Street food takes over the Twin Cities

In search of the best meal on wheels

My favorite was the Greek-themed dill orzo pasta with feta and cucumbers. It was light, fresh, healthy, and tasted like something you'd make at home and tote to work in a Tupperware—and I mean that in a good way. As summer wanes, Fork in the Road will be adding heartier fare, such as Italian meatball sandwiches and salmon sliders. Frechette and Offerdahl plan to keep their truck running all winter long—"maybe not every single day," Frechette says, making exceptions for blizzards or below-zero temps—and adding more warm-me-ups such as soups and chili.

Location: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Fork in the Road typically serves lunches in Mears Park in St. Paul; Tuesdays and Thursdays they tend to book visits to private businesses' parking lots.

Meritage

Sure beats boiled hot dogs: Sweet potato tacos at Chef Shack
Emily Utne
Sure beats boiled hot dogs: Sweet potato tacos at Chef Shack

Location Info

Map

128 Cafe

128 Cleveland Ave. N.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Macalester/Groveland

Details

128 Cafe
Facebook: 128 Cafe
Twitter: 128cafe
651.645.4128; www.128cafe.net

Meritage
Facebook: Meritage - St. Paul Restaurant
Twitter: meritage_stpaul
612.354.3233; www.meritage-stpaul.com

Fork in the Road Truck
Facebook: Fork in the Road Truck
Twitter: forkNroadtruck
612.354.3233

chef shack
Facebook: Chef Shack
Twitter: chefshack1 and shackattacks
507.358.4220; www.chefshack.org

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Minnesota Public Radio staffers have called Meritage's new crepe stand a "sign of civilization" in their employer's often-sleepy city. The creation of the made-to-order treats—there's always one savory option and one sweet—looks just as it might in les rues de Paris. The batter is poured onto a large, circular griddle, then smoothed into a wider, paper-thin disc with a T-shaped tool. When the first side begins to freckle with brown spots, the crepe is peeled and flipped with a thin paddle that resembles a balsa wood model airplane wing. The crepes change each day (flavors are posted each morning on Twitter) and run $4.50 a pop.

One warm but windy day, the options were a delicious ham and cheese or dark chocolate with cherries and whipped cream, and the crepe cooker struggled a bit to keep the flame of the griddle lit. The savory and sweet taste great by themselves but create a synergistic effect if you have one of each.

Location: The crepe cart is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons outside Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul). Meritage plans to keep it open through early fall, weather permitting.

128 Mobile Café

In the window of the128 Mobile Café, a sign in the tip jar reads "St. Paul is the new Minneapolis," and if anything could convince a die-hard Minneapolitan of such truth, it might be St. Paul's beloved 128 Café. The 14-year-old restaurant is admittedly "a little tucked away," says chef Ian Pierce, referring to its cozy digs in the basement of a Merriam Park apartment building. The kitchen-on-wheels has allowed the café to "build the brand" a little more, Pierce says, and shed some daylight on a more casual version of the restaurant's American bistro fare. "We've had people in the restaurant specifically because of the truck," he says.

The converted linen truck gleams as white as its former wares, but it now serves up an ever-changing menu of sweet corn fritters, tender chicken skewers, beet salads, and sockeye salmon sandwiches, all prepared with fresh ingredients and careful attention to detail. (A tuna sandwich, for example, means seared tuna with pickled onions and mixed greens, versus the usual mayo-slogged version made with tuna from a can.)

But there's one item that never changes: the famed baby back ribs. "People would probably freak out if we didn't have 'em," Pierce says. For $11, 128 Mobile offers a one-third rack with kettle chips or coleslaw. These ribs are known for the tenderness of their meat, practically creamy with fat, that's lightly blackened and then slathered in a well-balanced barbecue sauce. They taste just as delicious eaten out of a paper basket on a park bench as they do from a plate on a fabric-draped table. These ribs are good enough to justify the existence of the porcine species—and perhaps the city of St. Paul.

Location: The 128 Mobile Café tends to spend Thursday lunches in downtown St. Paul at places like Mears Park, Rice Park, or the Ecolab Plaza (370 Wabasha Street, St. Paul), but it will always Twitter its whereabouts. It should be out into the fall, as long as the weather stays warm.

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