Big Brother Almighty BBQ

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http://www.bigbrotheralmightysmokedbbq.com/

https://twitter.com/BBAlmightyBBQ

Main Location: Minneapolis

It’s always interesting when new batches of Food Trucks come in each year; the discover of which, usually, coming through various waves and instances as the 10+(usually a lot of +) come in unannounced throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. 2014 has stood out as somewhat interesting, though, in how many articles and reports and postings I’ve seen come out, grandstanding around THE new group of mobile vendors coming out this year. This always being the same group of 5-8 Trucks being anticipated for by bloggers and media alike, setting themselves squarely into their own little ‘Rat Pack Street Food Style’ of the 2014 Generation. Though of course one or two of the trucks aren’t always consistent list to list, certain new businesses being more unique or informationally available for each article owner, there are a certain few that consistently stand out at the top of the list.

Of these, Big Brother Almighty BBQ seems to shine as the most intriguing of newcomers (well, next to Butcher Salt, but they came out much earlier), calling those denizens of the street forth in curiosity as the unique, Zeus-embellished logo. As for their story, it seems the business is originally based out of the bbq-joint-of-the-same-name, located on Hoover St in Minneapolis.

Like all BBQ businesses, there is no such thing as ‘menu specialization;’ no matter what their best and worst items are, they shell out everything. Ribs, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Rib TIPS, even Chicken Wings, one can get all the classics, every which one of them being smoked for flavor. Of the sides we have those mainly typical of a lower key place, or perhaps a picnic, with Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Mac n Cheese, Potato Salad, and French Fries (sad to say no bacon/ham and collard greens made the list). Besides the Pork and a Polish Sausage, all smoked items come in Full and Half orders, reminiscent of making the aching decision of whether or not you can handle double the ribs in your local lodge house.

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And did I mention every meat comes with a free slice of White Bread? Now that’s classic barbecue. Sadly, they don’t make their own sauce to accompany this or your meat, maybe a wet marinade for some items, but they carry a few classic options to choose from and distribute on your own desires.

Food: 5.5

                It’s a very, very difficult thing to get a grasp of any BBQ joint’s food and style when only having one or their items; whereas the ribs from one place are divine, that same business’ pulled pork may be abysmal (or at least just okay), or vice versa. Many places have noted strong and weak items, some may be strong across the board, but we can’t know the full situation with only experiencing one meat. Thus my exploring of this mobile shack had to be relegated in my schedule twice.

Thankfully for me, my very first visit provided a stroke of luck, walking up to the counter right as they were inspecting a slab of Rib Tip. Cutting off an end, the cook asked my opinion on its level of preparation; it did need more time, as it was still notably chewy, but the juiciness of that meat fully coated my mouth and fingers, accompanied by a lightly piquant red marinade that made me very hopeful for my meals to come.

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But that stopped soon afterwards, for though the side of Beans I acquired provided a nice flavor compared to the generic puddles of goo one is loathe to remember, still a touch chalky in texture but definitely a good basic experience, my regular Ribs left my feelings neutral. Not that there was anything wrong with the ribs; my teeth can bite through, one can taste a little smoke, the pork flavor is nice; but there’s nothing really ‘right’ either. They’re not bad, but they aren’t great, and ribs are one of those foods where any time you eat it the flavor should be GREAT and excite you. But they just felt decent, ‘alright,’ it was cooked well enough nothing was wrong with them but there was no special quality.

The Brisket sunk me even lower, finding something that made me disappointed. I love brisket, absolutely love it, but this just ended up tasting like roast beef, with barely any smoke flavor and none of the pink flesh from that heated carbon-curing. It was gray and brown with no bark (literal and figurative), and really pointed out the sadness that they don’t make their own sauce to slather over the finished meat. Because worst, worst of all, it was dry; and no, not as in the sandy, chewing on leather dry, but that texture right in the back tells you immediately there will be no juicy reward in this food, with just a hint of flesh scraping, which may be nothing for other meat but for a brisket is DRY. Oh, and did I mention I had a piece with a chunk of fat/gristle that I, of all people, COULDN’T eat? And I love chowing down on delicious animal fat with steaks and whatnot.

All this comes as no surprise when one reads on their homepage that the owner himself, a ‘Professional Cook,’ has been working only as a Prep cook he was 20 and ‘has even taken a course in BBQ from Jack’s Old South BBQ Cooking School in Unadilla, Georgia.’ Ooooh, a whole course?

