2013’s First River Day and some updating Reviews

            The first Lunch by the River has come and gone, and though I can safely say it was a fun and eventful time for myself, sadly I was one of the few to show up and experience this. As we all were able to see, the weather Thursday was grey and sprinkly, so not the best weather for these little events we thus love. I half expect it’s my fault for going, considering how many times this happens with the plans I make (though I’m now considering this may simply be a side effect of living in Minnesota…).

            As mentioned in a previous post, the particular Trucks stationed consisted of Home Street Home, Neato’s, Cupcake Social, and Café Racer, who mentioned a couple interesting things during a little back-n-forth rapport. Unlike previous years, this particular set of Trucks may no longer be a random group decided week by week. This is because of plans and discussions in the works of adding two more “River Lunch” Truck gatherings to the week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from what I hear. Due to this extension, more Trucks have an opportunity to take part in the gatherings; and with the larger selection, one brings in the possibility of scheduling specific Trucks as certainties on the Weekly schedule without infringing on other Trucks’ chances of taking part. With this, we can now officially have set Truck Gatherings on given days of the week, giving us some fantastic certainties in schedule. It’s really great for those who work nearby and aren’t able to stay abreast of daily Truck-stops, allowing them days to go out and say “Oh hey, ‘these guys’ are gonna be by Robert Wednesdays.”

            I am very excited at this new idea, particularly in how much of a sign it is at not only the growing interest and culture, but organization that our Trucks have been able to form this season (thank you Food Truck Association!).

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            Back to the actual Trucks of the day, update time; I was also able to overhear that Racer will offer samples of many a menu item (definitely something unique compared to the others). But more importantly, they were out with a Full Menu, and I finally got the chance to try their Street Dog! Really one of the main, hell I still think it’s THE, highlight of the entire menu.

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            Isn’t that just one of the most beautiful hot dogs you’ve seen? Sure it takes a bit longer than other dogs in Trucks, but it’s worth the extra couple minutes. All the flavors had that perfect, subtle balance between them, making for very happy bites! I’d say it was sort of sad ruining that picturesque food, but it tasted too good for me to give a crap.

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            On another positive note, my Re-Review of Neato’s(Menu also pictured, look at those Burger options!) Duck Fat Fries has now been completed. For those who haven’t read yet, my first experience was not so positive compared to most people’s, which I later found to be due to issues with their Potato Distributor. Now having a new distributor, and set brand of potatoes, they’ve been able to crank out a more consistent product, so I can finally re-do my report on this particular item.

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            Though there’s no reason to do my report purely on them. Since I was there, I figured I’d also try one of their chocolate malts alongside; it IS a Truck based off a Diner, gotta have a Malt. Of which, though it is tasty and enjoyable like other malts, I find there’s no real special quality to it; if anything, the malt is sorta thin, a little too much milk or whatever else they add to it. As for the fries, I can happily say that I SHALL be changing Neato’s Food score for the positive. These fries were clearly better than my previous experience, and the subtle flavor of the duck fat DID come through. The texture WAS soft, but I found the pieces that had some of the potato skin still attached offered little, interesting pieces of crispiness here and there. Overall, it’s not a perfect fry, but it does succeed in differentiating itself, and in a POSITIVE way; I hold no qualms in suggesting it as a buy (oh, and don’t forget that Aioli; boy that garlic is STRONG, and it goes very well with the particular flavor transferred from the Duck Fat).

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            It’s not a Truck Day without dessert of some kind, and there was a certain little Cupcake vehicle to my right. Grabbed myself a Tres Leches, Dulce Leche frosting of course, which didn’t quite fill my leche expectations. Overall, definitely better than the “Guinness Cupcake” I had from Fork, the milk-caramel icing was smooth and delicious, but if one is going to base something off of Tres Leches, they REALLY need to get that thing soaked and infused. There was a little bit of squishy, milky cake in the middle, but they could have done more; I understand needing it to not be sticky in the hand, but they held off a little too much for my liking (I’ll admit, I have developed very high standards on certain things).

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            On a more positive note (again, the cupcake IS good, just… MORE, GIMME!), I’ve discovered a really fun, fantastic opportunity on their menu! They apparently offer a “Cupcake Sunday” made from whichever cake+cream combo you want. “For the Hot Weather,” as they said, which sadly did not come through on this trip. However, think of this: You head to Thursday’s River Lunch, greeted by two Burger trucks (one old-fashioned Diner themed) right next to a Cupcake Sunday. That, my friends, is the making of that oh-so unique Full-on Food Truck Meal. This is what so many of us Foodies look for in our searches, that amazing little something that just can’t be found elsewhere, and creates that special feeling of amazement and nostalgia.

            Or something like that, not always that good at describing these things, even through text. Anyways, that ultimately rounded out MY Lunch-by-the-River experience; if anyone else has an interesting tale (either from this or previous years) feel free to share. I myself did have one more stop at Hibachi Daruma, but that’s another post.

