Gastrotruck Lunch and the Minneapolis Truck Scene

I was going to try a new food truck for the first time today. Really I was. And I had options. There was a barbecue truck, and a place that had a "chicken waffle sandwich", and a Taste Of Twins Stadium truck, which killed my soul a little, but I'm getting ahead of myself. And then I found a loophole. I went to a new truck I've been to before.

I'd been to Gastrotruck last fall. Had a lovely porchetta sandwich on a cold day. but they've got a new truck. This new truck is not fucking around. It's bigger, it's fancier, it has a couple of TV's for the menu and logo, a big canopy... it's got all the candy.

And the menu's not fucking around either. Of the four items on the menu, I had a hell of a time deciding whether I wanted the pork belly sandwich, the smoked quarter chicken, or the turkey and wild rice burger. All sounded good, but I went with the burger and a side of potato salad.

Now, you expect a turkey burger to be a bit dry. You don't expect wild rice to help with that. And when the burger arrives and is surprisingly thin, the fact that it's juicy as hell is a testament to Gastrotruck's skill. It's topped with a kale parmesan pesto and some greens, plus, at the recommendation of the truck, some of the pickled red onions they have on a small condiment bar up front. It was very good.

The potato salad was excellent - accented with bonus vegetables like small slices of green bean, red pepper, and some type of wilted greenery. The potatoes, I'll admit, ranged from perfectly cooked to a little crunchier than I'd like, but the vegetables and viniagrette-style dressing more than made up for it.

It was really good, and reasonably priced ($12 plus tax for everything), and it made me think about the current food truck scene. Because Gastrotruck, with no line, was between Taste of Twins stadium, also with no line, and the chain-based cheesesteak truck Pepperjax Grill, which had a line that was borderline criminal.

I've never eaten at Pepperjax. Maybe they're fucking amazing. I don't know. But I do know this - food trucks aren't a cuisine, they're a format. And if Arby's had a food truck serving Arby's food, and you ate at it, you'd still be eating at a fucking Arby's. Which is fine - sometimes I eat at a fucking Arby's, but don't think it's special because it's on wheels. I don't think you get to go back to the office and talk about how great it is that we have food trucks if you had a chain cheesesteak for lunch. Even if it was a good chain cheesestak.

Another thing this Gastrotruck meal made me realize - food trucks? Don't be scared of vegetables. Food truck customers? Don't be scared of vegetables. I enjoy the occasional menu item in the spirit of excess - meat and cheese and fried and stuffed and dripping - but all of my favorite food trucks embrace vegetables as part of the equation. They provide balance and flavor and, yes, a bit less heart-attack-on-a-bun factor, but that's important for maintaining a customer base.

A lot of the newer truck meals I've had, and menu items I've seen, are skimping on the vegetables. Which is probably good marketing, but bad food. And I can get bad food at places that have chairs.