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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Camp Cheesecake

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http://www.campcheesecake.com/
https://twitter.com/campcheesecake
Main Location: Outer Cities, Etc

With many a new Minnesota food truck operation popping up this year in outlying cities, I’ve had to make acception of the fact that there are certain trucks I’ll never be able to get to; which I do believe I have briefly talked about in another review. Then there are those which I simply have to wait for that ideal moment when they’ve strayed into my web of edible capture! I make it sound like a clever trap, though really it’s just whatever distance I let my laziness stretch to.

Such was my great luck in 2016’s latest dessert truck, which seems to hang around all the most outer edges south and west of Minneapolis. Started by the Muddy Paws Cheesecake in St Louis Park, this popular sweets business took their catering aspect into the adorable little camper trailer-esque vehicle that is Camp Cheesecake. Yet was this business another one I had no confidence in approaching, as it hadn’t even eased up to the uptown area, only to see them scheduled for an opening party on Bloomington Avenue! So I got to pop on down and enjoy the dense creamy treat.

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As one would expect, the little trailer is filled with what else but Cheesecake? The business sets itself to stock a group of 8-10 different varieties for each day. There’s definitely no set list, I could only say one is certain to find the classic New York Style plain cheesecake and the most popular, apparently, Raspberry Swirl. Otherwise one can expect to come into contact with items like different fruit or seasonally-flavored Swirls, Chocolate Chip/Candy-Bar studded creations, Chocolate or Caramel-based custard, Key Lime Pie [also seems a favorite], and many more. Definitely take a look at the site for the ‘whole’ list; of which who knows if and when they’ll make even more.

 

Food: 7.5

                Let’s start with the positives. Definitely that classic, dense and tangy-style cheesecake, very craveable and good. And I actually ate all of it! I ended up getting two slices: the fun S’mores, with a layer of tasty chocolate cheesecake on top of the original, and the seasonal Pumpkin Swirl. Now, when it comes to cheesecake, so often have I started on a single slice, and close to the end just wanted to stop because of how heavy and monotonous it is; so I’ve always valued the ability to fully enjoy the entire thing. It probably helped that flavors changed from one piece to the other, but still I found no edible fatigue. Classic, delicious cheesecake.

Individually, I found a distinct disappointment with the ‘flavors.’ Firstly, for the S’mores, they should either do some more work on it or just call it ‘chocolate layered cheesecake’ or something; through all of that, the graham cracker crust is nondistinct and tasteless, more just a base for texture as the flavor is overridden. And there’s nothing marshmallow, toasted or otherwise! There’s that tiny little mini on the end, but no, that doesn’t count; neither does the argument that ‘the cheesecake is like replacing the marshmallow,’ because it doesn’t! You say s’mores, I WANT MARSHMALLOW. So I expect either the batter is flavored with the melted gelatin-meringue, or a big topping of the soft confection, both versions ideally toasted. Also, though the Swirl technique is a really easy way to add a flavor to cheesecake in an attractive way, it also carries the risk of… well, you can see how thin that puree layer actually reaches. Unless you’re lucky enough to get some or most of it that falls deep, the flavor we so seek to find becomes extremely subtle. Which is a shame, I DID have half of it that dipped down, and it was a nice classic taste that works well with cheesecake, but the rest was more like seasoned cheesecake.

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That useless bitching aside, here’s my REAL complaint. The cheesecake was dense, and cold, not really a problem except for the fact that it was… also a touch ‘flaky’ in the middle of one of them, in a certain way. Basically put, these were stored in a freezer at one point or another. Now… why the HELL are these getting frozen? They make it themselves, by scratch, supposedly every day… that’s the whole idea of who they are! It’s already cold and dense enough when being stored in a regular fridge, one only risks accidentally serving an icy-ish product to customers, of which there was already a faint hint in mine. Not to mention I can only assume a custard like this that’s been frozen and thawed is going to be at least slightly inferior to one that’s only seen regular, brief cooling. But if, for whatever the odd reason is, that they HAVE to store it in a freezer at one point or another, truly you need to make sure to give it even MORE time to ensure proper thawing. Please.

Holdability: 8.5

                 Each slice is nice and compactly packaged, no mess as you eat it with a fork and carry it around. Though if you don’t even care of appearances, the dense ‘cream cheese pie’ is easy as heck to simply pick up with your hand and chow down. No falling apart with only the most minimal traces left on the fingertips. Though it does feel a shame they hadn’t tried to go the extra step and provide these beautiful wedges ‘on-a-stick’ or in some other fun, more portable form. Oh well.
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Price: 9.5

                  $4 for a slice, and what’s even better is it’s $7 if you buy two, though they don’t say that sadly! A great low-priced dessert option.

Speed: 10

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Every one of ‘em is ready to go on order, just gotta put them in the box and pay.

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The TOE: 8

                  A little trailer that hands out cheesecake? What’s not to love about that idea! And it’s an adorable, consistently unique and attractive design; even the truck that hauls it around got some graphic painting on it. Food quality aside, though the feeling of ‘simple, classic cheesecake business’ is strong, I really do wish they would try for some more unique creations. Either amp up the flavors, get them covered in big guilty-pleasure toppings, or work on even more ‘mobile’ versions like ‘mini pies’ or, as mentioned earlier, getting it on sticks. Why not do at least ONE chocolate-dipped slice, flavor rotating weekly, for that fun street food appeal? Or roll some baked cheesecake filling into balls and coat in a variety of crusts/toppings and in a bag to carry around for snacking? SOMETHING exciting it needs, otherwise, after a visit or two… it just feels a bit boring, in my opinion.

Tally: 43/50

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Final Thoughts

You may not find these guys at a big local truck rally anytime soon, but regard any event, occasion, or random day one can visit, this little edible camper trailer offers a noted possibility to grab a sweet snack for then or later. Great for those who want that ‘one extra thing’ for just a few bucks, especially if they enjoy cheesecake. Personally, I’m not really one for the ‘Swirls;’ they look pretty, but as I mentioned the puree is often mostly just on the surface with no penetration. I would say most joy would be in those items where the flavor is mixed throughout, or mixed with bigger chunks of things (ah-la Butterfinger and Chocolate Chip cheesecakes). But those are how I MYSELF lean in preferential cheesecake options. This is definitely a classic and typical flavor line-up; pick your personal favorites or whichever flavors excite your interest. The one thing I would say: DEFINITELY avoid New York style. It’s delicious I’m sure, but why go for the standard on this rare opportune visit when you could get something different and fun? It’s like going to a special ice cream shop with 50 flavors one can only find in an outside state and going for Vanilla. I don’t care what you say, you people that do that are freaks, FREAKS!!