2013 Begins

            After many long months, including two that shouldn’t have even come into the picture, the Food Truck Season is once more upon us! The sun is shining, the snow is gone (finally), and we no longer need to waist that precious minute wondering if we need a hat before going outside. This Thursday marks the year’s first Lunch by the River, WITH MUSIC, as St. Paul’s parks once again become filled with various vendors (for those curious, this week’s River mix includes Neato’s, Home Street Home, Café Racer, and Cupcake Social).

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            My first day back in the city from my trip, and I was treated to one of my favorite sites: clear, sunny Minneapolis streets, with the now-nostalgic site of Trucks lining Marquette between 7th n 8th (with of course the random few on various blocks around).

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            It was great to see some of our old originals back in their proper spots once more. Hola hanging out on the side, Chef Shack in the back, and World Street taking a surprise vacation from their popular spot near the lightrail to stand front and central near 6th on Marquette. Gotta say I love the menu I saw on them yesterday; it’s actually somewhat refreshing to see the YumYum Bowl absent, letting the other items shine ever more.

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            These weren’t the only fun things I was able to see, though; besides four, count them, FOUR new Trucks all on the street at the same time, my eyes caught something… interesting. Walking down the street, just about to cross 7th, and right in front of my eyes I see a car turning the light, and what’s it dragging behind it but this big orange cart (think Dandelion Kitchen-style construction) with the word “Em-Con-Ada” written in blue across the sides. Before speeding away I was able to make out “Empanadas in a Cone,” or something like that, just underneath. I apologize for not being able to snag a picture; believe me I tried, my very first reaction being to turn around and run after it down the street with phone-camera fumbling in my hands. But alas, lost it in traffic before I could snap anything decent.

            HOWEVER! I’ve done a bit of searching and found a promising facebook page (link here), signifying a just-beginning, soon-to-start Truck operation. Now, if only they actually had some information and posts on the site and we wouldn’t be so in the dark…

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            Walking along Marquette for lunch, I shared a little convo with Racer’s main guy (tried to key him for info on Emconada, but he was just as stumped as myself), and continued to my exploration of some of our new additions to the line-up. Mustachios and Moral Omnivore immediately took hold of my attention, and thus tempted me into sampling both of them. As such, look forward to reviews of each within the next couple days.

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            Standing out like a giant packet of Lifesavers, “Lulu’s Street Food” is probably the most colorful and psychedelic Truck design I’ve ever seen in the state (sorry Sauced, they’ve got you beat; don’t worry, your artwork is still my favorite in overall design). It was hard to tell if there’s any theme, as 4 of their menu items were already crossed off and sold out by the time I arrived(thus why I didn’t eat and review; I want to ensure I do it when everything is there, thus getting as close to an accurate review for readers as I can). I did get a glance at Ahi Tuna sliders along with their Cubano, so I’m guessing just a simple keeping to different forms of holdable items.

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            With a few storefronts to their name already, and from what I’ve heard a bit of a fan base, “Falafel King” has now come out with their very own Truck. Set up like Tacqueria, the new Greek-based Truck I’ve seen around, and Holy Land when it was at the Fair, the menu stays to a full display of all their offerings. As such it’s less like a Food Truck and more like a mobile version of the actual restaurant, from what I can see; pricing seems very fitting to the street though. Considering things, I think I can safely assume they have quite the uphill battle in fighting through the many comparisons we are likely to make with Foxy. It’ll be interesting to see what they have to truly differentiate themselves from this already well-engrained favorite of the city.

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            Though, trucks weren’t the only things new today. AZCanteen, hanging out with Chef Shack in sharing 8th/9th street, has added a Hot Dog and Potato Side to their menu. Not too sure about the dog, apparently it’s sourced from a good butcher and paired with a Mustard made from Indeed beer. I’m sure it’s good, but being regular sized (as the chefs told me), I find the pricing of $7 a little unappealing. The Smashed Potatoes though… I heard them describe these, and they are a MUST get for anyone visiting. I’ve seen the technique a couple times, and it always yields an amazingly crispy, crunchy, fantastic potato. The little guys a gently simmered, smushed down so the flesh bursts out, then fried with the skin still on. Trust me when I say, these are amazing… better than most fries.

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            I did end up getting something; with the Dulce Ice on the menu, I took the chance to finally try it out. And it IS good; layered with the many small cubes of poundcake and leche caramel, carefully stirred (cuz that thing is loaded… can be quite messy if not taking time), it created a fun homage to the traditional Spanish Granita. At the end, I actually found it quite nostalgic; it sort of reminded me of my days as a kid, going to Dairy Queen and getting my favorite “Butterscotch Dilly Bar” out of the freezer. The ice still hanging on the bar, the interesting caramel, even the taste of the stick is reminiscent in the poundcake (which I think was actually a bit overcooked in this batch… was quite dry unless REALLY soaked in caramel and melted ice). Overall I was quite the happy camper.

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            The season has started out with a bang, much as the year before it. If that was any indication, I shake in excitement just considering the potential growth our Culture shall experience over the coming season. Until then, I wish good luck to the many new Trucks to hit the street, and Good Eating to the rest of us!