Green + The Grain

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https://www.facebook.com/greenandthegrain/info

https://twitter.com/GreenNtheGrain

Main Location: Minneapolis

By now I’ve made quite a few things known about what will and will not set me off through my various mobile visits. For example, the most puzzling oddity of someone indulging themselves in the street food culture only to get an item that is the most counterproductive I can think of; a Salad. Even more grievous are those places that seem to ruin what would otherwise be one of the perfect Food Truck offerings; my time at a certain vehicle still leaves a bad taste in my mouth from their attempt at Wraps.

So imagine my intrigue during my first visit of Green + The Grain, a very healthful and organic-inspired truck which made its way on the streets in June of this year, when my eyes sweep over a menu filled with nothing but these two different items which have made such an impact on me this past year. Only this time there actually seems to be a proper focus, and it’s actually done WELL.

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As you’ve surmised by now, GtG focuses on Salads and Wraps; or, to be more surprised, has a menu filled with different salads with the option of stuffing those same mixes into wraps (or vice versa). Peaking inside, one can see a whole row of mise en place stretching from one end of the giant order/delivery window to the end, each little container filled purely with greens, veggies, and the rare protein additions.

A seasonal menu, with various mix options supposedly changing at least once a week, future items may reach well beyond those discussed here (as should be considered for all seasonal Trucks I review, though I often fail to include the disclaimer due to laziness), but there seems to be a bit of a pattern so far. Chicken is the often-seen protein, commonly on the menu in Asian (also seen with Beef Tenderloin), Caesar, and Buffalo iterations, though the Berry Natural seems to be a set menu favorite, adding a delightful handful of fresh and dried fruit to the herb roasted poultry. If there’s anything that’s constant, outside of perhaps the Caesar, it’s the shared load of ingredients every single salad is filled with; greens, multiple veggies, croutons, apples, dressing, and who knows what else, the specifics of which morph and adjust depending on the final decision on focus.

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But of course there technically IS one other thing we can enjoy on our visits here; Organic Frozen Yogurt, supplied by Cloud Top and churned by GtG, garnished with whatever fruit and granola one desired. Their site does also make mention of a “signature tart,” though my luck in seeing it on my visit seemed to be quite poor. Ice cream machine wasn’t working either, luckily I wasn’t in the mood… maybe on future visits though…

So, what kind of potential can a downtown mobile Salad-based caterer have? Let’s find out.

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Food: 9.5

                I’ll admit, though my thoughts of it as street food is notably questionable, I still LOVE a GOOD Salad. An even dressing coating, with bright flavors and a range of crunchy texture, maybe some creaminess, just the best of lettuce and accompaniments. This pleasure has always been heightened even more when enjoyed inside a tight, soft tortilla shell.

So being able to have a wrap that properly fulfills these cravings, unlike the sad weak and dry versions seen in convenience stores and certain businesses, was quite the pleasure. All the vegetables were fresh, some apple slices brought the juicy crispness, and the croutons… oh the croutons. When I saw it opened up, I actually worried they may have already gotten soggy; silly me, their crunchiness was glorious as it should be. As for my salad of choice, Buffalo Shrimp, the shellfish was cooked properly with that nice snap, not dry or mealy. It wasn’t actually as “buffalo-y” as I though; the one thing I could say is that the flavor didn’t come through quite as much with everything else going on, but I still got some of that nice little heat here throughout. A good kind of hot sauce marinade, not the cliché traffic-warning-orange-colored stuff some places get in gallon jugs. Their use and manipulation of it allows my assumptions to stay positive in how they handle their other proteins and sauces/marinades.

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Holdability: 7

                 The first hurdle in a truck like this is, of course, their handling and display of the salad; and though one can never change its inability to eat with one hand when served plain, I do like and respect GnG’s packaging for the copious vegetation. A nice, tight, compact bowl that seems easy to carry and likely easy to consume out of. Ironically, it’s where the wraps come into play that issues pop up. It’s such a great way to eat on the go, a nicely tight, folded package around delicious filling, wrapped again in parchment to handle/avoid mess… and then they cut the damn thing in half, completely negating the whole purpose. I mean, I don’t mind having it halved in a restaurant, but now a one-handed ease venture turned into using both hands and trying to figure out how to ease it from its parchment bindings without everything collapsing on itself (I couldn’t quite figure it out, had some spillage). It makes something that should have been simple into an annoying challenge.

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Price: 6.5

                  Besides a $4 Soft Serve Yogurt ($6 for the large) and I’m assuming similarly priced Tart (or fruit cup in today’s case… interesting), every main-menu item is $9. Or, to be more honest, almost $10 with the tax; definitely one of the higher “set costs” on the street, though at the very least they DO give out a good amount of product for it. Tasty ones at that.