Sassy Spoon Cafe Visit

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As many have been made aware of by now, in a rather loud fashion, Sassy Spoon (for those unaware, read my review to get an idea of their theme and what my opinion of them has been so far) got themselves a little café in South Minneapolis! I finally had the opportunity to visit on a recent Sunday with the folks, and for Brunch time which seems to fit their theme and atmosphere oh so well, and check yet another local truck-staurant off my list!

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Let me start off by saying that I am very happy for them, or maybe it’s more accurate to say in REACTION to them, based on two different things. Firstly, though I really cannot comprehend how they got the popularity and capital to start up a brick-and-mortar (oh well, my opinions aren’t everyone’s, I accept that… still think there are at least other trucks that should have gotten to this point sooner), we finally have an environment that fits their food style! No more do I have to bitch about their very non-street food going on the streets, this stuff was really made to be served up on plates and eaten in a diner or café of some type, and now we can do that!

Secondly, I’m not sure when they did it (I know it wasn’t in the beginning at all), but they’ve shed their main advertising face of general “healthy and nutritious food” focus and openly narrowed their culinary focus to a “Gluten Free” façade. Now, that’s something I can get on board with! It fits, it makes sense, there’s nothing in the food to non-corroborate it, and I would bet if they used this excuse/marketing strategy since the beginning I would not have complained so much. I mean really, when you’re only offering piles of meat with either slaw, sweet potatoes, and creamy cauliflower, it’s not the kind of food that REALLY screams nutrition is it? Say what you will, no one really cares about the Atkins diet anymore… but gluten free, in a café, and the menu gels, my urges to contradict and bitch gone (well, sort of, I still have those memories…).

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Oh well, I’m shutting up now about that and getting onto the actual café! You can tell it was designed by the truck owners, the inside is just as bright, appealing, sorta-modern and welcoming as the big pink truck used to be. There’s a little wrap-around bar to the side of the order ‘window’ and dessert/drink display case. Which has some not-so-bad looking sweets in there, would be very interested in trying the Beet Cake myself one day… (gluten-free cookies scare me though)

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First up, of course, is drinks. Besides the classic morning coffees, juice and tea, one can of course find some trendy Kombucha, specialty soda, Organic Milk, and a few interesting shop coffees. This includes something called a “Maple Cream Cold Press” and a “Spiced Butter Coffee,” which my mom picked up, and I swear it smells like biscoff cookies! But sort of tangy, makes me wonder if it’s a nicely acidic coffee bean or something else added; really good and tasty, I can see the appeal of this new ‘butter in coffee’ craze, kept in control of course.

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I leaned more towards the booze of course, they having a nice little selection of wines but, more importantly, Local Beer, Cider, and Mead (which I’m only noticing now after looking through pictures, damn if only I knew before!). I myself got to try the Loon Juice; yay, another Minnesota Cider besides Sociable that I get to say I’ve had!

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Food is mainly comprised of the truck classics, the Sweet Potato Hash w/ Egg, Turkey Meatballs, Miso Pork/Tacos, and a Salad, with some notable extra options, especially during brunch. Goat Cheese-stuffed Dates, “Yucca Patties” w/ Olives and Jalapeno dipping sauce (I’ve been intrigued by this one), Wild Rice Black Bean Salad, and some eggy breakfast dishes in Omelet, Scramble, and Basic structure come together. Of course sides based off of these, breakfast, and apparently the option to buy cups of $4 broth is also available.

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A group of plates for our little party had us trying the Sassy Scramble, Yucca Flatbread, and Buckwheat Pancakes; the last being the definite highlight, just being super fluffy and flavorful, stuffed with delightful blueberries with a tasty citrusy syrup, one of those ideal modern brunch offerings we seek out nowadays after being exposed to places like Pizza Luce and Hola Arepa. Mixed with goat cheese and spinach (and onion), the scramble in comparison certainly TASTES really good, nice and healthy, but I myself have never really appreciated scrambled eggs that have gotten brown from the pan. Maybe it’s me, I know some professionals still consider the perfect omelet acceptable with some brown on it, but the texture in scrambles like that just end up too firm, not the light/fluffy or moist/silky expressions that actually show a sign of quality. And considering they’re probably using really good quality organic eggs here (they seem to stick to the local farm product theme for whatever they can), I end up feeling somewhat sad for what these proper eggs were probably turned into.

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My focus was the Flatbread, curious as to what the crust was actually like. First off, let me just start off by saying come on, let’s just call this what it is: a Pizza. I know the flatbread and pizza label are rather interchangeable these days, but we all have some impression of a flatbread, usually thick grilled or some artisan crisp dough topped with some unique sauce and/or cheese and/or garnish, really embodying a perfect appetizer for sharing. Just one look at this guy, red sauce and mozzarella with that apparent golden brown painting across the top from the hot oven, and clearly it’s nothing other than pizza; tell me that does not remind you of the frozen pizzas you bake at home (visually speaking, not quality wise, I’m not THAT much of a douche or imbecile). Why don’t we just call it pizza and get it over with?

As for flavor, as a pizza I did enjoy it in that similar manner; firm crunchy edges, a softer but still-holding and fully-cooked dough bottom, tasting red sauce and stretchy cheese. I added the pepper mix on mine, which for the price additions seems to be the only thing worth it, and was quite happy. As a gluten free pizza, the crust did a great job substituting; I’m wondering if they used something like yucca flour for it, but considering they have it elsewhere on the menu, my guess is more on the lines of mashing and using in a ‘potato flatbread’ manner. It’s not the best flatbread or pizza in the city, by far, but it fits a certain style and craving well enough.

