New Food Truck Roundup 2012: St. Paul Edition
Sassy Spoon Truck — @SassySpoonTruck
Clad in an unmistakable shade of pink, the Sassy Spoon Truck is dishing out “wholesome food with attitude.” Owner Tamara Brown is a dietitian. She’s dedicating her truck to high-quality meals that won’t put you in a food coma upon returning to the office.
“I wanted, instead of just teaching about healthy food, to serve it,” Brown says. “So, I’ve got a lot of good vegetable carbs – the idea is balancing blood sugar. Also, everything is gluten free, there’s no bread on the truck, and, as much as possible, we source locally and organic.”
On the streets for less than a month, she’s offering two or three combos for lunch each day. An absolute knockout is the Pig-Pen ($10) – a sizeable heap of miso-braised pulled pork accompanied by an equally huge pile of lightly ginger-dressed cabbage slaw. The pork picks up strands of delectable char from a quick stint on the flat-top grill. It’s slightly sweet and a little nutty from the miso. And notice how it’s not drowned in barbecue sauce and served on a bun? If this meal were reimagined at many other trucks, you’d probably get about half the amount of pork and slaw in two little sliders. We applaud the idea to ditch the bread and charge a little extra for more of the good stuff.
Marie Antoinette Crepes — @thatcrepetruck
Molly Miller began scraping out sweet and savory crepes in the Marie Antoinette Crepe truck last August. “I grew up eating them; my grandma made them, so I’m using her recipe,” says Miller. “Also, I went to France in 2003 and learned how they did it over there.”
Patrons get lunch and a show at the crepe truck – the iron is right on the counter for you to watch Miller expertly drag batter back and forth. The Croque Monsieur ($7) is among her most popular so far. It’s a wonderful collection of ham, swiss, Mornay sauce, and a mustard made with Stella Artois. It’s a little tough to cut with the plastic forks provided. Luckily, the crepe is substantial enough to handle being rolled into a mini burrito. Our next visit will be for the egg, cheddar, and bacon jam breakfast crepe.
You can often find the truck at farmers markets – a savvy business move for a product that may be a little light for many people’s idea of lunch, but would make for a perfect walking-around snack while perusing produce. Make sure to seek her out when berries are in season. For now, raspberry preserves with white chocolate ($6) is a more than able substitute.
R.A. MacSammy’s — @RAMacsammys
Kevin Huyck debuted R.A. MacSammy’s at the St. Paul Winter Carnival in January. “I wanted a concept that would bring in a broad audience, and who doesn’t like mac and cheese?” he says. “We also have sandwiches, and as the weather warms up here, we’ll be adding either a salad or wrap. I’ve been playing with the idea of doing stuffed tomatoes, as a lighter cold entree. We’re trying to be an everyman’s food truck – not necessarily courting the gourmet crowd.”
Patrons can expect a weekly featured mac as well as the option build their own with a dozen or so ingredients added in for $0.50 each. Bacon has been, unsurprisingly, the most frequent add-in, but Brussels sprouts and broccoli have taken off as well.
We tried the Kentucky Hot Brown Mac ($8) – with bacon, sautéed mushrooms, halved cherry tomatoes, and cubes of turkey. The mac itself is pleasantly gooey with a good doneness to the noodles, though it’s not exactly distinguishable from any other competent restaurant mac you’ve had lately. A full order is a large undertaking – especially with bacon and turkey thrown into the mix. Light eaters can easily make do with a mini order ($4).
A Cupcake Social — @ACupcakeSocial
A Cupcake Social has been open in truck form for less than two months, though owners Jess Stone and Suzette Herr have been in the cupcake business for over a year. “We catered – brought our cupcakes to weddings and other events,” says Stone. “We looked into opening a location, but decided we wanted to be more mobile.”
This “gourmet mobile bakery,” as they call it, cycles through roughly 30 different flavors, and they do a lot of the baking on board. By far the most popular flavor has been Raspberry Burst – raspberry filling with raspberry-white chocolate buttercream, over vanilla and chocolate cake. “When we say ‘gourmet,’ I know that’s kind of a pseudo-term now, but they truly are,” Stone continues. “We use a lot of fresh fruits and we don’t use any shortening in our buttercream.”
