Vito Lucco Pizza Co

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http://vitolucco.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Vito-Lucco-Pizza-co-845109742241236/
Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc?

Another year, another Pizza truck added to our mobile vendor lineup. And this one was definitely a surprise, randomly running across it to one of my now-rare trips to downtown Minneapolis. No months of ‘anticipation’ and warnings through media like was given Tru, this was a true random encounter… and on their first day too! Something I normally avoid and espouse review visits on, you don’t have a clue how consistent that performance, good or bad, will stay. But it’s a fun occurrence to be able to record, so I thought why not for once?

Vito Lucco Pizza Co has a bit of a look and name that makes one think it might be an off-shoot of a small Italian café I’ve never heard of, but it’s a full family-based operation by a few guys that wanna sling pizza on the street for a living. I got to interact a bit with Joe and Uncle Ed during my visit, not sure if we’ll see any more of the ‘team’ on board in the future but that’s for another day.

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The focus is on personal-size, yeasted-dough pizzas cooked in a classic wood-fired oven. And I don’t mean the big aluminum pizza oven where the fire is made below to heat it, I mean it’s made IN the damn oven to plast the whole pizza with heat all around, like it SHOULD be. Just look at this zoomed shot I took of it!

Though I’d say most of the focus is on ‘classic’ pizza toppings (ie red sauce, different meats, cheese, peppers, etc), there are a few more unique items and combos to choose from. Currently they offer 4 specific ‘options’ along with the ability to Build Your Own, which starts off with 3 of their toppings. Enzo’s PepperRari is a red-sauced Sausage, Pepperoni, Mushroom, and Bacon creation. The Casanova similarly has Andouille, Pepperoni, Bacon and Canadian Bacon. The Babe brings Alfredo sauce to Chicken, Bacon, Mushroom, Green Peppers and Broccoli. And finally there is the Shish Kaza, a more bare (probably garlic oiled) bread topped with ‘Tangy Chicken’ marinated in very Indian-ish flavors, sliced Onions and Peppers, Feta, and finished with Garlic-Yogurt.

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Before I continue, I would like to heavily note again that this WAS their first day out, and it is… readily apparent. One of the main reasons I don’t like reviewing on a truck’s first day, but it’s probably going to be a while before I’m back downtown and I have no clue if it’ll be easy or hard to find them again, so I dived in for once. Just note that this experience should not be assumed to be consistent through the next few months of growth; but there are certainly things to be aware of. Also, I would like to re-state, as I’ve mentioned in my ‘About the Blog’ section, that if anyone from the truck, or who’s a fan of it, thinks I should go back to give a second review, I am very well up to and interested in giving a business a second chance for a better score. But I’m not going to do it unless somebody ASKS me to, so please don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

Food: 8

                For fun’s sake, I decided to try the Shish Kaza. Though also since it didn’t LIST a sauce I figured it would automatically be the classic red… so I was wrong on that account (of course the yogurt still isn’t the main sauce, just drizzled on top). Still not sure what exactly was on the bottom, if anything; my guess is just some kind of oil, or there white sauce is the kind that sinks into the dough while cooking.

The chicken enveloped in that nice curry-like turmeric-cumin marinade was a happy surprise when mixed with the various other Mediterranean-esque toppings. Especially that poignantly tart and pungent Garlic-Yogurt, brought me back to a good Gyro or Curry platter with naan. Though classically charred on the bottom and outer rim, the dough even had this particularly stringy, doughy aspects near the middle which I absolutely LOVED with these flavors… on the first slice, when it was just a little bit. Then I had the others, and realized the truth of the matter: the dough, simply put, was undercooked, and still raw in a notable portion of the center. And though I’ll argue a little bit of this was fun in a middle-eastern way, like those sour pancakes you use to scoop up the food in Ethiopian restaurants, at this point it simply ends up as a flaw. Which is a shame, because I REALLY liked this pizza and its toppings; I’d like to go back and try some other combo again. Oh, and did I mention that this was actually the SECOND attempt, since the first pizza for me got notably burnt on one half so they had to start all over. Suffice it to say, they clearly need to learn how to use a wood-fire oven properly, and/or get their dough even THINNER before topping and cooking so that the middle has a better chance to cook through before the edges burn.

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I’m going a little easy on the score as I imagine this issue SHOULD get adjusted out rather quickly as they get more used to the oven, but note it’s still a dire effect into the savory pie as a whole, and one should be aware of the possibility in ordering while this truck is still young.

Holdability: 6

                 Of pizza styles it’s in the smaller and more portable style, though it’s nonetheless still a pizza! The kind that gets your fingers oddly tasty after eating; then one brings into play that undercooked center which makes the pull and lift not as clean as it could have been and having a few potential toppings stay on the plate.
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Price: 9

                  $7-$9 range on their pre-determined specialties, and you can build your own 3-toppinged for only $7 as well! ($1.50 to add further ingredients to it, not that you’d need) Overall the solid and good range for pizzas of this size.

Speed: 3

Well, let’s see. Not even considering the pizza that got over-cooked on one side that they needed to scrap and start over, an incident I normally wouldn’t count but since it seems to be a factor which could come up again and is a MAJOR part of pizza here it is, it can be quite a wait to get a pizza, as any restaurant-goer can attest. Every order has them taking the dough, stretching/flattening it out, loading with sauce and toppings, and waiting to go into the hearth. And not quickly mind you; time IS taken, I was actually able to leave during each pizza’s reign and go visit the guys at Outlaw for probably a 5 minute-minimum convo before heading back to re-get my pizza. Combine that with the fact that the small wood fired oven seems to only be able to do one, maybe two or three at the MOST, pizzas at a time, and one can imagine the kind of wait in the act of a palpable line of customers, let alone just one or two other orders in the window.

