Bubba’s Fried Chicken (Quasi-Review)

20150817_130451

https://twitter.com/bubbaschicken
http://www.bubbasfriedchicken.com/

Our first Wisconsin emigrant food truck has arrived this year! I noticed Bubba’s Fried Chicken in downtown St Paul a couple months back, but with its very state fair concession-like trailer look, was rather cautious on the approach. Not to mention home research, both of them and their locations posted up through the Facebook page, informed me that their home base is in fact River Falls Wisconsin. As such, I knew I had to wait, see if the trip to Minnesota was a one-time only thing, or just REALLY infrequent, or if it became regular. As luck would have it, their travel down to our Twin Cities has continued to come around here and there, and on a recent day off that they happened to post their location in Mears Park (first, main location, and second, they annoyingly don’t update Facebook THAT much, so you’ll likely best run into them if you’re down in St Paul regularly or via luck on most occasions).

20150817_130224

Bubba’s Fried Chicken sells, what else, Fried Chicken, and not much else. The business itself originated in a storefront in their home state, but if I heard them correctly that sadly got shut down, leading, or at least encouraging, their food truck-forward business strategy. It would certainly explain why their logo includes mention of Fried Okra, Collard Greens, and Deep Fried Corn on the Cob, and yet on neither occasion did I see ANY of these. Which sucks, because fried corn cob sounds AWESOME as a food truck addition, perhaps of even Toe Ring significance if done right, and they’d complete its menu as a deep south/deep fried business. There’s not even much excuse; okra can be gotten year-round, it’s PEAK corn season, and they obviously have a friar and prep space, all that’s needed for those two items. Oh well, a man can dream.

The menu itself gives us an option between fried chicken baskets; 2 piece, 3, 4 Wings or 4 Tenders, all of which comes with house-cut Jo Jo Fries (I’ll admit, when I saw that on the menu, I thought it was the generic stuff that they probably bought frozen. So props in at least cutting their own potatoes). Though what they don’t tell you is that the ‘3-piece,’ probably like the 2, is just 3 drumsticks. It’s a real shame you don’t get the chance at the breast or thigh meat, a classic mixed-basket deal or something. But if you like Drumsticks best, or either of the other two cut options, then you get to have a whole bunch of it just for you.

And there are a few simple sauces available; a BBQ, Hot, and Ranch-ish, which I’m pretty sure are all made in house. The flavors and balance on each are all rather standard, simply enjoyable in what they are; to be thought of and used on the side as a typical condiment, nothing to really write home about.

20150817_130438

Food: 6.5 – a thinner-styled coating on this chicken before frying, so lack of audible crunch but it forms a tasty ‘fried’ layer that’s seasoned well, perhaps a bit heavy on the salt. The chicken underneath IS moist, with expected flavor but nothing outstanding. Standard fried chicken, executed well for the ingredients and methods used. The fries certainly are ‘Jo Jos,’ big, soft on the inside and soft on the outside, no real crunch; but that’s an expected trait of the style, so I won’t really knock them for it.

Holdability: 7 – Easy to eat-and-go, but still classically need a napkin just from the slightly greasy skin and moist chicken meat. I feel it’d be nice if we didn’t HAVE to have Jo Jo fries automatically load up every single basket, for both this and the price factor.

Price: 9 – $6 and $7 for 2-piece and 3-piece, leaving a good deal and option to upgrade to some more food, and $7-$8 for the Wings and Tender baskets. Overall good and affordable level, worth it for the AMOUNT you get, I find myself wondering about the price for just 4 chicken wings but then again realize that those might be the WHOLE wings, tiny drummy and other thing attached to each.

Speed: 10 – well the pieces and fries are ready to go… great for speed though maybe not what I’d ideally want from a proper fried chicken food truck.

Toe: 3 – Ultimately it feels like something that we see at a State/County Fair or some Music Festival Block Party, it’s hard to feel that complete personality which we find at other trucks; especially since it’s all just the few kinds of same-fried chicken and the potatoes. With those other items they promise, perhaps it’d help, contorting them to a full respectable menu with real options.

20150817_130503

SFC: The Deep Pickle, Part 3 (Southern Comfort)

                It’s the third post I’ve done for pickling, and for this installment I’m dong… Green Tomatoes!! Hell, I had to do SOMETHING with them… with the oncoming freeze of winter, we had to pick off all the fruit from our cherry tomato plant early, leaving us with a whole, piled bowl full of the under ripe bastards. And they’re not the easiest to immediately come up with a random dinner with (at least not with the small ones… and I’ve already made fried green tomato BLTs last year). Luckily for us, Pickled Green Tomatoes are quite a southern dish, and I couldn’t help but think of it immediately when I got the bowl.

