Green + The Grain

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https://www.facebook.com/greenandthegrain/info

https://twitter.com/GreenNtheGrain

Main Location: Minneapolis

By now I’ve made quite a few things known about what will and will not set me off through my various mobile visits. For example, the most puzzling oddity of someone indulging themselves in the street food culture only to get an item that is the most counterproductive I can think of; a Salad. Even more grievous are those places that seem to ruin what would otherwise be one of the perfect Food Truck offerings; my time at a certain vehicle still leaves a bad taste in my mouth from their attempt at Wraps.

So imagine my intrigue during my first visit of Green + The Grain, a very healthful and organic-inspired truck which made its way on the streets in June of this year, when my eyes sweep over a menu filled with nothing but these two different items which have made such an impact on me this past year. Only this time there actually seems to be a proper focus, and it’s actually done WELL.

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As you’ve surmised by now, GtG focuses on Salads and Wraps; or, to be more surprised, has a menu filled with different salads with the option of stuffing those same mixes into wraps (or vice versa). Peaking inside, one can see a whole row of mise en place stretching from one end of the giant order/delivery window to the end, each little container filled purely with greens, veggies, and the rare protein additions.

A seasonal menu, with various mix options supposedly changing at least once a week, future items may reach well beyond those discussed here (as should be considered for all seasonal Trucks I review, though I often fail to include the disclaimer due to laziness), but there seems to be a bit of a pattern so far. Chicken is the often-seen protein, commonly on the menu in Asian (also seen with Beef Tenderloin), Caesar, and Buffalo iterations, though the Berry Natural seems to be a set menu favorite, adding a delightful handful of fresh and dried fruit to the herb roasted poultry. If there’s anything that’s constant, outside of perhaps the Caesar, it’s the shared load of ingredients every single salad is filled with; greens, multiple veggies, croutons, apples, dressing, and who knows what else, the specifics of which morph and adjust depending on the final decision on focus.

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But of course there technically IS one other thing we can enjoy on our visits here; Organic Frozen Yogurt, supplied by Cloud Top and churned by GtG, garnished with whatever fruit and granola one desired. Their site does also make mention of a “signature tart,” though my luck in seeing it on my visit seemed to be quite poor. Ice cream machine wasn’t working either, luckily I wasn’t in the mood… maybe on future visits though…

So, what kind of potential can a downtown mobile Salad-based caterer have? Let’s find out.

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Food: 9.5

                I’ll admit, though my thoughts of it as street food is notably questionable, I still LOVE a GOOD Salad. An even dressing coating, with bright flavors and a range of crunchy texture, maybe some creaminess, just the best of lettuce and accompaniments. This pleasure has always been heightened even more when enjoyed inside a tight, soft tortilla shell.

So being able to have a wrap that properly fulfills these cravings, unlike the sad weak and dry versions seen in convenience stores and certain businesses, was quite the pleasure. All the vegetables were fresh, some apple slices brought the juicy crispness, and the croutons… oh the croutons. When I saw it opened up, I actually worried they may have already gotten soggy; silly me, their crunchiness was glorious as it should be. As for my salad of choice, Buffalo Shrimp, the shellfish was cooked properly with that nice snap, not dry or mealy. It wasn’t actually as “buffalo-y” as I though; the one thing I could say is that the flavor didn’t come through quite as much with everything else going on, but I still got some of that nice little heat here throughout. A good kind of hot sauce marinade, not the cliché traffic-warning-orange-colored stuff some places get in gallon jugs. Their use and manipulation of it allows my assumptions to stay positive in how they handle their other proteins and sauces/marinades.