The TOE: 5

                  A very blank truck with simple big red letters for the name, on its own doesn’t really add much from walking up to it, for all one knows it could be a nameless BBQ or taco truck. Though I will say, something about the singularly large and red letters, the edge of the name, one DOES get that strong Italian feeling, so it actually does end up bringing something to the party. There are a few other factors in play, both helpful and not, all rather light and simple. I will say that I do love the effort to do a couple different, sort of ‘next-level’ pizzas as opposed to just sticking with plain sausage/pepperoni/veggies for everything; and it’s tasty too!

Tally: 31/50

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Final Thoughts

Definitely best for when one has plenty of time to sit down and enjoy their lunch or transport to other location, though if prepared with appropriate napkins Vitos offers probably the easiest truck-based pizzas to consume while on the go, assuming they fix the under-baked issue. If they ever start connecting with them, I could actually see this being a nice truck to have out at a brewery, when one can spend the waiting time casually and then easily plant down to enjoy a pizza and tasty beer.

As for options, we all know how personal pizza preferences are, but if it was ME I would definitely suggest starting out with the Shish Kaza for something fun or the meat lover’s Casanova to keep that classic red-sauced love.

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Bubba’s Fried Chicken (Quasi-Review)

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Misfit Coffee

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http://www.misfitcoffee.com/
https://twitter.com/misfitcoffee
Main Location: All Over Minneapolis

A couple years back, a certain person attempted a modern coffee cart in Downtown Minneapolis; seems quite a few people are rather aware of this fact. Alas, they didn’t make it, yet another casualty in the mobile service world; I partially feel bad for never making it, though also partially relieved I didn’t forsake my then-even-narrower wallet on a review that would never be able to happen. If you’re wondering where this is going… no, the owner is not back, I have no clue what the heck they’re doing now (if you’re reading this, best wishes! Please don’t hate me…).

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It is today that the next generation makes their attempt as Minneapolis gets its second in the line of coffee vending businesses, only this time it’s a full-on Trailer with… well, you’ll see. Misfit Coffee comes to us from across the border, the three co-owners of Marcus, Mitch, and Alex hail from Milwaukee. All three of these guys have been working since age 13/14, Marcus in particular having gone into all levels and aspects of the coffee world, the leading thought man behind the business idea after they all decided to get into the mobile food world. Putting their heads and money together, these three friends (well, two are brothers; hinty, names share the same starting consonant!) set out to fully develop their immersive, quality-focused coffee experience in the Twin Cities.

Having only opened a couple weeks ago, the trailer is still finding promising locations to keep regular residence, hopping around various spots in Minneapolis to give access to as many people as possible. Of note, they’ve served so far in front of the Guthrie, Downtown, the U of M, and in Uptown in front of the Apple Store. After catching up to them at the Mill City Museum, I got the chance to interview the three owners and dragged out quite a bit of information (so prepare yourself for a much longer review than usual)!

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Apparently they chose Minnesota (note they only had the ONE showing in their home city to make sure everything ran smoothly; sorry Wisconsin, they’re all ours now!) due to our personal love and acceptance of food trucks, particularly our openness to ‘specialty’ and unique trucks vs the older classics. Not to mention the tie-in fact that it’s easier to get the licenses here. As Alex puts it, “Some places are rather iffy, not sure if they wanna let you in, here they’re TRYING to let you in.”

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The trailer itself was made to focus on a ‘curbside exposure,’ a fully open-air design that not only allows one to truly witness the zen experience of these brews being crafted, but also to allow for connection and conversation between the guys and yourself. They even have magazine for perusal! Oh, and some led lights inside, in hopes of late-night ventures where they can turn off all other lights and get that cool color-changing glow and atmosphere.

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As for the coffee, beans are sourced from Valentine Coffee Roasters in Wisconsin, a producer which Misfit obsesses over from the quality of the roast to the sourcing of the beans; particularly in the expression of body and ‘terroir.’ They currently offer 5 kinds from different countries for their pour-overs: Bali, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and also a Decaf variety. Now note, they didn’t make their sourcing decision lightly; much time was spent trying coffee and roasters all over the country, from Nashville and Atlanta to Chicago and us, apparently close to 100 cups worth of ‘samples,’ before their decision to stick with the Wisconsin homeboys.

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These can then be ordered in the typical wide variety of options that we’re so familiar with having access to, but with a twist. Whereas they do indeed have the classic mixes, such as Cappuccino, Mocha, Americano, Latte, etc, one will also find a few more intriguing and different mixes not commonly seen… and a few modern techniques to boot. This culminates in the whipped dairy offerings of Con Panna and Cortado, but lower we explore some, let’s call them ‘espresso cocktails,’ called Chata’Lata (mixed with homemade Horchata) and Spro-da Pop(espresso and Mexican Cola). THEN there’s the different pour-overs, like the Chemex and Siphon (and no, I do not know anything nor did I ask about those… I had a lot of information as it is, cut me some slack! So demanding…)… but all that pales in comparison to the Nitro Cold Press. Cold pressed coffee, made in batch and then stuck in a pressurized tank, to which they inject with Nitrogen and let sit, waiting to be poured from a ‘tap’ and over ice when ordered. Basically it’s like the method for making Nitro beer, but with coffee; I’ll describe the results later.

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By this point you might be wondering about the equipment; I mean, I wasn’t, but you’re all most likely better people than I am. As you can see though, and will through various pics, as much attention that went into sourcing the beans and coffee went into the machines that handle them. The big white behemoth of the espresso machine itself is a Synesso model, made in 2008 but I think based off a model from the 1900’s, and cost $10,000 on its own. And lying on top of it… actual coffee cups? Yep, for those who don’t absolutely have to go and travel with their caffeine needs, they will pour your coffee or espresso into one of their various special mugs, like these copper dealies with glass extenders to fit it all and also see any layering effects, to enjoy on the side of the trailer while you relax. This allows one to fully experience these different brews and mixes, for the container one smells and sips from can make all the difference (just ask a wine snob, like me!).