SAMSUNG

                As it turned out, the idea evolved into a great new post for the ongoing pickle recipe line-up that seems to be forming, as the various online recipes I’ve researched has led to my first foray into the purely unique, traditional, and separate technique of Jar Pickling (really though, I couldn’t find a single recipe that didn’t make me do this…). I’m talking true old school, full sanitization, sealing, and shoving into the basement.

                What’s the difference from the basic quick-method I described in my first forays? Well, besides a fuller and more integrated infusion of the pickling base, what ends up in the jar, completely sanitized and separated from the world around it, is left to mature and develop purely among itself, almost like an aging/settling bottle of wine. The final result, though subtle, can yield to what is to be a more… “complete,” deeper flavor (if done right).

                But less talk about theories which I have put absolutely NO time or effort in researching, let’s start the process!

                We begin not with ingredients, but equipment. Everything you use needs to be sanitized, EVERYTHING; depending on the scale one goes to with this, it can be a complete pain in the ass, one of the reasons I haven’t actually done this until now. That and that minutia of worry I’ll always carry in the back of my head that “maybe something got in from the air or counter afterwards.”

SAMSUNG

                So gather everything you’ll need: A glass pickling jar, the lid (which should separate into two part, the circular top and the rim), tongs, a pair of chopsticks, your knife (yep, even what you’re cutting the tomatoes with), a small empty can or plate or wire rack, and the largest (or at least highest) pan for boiling water you can find. You’ll also need to sanitize the cutting board, but with its size I’m guessing it won’t fit in the pan: I just ran mine under super-hot tap water for a couple minutes.

SAMSUNG

                To set up, fill the giant pan as high with water as you can and bring to a simmer (not a boil, simmer). By this time, set some sort of spacer at the bottom; a metal rack works wonders if it can fit. This is to make sure none of the items rest against the pan, letting the heat fully circulate (and making sure you don’t scrape your cooking equipment, haha). Then submerge all the items as much as possible; which is why you need a huge pan, those pickling jars are tall, especially after being elevated. I had to turn mine to the side. Also, I only submerged the main metal parts, not the handles, of my tongs and knife, for easy removal and handling afterwards (how am I supposed to take the other stuff out if I can’t lift the tongs, right?). Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

SAMSUNG

                Set to dry on a very clean towel, or other area you trust to be as sanitized as possible, and more onto the pickle. Choosing whatever aromatics you want (recently read a recipe with 4 different options for spice flavors with the green tomatoes), instead of boiling them with the vinegar you can put them all into the bottom of the jar beforehand. Don’t worry, they’ll be getting just as much heated infusion later, so for now we can keep them underneath everything so we don’t have to deal with the annoying group of spices covering the top of our pickle. I stuck with a simple mix of peppercorns, bay leaves, dry rosemary, cloves, and a cinnamon stick (I also found a fun way to replace chili peppers in a recipe when you don’t have any).

SAMSUNG

                Now, slice all tomatoes in half (if we were doing the large tomatoes, then wedges), along with any onions, garlic, or other veggie aromatic you wanted in the mix. Transfer these to the clean and mostly-empty pickling jar; I like to layer the onions and garlic I used, just to ensure thorough flavor mixing (plus it looks so pretty, AND you can eat them along with the tomatoes!). Do not fill all the way to the top, but leave at least the rim open for air and space come sealing.

SAMSUNG

                Next, bring the base pickling liquid to a boil along with anything that needs dissolving (salt, sugar, etc). For the recipes I researched, I found a couple things to note: one, you’ll want to make half the volume of the pickling container/s, so for a single quart pickling container I used 2 cups, or a pint of liquid (it came PERFECTLY to the top, so awesome). And two, for the green tomatoes you’ll only want about 50% vinegar or less in it; I saw an iron chef’s recipe that used like 8 cups vin to 1 water, and that’s just way too psychotic. Green tomatoes are gonna have enough tartness and acidity to them as is, we only need the vinegar for flavor and general preserving at this point. Oh, and use Apple Cider Vinegar if you can, it’s really tasty with these guys!