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Holdability: 7

                 The first hurdle in a truck like this is, of course, their handling and display of the salad; and though one can never change its inability to eat with one hand when served plain, I do like and respect GnG’s packaging for the copious vegetation. A nice, tight, compact bowl that seems easy to carry and likely easy to consume out of. Ironically, it’s where the wraps come into play that issues pop up. It’s such a great way to eat on the go, a nicely tight, folded package around delicious filling, wrapped again in parchment to handle/avoid mess… and then they cut the damn thing in half, completely negating the whole purpose. I mean, I don’t mind having it halved in a restaurant, but now a one-handed ease venture turned into using both hands and trying to figure out how to ease it from its parchment bindings without everything collapsing on itself (I couldn’t quite figure it out, had some spillage). It makes something that should have been simple into an annoying challenge.

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Price: 6.5

                  Besides a $4 Soft Serve Yogurt ($6 for the large) and I’m assuming similarly priced Tart (or fruit cup in today’s case… interesting), every main-menu item is $9. Or, to be more honest, almost $10 with the tax; definitely one of the higher “set costs” on the street, though at the very least they DO give out a good amount of product for it. Tasty ones at that.

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Speed: 8.5

  Somewhat faster than average, it doesn’t take too long to pile and mix the various greens and fillings of these ingredients together and in a bowl or wrap of your choosing, even (or especially) with the decently sized serving.

The TOE: 9

                  Gotta give them credit for taking a style that makes my approach quite cautious and dubious and being able to turn it into a pretty fun and interesting visit. Image is clean and bright, sense of place is strong, and menu options are intriguing enough to create a need to come back (dessert… need…). Now if they only stop cutting our salad burritos in half then they could be a fully-load, strong warrior of the street.

Tally: 40.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Sad as it is to say, despite the Wraps this is still not one of the ideal mobile stops for those wanting to eat their main items while walking; best enjoyed sitting down. That said, whether your cravings lead to a boring salad (boooooooo) or an exciting version wrapped inside a tortilla (Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy… I’m not biased at all am I?), there are some fun ways to go.

There seem to be a few customer favorites, though overall I think the best experiences would lead from ordering the Asian Chicken/Beef, perhaps a Buffalo option, or one of the more interesting Seasonals (we still have yet to see what all they may have yet to do). Outside of this, their Tart looks to be a great small item as the snack-on-the-go, between stops or when one just wants something sweet. Frozen Yogurt is always good, but one can get that at a lot of places, I wouldn’t put it high on one’s list until they’ve tried other things desired.

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Jake’s Street Grille

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https://twitter.com/JakeStreetTruck   

https://www.facebook.com/JakeStreetTruck?fref=ts    

http://www.jakescitygrille.com/

Main Location: Minneapolis

             After a miniature torrent of new trucks which are trying to start up or sound like they’re from a restaurant, we finally have another mobile operation that’s (gasp!) actually BASED off one! (well, these guys and Falafel King… but that’s really more of a deli chain…)

             Expanding from the Triple-D-made-famous Jake’s City Grille, Jake’s STREET Grille hits the… ummm, street, in flame-covered glory. With multiple locations under their belt already, it seems Jake’s has decided to take their attitude and shove it in the middle of our Food Truck lineup. And so far, one can’t argue that they don’t stand out (at least as far as colors go).

             One of the closest trucks we have to a “gastropub” vibe, Jake’s picks some of their favorite and most Street-worthy items from the varied and bar-based Restaurant Menu; along with a couple new twists of course. Top of the list includes their all-famous Jakewings, and Cajun Tilapia or Lobster/Shrimp Tacos. Following these are some Jake Burgers turned Mini, a popular Chicken Cobb shoved in a big Pita, their favorite Chowder, and a homemade Cookie! I actually got a picture of it!

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              Then one of the employees decided they wanted to pose for me…

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              So yeah…

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              It was a bit of a rainy day the time I actually visited, and luckily for customers they have their very own awning! And not just that miniature tent often used in farmer’s markets. After placing one’s order AWAY from the truck, customers can then take their ticket up to the window to hand in-person, where we can clearly view the highly cramped and crowded kitchen. Half of the space being taken up by the big man Jake himself (or someone else who got their picture taken with Guy Fierri…).