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But that’s the kind of effort they go to for everything, which we can see just by looking at something like their Horchata recipe. After trying the best cup of this Mexican rice milk from a certain vendor at home, the group obsessed with trying to reproduce it, or find something better, but couldn’t; and after resorting to weeks of begging after begging, finally squeezed this heavenly mixture of creamy rice and cinnamon drink. I had the chance to try a tiny taste of it on its own, and believe me when I say the effort was worth it. Following that, all their ‘flavorings’ are made only with the best ingredients, using real vanilla beans, hand-made caramel, and chocolate from Indulgence vs the normal cheap syrups we so often see.

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Of course they also offer some quality Teas and other coffee-free options for people to choose from, like those Mexican Colas.

A final fun note, if one looks at the back of the trailer, they’ll see the very well-known Apple quote, a company which Misfit follows quite intently in their respect of the how and why they do things. “’Here’s to the Crazy ones, the Misfits, the Rebels, the Troublemakers, Round Pegs and Square Holes.’ They inspired, kind of, the name a little bit… -and we understand how they are, to not go by the status quo, we’re trying to DO something different and be ourselves and, you know, take a risk and take a chance. So it was really cool to be in front of Apple and to get the support too that we got from them was awesome cuz, you know, they understood us, we’re misfits.” – Marcus

Food: 10

                In terms of the coffee world, Misfit truly occupies itself in the top tier for our community; with amazing quality and distinctly regional beans with personality; both traditional and fun style offerings; much effort spent in ingredients/recipes and development;  all of which comes through clearly with their fantastic execution. As someone who’s not really a ‘coffee drinker’ in any sense, but wants to get into the world of it to be able to experience and recognize the fine craft, I myself have felt disappointment trying cups of jo at good places like Spyhouse yet still found struggles in trying to find the particular ‘palette’ of the bean that was written up; those notes of berries and chocolate sadly eluded me. I figured it was like cigars and red wine; you REALLY just need the time to develop the palate, get it used to the flavors, before seeing this, something I’m sure most people who drink coffee on an almost, if not, daily basis automatically have. Thus has my appreciation for certain establishments like this grown when I come to discover clear differences or personality traits in what I try that day; that in fact there IS a world and approach to coffee that anyone can began at while learning about distinct flavors and changes from the beans, roasting, and handling.
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For example, the Cortado I had, a double-shot espresso layer with steamed milk if I remember the style right, was made with the Brazilian coffee beans (all items under the ‘Espresso Bar’ category are made with a single bean variety that they choose and grind on the day of), a variety they said displays peanutty, dark chocolate, and those earthy notes, and I could clearly taste peanut butter and other such things through the creamy soft concoction. It was fun seeing the distinct layered effect through the copper and glass cup reserved for these styles, not to mention being able to enjoy the full texture and flavor one can only get through this glass, as opposed to the paper to-go cups. It certainly pays to be able to sit and enjoy these with the fellas when you’re not on-the-run!

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Now, follow this up with the Peruvian bean, a cleaner, lighter kind of coffee, with some citrusy notes and more of a milk-chocolate body. It was perfect in the Nitro on a hot day, served on ice; as for the actual unique nitro style… everything I love about nitro beers, mainly that thick but super smooth texture that just aches to be drawn down one’s throat. Then there’s the added creaminess. The guys make sure to advocate that customers try it plain first before adding creamer, because guess what? You don’t need it, the effects of the foamed carbonation really do mimick that bit of steamed milk or other dairy that’s added in, making it seem richer when it’s just a straight cold press. Absolutely delightful.

And finally, a return visit on the same day (I was lucky) had me trying the Con Panna; basically much like the cortado or a cappuccino, only using pure whipped cream as the source of dairy. Thus one would get a result that’s super thick, super rich, on its own practically a total caffeine ‘cheat;’ like starting off a day with hot chocolate. Only I then decided to use the opportunity to try one of their ‘additions,’ the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt sauce, which just made it sinful, pure dessert in coffee. Oh god I just had a terrible thought… what if they had ice cream and used this for an affogato? Run!

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But I want to be able to express that the sauce, while not just made from top quality chocolate and salt, came through very distinctly without fully overpowering anything. I love it when you can TASTE the sea salt, too, without it being ‘salty;’ it can be tricky to accomplish, but such a good balance. Overall this was like salted chocolate-coffee mousse in liquid form… only get when you’re feeling naughty and just don’t care.

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I would like to finish with this note that, as was mentioned by co-owner Marcus, Misfit in general tries to focus on an older ‘original’ style of ‘roast profile’ from their beans. Whereas many modern coffee businesses in the US usually focus on turning the beans into a coffee that ends up ‘fruitier, cleaner,’ simple bursts of flavor, they themselves keep to those natural earthy, spicy, ‘terrestrial’ flavors emblematic of the area they’ve grown in and the people who’ve handled them (very clear in that deep nutty, but not roasty, notes of the Brasil). In a sense, seeing the ‘terroir’ of coffee. As a fanatic of the wine and alcohol world, this particular idea actually tickles me to no end, as it seems to perfectly mirror the different styles of ‘old world’ (France, Italy, Spain, etc) and ‘new world’(US, Australia, Chile, etc) wines; the latter of which are very FRUIT forward, made for solo drinking while the old world all distinctly have some sort of EARTHY aspect to the palate, and excel alongside food.

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Look at that foam line, ever reminiscent of the ‘Angel’s Lace’ phenomenon in properly poured beer

So if you’re still wondering why I’m talking SO MUCH about these guys, my deep and pure love towards the world of food and spirits, how things connect and how completely different ‘products’ can have such similarities throughout their life and how people enjoy and experience them… things like that are what stoke the red-hot coals of my excitement centers. And the great thing is that we all have this interest for food and drink in one form or another, no matter how mild; we’ve all developed special memories that things like these has been a part of, it really is an integral part of what connects people nowadays, and I am one of those who just loves to delve deep into that topic in conversation and express it to others whenever I can. So, to cut this short, now you have an even better understanding to WHY I won’t just shut up sometimes (believe me I wish I could), and I do apologize and thank you for reading through my additional ramblings!

