Good Food in Low Places

Food trucks are pioneers who are changing our local foodscape, one summer at a time.

I truly didn’t mean to give you a Garth Brooks earworm, but there it is. While I was out writing about all the new food trucks popping up this summer, it occurred to me that our summers have become like a little food lab experiment in the Twin Cities. Obviously, we locals bloom in the spring just like the lilacs. We open up, we scurry less and bask more, and we take time to try new things because we feel generous and free. You have to wonder: Would a goat burger find as much success at an indoor hockey arena as it has at the outdoor ballpark?

Take, for instance, our park food. Not long ago, concessions at parks consisted of stale popcorn and maybe a sad wiener eternally turning on rollers—basically no better than gas station eats. Enter Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Falls and suddenly you can’t imagine a waterfall view without a side of clam fries! Bread & Pickle at the Lake Harriet Bandshell followed suit with grass-fed burgers and now wine (!) with your outdoor world. And, of course, Sandcastle on Lake Nokomis, the most recent entrant, has brought you the Dog Flicker, a beef frank with kimchi, cilantro, and a fried egg. What is this crazy delicious madness?

The fact that we are embracing this food not from the top down, but from the bottom up, is very exciting. The sausage of change is not being eaten by the elites in the upper echelons of income; it’s being eaten by those of us wearing flip-flops and copping a squat in the grass. It’s changing how we see our everyday food. It’s opening up the possibilities! The loose life of summer allows us to try beef tongue tacos at the market and say YES to raw fish that comes from a truck on the street. And when all of the collective YESSES we put forth during the sunshine push our cities inch by inch, we move toward a richer food life, even while the snow flies. The rocking success of the Yum Yum bowl helped spur the launch of World Street Kitchen’s shop, and the phenom lobster roll begat the North Loop’s Smack Shack, which will no doubt remain our refuge for fresh seafood when Sea Salt closes up for the season.

So if you think that food trucks are a flash in the pan and that park concessions have gotten too snooty, think again. These are the pioneers who are changing our local foodscape, one summer at a time.

Hungry for more? Get the weekly dish from Stephanie March every Saturday at 1 pm on myTalk 107.1.