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Food: 9

               I had to of course get the two items named after the restaurant, the Wings and the Mini Burgers! I would have liked to get the Lobster Tacos, but they’re a touch out of my price range. Did get to take a picture of them though:

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               An interesting looking “Taco,” if I have to say so. If anything it sort of reminds me of a Mexican-inspired “Lobster Ravioli” that so many high-end restaurants like having on their menu to use up knuckle and other tasty lobster meat. Considering the quality of the other foods I’ve received, the flavor combinations, and the noted grill marks on the tortillas (flour, but it’s not a traditional taco filling or wrapping anyways, so I’m okay with it), I think we can assume a good level of quality to these.

              Wings were sticky, sweet, tangy, with that nice little “spicy wing” flavor in the background. Grilled to a juicy tenderness, the black skin imparting that nice little smoky flavor to the rest of the sauce. Other than a possibility of a couple wings being too “fatty” (I know, it’s weird to say about wings… but they actually might not have been cooked enough for a little more fat to render like it should), it was a very enjoyable and delicious experience.

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              Sliders are certainly something. A mosaic of sesame over the buns, its inside toasted properly before being filled with the cheese and fried onion-covered meat. Though medium-well, an overall sense of dryness is notably absent, most likely helped by the “JakeSauce” flavoring the burger (can’t actually see or feel it; almost like it was soaked in… so good), which is very BBQ-ish in nature. Onions are nice, crispy and spice-flavored of course. Though I would definitely not compare it to some of our Best Truck Burgers, as a burger-based-slider its flavors stand loaded and high.

              As for the fries: crispy outside, soft in, not SPECTACULAR compared to the street’s best but no negative qualities. Very SOLID and well-made potatoes. Just need to eat them soon after ordering or risk softening. I’m not sure about the Cookie, but it’s handmade and certainly LOOKS delicious…

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Holdability: 8

              Based off a restaurant as it is, most of this stuff isn’t exactly clean. Not necessarily sit-down food, though; with a single basket one easily only need both hands. However, wings are quite the messy, sticky beast; they even come with wetnaps (which I accidentally tossed, agh!), which one could say is quite nice for those wanting a messy meal on the street but still needing to get somewhere. The unique roll on the Tacos are actually quite perfect for the street, with little to no worry of fillings spilling out. Though I find the pile of salsa on top sort of odd and out-of-place for any street-food item (at least the Tomatillo and Guac were in cups…).

              I DEFINITELY want to give special mention and props to their Salad. Still, still, I do not understand those people who go all the way out on the street, to a Food Truck in all its Foodie-based “Eat me with your hands” glory, and order a SALAD of all things… I mean seriously you can get that anywhere. However, Jake’s is the first place that has actually taken their salad and shoved it into something like a pita wrap (and boy did that shove a LOT of it into a BIG pita). Not only has this created an item salad-lovers can eat while walking, but they’ve transformed one of the most boring of items (a Cobb) into something fully indicative and representing of Food Truck items. In fact, I’m somewhat considering it for “Toe Ring” nomination.

                Other items hold themselves in similar levels of two-handed-ness. The chowder itself comes as a nicely-sized paper bowl which THEN put into a cardboard basket.

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Price: 9

             There are a couple higher priced items, but unlike certain other trucks Jake’s has a fantastic VARIATION, offering a great range of different prices so one can find the right fit if needed. Whether this be a $5 Chowder, $12 Lobster Taco (which actually costs LESS than the at-restaurant version, unlike a certain other Lobster-item I know), or everything else in between, all of it seeming pretty right on the money with what they offer.

Speed: 8

             Slightly above average speed, not surprising considering the full kitchen behind the window.

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The TOE: 9

            Though its restaurant ties are clear in their menu, Jake’s attitude and personality shine in the same way as the best Trucks. Their menu may not be united in a singular style or cuisine, but each item shows an excitement and “Signature” to it that others easily miss. Not to mention the fact they’ve actually put some effort in insuring most of their offerings tie well into the Street Scene.

