With Dan Gustafson’s long history of failed business ventures, including his spectacular $1.28 million bankruptcy and his hand in the closure of Applewood Rustic Grille while he should have been facing the music at a Burnsville City Council meeting, I was honestly a little surprised when word came down that he was opening a food truck. Color me even more surprised when he announced The Wicked Palate food truck would be located in Burnsville only–something which limits competition but also brings into question the quality of the food which will be served.
A preview article in Sun-Thisweek offered up a glimpse into the menu which Dan had planned for his latest venture:
They will serve American food writ large, with high regard for flavor and little for calorie or cholesterol count.
The still-developing menu will include the “Fat A$$ Burger,” the Palate’s thick double burger. The “OMG Burger” will be topped with pulled pork, deep-fried cracklin pork, caramelized onions and “MOJO” sauce.
Dan claimed to have scoured the Minneapolis/St. Paul food truck scene to build his own menu which would bring people in droves and speculation on this site was that based on the planned menu, Dan had appeared to have missed the boat regarding what people were interested in when they went out for a streetfood lunch.
I was out of town in smoggy Los Angeles the first week Dan hit the streets, almost a full month and a half after the fan favorite food trucks were out and about and nearly a month after the year’s newest hit the road, and found it hilarious that a man who sits on the City Council and claimed to have done his due diligence regarding his truck found himself in a dispute with a citizen over legal on-street parking for his truck. I was disappointed that in just a few short days he had an agenda item on a City Council meeting which would benefit his personal business. While he apparently abstained from the vote, the fact that he was able to leverage his power as a city councilperson above and well beyond what a regular citizen/businessperson would have been able to do was, to me, disgusting.
That said, I rounded up a few of my friends and we headed over to Dan’s food truck on Friday of last week. As I was on my way, one of those who joined me sent me a text message which said that we should really consider heading over to Pita Plus instead because the line was 100 people deep. Surprised, I drove on and arrived to find Dan’s truck pulled up in a parking lot and totally empty. While 1:00 PM is a little late for the general lunch rush, the downtown Minneapolis food scene would still see droves of people lined up and buying food.
We sauntered up to the truck and looked over the menu pasted on the window of the truck. While Dan claims to have researched the food truck scene extensively, he’s clearly not up to speed on their use of the web and social media in particular to promote his truck. His Facebook and Twitter postings do update you on the location of the truck but his, as of now, non-existent website (which he links to from his FB page) and social media pages do not list a current menu nor does he talk about his food at all. Big mistake Dan.
We looked over the menu and found it to be entirely made up of a variety of burgers I really had no big interest in eating. The most exciting was one that was topped with pulled pork. While the menu claims that it was an American menu with a Cuban feel, I really saw nothing on the menu as of yet that is Cuban at all. In fact, it was simply a large truck, pulled by a broken down Suburban, serving what is on nearly every restaurant menu within earshot of The Wicked Palate’s trailer. Aside from the burgers there were drinks, in a cooler nearby, which were boring and overpriced. While many of the downtown trucks serve interesting soft drinks (Jarritos, Spring Grove, Mexican Coke in glass bottles, etc), a couple of cans of Diet and regular Coke were sitting in water with some water bottles pulling down $2/ea. We were informed the fryer was not working that day and as such we couldn’t order fries with our meals. While I am not a big fry person anyway, the thought of eating a burger with only a water seemed wrong to me.
Three of the four of us chose different burgers. Everything ranging from a standard cheeseburger to one with pulled pork on top. The burgers were up fairly quickly and came as described on the menu. One of my buddies noted that what he ate was simply a cheeseburger on a pretzel bun. There was nothing at all interesting or great about it but it was fine. I think he was simply annoyed that he paid a lot of money for the pleasure to do so.
Another buddy ordered one with pulled pork on top and found the juice pouring out the bottom of the burger to be a huge annoyance for a food truck. The pulled pork had a nice flavor but, like the standard cheeseburger, there was nothing really great about the sandwich and the mess made it generally unappealing for street food.
Two of us ordered what was basically a bacon cheeseburger with sauteed onions. While they claimed they were beer braised, they were simply the same as any other sauteed onions I’ve ever had on a burger. The bacon wasn’t crispy enough for a burger and while I don’t mind mine that way at all, the vast majority of people want a little crunch when they bite into bacon and that was simply not available here. The cheese was melted and fine but carried no distinctive flavor. The burger itself was overcooked for my liking (no, it shouldn’t be grey all the way through) but since I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked I still would have expected a little pink inside. Even so there was no flavor for the meat either. The highlight of the burger was the pretzel bun which, as you know, are the latest rage. While the ones Dan has available at The Wicked Palate truck are about the same as those you can get at Cub in their bakery aisle with some added sea salt, these were decent enough. Two of us noted they were the best part of the burger, something which should never be said about a burger.
The Wicked Palate food truck serves up large burgers for too much money that you can get better at any number of South Metro restaurants nearby. That said, the burgers weren’t bad, they just weren’t as great as the items served at so many other food trucks out on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul. For someone who claims to have checked out the scene and done his research, he really missed the boat in delivering something unique and outstanding. Overall the burgers were fine but I simply see no reason to return until the menu changes somewhat. It wasn’t that they were atrocious, it’s just that there wasn’t any real reason to get excited about what we had–especially when I normally find at least one or two items on every food truck which makes me say “wow, that’s really cool!” But it’s early yet, maybe The Wicked Palate will get to that point in the future but, as of right now, I’m not counting on it.
Have you ever eaten at Dan Gustafson’s Wicked Palate Food Truck? If so what did you think? If you enjoyed the burgers where do you normally eat them? Have you ever had food truck food items from those located in the downtowns? Do you find it hilarious that The Wicked Palate doesn’t have a website or a truly vibrant social media presence? Do you believe there is a large market for street food in Burnsville or in the suburbs as a whole? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.
12600 Nicollet Ave
Burnsville, MN 55337
See all the pictures from The Wicked Palate food truck in Burnsville on Flickr here.