                I didn’t use any sugar in this one, and many recipes only call for a little bit of a sweetness factor anyways. What I DID use, however, was Hot Sauce! It was a fun little experiment, since I just picked this really yummy bottle up from a recent trip and I didn’t have any mustard seeds or hot peppers to add to my spice mix. So instead, I used what was a notably mustard-focused, habanero-made hot sauce. I only added a couple tablespoons, so it’s not noted in the final flavor, but I’m sure it added something. My one concern is that it doesn’t dissolve completely into the brine, but sorta floats around in little particles… not that attractive.

SAMSUNG

                Once everything is mixed and boiled, pour directly (and carefully) into the pickle jar, completely submerging your desired produce. Here we use the chopsticks (bet you were wondering what the hell those were for weren’t you?), grasping the end and carefully pushing down to the bottom here and there. This helps get out all the extra tiny air bubbles trapped beneath the veggies, so make sure to be thorough about it.

                And onto our final step: Boiling. Screw the top on, TIGHT, and place the whole thing back into the water bath, which now you have hopefully brought up to a full boil. It’s even more important here that it be completely submerged, but I just felt uncomfortable with turning it onto its side so I just got as much water in as I can and came up to the rim (hopefully the steaming water helped enough). Cover the pot, and leave to boil for 10-15 minutes.

SAMSUNG

                This is definitely the point in my reading that I just had to stop and ask “Why the hell am I doing this?” None of the recipes said anything either, so one’s left reading a recipe with no justification for a very strange and annoying step. But after considering
things for a while, I think I can glean quite a few benefits from this process.

SAMSUNG

  1. Sterilization: a little idiotic, I mean who needs to sterilize the outside again? But I believe the boiling process assists in bringing a sterilized aspect to the vegetables and spices themselves, ensuring absolutely NOTHING brings in any interfering spores, bacteria, yeast, etc.
  2. Cooking: these ARE green tomatoes after all, very firm fellas, who certainly need a bit of heat in the pickling to soften them up for enjoyment. I could definitely see one using this method for very firm whole cucumber pickles as well.
  3. Sealing: probably the MAIN reason for this. Not only does it apply the whole “heated metal expands and then contracts when cool” thing, but as the insides boil (which they do), I think micro amounts of air escape from the tight barrier, with none being able to come back in. Thus, the jar will end up with its own little vacuum of sealed air and pickling mix, with an iron-tight lid that’s a bitch to get off (make sure you have a little fork or lever for the top part).

SAMSUNG

                  But yeah, that’s about it. There’s probably more to it, but I don’t really care too much, and I doubt I NEED to know for these purposes. My only needs now is to let it cool (probably in the water unless you have a way to safely remove it while still hot) and transfer to somewhere dark and chilly; a basement, or garage on my part.

SAMSUNG

                 Leave for at least a week to “settle and mature” and you have yourself some very traditional home-pickled green tomatoes! Free to use with breakfast, on sandwiches (I popped them on an openfaced with leftover trout and some horseradish-sour cream), or just munching on their own. They’re not too bad on top of late night nacho snacks either.

SAMSUNG

                 Thus ends the third installment in my little series, hopefully it was a fun addition to the other two. I almost wonder what hare-brained random experience is gonna force its way into #4… though I’m still waiting for more Napa Cabbage…

Lulu’s Street Food

SAMSUNG

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lulus-Street-Food/107004102822952   

https://twitter.com/LulusStreetFood   

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            It’s not often we see Truck’s expand their armada (though getting into restaurants is a whole different story); She Royal has branched to Brava, Potter’s added a second Pastie Truck to hit two cities… but that’s about it. But after only a few months of premiering, Lulu’s Street Food has already moved out another mobile operation, “The Red Pig & Truffle.” Supposedly rolling out later in the month, I of course look forward to giving it a full review when it does.

           This only stands as a sign to their growing reputation and success, exploding onto the scene much like how their design explodes over the eyes. Seriously, first time I saw this thing I thought it was a giant lifesaver… just wanted to lick it. Though I’m not sure if that’s the sign of a good Truck or some unresolved childhood issues…

            Well, getting back to the licking of organic matter, Lulu’s offers, well, “Street Food;” it’s really the best description. Menu items range in package, price, style, and flavors, but there are two things that connect them all. 1: they’re all based around the idea of classic and modern Street Foods, such as Tacos, Sandwiches, Rolls, Slider, etc; and 2: from what I can tell, most if not all menu items contain a Southern or Island/Caribbean base to them.