                        Service: +1.5

               I refer to the picture of the employee posing for the cookie. Fact is these guys are fun, energetic, and practically make the visit an experience.

                         Tally: 44.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Probably the best truck so far for those who want that “restaurant experience” without sacrificing the ability to eat while mobile. Also one of the very few places (Moral Omni the other) that I find it not only acceptable, but I SUGGEST one get the Salad – Chicken Cobb in Pita.

            Most items are definitely of great suggestibility. Lobster Taco should be tried for those willing and able to spend the extra few bucks. On the lower-priced end, the Chowder looks amazing, easily in the same league as AZ’s Gumbo. The Wings are great, but only for those who don’t mind the stickiness. Mobility wise, both the Mini Burger and Cajun Tilapia Tacos fit the bill, I probably suggest the taco more; it looks amazing, I really want to go back to get it.

                Which in itself speaks to the quality; there are very few trucks that I have any real urge to go back repeatedly. Vellee and Potters are among the small group, and now Jake’s entered the list.

                 One final note, for those who looking to get a cookie on the street, I would certainly say this is one of the Trucks to grab it from.

The Moral Omnivore

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http://www.themoralomnivore.com/ 

https://twitter.com/Moral_Omnivore

Main Location: Minneapolis

             Opening right at the beginning of the 2013 season, Moral Omnivore (MO for short… really, they call it that, I’m not trying to be a smartass here) already stands out from the crowd. Big and green, the contemporary-reminiscent color-scheme and tree-design separates it from the crowd immediately, and only helps to communicate this Truck’s theme. Owned by Philosophy Major Ross, who also works as a restaurant GM, and his wife Linnea (also philosophy graduate), MO’s goal stays pure and simple to a sustainable, organic, and ultimately ETHICAL mission statement (Not surprising with a name reminiscent of a certain Michael Pollan novel).

            Looking at the menu, one might think they’re trying to shove vegetarian and other healthy ideologies down our throats. In reality, these mostly healthy food options only act as a beneficial side effect to their real cause. Options themselves seem to range in a few key styles, the regular focus being their signature Fried Tomato BLT and Beet Sliders (regular or gluten-free buns), followed by a couple Salad options, and some changing items that, ultimately, all stay very well within the “street food” range. On my visit they had an amazing looking “Wellington Burger,” and at times they have a Curried Lentil Taco made with a WAFFLE SHELL! I want that so bad right now!

            On side notes, they also offer a possibility for “Fries” made from Portobellos dipped in batter (I believe they said it was gluten-free… or just organic, but either way good), fried, and seasoned with curry. They also hand-make cookies from an organic recipe; I may not have been in the mood for one at the time, but they do look tasty. A few Minnesotan sodas line the drink options.  

            Along with their Menu choices, MO regular takes part in Food Shelves and other such charities. Holding an “Eat Your Heart Out” day every week, 5% of all proceeds that day goes to Minnesota charities; so don’t be afraid to seem gluttonous if ever catching them at those times.

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            I’m still not done talking about things they do. Besides carting around various options of ethical, delicious food, MO also sells bamboo silverware sets, hand-made tiled blackboards (I think… maybe they’re just for decoration), and I’m guessing various other sustainable items at some point in the future.

            I could probably say more, but I’m starting to get hungry and semi-disappointed in my life choices, so onto the Food section so I can finish and get something to eat.

 

Food: 9.5

                  Lucky for us, much like Tiki Tim’s, MO offers a combo option for a couple of their favorite items. As such I was able to get both the Beet and Fried Tom BLT. Still, I very much wish I could have gotten more, so many of their items looked very interesting and tasty.

