The burger: There are roughly 100 food trucks operating in the Twin Cities. Although it’s reasonable to expect otherwise, very few local food trucks feature burgers on their menus. Weird, right?
The latest truck to hit the streets, Bushel & Peck, reverses that trend, in a major way.
The truck, which debuted last week, is a mobile offshoot of the recently opened Bushel & Peck cafe inside the Minnesota Historical Society's Mill City Museum. Both are operated by D’Amico and Partners, the restaurant and catering giant behind D’Amico & Sons, Campiello, Parma 8200 and Cafe Lurcat and Bar Lurcat.
Bushel & Peck represents the company’s first foray into street food. Think about that for a moment. Why are the D’Amicos — the folks behind the stratospheric D’Amico Cucina, not to mention the short-lived but way-ahead-of-its-time Azur — dabbling in the food truck business? There’s a simple answer to that question, one that can be captured in two words: creative marketing.
“When you’re working with the historical society, you can’t place a sign on their buildings,” said Josh Brown, executive chef at D’Amico Catering, and a 20-year company vet. “Larry [D’Amico] thought that we could use a truck as mobile advertising. We put the truck into the contract when we bid for the Mill City Museum project. We were lucky enough to win the contract, so, guess what? Boom, we’re in the food truck business.”
Back to the burger. A fat-laced brisket-chuck blend is fashioned into thin, flat, quarter-pound patties and seared, in what seems like a flash, on a 400-degree flat top grill. Brown said that speedy cooking time was an impetus behind the thin-patty format (“It’s important that we push the food out of the truck quickly,” he said, and he's making it happen; my double cheeseburger appeared in less than five minutes), but flavor also played a major consideration.
“You press that thin patty onto the flat top, and you get a nice crust on the outside,” he said. “After all, what is a burger? It’s a nice, fatty patty with beefy flavor. It’s really good bread. And it’s whatever condiments you choose to use. That’s what’s going to make, or break, your burger.” Amen.
At B&P, the garnishes are simple, and effective: a semi-juicy tomato slice, a delicate leaf of butter lettuce and the requisite mayonnaise-based “special sauce,” which performs exactly as intended, resulting in a wonderfully sloppy, reach-for-a-napkin mess.
The cheese is American. Why? “Because it’s absolutely delicious,” said Brown with a laugh. “We went through five different Cheddars, and then blue cheese, and then Brie, and we kept coming back to comparing the results to American. So why not just go with American? It’s like test-driving cars. You loved driving the Honda, so why keep test-driving other cars? Plus, American just melts so well. There’s that really cool look of cheese melting off the burger.”
Pickles are served on the side, but they belong under the top bun. Brown follows a formula that’s straight out of the refrigerator pickle Bible, giving the cucumbers a three-day ferment in two vinegars, onions, peppers and tons of aromatics, including allspice, mustard seeds, a little chile pepper for warmth and plenty of cloves. Nicely crunchy, their bright, vinegar-fueled bite acts as a cleansing mechanism against all that rich beef and cheese. Perhaps Brown can be persuaded to sell them by the jar.
Remember how Brown believes that a burger is really just first-rate beef, condiments and good bread? He certainly nailed the “good bread” part of that equation.
“Once again, we went through dozens of buns,” said Brown. “Potato rolls, egg buns, kaiser rolls. When we found this brioche, that was it. They hold up to all the condiments and they’ve got great chew to them, but they’re also soft at the same time.”
It’s sourced from the Turano Baking Co. in Berwyn, Ill., and it gets a light toast on the grill. It’s bigger than your average burger bun — slightly wider, and taller — but it doesn’t overwhelm the beef, or the add-ons. This is one burger where the bread-to-beef ratio is just right, and if it weren’t served in a paper basket from a food truck, its heft would immediately trigger the impulse to reach for a knife and fork. Instead, ask for extra napkins. You’ll need them.
Glad to see another burger on the mean streets of Minneapolis. Can’t find the truck? The same burger is prepared in the brick-and-mortar edition of Bushel & Peck, and sold at the same price.
Price: $8.25 for a single patty, $11 for a double. “We’re trying to hit a more affordable price point,” said Brown. “It’s hard to go out and find a good burger that’s less than $11.”
Fries: Not included. Tack on $3 (when ordered with a burger) for a generous handful of golden, extra-crisp specimens.
Other trucks: As previously mentioned, there are only a handful of food trucks that serve memorable burgers, including the cheese-cloaked monster at Wyn 65 (pictured, above), the delectable goat burger at Curious Goat, the just-right sliders at Butcher Salt and the superb bison burger at the Chef Shack. Check them out.
Address book: Find the Bushel & Peck truck in the neighborhood around the Mill City Museum (704 S. 2nd St., Mpls.), or near the Commons Park in downtown Minneapolis; track its whereabouts on Twitter. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; Monday service will begin on July 1.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.