Holdability: 10

               Whether it’s in a to-go cup or the nicer for-here, it’s still coffee in a cup.

Price: 9.5

                Most 12 and 16oz cups range between $3-$6, while 8oz only ever get up to $4 at the most. The more fun coffee-free specialty items themselves also go $3-$5 dependent on item and size. $0.75 extra to get one of the sinful flavor additions, or a dairy alternative. And of final note, the Nitro coffee charges for $4.50. Overall a nice wide but lower range for a coffee joint.
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Not only are these prices, on an overall scale, equal to or better than one’s typical Starbucks/Caribou, they’re better than they SHOULD be. With the clear amount of effort and quality that went into the developing of these recipes, ingredients used, etc, all of these drinks should clearly be at least a couple bucks more; and if they were in a café they would be. It’s likely only because they started in a trailer, an overall better (but still expensive as heck) startup vs most brick-and-mortar businesses, that they can list these at awesome competitive prices for top-quality coffee.

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Speed: 9

There are quite a few options, simple and fun, that are basically ready-to-go, a couple that may only take a minute, but make no doubt about it, for the rest you WILL have to wait (again, beans are ground and dripped to order)… I mean, like 3 minutes or so. Which for any boutique coffee place a-la Spyhouse is typical for the specialty drinks, and still faster than ordering food at most trucks. Plus one can spend the time easily chatting up at the window, so that time can fly.

The TOE: 10

                You know, with everything that I’ve written so far, and my obvious zeal towards wanting to talk these guys up, I don’t think there’s any additional explanation I need for this score I’ve chosen today. And as you can see, I got in as many pictures today as I could! (the following section sort of replaces this too anyways)
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Service: +2.5

                Simply with the act of taking a picture of the truck from behind, which they spotted through their secret tiny window (Damn them!), did an immediate conversation start up from nothing, leading to an unexpected amazing hour-long start to my day. I cannot stress too much how willing these guys are to get into their product, their process, the street food scene, or just any sort of chatty, friendly conversation. I myself rarely seek out anything like this when I do my visits, but they just ended up pulling me in, and apparently I’m not the only one; heck, near the end there was a female customer who ended up getting a picture taken holding their copper water pot. From this one can only imagine what their daily customer service is like in making a great experience to go along with their product. Either way, of all my truck visits, the optional ‘service’ section has stood out the most here, so I only think it fair the score matches, whether it’s truly differential to other truck businesses or not.

Tally: 51/50

Final Thoughts

Do you like coffee, or want to learn about it, or are just sort of curious about why some people actually drink it? Perhaps maybe you like Horchata (anything with this, by the way, awesome) or Tea? Do you live, work, or otherwise ever get down to the Minneapolis area? If any of these apply, then go to Misfit, at least once; see for yourself what they’re like, get a chance to talk to Mitch, Marcus, and/or Alex if possible. For the in-depth coffee hipsters and aficionados, you can experience some of your favorite coffee styles, an even a couple I’m sure are new even to you, in heavenly form and at a damn reasonable price. For those just starting out, you can spend only a few bucks to try something new, different, and I promise delicious.

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As for suggestions… it’s all good. Whatever kind of drink you’re craving, they’ll have something to fit it. From the super-rich, devilishly dessert-like creations of Con Panna, Hot Chocolate, or anything with their Caramel and Chocolate additions. Or if you’re looking from a finely crafted espresso+steamed milk/other dairy creation, the kind with the pretty designs on top, like Cortado, Macciato, or the oh-so-classic Cappuccino. Then again, simple Pour-Overs, of various kinds, can hit the notes of anyone looking for simple purity. If there WAS one thing that is a must-have, especially considering the idea that it might be a hot day, it’s the Nitro Cold Brew.

And the best part? Whether you need to grab-and-go fast or can sit down and relax for a while, absolutely any needs can be found and expressed here to acclaim. I obviously had the time of my life here, and I don’t even drink coffee. Go on and be a misfit along with these guys, chances are the rush will be from more than just caffeine.

Cranky’s Ice Cream + Geno’s Gelato (Dual Review!)

http://crankysicecream.com/
https://twitter.com/crankysicecream
http://www.genosgelato.com/
https://twitter.com/genosgelato
Main Location: Events/Markets, Uptown Mpls Streets, Etc

Summer is never complete without multiple ice cream stops, I should know; I basically try to hit all the good ones when I get the chance (when most of your meals are rather boring, or you’re spending much of your time controlling the diet and running on a treadmill, what can I say? You just end up craving sundaes, or whatever ice cream you can find covered in hot chocolate and crunchy things). And this year gave me the opportunity and personal drive to hit our main two mobile frozen-dairy businesses, both of which popped up last year and focus on hand-crafted, smaller batch products made with good local ingredients when they can find them. But instead of tackling separately (and having to debate whether they should be full or quasi reviews), I decided on something new, fun, and different! Which is why, for the first time, I’m writing a DUAL review on our two belters of churned sugar-milk ecstasy! Let’s see how it goes!

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Having opened in September of last year, Cranky’s Ice Cream has been setting up their cart at various markets, street fairs, and other events in the Twin Cities. Focusing purely on the classic American-style Ice Cream, these are the true Sugar+Cream (or some mix of milk and cream) bases that have been churned in some of our favorite classic soda shops for decades. No eggs here. Flavors themselves are also kept rather traditional, finding things like Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate, Coffee, Cookies n Cream, etc, while their more ‘fun’ and ‘experimental’ offerings still keep in line with these base desires. Doughnut, Chocolate-Orange, XXX Chocolate (no clue, but I want), Peanut Butter n Jelly, ‘Whiskey Sour,’ even one made with Porter. They also have tried a couple Strawberry things with Margarita and Jalapeno. These can all be placed in a basket, cone, or even a pint glass!? (gotta love that merchandise)

I was lucky enough, after quite a few disappointing misses, to hit Geno’s Gelato on their 1-year Anniversary! How awesome is that? Contrary to Cranky, these guys belt out pure Italian treats, offering churned Ices (basically Sorbetto), proper Gelato (a mix of Milk, Eggs, and Sugar), and apparently even Cannoli, though I haven’t heard about that offered on the cart until now. Produced from ages of the Gioielli family’s traditions and love for food and brought to life by chef Bethany Nelson’s creations, family member Brian takes these chilled delicacies and carts them all over the Uptown area on his bike-cart. Finding them can be an adventure, or one can simply give them a call/message and have Brian ‘deliver’ himself to a particular location in the area for your needs!