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                Each slider comes in a small, fluffy handheld package of joy, the bread very well suited (and TOASTED) to eating these tiny sammiches. As for the fillings, I can safely say they stand up completely. To my surprise, red tomatoes are used in the Fried BLT, vs the traditional green for cooking; still, I found the flavor was nice, and staying closer to the traditional blt, while overall it still held its structure just as well. The bacon must be special, as I can swear it tastes better than others; and considering their motto is “from bacon to beets,” it’d be weird if it wasn’t awesome in some way. My absolute favorite, though, was the Beet, and for one simple reason: Texture. When people cook beets (especially when sliced like that), one of two things usually happens: it’s either undercooked and still firm, or it’s really soft (still tasty and delicious though). While cooked completely, this slice of beet still had a texture that at first made me worry was undercooked, but one’s teeth cuts right through, achieving a perfect “al dente” that just accentuates the false meaty qualities of the Beet. The smoked gruyere was a nice touch on top. As for the various mustard sauces, slaws, etc used on top of their respective, all made very well.

                Salads all look pretty good, with actual effort put into making them, roasted some nice root veggies to act as a base. As for the burger, I have no idea what “buffalo-caramelized onions” are, but I’m damn sure to find out soon… the burger I saw going buy looked quite the epitome of juicy goodness.

                I have slight worries about the mushroom fries, considering the higher water content naturally in the fungus, frying them can be tricky. Though considering the level of the simple vegetable sliders, and a pic I saw of them in Thrillist, I would hold little to no doubts of their capability of delivering.

Holdability: 9

                 Though seeming almost overflowing, the sliders hold the various stuffings surprisingly well. In fact, minus the highly loaded burger, all main items seem to offer easy eating in one form or another. Both hands required due to basket, but again little issue. The real star here though is the salad; placed in a small sphere of plastic, then kept in small pieces, they’ve created an almost perfect way to enjoy these on the go.

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Price: 10

               Great range, $6-$8 for mains, they offer a $7 combo, and an amazing price for a salad option, only $3. With a volume of small-cut , very well prepared veggies and leaf equivalent to a large clenched fist, this equates to one of the better deals in the Truck industry. A cookie is $1.50, and the basket of “fries” is $4.

Speed: 8

                 Simple basic speed, any amount of wait makes sense. Salads are prepared ahead of time and offer immediate satisfaction.

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The TOE: 10

                 With all intents and purposes, this is not a Truck one can even slightly hope to misunderstand, let alone refute, what their mission goals and styles actually are even upon first visit. They state it clearly on the Truck, follow through in the Menu, and add a few extra points just-in-case. One goes here, and they get that clear sense of “place,” that one really is experience something true to its own self.

                Let me say this too; Sassy Spoon could learn a few things from MO. Almost all (hell, it actually is all I think) of their items are already sticking to or similar enough with the “Nutrition/Health Food” style of Sassy’s, only they’ve actually succeeded in transforming them into proper Street Food at reasonable and logical prices. And at the end of the day, they do it simply, without any actual effort, while still sticking true to who they are. Once again, they’ve proven my point on how not difficult this process actually is, and the sort of results it can lead to.

                  I am so proud of and impressed with this upcoming Truck, and truly wish them all the best luck in their future endeavors.

Service: +1

                  Very bright, open to conversation, and highly accommodating (I actually thought their burgers didn’t have any buns at first when I saw one, only to find out it was just a request for that customer, haha). They hold a very warm sense to them, which as one can see is highly communicated among customers (thus the added point).

                       Tally: 47.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Few specific draws, overall a great Foodie truck or for those just getting into the Food Truck Culture. I will definitely say, if you’re looking for a Salad during your lunchtime adventure and need it to-go, this is certainly the place to be. They do them well, in a good lunch-time portion, and at a very good price (probably better than most salads one gets in the skyway… or restaurants).

            When visiting, my suggestion is pure and simple: Beet and Fried Tomato Slider Combo. This is great for those, like me, who rarely visit places often, thus allowing one to try more than one option at once for the same price. Both of these sliders are also highly delicious and worth it. The other option I would stress is that Taco made from a Waffle Shell whenever they have it; it’s quite the fun, interesting menu item, very Foodie-appealing.

            At the end of the day, if ever one starts to raise their curiosity about carbon footprints and looks to places that which it can be reduced, the Moral Omnivore is certainly a place to pay attention to.