SAMSUNG

            The Menu tends to change a LOT, and with at least 8 items (they have to use 2 blackboards!) usually on it, that says something. From what I can tell, some of the constant (or mostly seen) items include their famous Parmesan Truffle Fries, Cuban Chicken Taco or Sliders, Ahi Tuna Taco, and a Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich. Other items usually seem to contain Pulled/Roast Pork, Key West Fish Taco, and some Lobster based thing (either a Roll or, interestingly, Sliders). Whatever the situation, though, one is sure to find something suiting their particular tastes.

            Oh, and most of these items comes piled in some form of Coleslaw. Either way, let me just say I was very happy when they finally returned back to the Downtown Minneapolis streets after some weeks of outer explorations.

 SAMSUNG

Food: 9.5

            It took a while to decide, but I finally ended up with their Key West Fish Tacos and the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich.

             Again, when it comes to Island Tacos, I find no issue with the use of Flour Tortillas, which held the package in pretty darn well; though it would have been nice to have at least ONE extra, empty tortilla below the two for any drippage, cuz there is a quite a decent amount of Slaw, Aioli, and Pineapple-Mango Salsa. Which, I might add, is one of the few successful uses of pineapple I’ve found in our Truck lineup. The fish itself, Cod I think, was grilled properly on the grill in a very tasty spiced marinade; it ended up tender, rich, and flavorful.

            Now, something of slight disappointing note, my first taco had a noticeable proportion problem. I will say this, it DEFINITELY didn’t have too much coleslaw; I mean damn, that is a REALLY good, fresh-tasting, yummy slaw.. at that point where it’s so good you don’t care how much there is (plus the flavor wasn’t strong enough to overpower others). But it really didn’t have that much fish; like, one medium chunk and some small fragments. I did find that the OTHER taco had a decent amount more (see the picture below); my guess is that they just accidentally scooped more of the portion into one taco than the other. They don’t cook the fish in long “sticks,” but in this bundle of chopped up, marinated flesh.

SAMSUNG

             As for the Fried Chicken Sandwich… Oh, My, God. Crispy, down-home comfort fried chicken, the shell very reminiscent of the style found on chicken tenders but, you know, GOOD, made with quality, so it’s a thick, sorta-chewy but crunchy coating that just holds up firm. Drizzled this with sticky, sweet honey, piled with that awesome coleslaw, and then shoved between and awesome, toasted Pretzel Bun. They have to either make it themselves or get it from a different place than others, as it’s a different texture, size, and shape than other pretzel bun’s I’ve seen. Either way, it works well; I mean it’s not really with the Southern theme, but who cares when it all tastes so awesome. It’s hard to describe how satisfying this guy is.

            Oh, and of course I had to top it with something from the Hot Sauce lineup they have.  

SAMSUNG

Holdability: 7.5

              HIGHLY varying depending on item. All of them need at least two hands for eating (basket-based), but whereas the Tacos and some other options are very easy for walking around, certain sandwiches and other items definitely bring the requirement to SIT DOWN and eat it. Prime example, my Fried Chicken Sandwhich, seen here:

SAMSUNG

            Look at that PILE of awesome, delicious coleslaw; it may taste great, but try as you might I doubt one can hold that sucker with one hand while walking. Not to mention all that sticky, drizzling honey coating down and to your fingers as you hold it. I swear, even if that aluminum wrapping was all around it like a classic burger, I doubt I’d still suggest eating it while walking… though that’s not to say you still shouldn’t eat it. Mmmm, that was good…

SAMSUNG

Price: 6

             Towards the higher end, most items range between $8-$12, the two outsandings being the Lobster Roll at $15, which I have absolutely no idea how it varies in quality and amount vs Smack, and the Truffle Parm Fries at $5. Though what ended up a small basket of fried potatoes sprinkled in Truffle Salt (which isn’t as expensive as people think it is), I’m wondering if this price is a bit high for it. Overall, though, I would have to say that the food is WORTH the higher prices, at least from what I’ve had so far.

SAMSUNG

Speed: 8

              Average, if not a touch above.

The TOE: 9

              I’ll admit, the menu is a bit intimidating when you first come up to it, with the difficult choices and somewhat higher prices (at least they have more than one, worthy $8 items), but I very much enjoy going here. It’s vibrant, high energy, and very fun and welcoming, and I’m not just talking about the colors. If I’d posit a guess, the feeling and concepts of the chefs behind the window really come through in the menu and service; sort of like when one goes to Travail or Victory 44, with the Chef Waiter/resses.