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I now sadly doubt if the rib tips, though delicious when fresh, would actually come to customers near that level after having been sliced and kept ready to serve like these previous items. Could very well be wrong though, they may just keep that idealistic perfection, with a texture my teeth can actually cut through on their own. Finishing off, I did get a look at their Mac and Cheese, and for the typical thick, gooey yellow style one usually sees from BBQ and Sandwich trucks (like Bloomy’s), it looked to be of the tastier variation.

Holdability: 5.5

                 Though sides, when ordered solo, are placed in small, easy-to transport containers, any entrée choice immediately requires the characteristic giant styrafoam box, no matter how small the whole order is. Though options like ribs and chicken wings, when not heavily sauced by yourself, can allow for ease of consumption (despite the obtrusive packaging), brisket and pulled pork offer much cumbersome mess. Picking up the white bread that’s supposed to act as their sandwich bread base only ends in part of it ripping in half, saucy meat falling, and you turning around to grab napkins as you plan a better navigation plan. Put simply, these items are meant for shipping to an eat-focused-location.

Price: 3.5

                  The cheapest one will pay here, not counting only getting some sides or ordering the $7 Polish Sausage, is $9 for their ‘small/half’ orders. This applies to only 3 slices of brisket, 4 small ribs, 4oz of rib tips, or just 6 chicken wings (not sure how much pulled pork you get, but I don’t expect I’d be wowed). Oh and did I mention this is before the tax kicks in? So it’s almost $10. To actually get a decent sized order, one will pay around $14 for double the amount, $12 in the case of chicken wings (which isn’t actually getting a full double anyways), before tax again. And sides are $3-4 each.

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Very typical and not so surprising price listing when heading into some BBQ restaurants, but completely unacceptable from a food truck perspective; we either need some more affordable options or, at the very least, substantial quantities (and qualities) of food to match the higher-end price listing in the street vendor line-up.

Speed: 9

A relatively quick recovery of pre-finished product into your container, or spooned into Tupperware.

The TOE: 4.5

                  Big Brother seeks to apply the same feeling and experience of eating at their restaurant or bbq catering table, I presume, without making any consideration changes towards Street Food culture. Nothing is made purely to eat mobile, the price system mirrors brick and mortar expectancies, and portion size for even the most affordable options are laughable. They do carry an ambiance and a unique enough design and attitude which initially draws us in quite well, but it never carries through unless one is tunnel-visioned enough about the idea of a barbecue stop that they simply don’t care (which I admit, and have for many of my reviews, that these may simply be the opinions of a self-obsessed ranting lunatic, but nonetheless…).

Tally: 28/50

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Final Thoughts

Unless one really has a craving for a BBQ lunch, and are dependent on getting it from a Food Truck, I would ultimately suggest finding somewhere else for lunch. That said, if one WERE to visit here, I have two main ideas for a decent experience.

1: for the BBQ-focused, I would bet the Pulled Pork probably allows for the better eating options, and you may get more for the money (pork used for pulling generally being cheaper, and since they only have one option for I would assume that means it’s not a half/dinky order. Then again, it could just be charging for a single, small sandwich). Then again, if the Rib Tips ever tender up once cooked, it should be pretty good, just one of the pricier street options. Though considering they’re the main two items they seem to push on the website, it’s not so surprising.

2: skip the BBQ all-together, get yourself 2-3 sides, some Mac and Cheese and Baked Beans. They open themselves up as a possible choice when creating a full-course food truck day plan. Though don’t get the fries, they’re pre-cut frozen things I can tell.

Tollefson Family Grill

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http://www.tollefsonfamilypork.com/  

https://twitter.com/tollefsonpork

Main Location: Etc

            A long winter, spring, and summer, and my chance has finally come to take in the Tollefson Family Grill Truck. It has been many an adventure of mine to visit various Farmer’s Markets, Breweries, and other events only to find a case of frozen meat, a portable grill just sending dogs and burgers, or an unknown cancelling. Oh if only I had taken the opportunity to hit them those during those summer days in Minneapolis when they parked on Nicolette. Sadly they have since cancelled their trip up the downtown circuit, only sticking to certain outskirt locations, some special events, and the occasional Brewery visit.

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            But a recent visit to Harriet has finally allowed me the chance to sample a couple of their items, while also enjoying a nice beer and music of course. At the same time, I received the chance to discuss a previous experience with the main man behind the counter, to which some interesting reveals surfaced.

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            To expound (probably not the right word, don’t care) on this, one of my recent attempts to connect with Tollefson took me to Fulton, which I only found out upon getting there that the truck had cancelled due to mixed scheduling issues. With the way employees had reacted, it (almost) translated as a last-minute thing; as my own nerves with cancelling Food Trucks were a bit high at the time, my emotions got the better of me and I sent a noticeably frustrated message Tollefson’s way on Facebook.