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One big complaint and note we all had was the pricing, a lot of the items are rather pricey considering what we’re getting, which seems to be a common thing with most ‘healthy/organic/gluten-free’ based businesses. With luck the place actually delivers or provides something that IS totally awesome along with the healthy stuff and we don’t care, but in a café like this it seems to stand out even more. I mean, a BASIC breakfast on their menu is $11.50; that’s supposed to be one of the simpler, affordable options on a menu, not one of the most expensive (unless it’s one of those modern ‘deconstructed’ things, which are usually downright awesome). Not to mention a side of Bacon, which the mother got to add to the pancakes, cost $4, for TWO measly strips. We wouldn’t even normally care, you know, if we got two nice, thick-ish pieces. But even if it is from a local farm, we ended up with a barely cooked, thin, sorta fatty couple pieces that just aren’t worth it; feels a bit insulting actually. Same with the pizza topping add-ons; $0.75 for the veggies, okay, but $2 for each meat (which they only have two kinds to begin with)? It’s already $11 for just cheese and sauce man!

All that said, I’m not necessarily saying one shouldn’t go; it’s a fun and different place for the gluten-free required to find a meal in a welcoming environment! Or to grab yourself a local drink or butter coffee with a meal. Just make sure to pick the right items, I definitely suggest the buckwheat pancakes; not only have they likely been the best things I’ve had from Sassy in my trips, but they’re the best price too (Mom still says $8.50 for only two café/diner pancakes is larceny, but for special, delicious, and gluten-free affairs in a place like this, I don’t mind it). And the service and staff ARE absolutely great, nice, and fantastic and all that. I myself just won’t be going there again. Ever.

Z’s Smoking Bonez

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http://zsmokinbonez.com/
https://twitter.com/Zsbonez
Main Location: Markets and Outside Etc Locations

It seriously feels like all the trucks I’m making it to in 2015 are BBQ Trucks so far! I think this is the third one in the past month or so, it feels like I’ve been trapped in a cage of smoke, pork, and bbq sauce. Not that I’m complaining of course, who doesn’t love getting multiple chances at brisket and all other meats that are good with the world? (I’m looking at you Vegans… scoot along with your evil ways)

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At the very least all of them have shown marked differences, and this last one has proven quite interesting in its own way. Having opened up in Maple Grove in 2012, Z’s Smokin’ Bonez is a full-on BBQ Sandwich shop, filling their menu with smoked pork and brisket piled between bread, and of course some classic ribs and cornbread.

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Their restaurant and catering business has obviously done well enough, and recognized an obvious strength in their food, ‘cuz they got a truck outfitted and moved their cuisine out and onto the street! That’s right, starting this year we’ve been able to see Z’s Smokin’ Bonez Food Truck hit some of the lots, farmer’s markets, and events in our Twin Cities’ outskirt areas. With a big white trailer outfitted with a ‘patio’ in back where their old-fashioned barrel smoker is mounted, it’s rather nice to see them able to bring their ideal cooking to the streets.

As for that food, they make some changes from the restaurant to offer unique handheld bbq options (and other things). Of course they have a half rack of Ribs, Classic Sandwiches (big and small) of Pork/Chicken/Or Brisket, including a Bacon Cheeseburger using ground brisket. THEN we get to the fun stuff. Tortilla Wraps stuffed with pulled pork, beans, and slaw (Big Pig) or brisket+pork+mac n cheese+slaw (Whole Hog). Then there’s Deep Fried Rib Tips, the Trailer Trash Burger (piled with all manner of meat, veggies, and a fried egg… my god I need to start trying burgers more), and a ‘Squish-wish.’ I’ll describe that one later. Oh, and a KFC-style bowl of fries, pork, and beans called the Smoke House.

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Of course we get the classic options for sides: Coleslaw, Mac and Cheese, Baked Beans, and Potato Salad, nothing more nothing less (oh and ‘Ziggy Fries,’ that’s an automatic thing usually). And the whole side of the trailer is filled with all their BBQ Sauces, seriously 8 different kinds, from Original to Jalapeno to the classic Texas White Sauce. I tried a few on each item, definitely wasn’t disappointed. Speaking of which, let’s start really getting into that food.

Food: 8

                I guess I should start with talking about the Squish-wish, my first item of the day (I wasn’t going to get more, but then, ya know, I just had to… but that’s for later)! The name certainly suits it, since it is actually squished right on the griddle, a proper pressed sandwich to my delighted surprise! Sadly, it was supposed to be made with a Cuban bread but they ran out; I didn’t mind, the regular bun acted just fine, I can only imagine it’d taste and come together even better. Ultimately it was much different than we’ve come to expect with traditional BBQ sandwiches, aka cheap, soft, and completely un-toasted bread to soak up the meat. I appreciate the additional texture and awesome crunch (yet still soft inside) to go with the filling.
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Which is rather good; Pulled Smoked Pork AND Smoked Brisket, melted Pepperjack, Onions, Pickles, and BBQ Mustard. Both meats were tender and had distinctive smoke flavor, enjoyable in their own fashions, and ultimately ate well as this delicious BBQ twist on the classic Cuban, coming with some added texture from the other fillings. If officially meets approval.

And then there are Ribs… Holy F&$%balling Mother of S#!% there are RIBS! My God look at those sons of b!%&#*$! You actually get a PROPER order of half a rack of ribs, big pieces of smoked pork meat that are actually composed of mostly meat with just a bit of bone for grasping! This is by far the best order of them that I have seen and/or gotten from a truck since I started doing them; and part of that may be due to others using baby back or some other style that costs more, meaning they have to give less for the same price, vs the St Louis Style cut that Z’s uses, but I don’t care about that. As I’ve always said, this is a food truck, not a restaurant, IF you’re going to charge $15 or more for something on the menu, then you better get something GOOD in return, quality and quantity wise.

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And these are good. The meat is still tender, it has that proper toothsome/bite quality to it (not melt-in-your-mouth, which shouldn’t really happen from smoked ribs anyway), though I did find the end pieces a bit more ‘rubbery’ than the rest (not drastically or anything, but you can see they’re not ‘as’ good, though they do have a higher meat ratio to them too…). It’s still covered in grinds of pepper or whatever spice was used in the rub, the flavor of which is distinctive but not overpowering (you know what, was it lemon pepper? I’m thinking there may have been some), and indicative of a certain style. Of course the smoke was nice, and best of all they tasted great with some of the sauce on top. It was a satisfying experience; if I were to list the faults, it’d probably be that the St Louis cuts they use result in a rib that indeed is more ‘meaty/proteiny,’ with less of the fat veins to make it extra tender, but if so it’s minimal, and I think I’m just trying to find a complaint that’s not really there so that I don’t seem like I’m just saying all-positive out of some biased opinion. Guess you’ll have to try for yourself to TRULY know.