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Speed: 8.5

  Somewhat faster than average, it doesn’t take too long to pile and mix the various greens and fillings of these ingredients together and in a bowl or wrap of your choosing, even (or especially) with the decently sized serving.

The TOE: 9

                  Gotta give them credit for taking a style that makes my approach quite cautious and dubious and being able to turn it into a pretty fun and interesting visit. Image is clean and bright, sense of place is strong, and menu options are intriguing enough to create a need to come back (dessert… need…). Now if they only stop cutting our salad burritos in half then they could be a fully-load, strong warrior of the street.

Tally: 40.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Sad as it is to say, despite the Wraps this is still not one of the ideal mobile stops for those wanting to eat their main items while walking; best enjoyed sitting down. That said, whether your cravings lead to a boring salad (boooooooo) or an exciting version wrapped inside a tortilla (Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy… I’m not biased at all am I?), there are some fun ways to go.

There seem to be a few customer favorites, though overall I think the best experiences would lead from ordering the Asian Chicken/Beef, perhaps a Buffalo option, or one of the more interesting Seasonals (we still have yet to see what all they may have yet to do). Outside of this, their Tart looks to be a great small item as the snack-on-the-go, between stops or when one just wants something sweet. Frozen Yogurt is always good, but one can get that at a lot of places, I wouldn’t put it high on one’s list until they’ve tried other things desired.

The Harvest Grill (Quasi-Review)

                There’s something I have to admit to. Despite my many original claims over a dedication to hit every single Food Truck out there, I have come to find there to be certain trucks that, for some reason, I just can’t find any urge to want to write about, let alone visit. This isn’t the Event Truck concept I mentioned earlier (well, maybe a bit with some of them); these are all fully separate Food Trucks which I have avoided cast my own shadow over to better give myself reasons to not actually visit and review them.

                As much as I would like to say, this problem lies not with the Trucks themselves but with myself; I am unfulfilling a certain promise I made due to my own bias over these businesses which don’t excite me. It is an unfair practice on my part, but at the same time it IS how I feel, and though I will never offer a full, complete review on some of these Trucks, I shall still try to fulfill my claims to at least offer a “quasi” review on them whenever I can.

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                One of these places I’ve found to avoid, and the first to experience this small review (besides that one Ice truck) is The Harvest Grill. Based on a restaurant in Rogers which has spread to a couple other cities, not to mention the streets.

                I actually give these guys a lot of props for one thing; despite being Restaurant-based, the Truck focuses on the one part of the menu best suited to the Street, Wraps. But though I like the idea of doing wraps for the street, and still think we need a good Wrap-based Truck (sorry, Burritos don’t count… they just don’t… stop looking at me!), this just isn’t where it’s found.

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                Almost everything is based off chicken, with a couple Porks, the only thing seemingly separating them being different veggie combos with the random “special sauce” or other intrigue (the one with Lingonberry Cream Cheese looks interesting). I myself tried the Thai Chicken, though I don’t really think one should be allowed to label it “Thai” if its only element is Peanut Sauce. I mean the rest just tasted like one of those wraps you pick up at Target or other random store or restaurant, maybe a bit better, bit crisper veggies; but not much real effort put in. The chicken just had that soft, sorta “spongy” (I’m not really sure the actual word to describe it; but when you have cold chicken in average or under quality wraps you know what I mean) texture.

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                If I WERE to rate this like other reviews, it would probably end up sorta like this:

                Food: 5-ish – maybe a bit under, it was fine but not exciting. Maybe others are better.

                Holdability: 8 – wraps are great for walking, but they cut in half and put in a basket so this potential is cut down.

                Speed: 9 – pretty damn fast, all they have to do is wrap things up. I mean I had to wait a bit because apparently they ran out of lettuce, but that has nothing to do with production.

                Price: 7.5-ish – they’re all $7, though it’s a quality that barely fits.

                TOE: 3-5 – though I admit my own fault and bias in not reviewing, part of this has to also be from the actual truck itself and the inability to really draw me in.

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                Well, I think that’s about all I have to say on the matter. With this new mindset into those which I don’t normally go to, I can at least promise from here out coming “Quasi Reviews” on some of the few places I have yet to report on. So look forward to Stanley’s, She Royal, and other such locations along with my Full listings on Newer and other Trucks.

Brava on Wheels

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No Websites so far

Main Location: Minneapolis

                With a name indicative of known restaurant ties, Brava on Wheels has stated to only be a possible offshoot of She Royal. That’s about as much as we currently know about this big Black and Gold beauty, as the seeming delay in twitter, facebook, or any other website has left an information on them a mystery. Guess all we have now is their food and a name and design reminiscent of a Glee offshoot.