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Flavors are also rather changing, with classic and some twisted mixes based on the style. Some of the ‘ices’ can include Lemon, Mojito, Margarita, Strawberry-Lemon or, most popular, Mango Mint. Whereas the gelato consists of traditional Vanilla, Amarena, Nutella (okay not ‘classic,’ but simple), and Pistachio. These bases can then be seen highlighted with swirls of Salted Caramel, Cherries, or found as offerings like Blueberry Basil, Peanut Butter Pretzel, and Strawberry Champagne. All of it pre-scooped and handed out in their own pretty, attractive packages.

Food: 8/6

Making frozen custard without eggs (and I mean naturally, no damn chemical stabilizers and powders to cover up your mistakes you lazy corporate bastards!) can be a challenge, but when done right can lead to that delightfully creamy, simply slippery and sweet delight from our childhood. For the most part, Cranky’s does it well, creating frozen spoonables that I find little complaint in taking down; the texture and consistency isn’t able to get to that fully sinful height which the best custards can get to (I think it’s a roundness thing, not to mention that extra flavor depth that eggs and dairy can create), but good for the style.

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I grabbed the sampler, which for the day included Mint-Chocolate-Chip, Chocolate-Orange, they’re sorta-famous Doughnut, and Porter. The first two tasted just like one expects them to; the doughnut was rather awesome, it got the flavor and those little pieces of that classic cakey ballpark doughnut (the perfect kind for their style and cream flavors), I appreciated the fact that, mixed in, one could tell the doughnut improved the texture of the cream (sort of like those cake batter ice creams from you-know-who). The Porter, on the other hand… well, I love the idea, and it’s cool how they do it. They actually make their own porter beer base; dark malts, cooked with water for an hour or so along with hops, only not fermented into the beer and I’m pretty sure kept at its more concentrated, very sweet and malty-flavorful stage. This is then added to the ice cream, which makes it taste AWESOME, just like a simple malty porter, mission accomplished… until we talk about the texture. Which is icy. Because they added a liquid and didn’t find a way to get it back to a balance that would have left it churning smooth again; perhaps if they got it even MORE concentrated and syrupy to add beforehand. Oh well, it’s a single low point, the rest is nice.

Geno’s Gelatos, on the other hand… were all icy. I only got the chance to try two of their creations, both gelatos, but the structure of each ended up a little firm, sort of icy, not smooth at all. I should say though the flavor was AMAZING; I would imagine their Italian Ices are fantastic, fruity, and something where I don’t mind this not-so-smooth texture. We had the Blueberry-Basil and Cherry-Amaretto, the fruit of which is mixed in at the end (I think the cherries were dried) as opposed to pureed to flavor the cream like I thought it might have been. And I’m glad for this, really being able to get each of the berries, I think the cherries were dried, and the amaretto and basil flavors infused into the custard came out so nicely.

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But I still find disappointment when left with a custard known for its soft, fluffy texture come out so icy. And I know why it’s like this, ultimately a bad combination of unfavorable factors. Firstly, true gelato (which I know this is) is, as mentioned, a mix of egg, milk, and sugar, often with little to no cream. Even with lots of egg yolks, this can leave for a thinner custard, getting that ideal more difficult; then, Geno’s decided that, instead of keeping these in big buckets to scoop for service, they pre-scooped and transferred individual servings to small, portable containers for quick service. This is cute and fun, a cool little idea, but the time it had to spend out of the freezer to do this, even if brief, often makes ice cream icier (won’t go into detail why). Finally, these are kept in a simple box stuffed with ice to keep frozen as opposed to a temperature-controlled bin, which is VERY important to gelato shops, as true gelato is actually kept at just a little bit warmer than the ice cream we’re used to. This is a factor which helps to keep this milky custard smooth, whereas an even colder cart like this would just firm it up even further.

… sorry, I had to get that rant off my chest, been nagging at me that I couldn’t bitch out all the technical stuff (I may not be able to make the best ice cream at home, but I still know the important stuff about it!).

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Holdability: 9.5/9

Cranky’s Ice cream can come in a basket, or as I mentioned a pint glass, needing a spoon but super-easy to walk around with, and an absolute requirement when getting a sampler (the only way to do it in my opinion). But you CAN get the cone… not the fun cookie or waffles one, that wafer thingy, bleh… but instant one-handed eating, perhaps with some dripping depending on temperature and how long you take to eat it, somewhat likely. So advantage there.

Whereas Geno’s has everything in its own cute, adorable little to-go container for awesome fast portability to eat there, elsewhere, or on the go. Can’t go one-handed with it really, but extra points for its own tight, condensed little bowl which gives no mess whatsoever.

20150517_133532Price: 10/10

$4 for your ice cream of choice, or one can get a full sampling of all four flavors they have on that day for just $6, prices always come reasonable and one can get a decent deal for more. (can also spend $10 for a sampler AND logo-studded pint glass)

Geno’s differs with what one gets, $4 for each pack of gelato, $3 for an Italian ice, and $2 for a cannoli (if they have any). I feel like you’re getting a little less product with them, but the price option range dips even lower so money score rates about the same in my opinion.

