The new MidNord truck brings a taste of the world to St. Paul curbside dining
Empanadas are a great idea for a food truck. Little fried-dough flavor pockets are easy to eat on the go, and the filling options are endless. MidNord food truck is the first mobile food vendor to specialize in these little treats, but that's only part of the story. These empanadas come to Minnesota by way of Ecuador, Argentina, New York City, and a Steve Buscemi drive-by.
The truck is manned by Phil Gaffney, a Minnesota native who used to run a craft services catering company in New York City. One of his most notable jobs was on the set of Boardwalk Empire, the HBO drama starring Steve Buscemi.
While Gaffney was out there, two things stoked his fire for food truck fare. One was "MinneApple to the Big Apple
," a gathering of Minneapolitan transplants who would get together for Minnesota-themed parties. The events presumably added a little longing for Gaffney's home state.
The other inspiration was that when he was catering, he worked with an Ecuadorian family. He learned how to make their style of empanadas, and they were always the favorites of the crew.
From there he decided "to save my pennies and try to find a truck." The MidNord truck debuted at the Canterbury food truck festival. Since then, Gaffney has only been out a few times, but already word is spreading, and the lines are beginning to grow.
The menu is focused and brief. There are beef, chicken, mac 'n' cheese, and apple pie empanadas -- half worldly, half Minnesota. The beef is an Argentinean style, with spring onions, pimento, and vinegar. They arrive straight from the fryer wrapped in a bubbly, crispy shell. The shell is like the love child of a wonton wrapper and bread dough, incredibly light but sturdy enough to contain the interior while you eat it. The beef arrives the temperature of hot magma, richly spiced, but not spicy. It's tender and tart, and when dipped in the accompanying mojo sauce it's a full-on mouth experience.
Tender and tart, straight out of the fryer and erupting with flavor
The mojo sauce is made with lime and orange juice, garlic, and other spices, including a whisper of cumin. Combined with the succulent beef, the first bite kicks the taste buds into high gear.
The chicken, also served with the mojo sauce, is moist, savory, and mixed with potato and a little hard-boiled egg, with a serious wallop of flavor. Gaffney says they almost always sell out of this empanada variety.
The truck also serves a tuna, a mac 'n' cheese, and an apple pie dessert made with Honeycrisp apples. Most empanadas are $7, but the mac 'n' cheese is only $6.
Tostones with tangy, mild mango salsa
On the side, they are also frying up tostones, served with a fruity, tart, mild mango salsa for $4. Tostones are twice-fried, mashed green plantains, which look like under-ripe bananas but taste more starchy, a little like a potato.
For now MidNord is only licensed for St. Paul, but Gaffney plans to eventually expand to Minneapolis. Get your taste buds ready.
MidNord Empanada Truck