Funfare Global Street Eats

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https://twitter.com/funfaregse

http://www.funfare-gse.com/

Main Location: St Paul, Etc

It’s a good thing I did some last-minute twittering, I was seriously about to put up a post saying these guys didn’t have a website! It’s tricky to find via google, but I got their twitter id and it led me straight to ’em! Still didn’t tell me too much else about them that I feel like putting down, but that might be the laziness. I do definitely suggest looking into the website to get a good clue to their personality.

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This truck also comes out as yet another build from local Chameleon Concessions, go lizards! After doing so many articles on the side for a certain southern truck builder, it’s always nice to come back and see the fruits of our own Minnesota-based team out on the street in their wonderful mobile glory.

But to get back to the truck itself, my adventure this day leads me to Funfare, or Funfare Global Street Eats, depending on how one prefers calling them that day. As the longer version suggests, along with the very postcardy décor on the side of their big red behemoth, they focus on providing a variety of classic International street foods from various world regions.

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And boy do they really accomplish this. For the past few weeks the menu has hold fast to offering the choices to grab a Cubano (from Cuba throughout Central America), Shrimp Po’Boy (Louisiana), Filipino BBQ Skewers (do I need to say this one?), Pork Steam Buns (Japan), Baja Fish Tacos (Mexico), Chicago Jumbo Dog, Cheese Curds (go Midwest!), Hush Puppies (more Southern Love), and Baklava (Middle East) for dessert. I hear they plan on changing the menu up soon, but I expect at least a few of these will either stay on or see frequent resurgence from time to time, so a good starter.

By the way, they sell Kool-Aid as a drink option… actual vibrant blue Kool-Aid. I’ll just leave it at that and get on with things.

Food: 9

                Suddenly I find myself loading up with FOUR of their menu items, two bigger and two snack-ish. So I’m gonna see if I can actually go through each briefly for once…
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First off, best Hush Puppies that I myself have ever experienced. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, like your favorite corn dog, but not dry in the slightest on the inside, still ‘moist,’ in sort of a touch spongey/doughey sense, hard to quite express. I was very happy to find a version of these fried cornmeal balls I enjoyed, with that notably soft onion-chive-y addition of flavor; a shame there’s NO sauce to dunk them in, some pepper aioli on the side would have catapulted these to perfection.

The best part of the Pork Steamed Buns is the first bite; it’s just that total pork bun flavor, with moist pig, perfect ratio of springy/chewy/tender steam bun texture (it’s so unique and distinctive), a bit of that slaw, and that marinade! For those who’ve had a pork steam bun, there’s that specific sauce flavor that’s unique purely to them, a sweet-tangy Japanese bbq sauce of sorts, and it is up front and center in the best way in combination with that pillowy dough bag. And of course I have to make mention of the interesting little form for these guys, like a Japanese bun taco. Which is cool, but whereas the first bite from the ‘top’ was perfect, the second ends up notably lacking filling, which is understandable and fine, the real issue is that this section of bun, folded over and almost double-layered, ends up notably… not drier, maybe ‘denser’ is the better word? Clearly inferior to the ideal, not uniform like the classic round buns would be.

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So I was going to go for the Po’Boy, just to be different, but then I saw someone else with one… and I’m sure it’s good, great looking veggies and toppings, but come on, that guy just needs more shrimp, it looks sparse. Those BBQ Skewers though… damn that glaze and char, reminded me of the Korean grilled pig in my favorite banh mi.

Then I saw a couple Cubanos come out and was like “Oh yeah, THAT’S what I’m getting.” Full press, flat and crispy top, melted cheese that strings properly when pulled, pickled which are THERE but don’t screw with the sandwich structure, mustard is present, and PIG. Ham and pulled, they got it… inane mention I know, but I’m still reeling from a recent cubano disappointment. This ultimately ate, tight and crispy but not hard crunchy, like I expect a Cubano to, with all the flavors. They nailed it, I was satisfied and happy, though I found there was no single item that really brought it to that AMAZING level, which any sandwich that everyone knows really needs to be in order to get that top class mark. Either a big mass of super gooey-melty cheese, this one was still simple and thin, or just bigger mass of extremely flavorful pulled pork, as again the meat was still rather standard but done well.