Tiki Tim’s

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https://www.facebook.com/TikiTimsMN

https://twitter.com/TikiTims_MN

Main Location: St. Paul, Etc

            Yay! The first post where I’ve been able to take and use my own pictures! I feel so happy and thrilled, no more reliance on Google Images for picture-perfect, news article-used images! Out-of-focus, weird-angled, purely amateurish shots are now the only ones good enough for this Blog! Just take a look at this one!

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            And that one.

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            And this one!

            AND THAT ONE!!

            … I just realized I didn’t actually take enough pictures to really fit that amusing “point and look” exercise I just tried to accomplish. Should probably just get rid of it all-together… but I do like being lazy…

            Anyway, back to the truck.

            My first exploit of the year into Trucks I haven’t yet tried, I took a drive South of St. Paul to the Summit Brewery Taproom. A fun note for Food Truck seekers, every Friday they open the taproom and have a Truck parked outside. The schedule is posted up ahead of time on their site. One gets their order, sits down inside and grab a pint or flight of beer. A fun little activity for a small group to enjoy.

            Tiki Tim’s is a big, steel-blue (or is it electric blue?) tiny mobile home-turned Island-based food depository. The menu is held up by three main items: Fish Tacos; Island-style Pulled Pork with Pineapple Coleslaw; and “Tiki Cakes,” crab cakes with shrimp, veggies, and jalapeno.

            Besides these, one can also find a couple interesting sides, such as the now bar-staple Fried Pickles. Sweet-potato Miso Soup will keep you warm in the cold winter, standing opposite to their cold macaroni-potato salad.

            I gratefully grabbed my order, a “combo plate” of Taco and Cake with a side of the mayonnaise-based salad, grabbed a Saga IPA, sat down and enjoyed. No reason to try and pick apart the Summit, they always make a pretty good beer. For those looking to enjoy, hoppy styles such as the IPA certainly proved themselves great with the slightly spicy foods of the island. Certainly can’t wait to visit again; seems Cajun 2 Geaux will be visiting in about a month…

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Food: 9

            I’m going to start my high point on something that’s usually a low. Tacos here are wrapped in Flour Tortillas, not masa, and only given a single tortilla per. Normally, this would emit a lower score for Taco trucks, but this TRULY shows no connection to any real Latin twists or flavors. It is exactly how they might form a taco on an island. Plus, on an even tastier note, the tortillas are grilled to slight crispiness before wrapping. A nice way of getting in that extra dimension of experience.

           The white fish used is very flavorful, as is the crunchy batter they used to fry it. I am happy to say that, after my first experience of OVERWHELMING Cabbage and Veggies to tiny Fish, they have subsequently fixed the ratio to a properly-proportioned Taco. With the tangy flavored cream sauce, crunchy fish, and zippy slaw, this easily comes in as one of the best Tacos in our Truck Lineup.

           When getting the little patty of crab and shrimp, I was first reminded of the panko crust of an eggplant that I had deep fried for way too long, and left myself to anticipate the worst.

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           My thoughts were happily disproven.

           The inside is so refreshingly moist, fresh, and flavorful. Vegetables and herbs adding great notes of island aroma. Despite its appearance, the crust is thin, light, and offers that perfect texture in contrast to the soft inside. Best part, of course, to this and any other crab cake, is the lack of “filler” flavors, such as supplied by breadcrumbs.

           Sauces are all very creamy and flavorful, with a nice zippyness from any garlic or spices used. This is just as true in the Mayonnaise dressing for their cold salad. Let me just say, for those still holding doubts based on old deli-style potato or pasta salads, this is one you should try. The macaroni and potatoes are toothsome but soft, peppers and veggies add a nice little texture without any harsh flavors (for once they don’t just cram the entire thing with raw onions, uck). The dressing brings in that nice little refined creaminess that makes a GOOD potato/pasta salad.

