Outlaw Grill

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https://www.facebook.com/outlawgrilltruck
http://www.twitter.com/outlawgrill
Main Location: St Paul, Outer Cities

Most are going into the food vending/service industry for the first time with their trucks, while others use it as an extension of their restaurant, and still others are based off some working Chefs who want to move onto their own business. The combination of factors and ways in which people get into the kitchen, stationary or mobile, has always made for interesting stories and comparisons. As I’ve found in my recent visit, hitting a truck with a little more interesting start-up conversation than usual.

Having spent 4 years working in their ‘little yellow trailer,’ the guys at Outlaw Grill spent most of their career frequenting not Minnesota but the Midway/State Fairs in a concession stand. As regulars at these events, they decided to take one of the more unique and creatively challenging strategies; instead of, like so many other established booths, focusing on a set food style wherever they went, they instead changed the food they served at every single location. From fried-bacon-wrapped hot dogs to lobster rolls to gyros (not to mention a deep fried ‘caramel apple ring’ that one Best Dessert at one fair in particular), their food ended up a success wherever they went, and proving they certainly could know a thing or two about slinging street food for the masses.

After heading to our own home state, the boys (and girls) set about building their truck… by themselves. Yeah, apparently they basically built it from scratch, or at least team member Darren did with ‘Lots of Coors Light, some cuss words, a 100lb LP tank with a sunflower heater, a million hours on eBay&Amazon, and a shot of ingenuity.’ God I need to get more long ass twitter conversations going with truck owners before doing these article out, amazing what you learn!

Like the fact that, much like their dear friends Motley Crews, they went to Creative Color to get their amazingly colorful, detailed and vibrant wrap job done. Considering the two guys I know for sure have received their work, and a good idea on what other trucks have likely received their service, I can say they crank out some fantastic and amazing designs for those able to hire them out. Speaking of the paint job, and Motleys, if one looks closely and carefully they’ll even see a little tribute plastered on one of the doors in honor of our deceased brethren.

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Now, onto the truck itself! A hootin’ tootin’ attitude with a motto of ‘Eat it Like you Stole it!’ These down home country boys serve up a heaping pile of… Pita Wraps. That’s right you heard me, every item is served in a pita wrap, congealing into a distinctive menu theme notably different than what one imagines beforehand. But considering their past work with gyros and such, perhaps not so surprising. They then stuff these with grilled chicken and beef fillings, topped with hearty piles of cheese, sauce, veggies and other things. The main contender to face is the Outlaw, beef topped with bacon, grilled onions, cheese sauce and their ‘outlaw sauce.’ This is accompanied by a ‘Chicken/Pepperoni Parm’ with classic fixings, their version of a Philly called ‘Doc’s Holiday,’ and two other Chicken offerings in the Buffalo and Ceasar(served warm with melted cheese, not a cold salad), both topped with romaine, their classic cheeses, and a sauce. Of course they bring in some specialty and seasonal wraps every now and then, such as an Asian Glazed Shrimp with broccoli slaw that premiered a couple weeks before I released this article.

They don’t offer anything special in sides besides a nice brand of potato chips, not that I even feel the need for anything other than one of these puppies! Now we’ll see if I want to stop back after my first visit.

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Food: 9

It’s certainly not fair to get a sense of these guys without getting the Outlaw, and it was certainly worth a visit. Simple soft pita bread enfolding a tasty, flavorful mass of shredded grilled beef reminiscent of that classic philly and Italian style we see used so often off the grill. The highlight definitely comes in the lightly caramelized, flavorful chunks of grilled onion, distinctive piece of bacon (nowadays one really has to love bacon that actually holds its place in a dish, rounding out those meaty, grilled umami-like flavors), that creamy cheese sauce to meld into the realm of craving delights, and finally cut through with their ‘outlaw sauce.’ Different in itself, that flavor comes along the line of many ‘house sauces’ in its use of Thousand-Island-Dressing like base flavors/style, a bit of that BBQ twang along with the ketchup/tomato component, but most importantly… that horseradish undertone, OH I love a good horseradish undertone, not overpowering at all, just perfect to go with some beef and cream. A practical and basic combination of flavors, done well, and in a pita of all things.

