A guide to the Downtown food truck scene
The food trucks are back and there are some new vendors to try this year. Here’s a guide to finding the tastiest treats on the street. Do you have a favorite vendor? Let us know by tweeting us @TheJournalMPLS. Or e-mail a photo of your favorite street food item to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Twin Cities street food scene, check out the Twin Cities Street Food website at tcstreetfood.com.
1. World Street Kitchen
Location: 5th & Nicollet Mall
Hours: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Twitter info: @eatwsk1
The mobile extension of the highly regarded restaurant Saffron, Saed and Sameh Wadi’s World Street Kitchen offers up one of the most diverse menus of the Minneapolis Street Food scene. Selections rotate regularly and include such options as Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, short rib pho, pressed beef tortas and the Yum Yum Rice bowl. But on a hot day, the most irresistible dish might be the salted caramel ice cream sandwich.
Look for the bright red truck at its Nicollet Mall location between 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. during the week. Because of the rotating menu, it’s a good idea to check the website or Twitter for World Street Kitchen’s daily menu update before heading out for lunch.
2. Brothers Deli
Location: 8th & Nicollet Mall
The Brothers Deli — a favorite in the skyways at 50 South Sixth — is famous for its made-to-order sandwiches. It was also one of the first mobile carts to open on Nicollet Mall. The cart has daily specials. A recent one was a Jimbo’s buffalo chicken sandwich with homemade BBQ chips for $6. You can also get corn beef, Pastrami, Rueben and fresh roasted turkey sandwiches.
3. Smack Shack Food Truck
Location: Marquette, between 6th & 7th streets
As noted by Journal food columnist Carla Waldemar, the lobster deals at Smack Shack, run by noted local chef Josh Thoma, are as good as its gets in the Twin Cities. The basic lobster roll ($12) is a heaping pile of chilled lobster with cucumber, tarragon and lemon aioli served on grilled bread. If you’re craving for even more, go for the king roll ($18) — it has twice as much lobster as the basic roll. If you want to ditch the bread, you can get an arugula and lobster salad for $12. Have no fear, if you don’t like lobster there are a few other options for you: the shrimp po’boy ($10), sausage po’boy ($8) and seasoned fries ($2).
4. Turkey to Go
Location: 8th & Nicollet Mall
Twitter info: @TurkeyToGo
Turkey To Go might be the biggest player in the local food cart scene. Unlike many of the other independent mobile vendors, Turkey To Go is backed by the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and has multiple regular locations. Along with the 8th & Nicollet location, Turkey To Go also has a booth at Target Field and inside the Northstar Building. They occasionally have a second Nicollet Mall location as well (6th & Nicollet) and also head to Uptown many weekends. Of course, there’s also the original State Fair booth.
It’s easy to see why Turkey To Go has spread so far so fast: the food’s simply delicious. Choose from a massive turkey leg or the enormous pulled turkey sandwich. This juicy treat is messy as heck, but it’s so tasty that you just won’t care. Several BBQ sauce options are available, but in our opinion the sandwich is so tasty that it needs no adornment.
5. Magic Bus Cafe
Twitter info: @magicbushotdogs
You won’t find the eye-catching Magic Bus Café downtown on most days. The converted school bus is much for frequently spotted at special events like Art-A-Whirl or the various farmers markets around town. But they’re worth tracking down, thanks to a menu of creatively prepared hot dogs (of both the beef and tofu variety). We recommend the Buffalo Springfield Dog, which is topped with buffalo sauce, bleu cheese, celery and sour cream. It may sound strange, but it’s delicious.
Since it is a converted school bus, Magic Bus Café also has the unique distinction of being the only mobile food vendor with interior seating. Have a seat at one of the interior tables and enjoy your dog in a welcoming, hippie-inspired setting.
6. Chef Shack
Twitter info: @chefshack1
The original local food truck, Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer’s Chef Shack remains one of the best known and most loved mobile food vendors. Featuring a seasonal menu with locally sourced ingredients, the Chef Shack menu is always changing, but you can usually count on seeing signature items like the Indian-spiced organic mini donuts and the tempura soft shell crab sandwich.
Like a few other food trucks on this list, the Chef Shack isn’t part of the Downtown daily lunch crew. Look for it at special events and at farmers markets, such as the Fulton, Mill City
and Kingfield Markets.
Location: 4th & Hennepin
Hotdog connoisseurs will want to make their way to Natedogs on Hennepin across from the Central Library. Nate Beck sells all-natural, locally sourced pork hot dogs and brats. The toppings are special, too. Don’t ask for ketchup. “I hold no ill towards ketchup,” he explains on his website. “But, when it comes to my hot dogs, ketchup has no place in the same universe. That’s just how I roll.” Instead of the red stuff, Beck will top your dog with caramelized onions, sauerkraut and a variety of mustards. For some of the mustards, he adds local beers. He also has a charitable side. He provided people impacted by the North Minneapolis tornado with 500 hot dogs.
8. Dandelion Kitchen
Location: Nicollet Mall in front of IDS Center
Dandelion Kitchen food truck owners Natalie Coleman and Alexander Brand got hooked on street food while traveling in Europe, the Middle East and Asia after they graduated from Wesleyan University. They logged thousands of miles biking through several countries, collecting recipes from the many food stands they visited. Now they have their own food truck — a bright yellow trailer parked in front of the IDS. They specialize in locally sourced dishes and sodas. Some of the local producers they work with include Hope Creamery, Gardens of Eagan and the Salty Tart bakery. They attract long lines and some of their favorite items — like the grilled ham and Brie cheese sandwich and the maple-glazed BLT — go fast so you might want to make a visit as soon as they open to beat the noon rush.
“I think to the outside world it looks like we just show up, turn on the music and start cooking,” Coleman said. “In reality, a million little details and pieces come together every day to make that happen. Keeping all that straight is no small feat!”
9. Barrio Truck
Location: 1st Avenue & 4th Street North
The Barrio Truck line appears to move a little faster than most — perhaps because it’s a little farther from the core of Downtown. The menu is a sampling of what you’d find at the Nicollet Mall location. A recent lunch menu featured a $10 lunch special of two tacos with chips, salsa and guacamole. Other highlights: the bacon hotdog ($6.50), beef barbacoa burrito with avocado-tomatillo salsa ($8) and the soft shell crab torta ($13). The truck sells several different Jarritos (Mexican sodas), too.
10. Simply Steve’s
Twitter info: @Simplysteves
Simply Steve’s is another new arrival to the Minneapolis scene, although proprietor Steve Ramlow has been operating in St. Paul for longer. Simply Steve’s is one of the few food trucks to offer breakfast, which is available all day. Of course, it can be tricky to decide between the breakfast options and the lunch menu, which includes (as you might expect) straightforward options like sandwiches. Affordable and tasty, Simply Steve’s is a great choice if you’re looking for a grass-fed burger, which are fresh, flavorful and not too heavy.