Speed: 9.5/10

One needs only the minimal time to scoop the ice cream at Cranky’s, but the complete pre-packaged, personal containers for Geno’s truly makes this the best grab-and-go frozen custard out there.

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The TOE: 7/8.5

Ice cream always makes for an attractive and fun experience whenever you go somewhere, especially when it’s pedaled by such bright personalities as these. The whole concept of Geno’s, attached on a bike and reveling in the area and culture that is Uptown, really stands out and hits strongly, especially when one finally finds and flags them down off the street; though the act of hunting them down can at times be a bit of a struggle. Though the little personal packages are also a fun addition to this ‘atmosphere’ and identity, I do almost wish that I could see them scooping the gelato from some big tubs (especially since it’d probably be better for the gelato’s texture vs the container transference and other things). As for the one that DOES do it, a nice set up as well, not quite as colorful, seemingly closer to that older-school basic ice-cream-shop vibe, which has that nice appeal to it. Though I wish they either went more retro and ‘soda-shoppy’ or just refined and amped up their presentation/selection some more, as part of it feels just a tad ‘lacking,’ like they’re right in the middle between the rather basic/boring places that sell ice cream and the modern shops we often so love today (Izzy’s, Sebastian Joe’s, etc). Some sort of extra push towards retro or today’s modern would round things out perfectly; perhaps some options for toppings?

Tally: 44+43.5/50

Final Thoughts

20150517_133233Cranky’s brings a nice stop during events for those looking for something reminiscent of the ice cream we enjoyed growing up on, and is definitely one of those great places where one doesn’t have to settle on just ONE flavor. Though if you’re inclined towards that direction, and don’t just go towards the classics (I won’t judge, but I still think it’s more fun to have a flavor you haven’t likely already tasted 50 times before in your life), there are some notes to keep in mind. Anything flavored with something already thick/starchy/custardy, like Chocolate, Peanut Butter, or just involve a simple mix-in, and won’t affect the structure in any way except, perchance, to make it SMOOTHER, go for. The Doughnut is amazing for this, and I really enjoyed their Chocolate-Orange (anything chocolate or peanut butter is good I’d imagine). Avoid anything that will involve the addition of some other liquid, such as the Porter, Whiskey-Sour, and perhaps those Strawberries; they sadly don’t adjust it back too well.

Geno’s comes through as the perfect quick grab-and-go frozen treat, an ideal stop for street fairs with multiple food stops, especially for the price conscious. As one can assume by my reaction earlier, skip the Gelato, but head straight to one of the refreshing Italian Ices, where the texture is not just accepted but revels in the style. Mango-Mint is the real standout, but anything seasonal or alcohol-reminiscent should be just as fun. Though, now that I think about it, there is a chance the Nutella and Peanut Butter-based ones might turn out at least decent texture-wise.

Either way, both of these carts still make for a happy little frozen and flavorful treat on a sunny day. Do stop at one if you get the chance!

Top 20 Food Trucks, 2014

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Thought I’d change up my “Top” post this year, since it’s become so difficult for new trucks to push into the ever-higher scores of the best 10, and with all the great trucks out there, I thought I’d offer a quick feature of the top 20 food trucks in the Twin Cities. This is again based purely off of the ratings developed through my reviews, and I admit that perception of the ‘best’ is very different for each person. Not to mention, sadly, there’ve been a few trucks that came later on in the season I never got a chance to get to, so who knows what it’ll look like when I get to them (hopefully we’ll find out next year!).

So, here they are!

20140501_175614Placing #20, tied at 44pts: Fro Yo Soul, Hot Indian Foods, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites, and Hola Arepa

A veritable cornucopia of styles, two new kids and two veteran’s, one that pumps frozen dessert and another that sizzles masa dough sandwiches, Indian burritos to deep fried goodies a la Psycho Suzie’s. My favorite example of the metaphor that is the Food Truck community.

Sharing #18 with 44.5pts: B52 Slider Squad and Jake’s Street Grille

Two maestros of the mini burgers end up sharing the score, offering juicy, hand-sized meat patties for our cravings.

Three-way hit at #15th place, 45pts: Home Street Home, Rusty Tacos, and Cupcakes on the Go

A couple of my long favorites in dessert and variety along with a veritable army of taco offerings.

20140828_113746#12th place, another three-way (there’s gonna be a few, and yet this is still family friendly!?) at 45.5: O’Cheeze, SCRATCH!, and Bachelor Farmer’s Sausage Cart

Two newbies slide in as we FINALLY get the grilled cheese business that the Twin Cities has desperately needed, not to mention a craft hot dog stand sitting outside one of North Loop’s favorite institutions. But of course SCRATCH still stands strong as it always has and will be with their awesome sandwiches.

#11, one of the few solo spot participants nowadays with 46pts (yes, I should probably stop being so generous with points and give more demerits to spread truck ratings apart better… sue me): AZ Canteen

Though they got bumped out of the top 10 last year, Andrew Zimmern’s amazing mobile station still holds a strong spot, both on the street and in my hear (cue adorably cheesy music).

And for the Top 10! Once again the list belongs to:

csh4#7th Place, 4-way tie at 46.5pts: Chef Shack, MidNord Empanada, Tot Boss, and Café Racer

#4th Place, another 3-way split at 47.5pts (can’t believe I haven’t gotten a 47-pointer yet): Eli’s Donut Burgers, Moral Omnivore, Paulette Bakery

#3rd, 48pts: Vellee Deli

#2nd, 49pts: NateDogs

And as always, #1 at a whopping 50.5: Potter’s Pasties

With luck, this coming year will show some amazing new guys willing and able to shake up the rankings a bit more, and with even better luck I might be able to try them out! Otherwise I might have to simply ignore next year’s rankings.

Thanks for dealing with me as always, hope this year is culinarily amazing for you all! Good Luck and Good Eating!