Moving on, my second item focused on the Chicken and Pepperoni Parm which, I should say, going in was a bit disappointed that the protein wasn’t breaded and fried like a classic ‘Parm’ style, as expected… but after dismissing the language, I didn’t care too much. Good chunks of moist, chickeny chicken, paired with that garlicky-spicy pepperoni, all moistened by a big glob of definitely robust tomato sauce, one reminiscent of those thicker pastes on certain delivered pizzas. My eyes were saddened that the mozzarella was not fully melted, adding to an overall flavor combination that seemed rather pedestrian, in fact reminding me of so many toasted meatball sandwiches I’d gotten at Subway… but a couple bites in and, again, I didn’t care. A certain craving runs through, that mingling of flavors that blatantly aren’t ‘high class’ but celebrate in a guilty late night mess of Italian ingredients that you eat straight from the fridge in shame yet can’t stop until they’re all gone, or if you have any sense reheat in the microwave for something better. Maybe the pita provides enough of a difference, and that fully soft texture that pushes you past caring for looking at contrasting aspects, to make one revel in the satisfactory experience. Would still like it if more of that cheese got melted and gooey though.

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Holdability: 9

They may come in a basket, but ditch that and these guys are almost perfect for walking around. Like any good gyro, folded tight and wrapped with that foil, one could potentially walk and eat with one hand, though needing a bit of extra coordination with the second hand to peel back the wrapping every now and then. Some bulging stuffing and leaking sauce out the back does affect this final action though, so fully one-handed isn’t truly possible, but it’s easily one of the most portable truck items I’ve had in a while (so many new ones either adding in sides or having something that needs two hands or a basket). Good show.

Price: 8

$8 or $9 for the wraps, the lower prices doled out to the really simple Chicken Caesar and Buffalo, which mainly just consist of the meat, cheese, lettuce, and dressing/sauce. More unique and signatory options, with that added oomph, go for the latter price.

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Speed: 8.5

With a menu and kitchen built for speed, they’re able to crank out your wrap in only a couple minutes, mainly requiring the time to heat the chicken and sear that beef or other meats on the griddle. Though, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t mind a little EXTRA time to get that cheese fully melted and gooey (or broiler-ized for bubbly golden goodness if possible), but extra points here go for getting things out smoothly.

The TOE: 10

A vibrant and kickass truck wrap, wild attitude, menu focused on a singular and unique item (and a pleasantly surprising one at that), all overall converged to create a sum lifted higher than the individual parts. I really can’t think of anything to knock them for here, they’ve really hit the nail to make an exciting and strong thrum of air about them, all that’s missing is an amazing Toe Ring. And I’ll admit, I really didn’t expect to find an outcome like this when I first heard about them; pretty sure it’s been all those BBQ trucks I’ve been hitting, made me expect some general, boring grilled-meat-in-a-bun place with a ‘oooooh look we have personality’ attempt around them. Thankfully I was wrong, and instead found a truck highly reminiscent of that Kingpin of the Twin Cities streets, Motley Crews. Hopefully we can see their truck restored to its rightful state of affairs soon after the restaurant opens and see these two businesses riding together in a blaze of grilled meat sandwich glory.

Tally: 44.5/50

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Final Thoughts

When you’re definitely looking for some hot food on the go, and without the normal wait, Outlaw will fit the bill. They even offer some of those saucy, savory diner-mess satisfactions that should fit into a brewery if they ever park outside one. Sad to say they don’t offer any of those cheap, fun grab-and-go snacks that have made friend Motley’s so perfect for that scene, but they’re certainly in the same lane for the rest (and help to fit the empty hole that needs filling while the truck is gone).