            Dishes and flavors seem to be Thai based, at least for now. These take the form of a couple sandwiches, rice bowls, a wrap and salad, each basically topped with some protein (Chicken most of the Time, but also offering one Fish and Lamb dish) and a Red Curry Sauce (they try making the distinction of a different “Brava” sauce in the sandwiches, but really it’s the same).

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Food: 6.5

               As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve required dual visits to really get a sense of these guys, grabbing myself the Lamb Sandwich and Chicken Curry Bowl in subsequent attempts. What I found was two particularly different experiences in which to report on.

              The bun on the lamb wasn’t toasted, but it wasn’t unpleasant, in fact I really liked the ciabatta they used; soft and easy to bite through. I wish I could say this was the norm, but for some weird reason I kept seeing them handing out sandwiches with what looked like pretzel buns on my second visit. I know it wasn’t for something specific… both sandwiches on the menu said ciabatta, which is what I saw both fillings in too. It could be some unwritten possibility for people who had… some sort of eating requirement? Either that or they decided to just use something else for every other sandwich.

               Speaking of second-visit sammich differences, I’m glad to say they no longer served that bland, crappy coleslaw (sadly homemade); though the change to cheap, mass-produced ripple chips wasn’t too much of an improvement.

              The Lamb itself was pretty tasty along with the mild brava sauce, the cheese was done decently, and the fried onions were nice. I very much enjoyed the whole experience of it (sans coleslaw). Ironically, though, while the sauce did a decent job acting as a base there, its use in the actual Curry dish was highly disappointing; though it wasn’t the only thing.

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               Can’t argue that they give you a lot, it certainly is impressive. It’s just too bad that girth mainly comes from the rice and vegetables. It looks like a decent amount of sauce at first, though one quickly discovers it’s not nearly enough for all the rice beneath it (like Cajun’s beans and rice).The squash and vegetable are decent on their own, with a nicely firm texture, but not too much flavor overall. And finally, the grilled chicken was dry and overcooked, even with the sauce around it.

               Though I can’t say this myself, I also hear that the spiciness level of the “extra hot” option isn’t too impressive either. Oh, and am I the only one who’s starting to get a bit bored with all the places making Hibiscus Punch or Lemonade or whatever? I know it’s good, but at this point… oh well, at least these guys have Glass Coke and Fanta!

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Holdability: 8

                 Depends on the item, but overall it’s mainly just a two-handed requirement. The rice bowl is of course a bowl, but an easy one to walk and eat out of. I definitely want to make note of the Lamb Sandwich; at first glance, one can’t help but think sitting down is required… but it doesn’t. Amazingly, I found I could eat this with one hand (basket in the other) while walking with only minimal pieces of meat falling out, my teeth cutting through the bread and meat easily. You know if they just wrapped this in foil and served as-is it’s be a pretty good Street item.

                Something odd, the Chicken Curry Wrap is a naturally great Walk-around alternative to a rice bowl, usually using chickpeas to replace the starch. But for some reason though on every order, after wrapping it tight in foil, they then proceed to move to a paper bag… sort of defeating the whole purpose.

Price: 8

               Well, not much to say, price is same as the score at $8 for every item. Though quality can’t always be said, they definitely give you a lot for the price.

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Speed: 7

               Seems to be dependent on rhythm and what time one gets in. Sometimes it can be average or a bit faster, other times it can be pretty darn slow, either when waiting behind multiple tickets or alone (read about someone who had 10 minutes for a single order of Curry).

The TOE: 5

              This really sucks, the name and design becken you in nicely, ya start getting the feeling this is potentially something fun, and then… yeah. At the very least, the menu DOES have a common point between items, that thai curry thing, but then one reads all the menu items and just gets… well, not bored. But it all just has this feeling of the generic, the unexciting, I can’t think of anything that jumps out and just says “HEY! Get me! This is why you should be coming here every week!” I know one item is good, but there’s none of that “special” feeling, that little “extra” something that all the good places have. Maybe they just need time, need to get a few more curries and work on improving the food outside of something one would find in a regular Thai-based café.

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                          Tally: 34.5/50

                       

Final Thoughts

            Mainly good for when one wants a decent amount of lunch for $8. As for what to get, if they actually do decide to visit (I mainly say wait it out and hope they improve in a couple months), the Lamb Sandwich has proven a notable high point in the list. Though I wouldn’t suggest any of the chicken dishes, if one is looking to get that Thai/Curry experience from a Food Truck, the Chicken Curry Wrap looks to be a fun little version (very much like what Indian is doing). And hey, the chicken might not always be overcooked.

