11 food trucks to try this season — and one to look forward to

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Berry natural wrap at Green and the Grain

Food trucks are the great culinary equalizer. There's something for almost everyone, the price points are relatively low for scratch cooking, and on a perfect food truck lunch hour, everyone can get just what they want in a few short minutes.

But because of the relatively low barrier to entry, a food truck is not necessarily a guarantee of good meal. Neither is a restaurant, but the stacks of dollars and the numbers of hoops to jump through for a storefront are greater, and the journey from dream to reality longer. In other words, there is more junk to sift through when it comes to the food truck game. So here we attempt to separate wheat from chaff, or rather the packaged hot dogs from the red curry BBQ Asian-style pork sandwiches with Kalbi slaw. We give you some stellar standbys and the best of the newcomers.

Green and the Grain
Having a salad while your cube mate houses a Philly cheesesteak with extra cheesy goo can be a bit of a downer. How come she got blessed with the great metabolism and you've got that armpit-fat thing that looks like it needs its own bra? Chill. A salad from Green and the Grain is no also-ran. Taking salads as seriously as any food passion, these folks roll out premium ingredients and classic flavor combos, like a Mexican-influenced Cowboy salad with properly cooked (not dry) chicken, pico de gallo, real corn off the cob, black beans, pretty little matchstick radish, tortilla strips, Jack cheese, and a jalapeño ranch that actually tastes like something. It's available in large or small, but spring for the big one. It's only a buck fifty more and worth it for the extra roughage. thegreenandgrain.com, $9-$10.50

Daruma Sushi
Now that Sushi Fix has parked its wheels in Wayzata, how will we get our sushi fix? Daruma Sushi to the rescue. From the people who brought us Hibachi Daruma, the teppanyaki truck, comes this rolling (and rolling) sushi bar with delicate, made-to-order stuff that uses well-seasoned rice and fish kept at a pleasant, not ice-cold temperature. When nothing but sushi will do, this beats the hell out of grabbing it out of the grocery store case. It's true, you'll pay for it — a premium roll is $11 — but spicy tuna tartare wrapped in rice and then yet more tuna sashimi enveloping it all with a little avocado and radish garnish is nice, and worth the price. twitter.com/hibachidaruma, $10-$11


The Curious Goat

Ian Gray briefly had a promising Uptown bistro called Gray House, noted for its excellent work with goat. So, like any enterprising young man with a talent and a restaurant no more — bang! Take that show on the road, mister. By no means does he only focus on goat — call it chef-driven eclectic — so he's not penned in by anything but quality and seasonality. Like, would you eat Red Table Meat Co. pancetta and goat's-milk cheese curd tacos? Sure you would. twitter.com/CuriousGoatMN, $4-$13

Butcher Salt
You know the best thing about a food truck? It means distilling the things you like to a tidy little list. You can't have 40-item menus, because you're cooking in 12 square feet, on 90-degree days, and if you want to maintain any shred of sanity (which you probably haven't got anyway, because you're a food truck operator), you'll abide by the magical properties of K.I.S.S. If your favorite thing is pizza, then naturally you'll have a pizza truck, or if it's dogs, then dogs it is. But for Butcher Salt, well, it's butcher salt — a blend of marjoram, rosemary, thyme, sage, and salt that seems to make most everything better. At Butcher Salt have it on cheesy bacon hash browns and an over-easy egg, quadruple cheese quesadillas (that's a three-cheese quesadilla with a side of cheese sauce), and even caramels. butchersalt.com, $5.50-$9.50

Vin's Italian
Vin Spica talks on the phone in hushed tones as if someone is about to come around the corner and clobber him. "There's currently some contention in my family." About what? He puts lamb in the family meatball recipe. And he changed the cannoli. And he's using fresh parsley instead of dried. "My food is 100 percent family recipes. With a bit of updated technique." Spica comes from a big Italian family where food is sacred. "Italian is the only food we know." Think big, East Coast Italian-American meatball sandwiches; if that sounds heavy, think balsamic-doused watermelon, or their sleeper hit, fried eggplant enlivened with mint pesto. "Even people who hate eggplant like it, and that's a really cool feeling." So what if his cousins are thinking of clobbering him? vinsitalian.com, $7.50-$9.50