                           Tally: 40/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Lulu’s certainly fits the bill for a multitude of customer requirements. Whether you’re looking for a higher-priced item to take back and sit down to eat, or something to walk around the street with, you can probably find a good option here. There are many items to suggest, but here are the ones I’d probably lean to.

            The Ahi Tuna seems quite popular, and I’m guessing there’s a reason for it; with these kind of chefs behind the window, I’d definitely assume they’re making it right. Besides that, other Fish Tacos also bring a delightful experience (assuming they get the proportions right…), particularly for the walk-n-eat scenarios. Cuban items are sure to be done well, so it’s a valid focus. And I DEFINITELY suggest the Fried Chicken Sandwich if you’re able to sit down!

SAMSUNG

            Sadly, there’s not too much here for those with a little lighter wallet. The Truffle Fries do offer a good snacking option, especially on Food Truck Days, though I still debate whether they’re truly up for a whole $5; they do seem like really quality-cooked fries though. As for the Lobster Roll, I don’t really see much reason to peddle so much out for an unsurety… if you’re curious, and have a bit of extra cash, maybe try the Lobster Sliders when they come out, get a feel of how it tastes to decide if you wanna have their Roll instead of Smack’s (also ask how the size compares).

Southern Re-look on a Sunny Day

           After a delayed but still cold, short, and rainy Spring (which is still spilling into Summer), we finally get our first warm, dry, sunny day of the season. So it’s no shock to have seen the Downtown Minneapolis streets packed with people vying in lane for lunch on the Street, provided by the many Trucks also out celebrating this beautiful occasion.

            Of the many, to my surprise, was that big green alligator Cajun 2 Geaux. I’ve seen their posts of locations AROUND Minneapolis, in various breweries and buildings outside the main drag. However, this was my first time knowing them (outside of maybe their opening weeks) on the Marquette and 2nd St circuit. It’ll be fun to see if they continue this or if it’s just rare circumstance.

             With their recent reply to my review, I’ve found myself obligated to find a time to try them again, not just to finally taste those sweet, sweet southern donuts, but to report on the Red Beans and Rice recipe that they’ve been testing and improving.

SAMSUNG

            The Beignets, as expected from the rumors and pictures, are of course amazing, a must-get one anyone’s first visit. To fully inform those who haven’t experienced it yet, the actual texture is a bit of the denser, chewier variety than the traditional (and other restaurant versions), not quite as “light and fluffy,” with a little eggy richness. Covered in powdered sugar, these sweety morsels find one doing the happy dance as they travel the sidewalk. Careful though, they’re hot at first; but don’t wait too long, these should be eaten immediately. Definitely Toe Ring material.

            I wish I had them earlier though, because I SO wanted to get this new item on the menu!

SAMSUNG

            Oh yeah, Pecan Praline Bread Pudding. It it’s even half as boozy and brown-sugar rich as a GOOD praline should be, this is a must-get for anyone who’s already had the beignets. Hope it’s on the menu next time I stop by…

            Now, the main event. That oh-so Louisiana dish of Red Beans and Rice. I can somewhat gladly say that it IS better than how it used to be; there IS more of the red bean stew/sauce, the andouille is a slightly better variety, and I do think there’s a little more flavor overall.

SAMSUNG

            That said, my opinion and score do not change. There is STILL too much rice in there to call it RBnR (I shortened the name!); as anyone who’s had a good one knows, a TRUE RBnR is like a stew, or a soup. Almost like those crappy “Jambalaya Soups” one sees in random restaurants, that only gives just enough rice to have some in each spoonful… only RBnR is actually good(and thicker). Well, not this one so much…

            And the actual “stew”… in the end, all it really seems to taste like is “red bean sauce” with nothing else. There’s no richness, no complex spice, no kind of molasses or meatyness or anything besides plain red beans. One can bring in the quality andouille as an argument, and though I agree they always add a great aspect to all the best Louisiana dishes, they can’t be used as one’s sole base. More is needed. I commend Cajun for trying, I am very sure and hopeful that they DID try and get more flavor in through the new recipe, but it just does NOT come through.

            As before, all customers should stick with one of the tasty and delicious Po’Boys and ignore their stew/rice dishes. Oh, on that note, it seems they’ve changed their presentation on those. Wasn’t able to snap a pic, but it looks like the sammies are wrapped a little tighter and more snug than before, so they should be a bit easier to eat.

            I could go on and talk about my second Truck stop of the day, but that’s a whole ‘nother post…