On Friday I hit up the very popular, organic and local meat/produce focused Dandelion Kitchen food truck on Nicollet Mall next to the IDS tower in downtown Minneapolis. A small and bright yellow dot contrasted against the dark outline of the very large IDS, Dandelion Kitchen has certainly captured one of the best trafficked downtown locations and has amassed a large and faithful following who regularly wait out long lines to get a taste of what this cute little trailer has to offer.
We arrived just after 11 AM on a Friday. The line was non-existent and the staff ready to take our orders. With their ever changing menu offering a “Smashed Pork” and a “Grilled Cuban” just the day before, I was definitely looking forward to our visit during a very warm early October lunch time. However, after seeing the menu that morning we were pretty disappointed with the fairly mundane options available. With a roasted chicken sandwich, a grilled cheese, and what at first appears to be simply a grilled ham and cheese, I’m sure our long pause prior to ordering was a sobering reminder to Dandelion Kitchen’s staff that with so much competition out on the streets these days they need to be at the top of their game each and every single day.
After much discussion, hem and haws and a last minute change we placed our orders for a Roast Chicken Breast sandwich which was described as “Organic chicken breast with roast red pepper and herbed ricotta, local greens.” When ordering the sandwich standalone it is $7 but when ordering a half sandwich with soup it’s $8 (or $7 for a half with salad). We also ordered a full salad listed as, “Organic microgreens, sliced local pears, pickled beets, toasted pecans and brie,” ($4.50) as well as a full Ham and Brie sandwich with, “All local ham and brie with house-made plum sauce on milk bread,” for $7 more. Topped off with a Lemon-Ginger homemade soda for $2 we had pretty decent sounding $21.50 lunch before tip.
We found a place to sit and laid out the lunch before us. The half Roast Chicken Breast sandwich was short and appeared unusually crusty which allowed the innards to go straight out of the back after the first bite. The chicken itself was juicy and the greens fresh but the herbed ricotta lacked any depth of flavor. The very subtle roasted peppers weren’t enough to pull this extremely average sandwich together and provide the necessary boost to elevate it to the $7 they were charging for a full. The soup of the day was Butternut Squash. While seasonally appropriate it was just as poorly executed as the sandwich it was paired beside. Watery, with very little texture, Dandelion Kitchen failed to add anything to the soup to help enrich what was, at best, tasteless gruel. The $8 paid for this combination was a huge waste and I seriously began to wonder what everyone saw in Dandelion Kitchen which made it worthwhile to wait in long lines every day for their mediocre options.
After the completely useless squash soup and chicken sandwich I held very little hope for what I first imagined to be a very simple grilled ham and cheese with a salad that looked like it came out of a nearby co-op’s deli case rather than a forward-looking food truck. Thankfully my visual assessment was way off. The local ham was meaty, tasty, and provided a nice and chewy texture to bite through before hitting the soft and delicious slab of brie wedged between the ham and bread. The very subtle homemade plum sauce, something I saw absolutely no value in when reading it on the menu, actually provided the much needed sweetness which mitigated the strong mustard flavor and excellent texture provided by the stone ground seeds. What at first seemed to be be a definite miss turned out to be a very tasty sandwich which I was pleased to try more than twice due to the kind allowance provided by my coworker. But while the Grilled Ham and Brie sandwich was one of the best things I’ve eaten out of the local food truck scene, the salad was almost as disappointing as the Roast Chicken Breast and Butternut Squash soup. Fresh greens with mushy and thinly sliced pear coupled with an oily and tasteless dressing wasn’t saved by a couple of pecans and some pickled beets. It may have been priced appropriately because of the organic greens alone but it certainly didn’t taste like it.
Dandelion Kitchen was able to save some face with the $2 homemade lemon-ginger soda. Not nearly as carbonated as the head after the pour would have indicated, this spicy and tart drink was cool and refreshing. Being a big fan of ginger infused drinks, this was one of the best I’ve had in recent memory and was far better than the bottled Coke and Jarritos options provided by many of the other food carts. While not nearly the level of Spring Grove sodas, Dandelion Kitchen’s lemon-ginger is one I’d recommend to anyone.
Overall Dandelion Kitchen was hit or miss and when they hit…they hit and when they missed…they missed really big. The long lines are definitely not justified based on our visit on Friday unless everyone is ordering sodas and grilled ham and brie sandwiches but they may be worth your time if you’re into either.
Have you ever eaten at Dandelion Kitchen’s food truck in downtown Minneapolis? If so what did you have? Have you tried any of their other options? Have you tried their sodas or their now unavailable popsicles? How about how you think they compare to other food trucks downtown? Do you believe the long lines are justified even if they are using mostly local and organic items? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Nicollet Mall, IDS Plaza
See all the pictures from Dandelion Kitchen Food Truck on Flickr here.