20150803_175101And finally, since I was at a bee-focused event, had to get that honey-soaked Baklava. I was hoping that finally, after so long, I would get a baklava from a stand that would be moist and tender and delicious, and they did not disappoint. Seriously, so used to having to choose between small squares of baklava, which are good but tiny, or big triangles which are just dry layers of phillo dough. And this was just a full mass of distinctly moist, sweet honeyed flavor and texture, not soggy at all and with a top layer that is JUST a little crispy-dry, combining with that soft and nutty paste of walnuts/almonds in the typical way. It was just refreshing and happy; if I really looked deeper, and had more experience with good homemade baklava, I’m pretty sure I could make certain points to the soaking syrup and nuts used. But when you really don’t care about thinking about it, this little dessert can just make your day, especially for the day.

 

At the end of the day, the food has a great start and is headed in the right direction to what it should be, but because they’re so close to perfection, and sticky very purely to the traditional compositions, it’s ever clearer to see that they are STILL not quite there yet. If they can make just a couple tweaks here and there, really complete each item, then Funfare is golden.

Holdability: 8.5

               Despite the variety, each of the options are consistent in that everything needs two hands, being eaten from a basket, and is all surprisingly clean consumption. Even the Baklava, though a touch sticky, again isn’t soggy or anything, so it only needs a few delightful finger licks following complete eating. It’s only the BBQ skewers that come with rice, something that requires a fork, but besides those the only issue for walking+eating becomes what ELSE you might get. Though I guess sides and dessert can just be dumped in the same basket as your big guy; not like any sauces are coming over to mix and mingle.

Price: 7.5

                $10 for the big two sammiches, $8 for the Fish Taco and Filipino Skewers, $7 for those mini Steam Buns, $5 Chicago Dog, $3 each for the fried side items, and $2 for Baklava. A notable range of low to mid-high, providing some notable options for one’s situation and preferences. I would say the items tend to skirt the edge of whether they feel totally worth it if not a steal for the price charged, while others I would hope for maybe one extra bun (I mean it’s either an add-on, in which case it bumps the final price up considerably, or it’s supposed to be eaten on its own, in which case you want some more) or more fried shrimp before not worrying about whether I’m just being a cheap, nitpicky b*^@# food reviewer.
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Speed: 8

Distinctly depends on the item. Most are close to ready to go, can only take a few minutes, but the main boys will be an average wait; Cubano takes at least 8 minutes on the grill. That is proper though. I will say I would have liked it if they’d offer me the option to receive some of my other things first, since there were only a couple other orders, instead of having to wait what took 10 minutes for ALL of it.

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The TOE: 8.5

                I wasn’t thinking I’d score them too high for this, my premier thoughts and impressions on when I first spotted them in St Paul (happened to be their opening day! But I had other guys to hit then) was just another random ‘let’s open a food truck’ ideas, they do ‘international’ probably because they couldn’t think of anything else more interesting, like those who just do burgers and meat sandwiches; which can be great, but also uninspiring. But just as we can find a sandwich truck that brings us to our knees, so does Funfare come to grab my own attention. Whether it’s presentation, the distinctive look and taste of each food, or just plain doing it right, I can officially say they are the first truck that, in my opinion, successfully offers a menu that feels like it’s focusing on different world food regions. This as opposed to a certain one or two that really just seem to come from the Middle East and Asia, or  then go back to the US only to feature a burger and philly cheese (it’s always the burger and philly cheese…). Funfare chooses distinct and familiar, but not boring, menu items that do express some of our favorite eats from around the globe. To this, I myself am somewhat eager to see what other food items they explore and switch out with, if they continue on with strong hitters or fizzle out. Guess we’ll only see with time.

Tally: 41.5/50

Final Thoughts

Echoing my ultimate impressions on food, the truck as a whole stands as a very strong, ‘almost perfect’ business in their particular realm of focus, but it’s currently just one or two steps behind the point of ‘ideal.’ But I feel with time and some effort, if applied, they can easily reach the heights of food and personality impressions as some of my absolute favorites, like Home Street Home and SCRATCH.

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So I guess that means we just need to keep visiting and enjoying their various treats now doesn’t it? Now, it certainly is difficult to make suggestions for a future-changing menu, but I do believe I can confidently say the BEST strategy for taking hold of Funfare, at least for right now, is to attack the small-plates for snacking or mini-meal purposes. Whether it’s grabbing the almost-toe-ring-level Baklava for your sweet tooth, some Hush Puppies or Cheese Curds to pop in the mouth as you walk between other truck delights, or those Steam Buns just because they’re pretty darn tasty and good. If you DO want something more substantial, I still gotta try those BBQ skewers; they just look so good, and the additional rice will help fill you up; though I myself would rather just have the skewers for a dollar less to walk around with. That and the Cubano are my strong ‘entrée’ points for now. As for what else comes along, just do your best to have an idea on what they did well with THESE and try to imagine what other items would be crafted the best. To that, I finish with a good luck, good eating, and a hope I can get myself back out there snacking with all of you soon once more!

