Food, Review

MN Food Truck Fair: high attendance, some kinks, delicious food & beer

This afternoon I headed to downtown Minneapolis to partake in what was billed as the city’s “first annual Food Truck Fair.” I had seen a deal for half off of an entry ticket ($7, down from $15) which would give me general admission. The event was also selling various levels of VIP passes that ranged from $30 t0 $80, giving you unlimited food truck samples, a whiskey tasting, and mini jucy-lucy sample. (For those who don’t know: a jucy lucy is a cheese-stuffed burger that originated in southern Minneapolis. It is beyond delicious.) I decided to grab a friend and go. The event cost me $20, which included parking and the two discounted passes.

I was curious as to what would draw fair-goers to a somewhat pricey event that is essentially a big gaggle of food trucks, the likes of which can be seen every day in downtown Minneapolis for the lunch rush. (And with, I might add, no entry fee.) I guess the idea was that those who don’t work downtown could get a chance to experience a cluster of food trucks, along with music, games, and over 20 craft beer stands. They certainly delivered on the music – I caught most of Absolut Gruv’s set, and loved it. There were a bunch of games scattered about, the beer selection was generous, and while the backdrop of Target Field and the glass building skyline was a cool backdrop, I found myself wishing there were a patch of grass around.

If the Annual Food Truck Fair does become an annual event, I would suggest that they either communicate better with the food trucks about attendance numbers, or limit the ticket sales. The event was pretty crowded, with long lines that lasted up to 30 minutes for some popular trucks. Some folks waited in line only to find out at the end that the food truck was completely sold out – this started happening with some trucks around 2 PM, not even 2 hours after the fair had started. By the time I left at 4:15, everything was for the most part sold out. I felt bad for those that were just arriving. I felt for the food truck workers, who were dealing with long lines, hungry people, and the nasty combination of hot pavement and oven heat.

The staff was incredibly accommodating–the one ATM on the premises broke down, and I hadn’t brought any cash, so they provided me with some food tickets. I’m not sure how I would have felt if I hadn’t had those tickets to help me out. It seems like a lot to pay $15-25 dollars on top of the entry fee & parking, the hot wait and the occasional sold-out truck. If the fair limits the numbers next year, it will give the space a little more breathing room and keep some spirits up. That being said, however, the food trucks brought their game, serving up high-standard food, and I don’t think they could have anticipated the sheer number of folks attending. Music boomed throughout the space, and people were happy with their beer samples and whiskey gingers.

Event MVP goes to the Blue Door Pub, whose amazing, so-juicy-the-cheese-practically-hits-you-in-the-face jucy lucys were a main attraction. The guys at the grill were still going strong by the time I left, even reducing prices to sell all their burgers. Favorites and food truck veterans Hola Arepa and The Anchor merit a mention as well for longevity. Sushi Fix was the first to go, but I’m sure sushi is best enjoyed fresh anyway. I had the GastroTruck’s black bean burger, which avoided the typical dry pitfalls of a vegetarian burger and was yummy with their homemade pickles and sprouts. Of the pulled pork sandwiches I sampled, Cruzn Cafe’s was the best, with a fresh-tasting apple slaw and generous portions. Another plus was their deep-fried sweet corn, generously coated with melted parmesan. I would have liked to try relative newcomer Sayo, but maybe another time.

Overall: From what I’m hearing, almost 4,500 tickets were sold, which seems like way too many people for 18 food trucks. Hopefully they can work out some of the kinks for next year, as the fair needs to make it worth your while if you’re going to be paying those entry prices. (Or at least give out some more free food tickets to appease those with a long, hot wait!) I enjoyed my afternoon, though: the sun was out, I ate my fill of food, I had a cold beer in my hand, jazz wafted through my ears, and I had a positive person with me to make the line go by faster. Clearly the desire for such an event is there, especially for those who can’t get to food truck gatherings on the regular, so let’s finesse it a little bit and do it again!