Sadly the sides were rather unimpressive; not bad in any way, but the quality doesn’t stand really stand out. In fact the flavor of the Mac and Cheese was nice, a little better than typical from BBQ joints/trucks I’ve found, but with a rather thin sauce, almost like a slightly thickened cheese soup with noodles in it. Which is sad because now I have little to no actual interest intrying the Whole Hog Wrap. The Coleslaw, as I found on the sandwich, was purely basic, standard, couldn’t even taste any of the dressing so I doubt it’s particularly tangy or flavorful. I will say that I DID enjoy the Bacon Potato Salad; it was also rather typical in style, with that tangy sour cream dressing and some onions, thankfully some nice chunks of bacon, but it was done well and the kind of side I can REALLY dig into with a giant spoon from a tub, at least for a while. Nothing special overall.

Holdability: 8

                 I’m definitely giving them some extra points for their heavily sandwich-based BBQ offerings, especially those wraps, which I do still wanna try someday (even if the sides they stuff it with don’t thrill me). And that pressed squish-wish, thank god for Panini-style sandwiches for holding in the hand while walking. I can’t say for how messy the burger and typical pulled pork/brisket sandwiches shall be, I expect the former will need some napkins, but I certainly know the Ribs are a full sit-down item. Though at the end of the day, of course, serving in the classic BBQ to-go styrafoam boxes like this as full meals (doesn’t seem like any sandwich can be bought on its own for less, so it’s an automatic addition of fries or another side) will cut down on that factor I oh-so-cling to, even though no one but me cares haha.

Price: 7

                  Besides a $7 and $9 price for the small/side sandwiches, most are $10, $12, or $13 (the latter two for Brisket and Specialty Sandwiches/Wraps), with $15 for the Ribs. I will repeat, compared to other trucks this is easily the BEST deal for ribs, getting the most bang for your buck, for the money spent. But price points are overall still higher up. Though the $10/$12 sammies, including the burger, do in effect come in as good sandwich+side combos for the price (they’ll sometimes switch out the fries for another side if you mention interest).
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Speed: 8.5

Depends, things like the pressed sandwich take an average wait time to grill up and/or prep up, fry the potato sticks, etc. Some things just need scooping and cutting (helloooo ribs and potato salad) to be served up.

The TOE: 9

                  I feel so bad now, because I have to repeal my recent naming of Baldy’s as my favorite BBQ Truck, for I think Z’s has already dethroned you. Not to say I think they’re the BEST, I think I much prefer Baldy’s for quick grab-and-go sandwiches at a better price, but I really appreciate and respect a lot of what Z is doing EVEN MORE. The big thing here is the Setup, what kind of packages for the BBQ they offer, and they definitely do that in a way that more fits the street, both in the ability to only need your hands to eat most of it (minus bowls and sides, thus a fork comes in handy), but also in the attempts to trying some different and fun/unique forms of the original via wraps and other sandwich combos. And though longer truck menu selections like these can lead to an annoyance in wonder and confusion, or just a wish to focus and specialize in a few things, this is one of the trucks that, because they’ve done it well enough, I myself am somewhat intrigued to want to come back and try more if given the chance (particularly those Deep Fried Rib Tips). I haven’t said that out loud for other trucks, but there have been others where I feel the same.

I’m a bit sad they don’t have any of that Jalapeno Cornbread I’ve read about in the restaurant, that sounds like it woulda been a fantastic addition. Hell, I’ll take a brick of that instead of those French Fries anyday… or used for a sandwich (get on it!! Please?).

Tally: 42.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for some true flavors and heart of BBQ food or a truck showing a fun street food twist on something classic, Z’s Smoking Bonez can fill part of your heart. It will be best enjoyed when you have some time sit or pause and enjoy it, leaning against a wall or sitting down with your entrée in question, though there are possibilities for the on-the-go.

Though it’s still not the item I’d ever get purely on my own interests, if you ARE looking to get Ribs from a Food Truck, this is the place to do it. I myself would definitely suggest jumping on the Squish-wish or Trailer Trash Burger for the full, deep down Meat experience with a side. For those of the more portable-minded, the Whole Hog Wrap (though I’m not too interested in it now since I wasn’t impressed with the mac and cheese, though it’s still a sinful addition right?) or the Fried Rib Tips are the way to go. Finally, the Side: Bacon Potato Salad. The others don’t really stand out, I doubt the beans will, and the potato salad actually works really well, the tangy sour cream helping cut through all that rich and fatty pork/beef.

As for those looking on the simple side, debating brisket vs pork vs chicken, that all seems to be up to you, as they seem to be handle at an equal level. Though that’s only a consideration for those who want to visit but are really on a budget and thus looking at the cheaper regular/side sandwiches.

Ultimately, it’s definitely worth a visit, I’m positive you can find an experience here.

Cafe Racer Kitchen Vist (#1?)

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Well I finally got to MY most anticipated Truck restaurant of the year, the Café Racer Kitchen. I would have gone much sooner, but after hearing a month wait for their Beer and Wine license to kick in, figured I’d wait (not that I actually HAD any, but sometimes it’s nice to give restaurants time like that to settle into their groove). For that, they currently offer a few cans from Indeed and Bauhaus Brewing, along with an Argentine Red and White, though there is talks of some fun cocktails coming soon.

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A big painted ad for Orange Crush soda on the building’s side greets one as they travel around the corner; of course I don’t ask why it’s there, whether they did it themselves or were too lazy to take it off in the first place, thus it stays a mystery! Under the motorcycle-imbued sign and into the door, we find ourselves in a small yet very open environment, smooth and shiny wood booths and tables, mostly connected for an almost communal eating opportunity. But of course I have to sit at the bar, basically four seats in front of the till with a full-on view of the kitchen.

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Where I get to watch the small team work, the two people in the kitchen and the one working the front (it was a nicely quiet-ish Sunday afternoon, though I bet even in the ‘busy’ periods they may only have 1-2 more employees total) while almost casually yet quickly doling out the truck food.

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For those of you still unaware of their mobile focus, Café Racer generally sticks with the ‘choose your entrée’ style similar to Brasa, focusing on Central American flavors/tradition. One goes for Pulled Pork or Chicken (or a veggie dish –shudders-), with which they can make an ‘entrée’ by getting two sides (rice, yucca/carrot frites, plantains, beans n rice, etc) or having with a couple Arepas for a sandwich of sorts. They also bring an awesome hot dog with toppings which I’ve experienced Here. All of this has been brought to the menu, alongside a few new plates combining some of these select sides with bigger proteins a la Quarter-Chicken and Chimichurri Skirt Steak.

