Christian Orosz, co-owner and chef of Lulu’s Street Food, was apparently fated to serve a moveable feast, be it on the open ocean or the curbs of downtown Minneapolis.
After attending culinary school in West Sussex, England, and honing his skills at fine restaurants in Miami Beach, FL, Orosz was hired away by the owner of a multimillion dollar private yacht. He spent the next five years cruising up and down the Atlantic coast between Canada and Palm Beach and around the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. The yacht’s galley was well appointed (he notes that the cabins were wallpapered in ostrich leather), and the only challenge was keeping its small pantry stocked with enough food to supply a long trip — and with high-quality, specialty food. “We would land in a new port, and I’d have no idea where to find a store or bakery,” he says. “Meanwhile, the captain’s coming to me with $3,000 cash, saying, ‘You’ve gotta make it work tonight.’ A lot of times, I’d end up running into restaurants to see if I could just buy a bottle of truffle oil off of them.”
Somehow this luxe experience primed him to fall in love with the old-style food trucks in Florida, what he endearingly (and somewhat sheepishly) calls “roach coaches.” He says he dreamed of buying one and filling its steam tables with simple but beautifully prepared fare, shepherd’s pies and oxtail stew. This was not to be, at least not immediately: The yacht sailed into Stillwater, and Orosz met Tanya, his future wife. She did not initially share his vision. “No one will eat out of a truck,” she said, so he spent a few years working with local caterers, including Lettuce Cater and D’ Amico.
In 2012, with food carts popping up on every Twin Cities street corner, Tanya happily ate those words. The couple found partners and launched the LocoVores BBQ truck, a meld of traditional southern, barbecue, and Caribbean cooking. Unfortunately, after two months, the truck’s engine literally blew up and the partnership ended.
This summer, the Oroszes are back with Lulu’s Street Food, a truck named for Tanya’s grandmother, who invested in their business and is especially fond of the black truffle and Parmesan fries. Lulu’s fare is again a loose mash-up of southern and Caribbean flavors, and it’s easy to see the influence of the chef’s travels in the menu.
We ordered the truffle and Parmesan fries ($5) expecting a musky truffle bomb, but were pleasantly surprised to receive a generous pile of super hot, crisp fries with just a hint of truffle — savory and delicious — and enough parm to be tasty but not overly salty. Not precious, just really good.
The southern fried chicken sandwich ($10) was served on a pretzel bun with a slaw of red pepper, cabbage, and red onion, chipotle mayonnaise, and a drizzle of clover honey. The chicken was crunchy on the outside and tender inside and the bun was interesting, but the slaw was so wonderfully creamy and sweet it kind of stole the show. The honey was a nice touch, too: More than a drizzle, it oozed out of the sandwich, caramelizing the bottom of the bun and coating our fingers.
We also tried the ahi tuna tacos ($12). The tuna was seared beautifully, but its flavor was lost in the taco, where it became more of a textural note. That said, the tacos’ filling — the soft, cool fish, a crunchy slaw, crispy wonton strips, black sesame seeds, a sweet-tart balsamic sauce, and some kind of horseradish — had such a dynamite texture and flavor that the taco was very satisfying.
The star of the day was the Caribbean shrimp cake ($12), which had our dining companions in raptures. The cake was fried up crispy and firm on the outside, but inside it was fluffy and light, almost mousse-like, with a pleasingly mild shrimp flavor. It was served on the aforementioned soft pretzel bun with yet another slaw — this one with a little heat, which was nice with all that creamy shrimp.
We were impressed by the speed at which all of the food was delivered — and that it was piping hot. Also, while many of our orders featured purple cabbage, all of the slaws had their own flavor and suited the plate. The serving sizes were large; we were hard-pressed to finish our sandwiches.
Is the food truck everything Orosz dreamed it would be? There are small challenges: The pantry is still tiny, and all its shelves recently collapsed under the weight of his cooking supplies. But he loves it, and business is good. In the next few weeks, the Oroszes will launch a second truck, the Red Pig & Truffle, which will focus on rustic, gourmet sandwiches. It will also offer to-go items, sandwiches, charcuterie, and salads, including a roasted red potato and bacon lardon salad with horseradish and chives.
During the week, Lulu’s Street Food can be found in downtown Minneapolis at Marquette and 7th, but they also serve at local events, so check Twitter: @LulusStreetFood and their Facebook page for updates.