It's new to the street food scene, but already there is a considerable buzz around the Hola Arepa food truck. The lively turquoise truck can be found in downtown Minneapolis on most weekdays and at the Uptown market on Sundays.
Behind the wheel and grill are Birk Stefan Grudem, a bartender at Bradstreet Craftshouse, and Christina Nguyen, owner of the fashionista destination Design Collective.
We stopped by the truck on a recent afternoon to give these little treats a taste. [jump] We sampled the chicken avocado salad, chorizo brat, and pulled pork with black bean filling, along with a side order of the spicy slaw and a tall, cool, tart, rhubarb lemonade ($2). The beverage was a mix of Simply Lemonade and a rhubarb syrup over tiny little lumps of ice, but it tasted like a welcome, chilly breeze on a hot summer afternoon.
The arepas themselves are a beautiful little vessel for a lunch. Fat and fluffy, they're a Latin American answer to a Southern granny's biscuit. Plush with a delicate corn flavor and crisp shell, split wide like a grin, they welcome all manner of filling. They're also a solid crowd-pleaser, being naturally gluten-free and vegan.
The chicken avocado salad would be the best bet for a more timid palate ($6). Simple, straightforward Kadejan farm chicken, utterly creamy and cool, is tucked into a cozy little corn cake. It's topped with magenta-hued pickled onions, studded with crisp red onion and set atop --could it be true?--an actual red, ripe tomatoey-tasting tomato.
The pork is sourced from Fischer Farms and, in one version, is slow-roasted until sweet and tender, mixed with a slightly sweet mango-enhanced sauce ($6). It's folded into an arepa with black beans and a layer of crumbled, salty cotija cheese. To spice it up, we added a healthy squirt of the creamy jalapeno sauce, carefully labeled as "super hot." It was not for the faint of tongue, but it was dazzlingly flavorful--a mouth and sinus wake-up call, beckoning for a hot, smoky return bite.
The chorizo brat offering was a different from a simple Wisconsin beer-soaked brat or a patty of pimentón laced chorizo ($6). It is its own creation, spicy, dressed with a pickled slaw and sauteed, fruity red peppers. The hot, tart, snappy cased pork slices come with a cinnamon zing. The arepa is topped with a version of an El Salvadorean curtido--pickled red cabbage, onions, carrots, and jalapenos. It's bright, crunchy, and sweet, with a solid wallop of heat. And isn't that really all we ask for in a summer day?
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