Providing quality food at high speed in the cramped work space of a food truck is challenging enough without adding a wood-fired oven that can reach nearly 1,000 degrees to that miniscule space. No wonder the owner of the Tru Pizza truck is thankful that the summer of 2014 has not had many high-heat-index days. “It’s my dream job, even though it gets pretty hot in the truck,” says owner Jason Montgomery.
Montgomery may be new to the food truck business, but he’s been involved in pizza for most of his adult life. He got his start 15 years ago, working for his uncle at Pizza Man in Chaska. “Since then, I’ve always wanted a pizza place,” he says. Even his shifts at Pizza Man weren’t enough for him: “I’ve been messing with pizza ever since I started there, just creating different pizzas, messing around with the dough. I’ve been thinking about this pizza thing for so long, I finally had to do it.”
What he refers to as his “personal obsessions” have turned out to be a positive for food truck aficionados and pizza lovers as well. The staff working near the massive heat source are turning out a crust that’s chewy and nicely charred, with a bit of sourdough flavor (and which reheats surprisingly well in the oven). Ingredients are judiciously spread across the dough, and they’re carefully chosen.
The Killer ($10, above) is a deceptively simple pizza with pepperoni, shiitake mushrooms, and burrata cheese, and the chewiness of the mushrooms is balanced beautifully with the crispy parts of the crust and pepperoni. The burrata is incorporated with restraint, so there’s just enough creamy richness to accent the pizza without overwhelming it. It could have used a touch more tomato sauce, but that’s a minor complaint.
The Health pizza ($10) may have an unappealing name, but it’s something Montgomery has been making for himself for years, and its flavor belies its utilitarian title. The ubiquitous kale is paired with its good friend garlic, along with sun-dried tomatoes, a sweet mozzarella and a tangy feta. No tomato sauce, just a light drizzle of olive oil.
The pizzas, ranging in price from $7 to $13, are simple and flavorful, thanks to thoughtful sourcing: “All grass-fed cheese, period,” says Montgomery. “Organic tomatoes, the best quality I can possibly find, close to Minneapolis.” When available, he purchases meats from Northern Waters Smokehaus at the Kingfield Farmers Market and is considering making his own burrata, once he gets the truck processes more streamlined.
He plans to run the food truck as late into the fall as possible. What could be better on a cool autumn day than top-notch pizza served straight from a blisteringly hot oven?
The Tru Pizza truck often parks on Marquette or 2nd in downtown Minneapolis. Its current location may be found on Facebook.
The first thought on seeing the Convention Grill in Edina is “50s diner.” In fact (or perhaps fiction, as there is some debate on the matter), the Convention Grill opened 1934. When you walk in the door of the small art deco building at 3912 Sunnyside Road in Edina, it looks more like a Depression-era lunch counter. There is no rock-n-roll and no car culture. Just short-order cooks in starched white shirts and white aprons manning the grill behind a counter lined with chrome stools. Servers in starched white skirts hustle malts, burgers, and fries out to the diners. This isn’t manufactured nostalgia; this is the way the Convention Grill has been for the better part of a century.
If you order a malted milkshake ($5 half, $6 full), it will arrive well before your meal, as if to challenge your willpower. A chunky malt, poured out of a stainless steel cup into a soda fountain glass – just try to make it last until your burger comes. Our Oreo malt was absolutely decadent. And when else can you eat two pints of ice cream before dinner, but when dinner is a burger and fries?
Possibly the most unconventional item on the menu is the Plazaburger ($6.90), famous to anyone who has spent time in Madison, WI as the namesake burger of the Plaza Bar, a campus drinking institution off State Street. Convention Grill’s homage arrives with the dark bun open, the burger unabashedly naked, and the top of the bun covered with a thick schmear of sour cream and an abundance of chopped onion.
Welcome to the Twin Cities! Don’t know where to find interesting, high quality food and drink? Whether you’re looking to splurge or eat on the cheap, we’ve got you covered. Looking to drink killer cocktails and treat a hangover the next morning? No problem. Want to know where the locals get their donuts, sausage, tacos, and coffee? You’ve come to the right site.
The Guide is a collection of places our contributors take out-of-towners (or suggest others take visitors). It’s not a “best-of” list. It also is not comprehensive. There are numerous places that we love that didn’t make it into the Guide. To keep the document from growing out of control, our contributors had strict instructions to only submit one place per category. If you asked us where to eat, drink, and hang out, this is what we’d tell you. Together, the interactive map (posted at the end of this article), list, and corresponding foursquare list will help you plan out your gastronomic tour of the Twin Cities.