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            Apparently, though, the “truck” owner had actual given their notification for cancelling a week beforehand, even sending at least one or more other notes to ENSURE they apologized and understood the situation. Yet despite that Fulton themselves never put any notification of the cancelling for customers (neither did Tollefson, but they’re now aware and working on this), and it seems they did not fully communicate this to other employees, thus not helping to ease a somewhat frustrating situation to those customers coming on that particular day.

            I just wanted to make sure I put that up there, not only as my own formal apology to Tollefson for the message I sent but also as an awareness to others towards certain “possible actions” taken by those which Tollefson has interacted with.

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            Back to why we’re here, though, to explore this Truck. Tollefson, as one would hope, basically just takes all their popular protein items, grills them up “fresh,” and offers them to the crowd. One can get their Smoked Link, Hot Dog, Pork Pattie, and Smoked Pork Chop, along with their own made Pulled Pork and a Double Burger.  

            They do offer a Veggie Option of course, basically a Portabella Sandwich with peppers and other little things. Though of course I’m goin’ here for some of that Meat, and it’s about time I finally got there.

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Food: 6

            My first grab here was their Pulled Pork, which was surprisingly Asian Style, piled on a simple, untoasted yellow bun. The meat itself is quite tasty, the “asian” flavor doesn’t come through too much when eating as a whole, but just enough to fill out the flavor, keep the meat a little rich and moist, and overall create that “balance” a good pulled pork has before toppings.

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            As for the toppings, one has quite the selection; which is guarded by a big stuffed pig. A bottle of Kettle Creek’s nice, tangy BBQ is joined by Tollefson’s own Raspberry-Balsamic Reduction and the basic Mustard-Ketchup deal. This is joined by some pickle, chopped onions, and an “Asian Slaw” which wasn’t really a slaw, but was VERY tasty. For preparation purposes, it was more of a saurkraute-veggie-pickled mix with a bit of Rice Vinegar and maybe other Asian mix-ins that, though not reminiscent of the name, made for a crisp, tart, delicious little topping. Using that and the BBQ sauce, the Pulled Pork pulled itself to a very enjoyable experience.

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            This and a beer kept me stuck at the Brewery for quite a while, so another trip back to the Grill was almost mandatory. Thought I’d try their Pork Pattie, which they also served on that same, thick, untoasted (or warmed) bun. The patty itself had been sitting on the grill’s warm spot for who-knows-how-long, leaving a thin, completely cooked through piece of sorta-spiced ground pork that dearly cried for much moisture. Ultimately it was almost reminiscent of something I might find in a gas station if they had served a pork patty. Pickles and some BBQ sauce helped a bit.

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            As for other items, Dogs, Links, and the Smoked Pork are only as good as we know from buying them. I will say, though, I saw someone with the Burger, the meat of which was completely grey and cooked through. Two flat, quarter pound patties, which didn’t even look moist. And once again, as with all items, no toasting of buns. A bit sad to see…

Holdability: 8.5

           All items are very holdable, I mean they’re tight Dogs and Sandwiches, though they require two hands due to the basket always served with them.

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Price: 8

             Smaller items at $5, a Hot Dog at $4, $7 for the Veggie and $8 for all the bigger items. The addition of Bacon and Cheese to any item costs extra; not much for cheese but $2 for Bacon. A decent little range for product pricing.

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Speed: 9

           Mostly instantaneous, almost all of their items being cooked beforehand and held warm to be casually scooped into one of those untoasted buns. The one exception, of course being the Smoked Pork Chops, which they cook to order; it supposedly takes 7 minutes. Not sure if the burgers also get some cooking, are kept on a grill, or stay in a warming pan as well.

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The TOE: 5

             I won’t lie, it does sorta feel like something one might visit at a State Fair or Market or other event; though Dogs and such can be good, it’s still just a big cart selling Dogs and a couple Ground Patty Sandwiches with only a few exceptions. There’s some notes of the Street to them, but not too much.

                        Tally: 36.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            All those who are familiar with Tollefson’s products are already familiar with their favorites, so one can base their decisions off of that. It’s obviously a great locations for the quick-buy.

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            When looking for something a bit different than the normal products, or just the highlight in general, stick to the Pulled Pork. The Smoked Pork also intrigues me, but I actually wonder if it fully compares as such a simply grilled product. The Smoked Link is also popular, and a good low-price item if you haven’t had it yet. But no matter what you buy, make sure you dress it heavily; they all need some of that “Slaw,” or BBQ sauce, or whatever you like.

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            Ultimately, though, besides the Pulled Pork, there isn’t too much I feel that stands out from other Trucks.