 

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I came during Brunch-Sunday though, so I got to choose between options topped with Egg, Kielbasa for the protein, and plenty of sweet potato hash, arepas tossed in for buns (breakfast sandwich), base (benedict), or just on the side like toast.

 

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For a fun, semi-exploratory and semi-just-wanting-new-food visit, the Steak just called out for me. Served with a single small, firm-yet-pillowy masa cake (I love how they do their arepas now, for their style) and a side of eggs made however you want (I went for basted in lue of no poaching, wish I did sunny-side or over easy though, didn’t realize the yolk was gonna get cooked through… cooked well for a fully cooked egg though), they did little to dissuade me from diving right into that steak and hash. The meat was definitely juicy and flavorful, gotta love that harby-garlicky chimichurri paste (really gets the crave and appetite going), it is a bit chewy but only so much as one expects out of a skirt/fajita steak. The texture is just as much a part of it as the flavor, I’ve known some chefs who completely get rid of it through very long sous vide techniques, but despite how good and meltingly tender that must be it just doesn’t really fit what this dish is supposed to be in my opinion. Sorry, I just couldn’t help wanting to mention that, I guess that’s what happens with proper food experience; makes you want to discuss other things about it.

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Can’t help but love a nice hash too, they certainly hit the craving. Roasted together with herbs, this mix or regular and sweet potatoes immediately had me noticing the divergent nature between the two tubers. Whereas the sweet potatoes were fully soft, I found the russets I had to still be sorta firm; I think still cooked, but just on that edge where it could have been undercooked with just a minute less time. At first I was worried about having to critique, but I actually enjoyed it; it gave another texture, again was in an acceptable cooking range, AND it brought proper variation to the hash. What’s the use of using two different potatoes if they both feel the same anyways?

Ultimately, I very much enjoyed eating this plate, especially when I got to chop everything up and mix it together, a proper hash brunch!

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Which is never complete without a bit of coffee and dessert (really brunch is a complete daily meal: breakfast, savory lunch/dinner foods, and sweets at the end, maybe with a bit of booze). The dessert is a housemade Tres Leches (white cake soaked in a mixture of cream, condensed milk, and some other dairy), this one made with a rather compact and dense texture for the thick monster, stuffed with that sweet cream oozing from the sides like a sauce. Luis then tops his with a layer of whipped cream (a classic ‘frosting’ next to meringue) along with some orange segments and a dark chocolate drizzle. A decent offering, served cold and creamy, made even better when consumed alongside the hot, bitter and slightly-creamy coffee, brewed from a blend made just for them and served as-is or ‘au Lait’ with some simple steamy milk foam on top.

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It’s a shame that I don’t drink coffee more, this is one of those situations where I really wish I could delve into and pick out flavors like I can with wine and spirits. But I can certainly tell this coffee blend has a personality to its own, that’s quite clear as day, which I’m sure any coffee aficionados can enjoy (whether some of these notes are positive or full-on-catastrophe I can’t say there; for instance, I particularly noted a certain bitter note that I couldn’t tell if it was from over-roasting or natural ‘green’ coffee bean tannins). Do what I did and go Café au Lait option, it’s delicious and one can still get the full flavor of the roast; definitely makes the dessert complete.

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Apparently, despite the month wait, it seems I was STILL a bit soon in coming; word from Luis’ own mouth states that they’re about to start playing around with some further menu changes/addition, including a bevy of small-plate options (sorta like tapas) and some further inventive desserts, such as a Dulce de Leche (a milk-focused pudding-like dish) that’s going to be treated like flan and eaten with papaya.

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I guess I’ll just have to stop by again sometime soon, which as you know is something I RARELY do for Food Trucks on their own (for efficiency purposes), let alone the restaurants that come from them. But I think Racer is the first truck-staurant that I have a sincere urge to want to intently go back to for further explorations (I still have more sides to try!), so do take the hint dear readers and help me help them keep this little café of coolio in business.

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Hot Dish “100 Favorites” for 2014-15

It’s a little late in response (though aren’t most of my posts usually nowadays?), but I do always love featuring the Trucks that achieved the graces of making City Page’s “The Hot Dish blog’s top 100 Favorite Dishes for the year. I wanna make it a yearly thing! No promises of course… I am quite fickle… and forget things… SURE I’ll have another shot of Vodka.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, awesome food trucks. Though quite a few of the ones to make the list this year were purely resulting of the Restaurants they generated, but it deserves featuring (and I need SOME kind of material to flesh this post out some… don’t look at me like that! I’m needy…). So, let’s see who made the list this year…

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#77: Taco Cat with “The Larry”

They may not be an actual truck, but their street food soul shines bright, plus I recently did a quasi-review on them and feel they deserve continued honor in that respect. And their tacos are rather awesome, as is evidenced here through City Page’s feature of The Larry, a pile of Chicken, Chorizo, and Cheese stuffed inside three double-wrapped masa tortillas. Of course it’s the one that I didn’t get…

#62: The Curious Goat with Goat Cheese Curds

Their menu is quite frequently changing with whatever local ingredients they can get their hands on, but it’s not often one won’t find at least a few dishes with goat meat and/or cheese on the menu. And they take this latter up to an epitome of experience by lightly frying curds of it and serving with roasted butternut, some spring onions, and a drizzle of honey (my new favorite cheese curd companion forever). Again, something I dearly need to have at some point… here’s hoping for a rally.

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#55: Smack Shack’s Shrimp and Grits

I may still hold strong reservations and annoyances about this truck (don’t ask me why, I’ve probably lost proper reason for it long ago), but one can’t argue their food always gets results in those willing to spend the extra buck to attend their mobile or standing business. Usually getting renown for the lobster, this year highlighted one of the best southern combos to ever grace the table: Shrimp and Grits. I know, the last word strikes terror and disgust into many a heart, but done right than oh my god… I’m still vary happy to have gotten it at Surly myself.

#54: World Street Kitchen and The South Side

Not surprising to see them on this list again, this time for Brunch! The restaurant location serves out a dish composing of a bile of hashbrowns, ‘secret sauce,’ and some big chunks of lamb topped with basted eggs (which, if they’re PROPER basted eggs, are easily the most sinful and delicious way to eat them whole I swear).