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Kabomelette

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http://www.kabomeletteminneapolis.com/  

https://twitter.com/kabomelette  

Main Location: Minneapolis, Mornings + Lunch

             With a name reminiscent of what might happen if Wile E Coyote got his hands on the Road Runner’s eggs, Kabomelette premiered on the morning streets with much curiosity. As the second Truck this season to come out with highlighted breakfast focus, I was happily able to swing my first visit (again, another truck this season I’ve needed 2 visits to get down…) by on the same day of checking out Paulette’s.

            As the name ACTUALLY suggests, Kabom offers up two main “specialties” (on my first visit this depended on when you got there; one “menu” for breakfast and one for lunch. Though the recent menu has shown no requirement for time, thus assuming an all-day option… unlike McDonalds), so our inner Pyro’s have to sadly throw away the hopeful thoughts of dynamite and destruction. Omelette“s” and other breakfast items fit one side, while the other is taken up by variously flavored Kabobs, such as Jerk, Satay, Curry, even Caprese Salad. Between the two, they’ve also made the decision to offer quality coffee and some sandwich options.

            Ups and Downs aplenty to fill my experience, can’t think of what else I want to say without going to my ratings. So let’s dive in shall we?

 

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Food: 5

             Omelette is of the simple flat and fold-over style, made with 3 eggs. I think it’s funny that, despite the fact it’s the main part of their name, they really only offer one kind on the menu. They’ll argue that they have multiple, but it all revolves around bacon-peppers-onion-zuchini-cheese; you can either get chorizo instead of bacon, a “Vegan” that just doesn’t have the meat, or another one that just doesn’t have the veggies. As for how the fillings turn out, they are… average. Big chunks of vegetables were sautéed at one point, then put on top of egg and folded. Nothing bad to it, but nothing that makes it stand out; which is very sad for one of their namesakes.

             On my second visit, I got myself the “Chicken Satay;” I was going to get 2 kabobs actually, but… well, I’ll explain that later. To my disappointment, these skewers aren’t actually grilled to order; all of it is cooked and assembled ahead of time, then placed on a bed of rice with their sauce. Despite this, though, the chicken was surprisingly tender and soft, a really nice texture and flavor; speaking of which, I VERY much enjoyed the somewhat-spicy Peanut Sauce. If it’s any indication, I’m sure one can be confident in the flavor and quality of the sauces used on the skewers.

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             A couple things though. First, see this picture above? That’s what they serve for their Thai Chicken “Satay;” I put quotes around it because, for anyone who knows, THAT is not a Satay, it’s a Kabob. Satays are thin slices of meat woven onto a skewer with NOTHING else and grilled as-is (like Yakitori I believe); they are NOT layered in thick chunks with similarly thick-chunked veggies. Now, if the menu said “Chicken Satay Kabob,” then that’d be fine, but it didn’t; in fact, it said “Thai Chicken Satay,” actually indicating that it should have been THAI style; which again looks nothing like our version of Kabobs. And they only gave 3 pieces of chicken for all those vegetables.

              And as for the vegetables themselves, again there was nothing special of them. They were cooked as minimally as needed, had some weird hanging peppers, and just didn’t leave anything to impress me with. But the real oddity here is not the cooking and skewering, but the vegetables themselves; if one actually reads through the menu at every menu (outside the Caprese) you’ll see it immediately. Every single dish (breakfast or non) that uses veggies always uses Green Peppers, Onions, and Zucchini; nothing more, nothing less. Am I the only one who thinks this is sorta weird? I mean hey, the “why not” idea is there, but does it not just create a feeling of banality reminiscent of the boring Diner down the road?

             Maybe it’s just me.

             As for the sandwich items, I personally don’t care how good they are; so many other trucks serve them, and the draw to this particular one focuses completely around their Kabobs and Omelette“s.” And sadly, neither of these really live up that much to expectations.

Holdability: 6

              So disappointing. I was so excited at the idea of focusing their menu around one the iconic “On a Stick” food, the one thing I could be guaranteed to carry around in one hand wherever I want and chow down (well, that and a Corn Dog… which reminds me, we need a specialty Corn Dog Truck… someone get on it!!), and what do they do? Put it in a basket with rice.

             I’d pound my head against the wall if I wasn’t so lazy… and if it didn’t hurt so much. It may not be that difficult to eat, about the same as most places in baskets, but I’m taking off extra points here. They have a very clear and very easy route to a food item that’s absolutely perfect Holding while walking, and they just go ahead and do this…

             As for the omelette, in a basket as one expects, and not all that messy to eat.