Tru Pizza Truck

While he worked at a pizzeria in Chaska after high school, Jason Montgomery knew no pizza until he met Neapolitan pizza on his honeymoon. "Then I knew, I wasn't going to do anything else but make pizza." He said building a wood-fired pizza oven that heats to 1,000 degrees on his food truck was "extremely difficult," and it taught him a second enterprise he never meant to learn: welding. It paid off and now he can produce personal Neapolitan-style pizzas in around a minute each. His product is as Neapolitan as he can get it, using locally milled wheat flour, organic tomatoes also grown locally in season, and all sustainably raised cured meats and sausages. The dough must be formed by hand and cooked in fire fueled by wood. He recommends the "Light" pie (light only in name) with prosciutto, arugula, balsamic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, sea salt, and mozzarella. "It's very simple, but everyone just loves it." trupizzatruck.com, $7-$13

Asian Invasion
In the summer all we want to eat is Vietnamese food — chilled noodles tossed with simple grilled meat, cilantro, mint, some crushed peanuts on top, and a little ramekin of fish sauce to bind it all. Here they do a straightforward and serviceable version of exactly that, as well as other classic Vietnamese fare like pulled pork banh mi, seared gyoza, eggrolls, and even Japanese-style curry with a fried katsu pork cutlet on top. Theirs is also the cutest logo, with a little boy and a little girl, Lady and the Tramping a noodle. asianinvasiontruck.com, $5-$8

Bubba's Fried Chicken
About two pounds of food goes for around eight dollars at bright yellow Bubba's, mobile masters of classic fried chicken how you like it (two piece, breast meat only, or tenders). Get it with a big mess of JoJo's potatoes to up the ante. As the vendor put it to one impatient customer: "It's worth it. It's a whole JoJo experience." It is. These potatoes are good — tender within, no hint of grease — and even the chicken manages to be clean tasting. It's the kind of picnic-style recipe that would be just as good the next day. Like it says on the truck: "Good Lord, that chicken's good." bubbasfriedchicken.com, $7-$8

Peep's Hot Box
Jessi Peine is a chef who has worked at Haute Dish and Fuji Ya, and was trained in Mexico, so her influences are quite literally all over the map. You'll see that play out in her specialty, huaraches, made from a football-shaped masa dough base garnished with things like black beans, radish, queso fresco, crema, and housemade salsas, and in her handmade cream cheese wontons with Thai chile, jalapeño, and fresh ginger. peepshotbox.com, $6-$9


Brooks High Beer Battered
Yeah, yeah, you've had beer batter, but have you had it "bespoke"? Like, beer batter tailored to specific beers, specific dishes, and specific palates — specifically your palate? Classic Minnesota dishes like walleye sandwiches and cheese curds get an update with light and almost refreshing batter. The best part is, you get to pick your poison — do you prefer a pilsner or a dark brew? And where do you like it? Have dark on the curds and light on the fish, if you wish, or vice versa! Either way, it's our pick for the finest treatment of curds our town has ever seen. This one is a no-brainer for breweries, so watch for them at Bauhaus and others. brookshigh.com, $6-$12

Classic Yum
Now that Vellee Deli has gone indoors, we're experiencing a drought of Asian fusion on the streets, so we were happy to stumble across Classic Yum, where BBQ pork gets Asian-style slaw and pickled red onion, French fries get doused in curry gravy, and hand-rolled spring rolls are a when-they're-gone-they're-gone reason to get there early.facebook.com/classicyum, $5-$10

Tatanka Truck
This mobile kitchen for modern and indigenous Dakota and Ojibwe foods is not officially up and running yet, but worthy of an honorable mention and an enthusiastic preview. Sean Sherman is a local chef who goes by the moniker Sioux Chef, and has been doing pop-ups around town to showcase foods and ingredients native to Minnesota. Sherman has worked extensively with chef Lenny Russo, who's also devoted to locally sourced product out of the upper Midwest. Sherman's menu avoids any "pre-contact" ingredients, which means nothing from Europe and no chicken, pork, beef, wheat, or refined sugar. What it does include are truly original creations containing buffalo, game, and native plants — unlike anything you can get in the Twin Cities right now. tatankatruck.com 0x00E7


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