           Spice delivered via dressings is more of the “Gentle warmth,” building a little bit over time without taking over the palette. These are not the aggressive, spiking shoots of pure burning that the pain seekers seem to enjoy.

Holdability: 6

          Tacos, as mentioned are pretty well stuffed, and only use a single taco,. The many vegetables actually stay in pretty well. It thus is less of an “overflow” dish and more of a simple “messiness,” with the thick garlic cream wanting to ooze out the most. Pork Sandwich is a two-handed thing, and sides come in their own, making any order of Main + side (which is hard not to get) drawing one to a sit-down situation of some sort.

         Tiki Cakes are just presented as crab-cakes, no bun for holding, so one is given a fork. I just ate it with my hands anyway, they actually hold up very well. Though, I still think they need to make some sort of “mini-burger” out of them, would it not just be a fantastic Street Menu Item? I’d almost consider it a Toe Ring of some sort.

Price: 7.5

         $7, $8, and $10 respectively for different menu items, with two of the sides costing $4. The side of Salad is only $2, and automatically comes with an order of Tiki Cakes (probably why they charge $10 for it).

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         They offer a really great deal for Foodies though; a “Combo Plate” that holds one Taco and Cake allows one to have a taste of two main items while only spending $8. Sides can of course increase this.

Speed: 8

         Average, simple.

The TOE: 7

        Carrying a fun name and Truck design, Tiki really brings that feeling of the unique, specific food category of their choosing. Though I would not extend that to the food; very tasty, I do feel that their STYLE is… “reserved,” not exactly hitting the true island feel that they are trying to develop. I would say it’s similar to going to a Tex-Mex restaurant on the border; very good food, carries those flavors, but not actually at Mexican.

        I really wish that they would turn the Tiki Cakes into a sandwich!! They have such potential to stand out as a popular Street Food in the city; all it needs is bread and some light slaw.

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                      Tally: 37.5/50

Final Thoughts

         Better for those who can take their times to enjoy a more complete Lunch/meal from a Truck, with some place to rest down and enjoy. Though walkers can still get a plate of just Fish Tacos for roaming the city and be happy. I DEFINITELY suggest first timers go straight for the Combo Plate as a way to try two dishes. Potato-Mac Salad is a must get on the side, simply due to the very few times one can actually find a quality cold, mayonnaise-based salad such as this.

         Don’t get the Pulled Pork until they’ve made some improvements (see my experience of it Here). I, myself, don’t see any reason to get the fried pickles, as they can be found so often these days. The soup would be a good quick-buy when out on a cold day, needing something to warm you up without spending too much.

Fork in the Road

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forkintheroadtruck.com/ 

https://twitter.com/forkNroadtruck

Main Location: St. Paul

            “The Big Orange,” Fork in the Road has settled itself into a St. Paul truck staple, being one of the first Trucks to receive news attention after their release. Focusing on familiar foods with their own house-made additions and twists, Fork offers a variety of different options that switch daily. The bulk of their menu containing sandwiches of one type or another; such as grilled, subs, sliders, hoagie, taco, etc. They also serve soups and salads, both pasta and leaf styles.

            With no real singled-out area of protein, a trip to Fork can yield any type of meat-laden option surrounded by bread (or tortilla). Guinness-braised Bratwurst, pulled chicken and pork, meatball and salmon sliders, cured sliced meats in a sub… one can find practically everything you would expect to on the street.

            So many options, it is difficult to determine which ones really shine above the others. From many reports, though, the sandwich to get is the Grilled Cheese with BBQ Pulled Pork and Caramelized Onions. They also sell a Buffalo Chicken Sanwich, BLT with Avocado-Mayo, and Guinness Chili.

            Not to mention they do love using Texas Toast for some of the sandwiches (and no, not the thick, frozen kind we find in the supermarket… I think).

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Food: 7.5

                The Pulled-Pork Grilled Cheese really IS good and yummy, with that perfect grill and the whole nostalgia+ thing going on; and it’s hard to not like something with caramelized onions. From the continued business and sound of the menu items, I doubt there are very few things that simply aren’t well made and add up to a good lunch.