Price: 6

             A very interesting phenomenon happened between my two visits. On my first exploration, I saw a very interesting and appealing Menu which looked like this:

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             A few options, very focused on the Kabobs and breakfast (if only having one omelette), and some VERY nice prices; if I had the time to stick around for lunch that day I would grabbed two skewers! My excitement, however, was soon to depart when I came back about a week later to this:

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             Interesting, isn’t it? It’s amazing how almost all the same items other than the Sandwich and Hash have increased in price; yet, at the same time, no additions had been made (I actually THOUGHT the rice with the Kabobs was new, but after looking back I was wrong! No Change!). What’s even more interesting is how, despite the attempted “diversification” of the omelettes, the actual Works (with everything) has no price difference than the other two (one with no meat, the other with only two bare items); not that the difference should be huge, but at least 50cents to better identify.

             Then we get to the Kabobs, which are basically just a pile of rice and cheap vegetables with only a bare few pieces of meat. I personally don’t see the actual justification for its given price now. What they need to do is get those prices back down, add one more piece of meat, and get rid of that rice so we have a nice, cheaper, handheld skewer of tastiness we can walk around with.

             Oh, guess I should list the final prices for those who can’t or are having problems seeing the picture. Breakfast items hang at $5, with $6 for their Hash and most Kabobs; lunch Sandwiches and “higher-end” Kabobs get set at $8. Overall, it’s still some pretty good prices (when simply compared to other menus), but I’m not sure it’s justified for the very simple, very low-costing products.

Speed: 9

             Quickness in service seems to be one of their main goals. As mentioned earlier, all Kabobs seem to be completely cooked and assembled beforehand, only needing an extra squirting of sauce and placing on a bed of rice or whatever. Omelette’s are cooked to order, though, and offer an expected couple minutes wait. Not sure if they cook meat for the sandwiches any further once ordered, though my guess is probably No if going off their mission statement.

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The TOE: 4

              I think it’s clear that there are quite a few things that stand out on the non-positive side here. The potentially-portable Kabobs are segregated to a rice-filled cell, prices have actually INCREASED, the actual quality of their specializations are only a bit over average; even their cart sorta looks like it came out of one of those random, average start-up diners. Though the name is interesting and they certainly help with the recent movements towards a Truck-focused Breakfast Scene, many of their decisions since opening have twisted what could have been some great impressions for the experience.

             Speaking of the name, I have one last issue I find highly jilted on. After reading their name, as well as a few little descriptions about the place, I’m sure my mind wasn’t the only one which got the idea that their truck was actually gonna focus on a new “Fusion” item of a Kabob wrapped in an Omelette (or something like it). One can imagine my immense disappointment, then, when I came only to see that they keep the two items separate; and they only have one actual omelette. Now, if this was a Restaurant, I wouldn’t bring it up; I mean hey, if there was a restaurant named this, where they had like 6 omelette’s and a whole list of skewers, it’d make sense.

            But the fact is, as I’ve said with other review, THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT; it is a Food Truck. And one of the best aspects of this world is its wondrous realms of Creation and Fusion that just naturally seems to develop. So much so that, not only is the Fusion of items common, but it can be EXPECTED; and with the name Kabomelettes, it was highly expected. Especially with how easy it would be to actually make and how much sense it is; wrap an egg around a kabob like a lettuce wrap around a satay, and walk around with a paper-enshrouded skewer to enjoy your new food conquest. And to not deliver on this silent promise just creates a sever decrease in the potential experience us Foodies and Customers look for.

            Ultimately, if they can get rid of the Rice, nix the Sandwiches, add some more meat to the Skewers (and reword the name on the Satay), REALLY diversify their Omelettes, and maybe try at least one signature “Kabomelette,” and they really could be something great. Until then… –sighs- will just have to be here for the breakfast and quick-to-eat crowd.

                       Tally: 30/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            So far, I find Kabomelette’s to only fit 2 situations for going: for those wanting an egg-based breakfast from a Truck, and when looking for quick lunches.

            If one does end up going, my menu item suggestions are this. Jerk Chicken if looking for a Kabob, Fried Egg Sandwich if wanting Breakfast (the Roll is homemade, and I just don’t think the omelette’s are special enough to justify going to a truck for it; can find similar or better in many other places), and avoid the Sandwiches (I just don’t see the need to get one here as opposed to other trucks which BASE their menu around them).

            Hopefully changes are made and future experiences can prove all this wrong.