Hey locals! Along with using the guide and sending it to folks visiting town, we hope you will add your recommendations in the Comments section (and tell us why our suggestions are completely off-base). We plan to update the guide annually, so your feedback will help us improve the document, as well as provide out-of-towners with additional suggestions.
Brasserie Zentral; 505 S Marquette Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55402; 612.333.0505 | Our review
“Brasserie Zentral’s very existence raises the question: Where else in America can you score a meal that successfully channels the opulent glory of the Austro-Hungarian empire? Okay, so maybe it’s been done before, Chef Russell Klein certainly puts his own spin on the genre. Food at Zentral is alternately (and often both) awe-inspiring and comforting, and the friendly, knowledgeable service is the cherry on the sundae that makes this glorious feast a meal to remember.” — James Norton
Broders’ Pasta Bar; 5000 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410; 612.925.9202 | Our review
“Broders’ is where we’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and the closing of our first house, and there’s no secret why it’s our favorite destination: the perfectly cooked, seasonally sauced housemade pasta. Whether you’re snuggled with your sweetie at the bar with a couple glasses of wine and a piece of bestia nera flourless chocolate cake or at a table passing plates of pasta and risotto to share among friends, Broders’ knows how most of us like to celebrate — with good, unpretentious food at reasonable prices, and a great wine list to boot.” — Jill Lewis |
Corner Table; 4537 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419; 612.823.0011 | Our review
“You only think you’ve eaten pork belly, but really, you haven’t experienced swine perfection until you’ve dined at Corner Table. Refined wine choices, cozy interior, and five-star level cuisine make this neighborhood gem the spot I always can’t wait to return to.” — Joy Summers; seconded by Becca Dilley: “They use local seasonal produce, but their main focus is their charcuterie: house cuts of pork, charcuterie, and terrines. It’s an awesome way to taste the best the Midwest has to offer!”
Eat Street Social; 18 W 26th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404; 612.767.6850 | Our review
“A Minneapolis institution with sister restaurant, Northeast Social, as another option, this is a great place to enjoy the sights and sounds of Eat Street and revel in their craft cocktails. Highly recommended is the steak tartare, and if you’re looking for an after-dinner drink, check out the Torpedo Room for tiki drinks.” — Liz Scholz
The old Shorty & Wags at 38th and Nicollet will become a Landon Schoenefeld joint called Nighthawks, featuring restaurant-within-a-restaurant Birdie. You can help kickstart an effort to bring 3.6 acres of prairie to Cannon Falls. Lulu’s on Selby is seriously unamused by the unrelated Lulu’s Public House (above) at the State Fair. Waseca is going to get its own farm taproom called Half Pint Brewing Company, Minnesota’s first. And the Well Fed Guide to Life hits the State Fair (here’s our exhaustive visit; and don’t forget to enter some photos in our State Fair food photography contest and win big.)
This is the third in a series of six stories underwritten by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. Their financial support allows us to dig deeper into the craft, culture, and personality of Minnesota’s brewers. Read our previous installments: Part I on brewing styles, and Part II on All Pints North.
A collection of cask beers rests on a table in the foyer of the Agriculture Horticulture Building at the Minnesota State Fair. It’s right near the honey exhibit, around the corner from the apples, past the largest cabbage and the herculean pumpkins.
It’s Firkin Friday at the Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit. We’re sipping on Olvalde’s Brynhildr’s Gift, part of a 4-beer flight. It’s an already wild and wooly brew that’s driven even deeper into the woods by an infusion of juniper berries.
As we drink, we speak with Tim Nelson (above, right), founder of Fitger’s Brewhouse, about running a brewpub. “One of the biggest challenges is getting your beer to market,” says Nelson. “As a brewpub, we can only distribute to other restaurants we own; they’d be called ‘tied houses’ traditionally.” He adds that serving craft beers they produce is a way for Fitger’s to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.
Fitger’s has made obvious use of the strategy, operating multiple restaurants under their brand. But that’s more or less the only card they can play, because they’re prohibited from distributing to other bars, restaurants or retail accounts. The restriction seems like an echo of the days before the Surly Bill, when brewpubs and production breweries were organized to do separate things, either sell beer on site or distribute.