Ultimately, despite my enjoyment of the chicken, I’d say the beef-based options of the Outlaw and Doc’s Holiday make the best experience; either that or one of the fun Specials they have going on during the day. One should also be warned not to look at their Chicken Ceasar like a ‘mobile healthy salad;’ I mean it sorta is, but overall it’s offered hot, melted parmesan on top, and big chunks of romaine, it really reads more like a hot sandwich with a lot more lettuce (I almost got a picture of one, but as usual the orderee just beelined straight down the street after getting the thing, no luck…). Still good, just be aware of what you’re getting into. Overall I’m quite eager to see what they do from here.

A Foxy Afternoon

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Getting back into the food-adventure swing of things, I’m really hoping to be able to check off some of the close-by Truck-staurants off my list. And lucky me just the other day I finally got to head down to Foxy Falafel’s little café for lunch!

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I imagined it’d be bigger, but I don’t mind, love that small little café atmosphere; these sorts of deals really do fit the food truck persona the best, plus they’re probably a bit easier to afford than the bigger stuff! And Foxy’s is situated in a little brick shop just up from University and Raymond, in a setup that almost looks like it used to hold antiques or a yarn-spinner’s directory. Hooray for setting up a place with some personality!

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20150330_145425Now, for those reading who still haven’t been there yet (I’m sure I’m the last one, but just in case), the menu is set up in an interesting, fun way. Main entrees are chosen a-la Chipotle, where you pick the ideal protein of choice (3 different falafel flavors, a mix of each, and some actual meat options in style of chicken shwarma, gyro, and lamb), figure out if you want it stuffed in a pita, salad, or ‘platter,’ and which of three delicious sauces you want to top it with. One can then choose to accompany this with one or more of various sides (hummus, beet slaw, baba ganoush, etc), cookies and other dessert.

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These can of course be accompanied with some awesome local draft beer, wine, or other drinks. All of which has been drawing up on two very attractive chalk boards! Sadly I wasn’t in the mood for grabbing a refreshment, though I wish I was; they seem to have a very interesting looking Root Beer in their fridge, that always peaks my tastebud curiosity.

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20150330_144347What I DID start off with was a bowl of cheese curds; not what I planned, but seeing them on the menu intrigued me, and I haven’t had any sense the State Fair as it was. And I’m glad, for one thing cuz they’re my favorite style; lightly battered, still warm and gooey with a BIT of grease (but not overly); of course they used amazing local organic curds for it too. They were tossed in Dill before frying, but truth be told I could barely taste that even when looking; I wish they got some fresh dill on it after frying, really bring that fresh flavor in. But oh god, I’m now indebted to the place, because I’ve discovered the wonder that is fresh cheese curds dipped in honey. I’m gonna have to eat them with that every time now.

 

As for the main, I still gotta order the classic street-foodie pita option (hey, it came with fries); Beet Falafel which I’ve been very much wanting to try since I found out about them a few years back; and the Green Tahini sauce (tahini w/ lemon and herbage). Of course the falafels were good; crunchy outside, VERY tender and soft inside, nice little different flavor with the beets (I’m surprised with how ‘fresh’ it felt, vs the deep earthy flavors I normally attribute), and with the other filling ingredients and sauce it made a nice mouthful.

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That said, I’m very glad I was eating this in the café, because that pita did NOT want to stay together! It ripped and tore, fell apart once, and was a bit of a mess even when trying to keep that paper around it. Though, in this setting, I don’t care about that so much, just thought it should be made of note. The tahini was nice, not as vibrant in flavor as I was hoping, but a pleasantly smooth, lightly lemony-herby paste to moisten things up with. It was great with the fries (which were good for soft-style fries, a shame they don’t go for crispy texture on it though). Overall it was a tasty little sandwich lunch, eaten at a time and place that was great for enjoying the good weather day in, and I’m glad I got to go at it again after so long.

 

Greek Stop

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https://twitter.com/greekstopfoodtr  

Main Location: Minneapolis

              Premiering in the Downtown Minneapolis scene last year, Greek Stop serves Diner/Deli-style Mediterranean cuisine. Despite the obviously cold weather and dwindling street-walkers, Stop decided to open its doors midway through the Fall of 2012. Luckily, they survived the brief season and have returned to take on a full season!