Tru Pizza

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http://www.trupizzatruck.com/
https://www.facebook.com/trupizza
Main Location: Minneapolis

Coming in with the other anticipated mid-season group of trucks mentioned in a previous review, Tru Pizza has hit the downtown Minneapolis streets to solid acclaim. It seems the business has quickly integrated itself quite well into the lineup, at least for this year, and is poised to become the first supporting column in our mobile pizza needs (true, there is another pizzeria on wheels in Minnesota’s list, but they rarely hit the streets outside of events and rare brewery visits).

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They peaked my own curiosity quite a bit too; seeing it was based out of a completely enclosed truck, as opposed to many mobile pizza places using a trailer with noted attachment on the end for their brick-oven, I very much wanted to know what appliance and system they used for their pie cookery. What an intriguing shock I got, then, when I noticed the front half of their already-small working space was crammed with yet a giant domed pizza oven, typical in style to the traditional brick oven. “How they get it in there?” my first thought read… only to be solved on my realization it is NOT a brick oven, but made of pure steel, so disassembly must be possible; I do believe it is still wood fired though, leaving a great and hot cooking source for the Neapolitan fare.

As for the fair itself, I guess I don’t need to state that Pizza is indeed the specialty; in particular, crust and toppings keep more to the Mediterranean trends favored nowadays, with crusty raised dough. Leaning towards light red and white sauces, delicate use of toppings, and ingredients like Buratta and Fennel Sausage, Tru is reminiscent of some of our favorite quality pizza places that have come into focus the past decade.

As for options, they of course start off with a classic Margherita (for those still unaware, simple pizza of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil), regular or a Wet option that uses Buratta (basically mozzarella cheese that is wrapped in a ball around very moist and wet curd, super delicious and delicate). Pre-set pizzas include something called “Killer” that uses pepperoni and crimini mushrooms, as well as a Highway Man that has the same meat, fennel sausage, basil and pepperocini peppers. White Pizza’s (using simply olive oil and basil) focus on ingredients like Prosciutto, Arugula, Kalamata Olives, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatos, Kale, and fresh Garlic. One of course has customization options.

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There is of course  no good pizza place without an option for bread on the side, Tru taking this to offer a more affordable ‘Flatbread’ option. On my visit it was listed as ‘Lardo,’ a special guy that’s brushed with rendered pork fat with herbs and pecorino. Whether this is to be a constant option or they change it is unsure, but it sounds nummy to me.

Food: 9

                Trying to find a single pizza that would allow me to get a full experience of their style and the quality of various toppings used, I ordered the MRE, coming with a mix of Fennel Sausage, Crimini, Wood-roasted Onions, and Fresh Basil. I also substituted to the Buratta Mozzarella to see how it comes out.

Which, sadly, didn’t shine as much as I wanted what with the other flavors coming into play, especially with little was on the pie; that said, it still offered a very fresh, clean, great cheese on the tomato sauce, still way better than factory shredded crap, I just doubt one could differentiate it from the fresh Mozzarella that much. As for the other main components, the sauce was bright and fresh, good tomato flavor without that heaviness derived from thick paste and overly stewing. Dough was nicely thin, great charring from the oven, with a good chew texture for most of it, though I felt the slightly thicker ends a bit chewier than my taste. But to be fair Punch Pizza’s is a bit tougher still, so overall they seem to have a good and acceptable recipe.

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I love the fennel sausage, the charred and soft onions, and some nicely roasted mushrooms. The ingredients have a good level of quality and creation, and come together with the other base factors to create one of the typically ideal wood oven cooked pizzas. The one thing that stands out for me, and this somewhat ties into price, is the amount of these toppings seem a bit scant, even for the style. I wish there was a bit more on there.

Holdability: 5

               Well, it is pizza, though it’s at a small enough size with light toppings that it could allow for easy consuming without having to find stable seating. However, the dough wasn’t cut through all that cleanly, requiring effort to separate the hot pieces without a mess taking place; basically, it became a much harder experience to eat while walking.
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Price: 8

                The three most affordable pizzas are $7, $8,and $9, with the rest hanging between $10 and $11; note these are all good sized lunches, but not the ‘sharing is probably best’ behemoths from a certain other pizza truck. There are options for additions and burrata cheese switch-outs at charge, but I rarely see a particular need to do any of them. Of final and particular note, the Lardo Flatbread comes in at a very cost-effective $5, a tempting offer for future visits in my book.

Speed: 7

A little longer than average, though that’s somewhat expected considering what’s being cooked (though if I remember correctly, certain proper brick oven can cook a pizza pretty damn fast when done right).

The TOE: 8.5

                I’m gonna give them a couple extra points here than I did Little G’s, since they have the same qualities at this point, but I feel a bit more cohesion and identity, plus lack of boring cliché of just having brownie and cookie options on the side; menu and food feels somewhat similar to actual brick-oven pizza restaurants I’ve been to. Not to mention bonus on the use of pork fat in the flatbread (aka breadstick substitute); I am debating whether or not it might actually reach TOE Ring status, but I’d need to try it first (damn my skinny wallet nowadays).

Tally: 37.5/50

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Final Thoughts

If you enjoy and/or desire pizza in the style of Black Sheep and Punch, but don’t feel like going through the whole restaurant thing for lunch in Minneapolis, then Tru Pizza is an ideal stop. Also a strong possibility when looking for a filling yet delicious option at very low prices, the Lardo Flatbread is great for those who don’t mind a carb-loaded meal.

Those options I feel worth going after, at least on your first visit, are highly limited; they only put a bare amount of extra toppings on in my opinion, and then the charge for extra meat starts adding up. As such, I say grab one of the Margherita’s to enjoy the pure and simple fresh, juicy qualities of the basic pizza ingredients. If one HAS to have meat, I might suggest ignoring some of the other options and just add Fennel Sausage to the basic margherita; it’s easily gonna be a better experience than the pepperoni, and costs the same as the Killer. Speaking of which, I would also completely ignore any thoughts of substituting the Buratta; it’ll only really shine well on the Margherita, other toppings easily covering up the subtle qualities that make it amazing.