                I very much appreciate what it is they do, but I find overall the food tends to lack a bit of… “soul,” of “focus,” that a lot of  other Food Trucks have in spades. I would go on, but I think it’s best to read the TOE section for a full explanation and understanding of where I’m coming from.

Holdability: 7.5

                Sandwiches are served cut, in a basket, surrounded by potato chips. Luckily they’re usually easy to pick up, at least the grilled ones are. I am not too aware of the hoagies and salmon sliders, those may be more iffy.

                I cannot imagine that the salads are ones which you would be walking down the street to enjoy; those seem more “find a nice bench or go back to the office” items. Soups are a little easier, supposing one only gets them and nothing else. With their hardiness though, I don’t see that as an issue.

Price: 9.5

                Very good prices, $6/$7 for full items (you can get salads in half orders, which cost $4), and I would say it easily makes a great deal for the food options being served.

Speed: 8

               Pasta salads and soups made ahead of time, grilled sandwiches come fast, and others come at the expected pace, leading to a good speed.

The TOE: 6

              Fork in the Road has a big tendency to stand out from a crowd; the color really brings out that positive quality for them. Also, I think this is another case where the name used actually ADDS a little bit to that dining experience.

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             As to the food, after a bit of thinking, I actually sort of like the idea of the pasta salads; it’s nice to see a place that does them well. Salads in general for Food Trucks always puzzle me, but these are a good addition, and there are always people that want a salad with lunch. Soups are never a problem, and I love the fact that they use Guinness instead of a regular Ale; brings that rich, dark chocolate and coffee flavors that work so well in chili.

             When I talked about the idea of “generalities” in my review of Gastrotruck, this is what I meant. Go on Fork’s website and look at their menu, and you’ll see what the problem is:

             There are way too many things there.

             Now granted, they only use a small amount of those options each day, but every single menu option is different. The only common ground is that MOST of the items are sandwiches, and even those you have Italian, Southern, Bar Food, Salmon, Fresh, Meaty, EGG SALAD… there’s no focus. They do a taco and a wrap; not TACOS and WRAPS, just a single of each.

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             All of these are good, solid menu items, but they distract from any attempt to try and solidify what exactly it is they do. There isn’t a single thing on here that really FEELS that special, and nowhere near are they to having a Toe Ring.

            I personally think that they should draw some of these options back, figure out what works best and keep those, with maybe a couple more new regular items of a similar style, just different formula. As for ideas, I’m not them, I can’t say where their hearts lie, but if it was me I might consider doing a mostly Grilled Cheese styled concept. The BBQ Pork Grilled is a really good sandwich; it needs to shine among a group of its own kind, not shouldering itself with a mass of differences. Plus, the cities don’t even have a Grilled Cheese-themed Restaurant (which is surprising, I mean come on we’re Minnesota). A truck like that would stand out COMPLETELY and add that great uniqueness to the entirety of our Food Scene and Culture.

            So keep the salads and soups up, and let’s hope that there is some more streamlining with the main menu items.

                     Tally: 38.5/50

Final Thoughts

            Okay, let’s get salad and soup out of the way: stick with the Pasta Salads, particularly I might try the Orzo if they happen to have it on. You can find a decent leaf salad in most restaurants, but the pastas done well are rarely handled. All their soups are the rich, belly-filling ones, but I would stick to the ones that lay on the more extreme end in that respect. Guinness Chili and Loaded Baked Potato are easily gonna fill that need for the down-home beer drinker; not to mention fill your stomach for a really low price.

            After looking over the menu, here are my suggestions for sandwiches:

  • BBQ Pork Grilled Cheese (no more explanation needed, just good)
  • Meatball Sliders (easy to walk and eat, smoked gouda gives a different, tasty note)
  • Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (for the bar food lover, creative twists on this are usually fun)
  • Santa Monica BLT (for the health conscious; on a whole wheat, avocado + blt is almost always a good, balanced combination)