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#39: Chef Shack Ranch with the Big Boy Ranch Plate        

I almost probably shouldn’t even be mentioning these gals on the post today, since the restaurant focus has almost NO connection to what the truck turns out, instead serving out bigass servings of classic BBQ. And it’s not a bbq joint without a giant parchment-paper-lined platter dolloped with practically one of everything, like grabbing a charcuterie board at the more hipster-ish locations but with hot, soul-fulfilling smoked meat… and more of it. As it’s apparently some of the best bbq in the Twin Cities, this little selection of pork and beef moved itself rather high up on the list.

#25: Hola Arepa’s Corn Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Of course the local famed belter of the stuffed corn-dough sandwich is now turning out a dessert version, stuffing sinfully smooth vanilla ice cream in a sweet cookie dough filled with butterscotch, fritos, and corn flakes. Why didn’t they have THIS at brunch!?

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#7: Hola Arepa and the Beef & Plantain Arepa

That’s right, they got on twice! (And they’re not the only ones, damn Spoon and Stable… making me want to go to you when I don’t have enough moneh) And fitting we end on something that actually could come out of the Truck itself, their classic masa ‘flatbread’ bun stuffed with sweet, soft plantain, rich beef, tasty pickled onions and of course some sauce. It then gets kicked up to 11 when eaten in restaurant and served with those amazingly thick, crunchy Yuca Fries that I just think are perfect. No wonder they’re at the top of the books.

Well, that’s the second year for me done and taken care of, we’ll have to see how the following 2015-16 season goes. Will more trucks move to restaurants and fill the brackets, or will a resurgence in interest for starting mobile operations take precedence? Find out next time (he says in announcers voice as if he was coming back to this in a week and not a whole year)!!

Sir Baldys

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http://www.baldysbbqmn.com/
https://twitter.com/dinkytownbaldys

Main Location: St Paul

Starting in Lakeville and then opening a Dinkytown location back in 2011, Baldys BBQ has expanded nicely as their business popularity grew. Obviously their quality of bbq has created a strong enough fan base to have developed a want and need to access it closer to the Twin Cities for ease of meat and sauce delivery. And now this need has vaulted them, four years later still, into the next phase of business life as they go Mobile.

Moving onto the Food Truck scene, the pink pig in the black shirt (that’s right, they got a mascot suit, all fear the piggy) premiered Sir Baldys earlier this year. Extending into the St Paul area (I got them on a visit to Regions Hospital, apparently one of the new ‘hot spots’ for trucks this year), it seems they’re looking to spread the word of their bbq even further into our state!

Which shouldn’t be so hard to do, considering how much this big Pink(ish? Very much in front at least) food box on wheels stands out. Though visual appeal comments notwithstanding, it’s the menu that will really spread their food to the customers. You won’t find any ribs, wings, chops, or piles of meat on a styrafoam container here. This BBQ Truck focuses purely on Sandwiches piled with their classic items. Pulled Pork, Chicken, and Brisket all come into play between two buns, one can also find their handmade Italian Sausage. Of course there are options for traditional sides via Baked Beans, Potato Salad, and Coleslaw.

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Of course sauces come in standard on a side table (set up on the other side of the sidewalk, I didn’t even notice immediately! I mean, saw the table and a box on it, of course my mind paid no attention… stupid mind…), with 4 of their home recipes available for topping your meat, if that is how you are so inclined. I tried a bit of each and enjoyed them all for various reasons.

Gotta love a warm, blue-skied sunny day for BBQ. Let’s get to it.

Food: 9

                As always, you can and should never try to get an idea of a BBQ joint with just one menu item, and luckily for me it was easy to grab two sandwiches in one go today. First up, the Italian Sausage, which I chose to top with the Pepper and Onions option (and totally forgot to take a picture of! Gahh, whyyyy!? So ashamed… please accept my apologies for this). What can I say about this besides… indeed, it’s a proper sausage. The flavor and spices were great, exactly what we should expect from an Italian weiner, the meat was moist, and oh yes it had that SNAP from the casing. Sliced in half, 3-4 (wasn’t paying attention, too into the food) of these long demi-links are piled haphazardly, in a fun way, on top of the soft white bun, creating a mass of something that makes you ache to just squeeze hard in your fingers and shove into the mouth. Pretty good. I did enjoy the addition of the veggies; though obviously cooked somewhat, they still provided that nice vegetal crunch and texture to add to the experience. Not much FLAVOR addition from them though, would be perfect if they were able to get a grilled char or something on them.

Moving onto the Brisket, also enclosed in that same bun; not toasted, instead capitalizing on those cravings for super soft white bread typically reserved for sloppy joes and, well, bbq. Now, having recently had ANOTHER Brisket Sandwich at a Previous Truck, this was quite interesting, providing a completely contrasted style to production. Sliced thin and mounded generously between the bread, let me just start off by saying that I LOVE the flavor. The beef, the smoke and those flavors of whatever cure they use can be tasted obviously, and is much superior to the ‘other’ brisket sandwich in that way. Properly toothsome, teeth cut through the flesh like it should with good bbq; it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, ‘fall apart’ in a super-moist bundle, keeping its form through biting, but it bites through easily without ruining the form. This is the standard for Ribs and other similar long-smoked items.

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That said, it’s not perfect in the slightest. One cannot ignore the thin hard edge of fat, or gristle, or whatever it was which hung on most of the meat. Tough, chewy, stubborn, this part would have us dragging in extra pieces of brisket with each tug of the choppers. It creates an annoying and unpleasant interruption from the amazing flavors and OTHER texture which I can tell is right, but can’t be fully experienced now.

It can be and is often said (in a way) that good BBQ should not NEED any sauce, like any meat, but only use it to make things even better and complete the taste balance of sweet-salty-bitter-sour (and sometimes umami… makes it feel like “y” for vowels). So far I feel that this is easily applied to the food today; I could have easily enjoyed the Brisket on its own with nothing else (sans the gristle of course).

Last note, the Beans, my Side of Choice. So far, probably one of my favorite baked beans that I’ve ever had, though I don’t have a lot. Beans were properly soft and tender, without turning to mush, and mixed with 2-3 pieces of bell pepper which brought a welcome extra flavor. I very much appreciated how it wasn’t just HEAVY sweet molasses/brown sugar, bbq-saucy stew. The sweetness here was more controlled and mellow, a bit of that noted spice flavor that still reminded you of the bbq sauce. I’m still… wishing and hoping for more depth, more complexity and exciting flavor, but not as much as other versions I’ve tried. So it may just be me.

