my credibility wanes too much as it is). A chaste fragrance and filling flavor that holds reminiscence of recent raspberry and sour ales, with full body and deliciously heavy, grainy dark malt flavor with that certain blend of bitter hops and raw toastiness (or something, I still have yet to figure out the specific aroma elements for this) that I’ve found in many oaked beers. Overall I liked it; it wasn’t so much raspberry that the color changes and it’s basically fruit drink with beer (which certainly isn’t bad either), but it was more than those raspberry beers that only offer the barest whiff of affection in the aroma (also not necessarily bad, but certainly not my cup of tea; if you’re gonna flavor with fruit, then really FLAVOR it, am I right?).

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Beer’s not the only thing I tried, of course. One of my big reasons for coming out there was compounded by the ability to take pictures and sample from not only one, but TWO new trucks in the Minnesota scene! O’Cheeze is here, finally, bringing the Twin Cities our very first Grilled Cheese business! And it’s about damn time! Following them, and filling in for a an absent Sandy’s, is Pepperjax Grill, rolling their Philly Cheesesteak truck out from their many base restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska to try out Minnesota’s street industry. I did ask, they’re in the area to stay (at least for the summer), so a review of them and O’Cheese will be coming soon.

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Don’t need to wait for the other food though. And there was one food item amongst all the menus that everybody learned about, and I’d say at least 33% actually enjoyed. If you were there, you know what I’m talkin’ about: the Chicken and Waffle“sandwiches” from Lulu’s. Oh, classic, classic Lulu, offering us something that we just can’t say no to. Thick, crunchy, juicy fried chicken (you’ve read my review, you know how awesome their fried chicken is), this time pushed between thick and caramelly Belgian Waffles, drizzled with syrup, topped with Bacon, some sort of ranch-ish sauce, and I think a parmesan crisp? This basically stands for everything that Lulu is; pure, unadulterated indulgenceand happiness… in a very messy container. Great for fairs with tables! I didn’t mind getting messy to enjoy this spicy, crunchy, somewhat sweet bunch of deliciousness; I actually had to finish with a fork. The best part, I’d have to say, was the waffle; like the chicken, I would very gladly eat this separate and on its own, one of the best waffles I’ve actually had in a long time (good crunch, great flavors, still soft inside, etc). Using it here just compounds the amazingness of the whole dish.

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Now that I think about it, that makes a day of three different sandwiches. Huh, fun.

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So how do I finish off my palette after three heavy sandwiches on a hot day? Why with a popsicleof course! And it just so happens that Moral Omnivore has started selling a “Daily Popsicle” as their new dessert-of-choice. Like the chix+waffle, it made for another popular item amongst the crowd; I was quite surprised in finding out it was from MO, but very happy nonetheless.

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The flavor of the day just happened to be one of my favorite combos, Raspberry and Rosemary (too bad I had finished my beer by then); I just love berries and herbs, sweet or savory. As figured, the flavors were tasty, they weren’t afraid to showcase the rosemary. One thing I’ll say though, it was very icy… not too surprising considering it’s, as they said, basically just a fruit smoothie put in cup and frozen in a freezer. I didn’t mind too much though, they weren’t large or chunky; in fact, it works with the raspberry, very reminiscent of eating through the seeds (that’s what I thought it was at first). And I love that chunky fresh, tart raspberry feeling. Though hopefully it’s an issue that doesn’t come up in other, smoother fruit-based flavors.2014-05-10 13.07.26

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Though that was the end of my edible options that day, it wasn’t the last thing to see. Going off the popsicle, MO wasn’t the only one to have a menu change; there’ve been quite a few trucks upgrading from a simple white board to a nice, permanent design. Hibachi’s got a new, colorful yellow tag system to paste on the side of their truck. Brava, not so extreme, has brightened up the big plastic-enveloped menu items. Gogi Bros even got one of those Plasma TV Menu displays! (tried to take a pic, but it didn’t turn out well with the light)

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Not only their menu, Emconada’s gotten themselves a brand new truck! Though I forgot to go up and ask if the cart is still around, they’ll now be rolling up in a big, impressive orange van to stand out and rival the others! With the new truck comes some menu update, adding Burritosand Sandwichesto the repertoire (made with the same meat though, so I don’t see much need for a review). The cones have stayed the same, though they look a bit prettier with the sauce application on top.2014-05-10 14.06.56

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And that about sums up what I have to say. Overall I’d say it was another very fun, very successful rally by the MN Food Truck Association. Already I can’t wait for the next one, though at least I have a few events until then to keep me busy; Art-a-Whirl 2014is this weekend, get ready! Hope you all have fun, and an exuberant wish of Good Lucks and Good Eatings for the coming months!