Like seeing a flamingo at the Minnesota Zoo, anything “tiki” around here tends to feel woefully out of place. Take Psycho Suzi’s as case in point, where it seems little more than a contrived identity for a mediocre product to hide behind.
So it’s a relief that Tiki Tim’s food truck seems to treat “tiki” with only a wink and a nod. The amount of true island flavor they deliver is minimal, instead serving up some classic staples with a faint tropical echo. You’ll often find this bright blue converted camper in St. Paul for lunch, and you’ll be mostly happy if you do.
The Kalua Pork ($8, below left), is your standard shredded pork sandwich (thankfully, not smothered in barbecue sauce like at two dozen other trucks in the metro). The pork is tender and juicy almost to a fault, though most certainly underseasoned. The soft ciabatta roll does well to hold things together, and it’s topped with a red cabbage slaw containing unobtrusive bits of pineapple. It gets a touch soggy by the end, but it’s nonetheless a pleasing sandwich. It’s one we’d go back for, but not go out of our way to find.
The fish tacos ($7 for two) are quite the same: worthy, but not crave-worthy. It comprises a flour tortilla with long strips of softly breaded tilapia dotted with scallion, cilantro, tomato, and an aioli that isn’t shy on the garlic. The hands-down stars of the truck are the Tiki Cakes ($8 for two), yo-yo-sized discs of crab and shrimp fried to receive a super-thin crispy shell. The filling is magical, more along the lines of a gooey croquette than a traditional crab cake. It’s studded by bits of bell pepper, onion, and jalapeño and topped with a nice red pepper mayo. We got only one in a combo plate ($8 above, right). A few glorious bites later, we wished we had another two or three.
On Twitter: @TikiTims_MN
There’s nothing subtle about Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill. You’ll find it cheeky or crass, depending on your point of view. The flame-painted truck blares hair metal from speakers out front and specializes in Philly-style warm hoagies, chicken, and steak (above right, $7).
Having never been to Philadelphia, this author can’t speak to whether they are authentic, though Motley Crews doesn’t claim to be in any way. Instead, they present “food that rocks!” as their milieu and certainly embody the excess for excess’ sake that defined their preferred musical era.
The sandwiches are all the warm, soft, gooey, cheesy meat bombs they probably should be. A fatty, dense shot through the heart (sorry, couldn’t resist) and if that’s your thing, the truck will suit you just fine.
The branding obviously isn’t our favorite. Chicken hoagies are called “chicks” and play into dismissive stereotypes depending on their contents (loaded up with three cheeses = “Chubby Chick,” for example). Their spicy peanuts are lovingly branded “My Ex-Husband’s Nutz.” Look, we’re not prudes. It’s just… they could have done better.
The truck’s best contribution might be bar snacks, yes, including the “nutz.” When we found them outside the 612 Brew tap room, a 1/2-lb. bag of “sweet ‘n heat” pretzels ($5) proved some pretty fine noshing material, and that’s what we’ll be coming back for.
On Twitter: @MotleyCrews