            When not requiring portability… I find myself still curious about the Tilapia Curry Bowl. It could be interesting, but considering certain other missteps, I’ve very dubious on whether or not it’s worth it. Though I guess that’s my overall thoughts of this place anyway.

Aussie’s Kebabs

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http://www.aussieskebabs.com/#

www.facebook.com/pages/AussiesKebabs/235287979819987

https://twitter.com/AussiesKebabs  

Main Location: Minneapolis

              One of our newest entrants to the street world, I first heard about Kebabs through a fellow classmate, who mentioned a friend/workmate of his starting a new stand. What do you know, when the next day I’m down with the Food Trucks I spot this smaller, steel-colored box snug between two of the giant cars. In front is a small line starting in front of a man holding a tablet, as the big wooden sign details us of the Booth’s (and that’s really what it is, a large booth, but with wheels for moving around) simple offerings.

               Now, before you get ahead of me, no these are not the random pieces of meat and vegetables shoved on a skewer. We don’t want any sword-fighting in the streets (okay, WE  do, but the food truck owners don’t need to worry about the lawsuits).

               Doner Kebabs are an Australian street food made from a gyro-like meat, both regular and chicken. Wrapped in a larger, thinner flatbread than the traditional pita, they’re served with spicy garlic-chili sauces and various other fillings. Finally, Kebabs presses in a Panini grill, sealing the edges, getting it crispy, and taking that sandwich experience to the next level. (As does any good Panini)

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               Kebabs simplifies, offering only 3 options for press, with your choice of sauce and variety of veggies for extra. They also have a salad, though why would you stand in line for lettuce?

Food: 7.5

                The pinnacle of a gyro all wrapped up in a perfect package, the lamb-pork meat is tasty and spicy, sauces are sharp, and the tortilla-like flatbread crisp and soft. Veggies, however, are placed in raw, which can lead to certain items ending up watery and bland due to only partial cooking; not sure what I think about warm lettuce either. Avoid this by choosing your toppings carefully.

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Holdability: 9

                Press is tight and sealed, the only thing escaping being a few trickling of juice right down your hand and wrist. Everybody knows that’s usually the best part. Very easy to walk around with only one hand available.

Price: 9

                All presses are around $7, but let me tell you the real deal for this booth; if you want different and extra veggies, they don’t screw you over with charges. 15 cents is all they charge for each addition, meaning very easy customization for non-wallet bending costs.

Speed: 5

               Their only real drawback I’ve found, due to the fact that for every single order they have to slice the meat from the stick, mix and wrap things together, and press for a few minutes. Now, this doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize that they only have two sandwich presses in their small area.

               This ends up where even the smallest of lines can end up a decently noticeable wait for your order.

The TOE: 9

               Doner Kebabs is an absolutely fantastic idea for street food; it takes something we are all so very familiar with but changes it just enough to provide a unique eating experience you can walk around it. My favorite thing about them though is their booth, that small little thing that looks like it should be squeezed in the corner and out of the way. You can’t help but think it belongs in some international market bazaar between a soup stand and a tent made of beads… though it might be a little flashier.

Service: -1.5

                Alright, the first time I actually tried to eat here, I had to give up; the line was taking an incredibly long time to move, despite the fact there were only about 5-7 people in it. My next time moved a little faster, but it was still quite slow. This mainly because, for whatever reason, the person taking the order was trying to do it on some sort of Tablet-related Program, despite the fact the kitchen window was RIGHT BEHIND HIM. Pencil and paper would have done the job a lot faster, which most other food trucks have already figured out.

                To be fair, they had only just opened, but it is very difficult to see them moving to something acceptable anytime soon. I really do HOPE that they’ve been able to work past these beginning problems; they really have the potential to be one of the Pillars of Food Truck scene.

                I can’t wait until the day I read a new comment telling me how wrong I am now about this.

                       Tally: 38/50

Final Thoughts

               Do not try to visit if you are at some Food Truck Gathering Event or if you are in a rush; both the wait in line and wait for the food will not be kind. However, when you’re walking down the street on a cool day and you see them standing with only a couple people in line, take a stop and enjoy something fantastic. Try the chicken while you’re at it, it looks good.

              For extra veggies, these are the ones to avoid:

  • Mushrooms (put in almost raw, lot of water pushed out, not fully cooked)
  • Cucumbers (don’t like the idea of cooking cucumber; get the Tzatziki sauce instead)
  • Pineapple (lukewarm-hot steamed pineapple isn’t pleasant)