They can often be found in tandem with the Home Street Home truck in St. Paul, though Stone says their biggest business happens in downtown Minneapolis. On our visit, we sampled the Salty Sweetness, Key Lime, and Tres Leches ($3 each, left to right, above). Overall we were struck by how light they came across, and as you might have already guessed, they were each impeccable.
Bacon Trolley — @bacontrolley
We were admittedly skeptical of the Bacon Trolley. A sandwich called The Spanker, comprising barbecue pork topped by pork belly? Bacon popcorn? “Just Bacon” a la carte? This had “half-baked idea” written all over it.
But this trolley is no folly. Open for about a month now, the concept is two years in the making. Owner Jennifer Stone, a restaurant industry veteran, enlisted Fernando Silva of Harriet Brasserie to design the menu. The food is pork-centric, but actually quite well balanced.
“I originally wanted to start a restaurant called Bacon,” says Stone. “I decided that it would be better suited to a food truck, but I didn’t really want a truck like everyone else has.”
Bacon Trolley’s Banh Mi ($8) features pork belly, which receives a 12-hour beer braise and gets sliced paper thin and caramelized on the griddle for service. Surprisingly, though, it’s not the focal point of the sandwich. Rather, it’s accoutrements that steal the show – a vibrant carrot slaw, sliced jalapenos, and a soft, flaky baguette coated with a homemade garlic aioli and a chili-bean pâté. The Carnitas tacos ($8) are also very worthy renditions.
Home Street Home — @HomeStrtHomeTrk
“We’re calling it globally inspired comfort food,” says owner Destiny Buron of Home Street Home truck. She quit her corporate job to live the dream as a chef. Now she and co-owner Daniel Kidd are slinging quesadillas, grilled cheese, pulled pork, and other classic lunch staples.
We found the Korean BBQ Tacos ($7) quite tasty, yet somewhat unsubstantial. The
pork beef short ribs had a nice sweet glaze on them and the mung bean-daikon slaw was wonderfully refreshing. The problem was there wasn’t much of either, especially not enough to necessitate a double-wrapped tortilla. We’d suggest doubling the stuffing and charging another buck or two … though their current popularity suggests the formula is working just fine. “We can’t keep them around,” says Buron. “Our farmer can’t even supply us with enough short ribs; we’re looking for another supplier.”
We’ll stick to Home Street’s delectable burger ($8). The beef is grass-fed from Ridgeroll Farms in Buffalo, but the real star of the sandwich is the bun from St. Agnes bakery in St. Paul. The bun’s ethereal insides give way to a tougher (and grill-kissed) exterior. The blue cheese inside the patty is nearly liquefied, while the homemade citrus ketchup strikes the same sweet / bitter note as the grilled red peppers on top. It’s a harmonious collection, rounded out by a slice of creamy harvarti.
Neato’s Burgers — @NeatosBurgers
There may not be a more extensively Internet-chatted item among the new St. Paul trucks as the duck fat French fries from Neato’s Burgers. Even this author, who has all but sworn off fries and vowed to only eat a few bites, polished off a small order ($3) and secretly wished for a large ($5). They’re only faintly crispy and studded with large flecks of salt, and they feature a meltingly tender interior. They tell us the duck fat is sourced from a free-range duck farm in Pennsylvania.
“Once Porky’s closed down, we wanted to bring that kind of throwback burger back to the city of St. Paul,” says owner Tony Gutierrez. Their beef is ground daily and cooked on a ripping hot flat top for maximum char. A regular burger only sets you back $3 (or $4 with cheese), but opt for the Neato’s Deluxe ($6) with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and Neato Sauce, which is their version of Thousand Island dressing. And please, dear readers with lower cholesterol than yours truly, comment below and tell us about their peanut butter Goober burger, or any other St. Paul truck finds you’ve been digging as of late.
For far more food truck and cart reviews, check out The Heavy Table’s Street Food Directory.
About the Author
John Garland is a freelance writer living in the East Isles neighborhood of Minneapolis. His area of expertise is wine - thanks to schooling from the International Sommelier Guild and more than a few winery visits during his time at the American University of Rome. He also contributes to Beer Dabbler's Growler Magazine and is always available for writing opportunities and happy hours.