Samson Benti is hard to miss. You could be walking aimlessly through Minneapolis’s Uptown Farmers Market or scurrying with your head down on Marquette Ave with anything but sambusas on the brain, but sooner or later Benti’s infectious cheer is going to catch you by the ears and lead you to the She Royal food truck. And you will eat a sambusa — or some curry, or a platter of veggies, or a gyro — and you will knock yourself in the head for not getting there sooner.
Some may call Benti’s truck, an unadorned white model with a small logo on its side, spartan, or even boring. (An austerity helped, no doubt, by the fact that the trailer they used during last season was stolen.) More often than not, its starkness distinguishes it in a scene dominated by snappy paint jobs and exuberant chalkboard typography. It might be all those seasons of Mad Men talking, but it’s certainly refreshing to see a design that’s so guileless. Benti and his sister, Hana, also operate the cafe in Minneapolis’s City Hall.
In a region woefully lean on Ethiopian restaurants, She Royal fills the niche of the gateway drug, before one moves on to the harder stuff at Fasika and T’s Place. You may find yourself snorting lines of berbere before long.
If you can get them, the sambusas ($3 for two) are really, really addictive. With just a hint of spice, the sambusas come in both beefy and vegetarian incarnations — both are great. Top them with the truck’s hot sauce and you’ve got the spiritual essence of street food in your clutches. We sampled them at She Royal’s appearance at the Northern Spark festival, but haven’t seen them on the menu since. Please bring them back, we’re jonesing so hard here!
Northern Spark was also where we had our first taste of the chicken curry (above left, $7). In order to shake off the haze of drunken reminiscence, we tried it again recently and were absolutely thrilled with it. The chicken is baked first, and then incorporated into the curry. One would assume that this would make it a dry, mealy nightmare, but it was so, so tender! This simple dish of chicken, curry goodness, injera, and rice will have you sighing and begging for more.
Since Benti first fired up She Royal’s adventures in mobile food, the veggie sampler (above right, $7) has been and will always remain our favorite on the menu. We daresay it’s the most beautiful of all the mobile entrees in the region. The vegetables rotate frequently, depending on what’s available; we’ve personally seen beets, collards, cabbage, lentils, and split peas so far. And every time, it feels so novel to receive a pile of diverse vegetables from a food truck. (Mayor R.T. Rybak loves it, too!)
On our recent visit, we also tried the Philly cheese steak sandwich ($7), which came down to gyro meat, swiss cheese, onions, and lettuce in a long roll. All in all, it was decent. Unfortunately, “decent” just can’t hold its own in a menu full of exceptional dishes. The sandwich is probably a concession to potential customers who aren’t the most adventurous eaters — most restaurants have at least one such dish. If you’re one of those people, do yourself a favor and get this sandwich as it was meant to be: a gyro ($7).
BEST BET: Get the chicken curry: the tender chicken and curry goodness will have you begging for more.
She Royal Food Truck
Ethiopian food truck in Minneapolis-St. Paul
@sheroyalcoco (often found at Marquette and 9th, Marquette and 5th, or Uptown Farmer’s Market, Minneapolis)
OWNER / CHEF: Samson and Hana Benti
HOURS: Mon-Fri 11am-1:30pm
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7