            Apparently the owner (Ahmed Makaraan) is taking this as a first step on the road to restaurant-dom; much like crowd favorite Sushi Fix and somewhat the opposite of Falafel King. It’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination, either, with their Truck menu already filled with Greek Deli staples (well, except for Stuffed Grape Leaves… seriously where are those?).

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            With a wide, WIDE viewing window takes up the Truck’s side, in which customers can oggle and point at the various menu items they’re too ashamed to try and pronounce. Through this, one can easily spot that most ubiquitous of the Mediterranean café, the giant tube of rotating Gyro meat. This is of course joined by the new, giant tube of rotating Chicken meat for shawarma. Of course, it’s not a “traditional” Greek menu without also offering Falafel, Hummus, Greek Salad, and Baklava. And for some reason they also have a burger (at times)…

            Giving a nod to its potential restaurant future, all these main sandwiches can then be purchased solo or as some form of “combo platter.” Now all customers have to do is attempt to navigate the blaring white board menu that’s replaced their previous, easier-to-read one which I assume had an unfortunate accident. In either case, props on not choosing the cliché “block lettering+picture” style employed by other Trucks which I shall not name in this post… again.

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Food: 8

                Grabbing a Gyro on my recent trip and a Chicken Shawarma (or sandwich… it’s been a while) plate back in the fall, I can safely say these are definitely the items to watch. Pita bread used is pretty big and soft, though obviously not handmade they use a decent product.

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                I’m certainly not an expert on gyro meat, but I found I enjoyed what they put out; it feels a bit better quality than a couple other general gyros I’ve found through the city. Though this could easily be from how THICK they slice their meat in comparison to others! All in all, it made scrumptious and enjoyable lunch experience. As for the chicken, it was rich, it was juicy, and it’s definitely something I would suggest getting in the gyro-like wrap.

              It was a while back, but I do believe I had Pita Chips and Hummus as well with that chicken… if I did, I’m pretty sure it was good, but not really “fantastic” in any way. Something tells me one could also say the same about their Salad, and possibly the baklava (so hard to find really GOOD baklava… even in international stores/cafes).

Holdability: 7

            Tightly wrapped in a roll of foil, they make their sandwiches easy to transport to one’s various destinations. As for the actual eating, the tzaziki and veggies can be a touch loose and messy, but they still stay within the large pita pretty well. Two hands are required for consumption-on-the-go, though. Platters quite obviously require sitting down, along with that salad which I still don’t understand the reason for buying.

Price: 8

             Solo sandwiches stay at $7 or $8, with subsequent combos adding on extra depending on quantity; highest price so far in that sense is $11. Both sides of Samosa and Baklava stay a $2.

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Speed: 8.5

              Average speed, in fact probably a bit quicker due to the ready-to-cut meat tubes and other ready-to-assemble products. Plus, with the viewing window, the wait becomes more enjoyable.

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The TOE: 6.5

             Basing it off of the future restaurant they hope to have, one of course loses many of the feelings of a typical Truck. Compared to the menu-similar Falafel King, however, they clearly show a better direction towards the Street Food movement; a slightly higher focus/smaller menu, bit more in portability, not to mention that giant window on the side giving us a view into their soul… and gyros.

             I wish they had some Stuffed Grape Leaves though… put them on a stick/toothpicks for a perfect street food item!

                        Tally: 38/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            Certainly a fun little stop, perfect for those who feel the need to actually watch something while waiting for their food. Definitely stick with the Gyro or Chicken; probably one of the best options for them within the city (Truck or Non). Though two hands ARE required to eat as a just in case, these certainly qualify as a stop for those requiring eating-on-the-go. Unless of course one decides to get a platter… which may be okay for bringing back to the office, but I firmly believe the sandwiches are the stand-alone here compared to the rest. I’d say ignore the Falafels, there are a few better options.