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.

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            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!

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            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.

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            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…

2013 Begins

            After many long months, including two that shouldn’t have even come into the picture, the Food Truck Season is once more upon us! The sun is shining, the snow is gone (finally), and we no longer need to waist that precious minute wondering if we need a hat before going outside. This Thursday marks the year’s first Lunch by the River, WITH MUSIC, as St. Paul’s parks once again become filled with various vendors (for those curious, this week’s River mix includes Neato’s, Home Street Home, Café Racer, and Cupcake Social).

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            My first day back in the city from my trip, and I was treated to one of my favorite sites: clear, sunny Minneapolis streets, with the now-nostalgic site of Trucks lining Marquette between 7th n 8th (with of course the random few on various blocks around).

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            It was great to see some of our old originals back in their proper spots once more. Hola hanging out on the side, Chef Shack in the back, and World Street taking a surprise vacation from their popular spot near the lightrail to stand front and central near 6th on Marquette. Gotta say I love the menu I saw on them yesterday; it’s actually somewhat refreshing to see the YumYum Bowl absent, letting the other items shine ever more.

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            These weren’t the only fun things I was able to see, though; besides four, count them, FOUR new Trucks all on the street at the same time, my eyes caught something… interesting. Walking down the street, just about to cross 7th, and right in front of my eyes I see a car turning the light, and what’s it dragging behind it but this big orange cart (think Dandelion Kitchen-style construction) with the word “Em-Con-Ada” written in blue across the sides. Before speeding away I was able to make out “Empanadas in a Cone,” or something like that, just underneath. I apologize for not being able to snag a picture; believe me I tried, my very first reaction being to turn around and run after it down the street with phone-camera fumbling in my hands. But alas, lost it in traffic before I could snap anything decent.

            HOWEVER! I’ve done a bit of searching and found a promising facebook page (link here), signifying a just-beginning, soon-to-start Truck operation. Now, if only they actually had some information and posts on the site and we wouldn’t be so in the dark…

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            Walking along Marquette for lunch, I shared a little convo with Racer’s main guy (tried to key him for info on Emconada, but he was just as stumped as myself), and continued to my exploration of some of our new additions to the line-up. Mustachios and Moral Omnivore immediately took hold of my attention, and thus tempted me into sampling both of them. As such, look forward to reviews of each within the next couple days.

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            Standing out like a giant packet of Lifesavers, “Lulu’s Street Food” is probably the most colorful and psychedelic Truck design I’ve ever seen in the state (sorry Sauced, they’ve got you beat; don’t worry, your artwork is still my favorite in overall design). It was hard to tell if there’s any theme, as 4 of their menu items were already crossed off and sold out by the time I arrived(thus why I didn’t eat and review; I want to ensure I do it when everything is there, thus getting as close to an accurate review for readers as I can). I did get a glance at Ahi Tuna sliders along with their Cubano, so I’m guessing just a simple keeping to different forms of holdable items.

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            With a few storefronts to their name already, and from what I’ve heard a bit of a fan base, “Falafel King” has now come out with their very own Truck. Set up like Tacqueria, the new Greek-based Truck I’ve seen around, and Holy Land when it was at the Fair, the menu stays to a full display of all their offerings. As such it’s less like a Food Truck and more like a mobile version of the actual restaurant, from what I can see; pricing seems very fitting to the street though. Considering things, I think I can safely assume they have quite the uphill battle in fighting through the many comparisons we are likely to make with Foxy. It’ll be interesting to see what they have to truly differentiate themselves from this already well-engrained favorite of the city.

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            Though, trucks weren’t the only things new today. AZCanteen, hanging out with Chef Shack in sharing 8th/9th street, has added a Hot Dog and Potato Side to their menu. Not too sure about the dog, apparently it’s sourced from a good butcher and paired with a Mustard made from Indeed beer. I’m sure it’s good, but being regular sized (as the chefs told me), I find the pricing of $7 a little unappealing. The Smashed Potatoes though… I heard them describe these, and they are a MUST get for anyone visiting. I’ve seen the technique a couple times, and it always yields an amazingly crispy, crunchy, fantastic potato. The little guys a gently simmered, smushed down so the flesh bursts out, then fried with the skin still on. Trust me when I say, these are amazing… better than most fries.

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            I did end up getting something; with the Dulce Ice on the menu, I took the chance to finally try it out. And it IS good; layered with the many small cubes of poundcake and leche caramel, carefully stirred (cuz that thing is loaded… can be quite messy if not taking time), it created a fun homage to the traditional Spanish Granita. At the end, I actually found it quite nostalgic; it sort of reminded me of my days as a kid, going to Dairy Queen and getting my favorite “Butterscotch Dilly Bar” out of the freezer. The ice still hanging on the bar, the interesting caramel, even the taste of the stick is reminiscent in the poundcake (which I think was actually a bit overcooked in this batch… was quite dry unless REALLY soaked in caramel and melted ice). Overall I was quite the happy camper.

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            The season has started out with a bang, much as the year before it. If that was any indication, I shake in excitement just considering the potential growth our Culture shall experience over the coming season. Until then, I wish good luck to the many new Trucks to hit the street, and Good Eating to the rest of us!