Something then tells me that the White Sauce based options probably don’t share the highlight, but the Santorini and Health menu items draw my eyes for those who desire a full, vegetarian-friendly lunch without doing the ‘boring’ tomato-mozzarella option (I’m sure there are some who may be sick of it by now). It’ll just cost more.

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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.

Upcoming Events after the Rain

               Re-going over some event sites and articles on new trucks for better preparation in the coming season (really need to start planning truck trips, try and get to any new guys I’ve missed), I’ve come under quite the personal revelation.

               We have quite a few Food Truck gatherings in the coming months.

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http://www.mnfoodtruckassociation.org/event-details/spring-food-truck-festival/

                Even with the Association’s Spring Rallyaside (which again, is on May 10th, at Harriet Brewing, Noon to 7), which I am excited to go to and stop by the new O’Cheeze Truck, another set of annual events have popped themselves up later in June.

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https://www.facebook.com/nefoodtruckjam

                Up first (well, second after the Rally) is the NE Food Truck Jam, an event which seems to have started last year without my notice. Started up by the East Minneapolis Exchange Club, the little gathering started as another way to raise money for local charities. As such, of the three here, this is the only event that has an entrance fee/tickets, though they’re only $7with advanced (aka before June 20th) buying online, link on their Facebook page. They only had 5 trucks last year, though hopefully their 2014 event will amp things up a bit more; hard to say, though, as they’ve only advertised Gastro and Anchor on their page… and it seems like the “Jam” is being held at 612 Brewing. Would be odd if they didn’t get a decent showing at least, as they’ll be bringing in a wealth of local bands and beer (supposedly a lot, should be able to wet the whistle quite well).

http://www.mnfoodtruckfair.com/#about

                The Jam is set for Noon to 5pm on Sunday June 22nd,one week before the 3rd Annual (aka the third desperate attempt of the:) Minnesota Food Truck Fair, or the “Uptown Food Truck Fair” as listed in the Association’s Event page (hopefully this is a sign they’ve had some involvement with the event). With another summer coming up, the organizers of this yearly debacle try once again to create a gathering that runs smooth and doesn’t piss too many people off.

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                Which… just might happen this year, despite bringing in over 35Trucks (or maybe because of it, a lot more options for people to spread out to). Located at Lake/Hennepin and 31st/Holmes, the event this year is completely spread out around a whole, large block. All the trucks will be spread out in various parking lots and lined up on just one side of the street (apparently a big change from last year) to expand walking area and improve traffic conditions (again, also apparently a big change from last year). Various booths for beer, a music stage, and other things that I have no clue what it is (no info key on the website yet! Haha) set up throughout as well.

                The Fair is set to go from 11am-9pm, again on Sunday, June 29th. Seems this year has a theme too! “$5 Pair Share,” which basically means each truck is offering a unique, affordable $5 menu item that’s made to share with a friend. I’m thinking I might have to query a few of them and try at least one from one of the more familiar trucks, see how they’ll take the idea. Either way, I can’t wait actually head out there this year (shocking, right?), at the least get to some of the newer trucks I’m sure to have yet ventured out to.

                I hope to see as many of you out to these events as I can! Can’t say whether or not I’ll head to the Jam; at the very least I’ll try to stop by and take pictures from above the 612 lot to see what it’s like. Have fun until then, good luck and good eating!

 

Taco Cat and Other News

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                   Recent texts with friends and the spying of a certain CityPages article today has made me aware of what seems to be quite the exploding topic at the moment. Articles, press comments, and many a hipster are doing what seems to be their very best attempt to bog down the company from being able to actually perform their “soft opening” which they so wished for tomorrow. Though considering this particular business to be… two years in the making (? they trademarked the particular kitty logo in 2012), one can’t blame a bit of excitement among those aware of this upcoming venture for quite a while. Taco Cat is Here.

http://www.tacocatmn.com/

                   Their slogan, much like their website and view on life (life meaning tacos), is simple: Call Number, Get Tacos. By bike, in the uptown area, no going to a café or shop to get them (they don’t want company). You are to wait for their delivery persons to bike over to where you are and deliver the crunchy, awesome packages of handheld tortilla goodness. I would have said “Mexican goodness,” though they only seem to have two Mexican tacos… the others use things like Bulgogi Steak, Mock Duck for a Bahn mi enspired creation, and a Pork with Caribbean Mojo sauce.

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/04/taco_cat_call_n.php

                   Again, as I’m probably one of the later news-bringers for this particular business, everything’s already been said via other greedy, non-lazy publications and bloggers (blegh). So my attempts at making really bad, cheesy, snappy comments have already been null and void by those who have already gotten there before me. Oh, and they probably have more information on the company or whatnot…. so feel free to leave me forever and get all your hot, sweaty news needs fulfilled by other better-endowed keyboard typers. Besides, this may not be my last word on them… I’m debating getting myself to the uptown area and hitting up their number for an interesting Quasi-Review experience. Not a food truck, but they are quite mobile aren’t they?

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                  I definitely suggest going to the website, just to read their hilarious QnA section.

                  In Other News, our awesome MNFoodTruckAssociation has updated and changed the format of their website! It looks very pretty, much easier to navigate, and actually makes you believe they’re a proper organization (not like I didn’t before…. though it’s nice to see they’re still doing stuff). Best of all, though, is an actual event schedule page! Which not only reveals the date of the next, very long awaited Spring Truck Festival (I tought they were doing something in the winter… maybe I was wrong… coulda been someone else), but the dates of every Festival and any other event they do the whole year. Thus making it official, each Harriet Festival is a seasonal thing (little different than what they first advertised for it, but at least it’ll keep happening), every one filled with the awesome music, beer, and crowd of trucks that we’re already used to. I know I already can’t wait and hope to be able to go to the next one on Saturday, May 10th. Will see you there after my Tortilla Kitty!