When I was the boys’ age, I lived in West Germany, where I learned about having family adventures off the beaten path. One of the keys to a successful family adventure is keeping everyone well-fed, and the best strategy in that time and place was the “Schnell-Ess” truck that was always parked near the main attraction of any town, large or small.
My favorite Schnell-Ess delicacy was Berlin-style currywurst: grilled bratwurst cut into bite-size pieces and smothered in curry-flavored tomato sauce, eaten with cute little two-tined plastic forks. I also loved the wurst grilled over a fire of pine cones that we found in a little Bavarian village, the waffles that we found in Belgium, the French fries with mayonnaise or peanut sauce in Amsterdam; trying out new foods was a big part of the adventure. We would joke about eating our way across Europe; my little sister knew all the German names for her favorite ice creams, and had to learn the English when we moved back to the States.
Until very recently, street food didn’t have a big presence in the Twin Cities. There have always been a handful of hot dog carts and popcorn stands, but our food-on-the-go tradition is wrapped up with special event chow like all the glorious things on sticks at the State Fair; the rest of the year, the choices have been limited. But over the last couple years, there’s been an explosion of interesting food trucks, like Fork in the Road, Chef Shack, and Dandelion Kitchen.
One of the problems with food trucks is that they’re mobile: it’s hard to depend on a restaurant that has to pump quarters into the meter around Rice Park (like my new favorite, Potter’s Pasties and Pies) and can suddenly pick up and roll to a new location. This summer in St. Paul, though, there’s a solution: the food truck court on Kellogg Boulevard, between St. Peter and Wabasha, every Wednesday at lunchtime.
This location is great not only for downtown office workers like myself, but also for visitors to the Science Museum, Rice Park, Landmark Center, and the Children’s Museum. It’s an easy walk from the best sights in St. Paul, and you can find a spot to sit overlooking the Mississippi River while chowing down.
Admittedly, the food offered is a little more exotic than most kids’ taste (I guess I was a weird nine-year-old); fish tacos and arugula salads don’t rank high with the grade-school set. But you might just catch Natedogs in the neighborhood, and since the food is made to order the folks running the trucks can tailor your meal to less adventurous tastes. And don’t underestimate the ability of kids to step outside the mac and cheese zone: after Jack and Peter tried my Chef Shack beef tongue taco, they ordered some themselves when we visited Taco Taxi (perhaps my proudest moment ever as a Dad …).