Holdability: 7.5

                 Having every entrée automatically transformed into a sandwich immediately increases the street food value factor here, and though they are all served in a basket, and made with piles of multiple cuts which can fall out easily (especially with the already noted chew factor in the brisket option, not to mention the veggies in the sausage sandwich, though I expect the pulled pork is kept very tight), the two of these normally full-negative factors actually combine to assist in walkability. Just know that, of course, one will still need both hands and will likely be spending time picking off fallen things from the basket. And unless one REALLY slathers on their bbq sauce of choice, there’s little actual mess factor to attend with napkins. The main considerations come into play when one gets a side or combo along with the main protein, which I expect to be a regular action unless one has a goal for order minimization, which CAN still be walked without issue but really highlights best in a sitting down situation.
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Price: 8.5

                  Solo, the sandwiches come in at $6 or $8 (latter for the Brisket only), with a nice helping of Onions and Peppers to any of them for an extra $1 (which I am seriously only NOW realizing. Seriously, I did not notice this on my day there, and when he asked if I wanted them on my sausage I just thought it was a complimentary option, like slaw or no slaw… I’m a touch disappointed right now to be honest). For an extra $3 one can grab a combo of any drink, side, and drink (not sure if Lemonade-Iced Tea counts… I really should have picked that, damn last-minute rush choices…); basically, sammy+side with free drink. Overall really nice, relatively low price range, and I feel fully worth it, except for maybe the extra veggie cost… debating still.

Speed: 9.5

With everything kept in proper warming bins, the food offered picked to all work well with this storage style, all the wait one has is for the meat of choice to be scooped onto their buns and whatever side ladled into a cup. Absolutely awesome.

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The TOE: 9

                  A great culmination of different factors mentioned, smooth operation, a fun little personality and attractive wrap job; maybe a little more ‘pizzazz’ in menu display or something else would be nice (it does feel like there’s one small point missing), impression might not be TOO lasting, but to be fair I think that’s an issue that most BBQ Trucks should be likely to feature considering, well, they all focus on the same kinds of food. It’s difficult to get that true intrigued edge of “special/uniqueness” to them that other mobile styles are able to play around with, so I don’t hold it against them in the slightest. That said, this is easily my favorite BBQ Truck that I’ve encountered in Minnesota so far.

Tally: 43.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Of the few BBQ Trucks that I’ve paid visit to in the Twin Cities, Sir Baldys has easily proven to be the most successful within their transition towards the food truck business. I certainly suggest anyone craving a down-home, simple bbq/meat sandwich on a soft bun should definitely consider them as their option. Ideal for grabbing a quick, well-priced sandwich to just eat on the go, or spend a couple extra bucks for a sit down enjoyable bbq-style lunch.

Italian Sausage, with the Peppers+Onions, and the Pulled Pork are going to be the best way to go in my opinion (Brisket is totally pro+con action, you’ll have to decide on your own based off what you know about it now). I wish I could try EVERY side so I could get a full idea on them… what I can safely say now, I imagine all 3 (no I do not count the chips) are ideal versions of the sides, so whichever you usually like going for do it. For those absolutely unsure… Potato Salad is calling out to me. OR, to take things up a notch, grab the Coleslaw and pile it on top of that pork sammich. Make it a happy day.

Brunch at Hola Arepa

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Getting to Hola Arepa’s Restaurant in Uptown, across the street from the legendary Pat’s Tap, was a long road in coming… now granted, I never paid attention to when they opened, so I don’t know HOW long a road, but I can figure at least a notable few months right? Having only two days off a week doesn’t help either, especially figuring they aren’t open on one of them (who’d figure it was Monday and not Sunday? Good thing there’s Brunch). But I got out recently so yay.

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I’m going to start off by saying this, I mean I expected them to be good of course (there’s a reason the truck’s been so popular), figured a really sweet Mexican lunch ‘sandwich’ spot reminiscent to a truck experience, but I didn’t think they’d be THIS good. Hell this was a TRIP on level with a trip to Pizza Luce, and you know how good they are.

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Especially during Brunch, which happened to be the time me and my dear sister ended up making it there. It was here that I discovered, to my intense satisfaction, how popular the spot has become, garnering a half hour wait for a table for two (so one can safely say that, unlike the truck, not the best spot for those trying to get in and out fast, at least unless you get to brunch early). Not that we minded, it gave us the opportunity to grab some rather badass cocktails.

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Here comes my first happy surprise, seeing a menu full of fun, modern Craft Cocktails reminiscent to some of our favorite finds at local bars such as NE Social, Pat’s, and Marvel. For my sister, the Seasonal Horchata Cocktail, based off a house-made ‘spiced whey horchata’ with flana cor 4yr rum, bitters, and cinnamon. A fantastic, thought-provoking improvement on the classic spiced rice-milk drink in the form of a ‘milk punch’ (look it up, they’re delicious and I want to make one). For myself, because the sister already grabbed the cocktail I wanted, something with the name of Paradise (okay, I forgot to steal or take a picture of the menu, thought the website would have it okay!? I was wrong) filled with Tropical flavored Aged Rum, Bourbon, Vermouth, Bitters, Lillet (if I remember correctly), and other cocktail things.

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Smooth, delicious, refined, definitely a great thing to sip on the benches outside during a beautiful sunny day. I absolutely love the pineapple flavor it got; subtly present, not super bright or artificial, just that deep tropical undertone lifted up and fused with the aged rum and whiskey spirits, mixing with the botanical-infused spirit elements to bring body, sweet complexity, and that amazing mouthfeel.

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But it was gone, and we got a table, and another cocktail was deserved, thus I grabbed an “Hola Fashioned” based out of well-aged rum with a dash of smoky Lagavulin Scotch to subtly tie in to the original cocktail, giving it just a light, subtle bit of that whiskey barrel-aged whiskey essence in the back while the rest fills with that delicious mix of orange aroma and rich sugar spirit. The sister got a seasonal Sangria, Red, with blueberries and another fruit. Let me just say, sangria is almost never something I crave or ever really FEEL like drinking unless it’s just in a fridge at a party (or offered to me), but THIS is one I’d go back to.

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But that’s enough talking about booze, let’s get to the actual food. There’s been plenty of articles written about this already I’m well aware, in fact I do wish I could go back for the Chicharone and Arepitas dishes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy my own experiences right?

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It’s not a trip without an Arepa, and I got to grab one I had yet to experience so far, of the ‘Breakfast’ Variety. Stuffed with a Fried Egg, Beans, the white cheese Cojita and some Tomatoes + Aioli, we decided to take the next step and also add in Pork. Which I’m glad we did, because without it I would imagine it’d be a very flat, not-so-full sandwich. Along with the meat, it certainly met the basic requirements, though I feel I’ve found more enjoyment with their other arepas (more of that rich, juicy experience, plus the dough today felt a little denser than usual). The real highlight of the order, though, was the Yuca Fries. God these fit literally every feature that I look for in PERFECT fries (at least of the thick-cut variety). Crunchy and crispy outer crust, soft pillows inside (maybe a bit more starchy than the really fluffy white potatoes), and big, these were a delight, especially with a side of aioli.

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Main Course happened to be Cachapas (yellow corn pancakes) and Fried Chicken; the latter a drier style with thick crust, truly ideal in those ‘chicken and waffle’ experiences when you just wanna cut it up and get a big piece of peppery fried batter in every bite of food. The pancakes came super soft, naturally savory-sweet highlighted from the corn sprinkled on top, and acting as an amazing base to carry the flavors of the accompanying egg, bacon, jalapeno… and of course that syrup. Easily the best part on that plate, for it truly completed that smorgasbord flavor of the ‘full pancake breakfast’ we expect, and without needing to cover the whole plate in calories. Just a few drops over my giant forkfuls of food, and that distinctly unique and deep chipotle-maple flavor could be picked up amongst everything else. It was classic, yet modern, yet traditional in a different way, and all executed well to convene in a mass that hit everything I wished for at Brunch (unless I’m craving hash brown skillet sorta thing, but that’s another day).

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Let’s move on, two more small items to get through (btw, yes there was leftovers… not much, but some nonetheless). Nowadays I love granola, yogurt, fruit and honey in the morning, and their version is easily now one of, if not MY, absolute favorites. A simple Yogurt Flan (baked custard, panna cotta, etc) with fresh Blackberries and a Cornflake-Pepita ‘Granola,’ which if anything was more of a candied mix of the two, with some sort of syrup on bottom (my money’s on a flavored Agave, but who knows? Maybe it was just honey based). Whatever the details were, it was good, and a perfect way to have a little dessert at breakfast time; I want more of the ‘granola,’ that was just sweet and crispy and addictive, they need to make an actual cereal out of it.

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Despite that, I had to try a certain actual dessert, the Mini “Churro.” Both I and they use the quotation marks for good reason, because I’m pretty sure they don’t use the same crème-puff-style dough which churros are usually made from. It came out more… actually, now that I think about it, it was basically like a coffee cake. A really good one, covered in a thick layer of cinnamon-sugar, and then served with a chocolate-coffee sauce on the side. Which, may I say, was DIVINE. Silky, smooth, with that teasingly bitter flavor that makes you think of classic Mexican Cacao, all to dip and pour over your little ‘churro,’ which ate nicely (if not messily, and yes you MUST use your hands for this or you aren’t a proper Hombre). It’s not a churro on any real fashion besides the fry job and cinnamon, but it is still good for what it is.

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And that thus concludes my little round-up of my first, and hopefully not last, visit towards Hola Arepa. I know I don’t have to wish them any luck, so instead I shall simply set my feet, look forward, and continue on towards the next meal, wherever it shall take me. Certainly I hope you can do the same. Good Luck and Good Eating.

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.

 

Vellee in the Skyway with Burritos

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You know what the sorta funny thing is? There’s at least… what, 5 (likely much more) food truck restaurants and other standing operations that have opened up in the past two years that I STILL have yet to get to in the Twin Cities, and yet I literally only found out on Twitter about Vellee Deli’s Skyway place, located in the Baker Building off 8th and Marquette, on day 2 of their opening and I’m able to make it out there a week later! Well, guess it was the straw that broke this camel’s back, thank god I’ve finally broken down and accepted the need for using Twitter (shudders); I mean, I can’t miss out on my favorite truck’s new operation can I?

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And I’m not the only one apparently; whether it’s die-hard truck fans, other hipster-like foodies glued to twitter, or simply skyway workers really looking forward to the different, delicious fair, the line out the opening was well and long! Let’s hope it stays like that, as it should; if there’s any skyway food business that should stay successful for a long time, I think Vellee deserves it (who cares about the boring fast food companies?).

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An open-air kitchen filled with more than double the number of people that worked in the truck dealt with this line rather fast, serving out the large menu drawn in chalk, the same as on the truck but with a few extra, tasty items. I of course had to try one of these newer items myself, grabbing the Tofu Burritio (made with curry, zingy cream sauce, and some mushrooms and lettuce) and Chips w/ Pineapple Salsa.

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Yeah yeah, the guy who complains about the logic of ordering chips and guac from a truck got some here. Well it’s a sit-down restaurant so I have the right! And it was quite tasty… was a bit surprised seeing the tomato base, figured it’d be more ike the typical Caribbean, all-pineapple with some mix-in salsas, was very much worried about the flavors being too muddy/mixed… but it actually tasted really good. Fresh, tart and lightly sweet, tangy, not thick and very crunchable on the chips.

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Then there’s the burrito, I mean who can complain about their burritos? It’s practically an indulgent sin, but vegetarian… and after just coming out of a month of vegetarianism, I’ve found new appreciation for the product that is Tofu, along with other non-meat-based thingies. Safe to say, scrumptious and nummy, the only reason it took me 10 minutes to eat being because I had an 8-minute phone call after I started! Plus I can’t say no to a good dish of curry and rice… I’ll admit my nerves waned slightly at the notable inclusion of simple lettuce, but it fully heightened the experience (I need to stop doubting lettuce… I blame taco bell).

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Well, it’s no different than my other ravings on Vellee’s offerings. As always, I wish them luck and good fortune in all their ventures, and hope those reading get the chance to try their Minneapolis Skyway location sometime soon. Just remember it’s only open 10-3, like all the other locations up there (think they’ll start complaining about losing business to food trucks now? Haha). Now, what truck restaurant to visit next…

 

Oh, gotta love a fully stocked quality soda bottle section while you’re at it, no matter where you go.

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