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Oct 4, 2008 12:00 AM

Holy Street Food Batman! Hot Dog Cart Sighting in St Paul

So i was semi drunkenly cruising Grand Ave tonight on my way home from Sweeney's at around 1230 this morning when we passed a chicago style hot dog cart on the corner of grand and avon (across from the wild onion, on the way to billy's, heading from the east).

we werent in the mood (too many vegetarians, or too many beers - or not enough, depending on who you asked) to stop, but there were at last half a dozen people gathered around eating what looked to be pretty authentically prepared chicago dogs - complete with the seedy bun,spot peppers and tomato wedges (i didnt get close enough to see the fluorescent green relish).

was this simply a midnight mirage? is the city licensing these operations? might we see a sf-style tamale lady at any moment? can anyone confirm this sighting? is there a schedule?

i realize most of these questions could have been answered with a cursory stop and conversation with the stand's operator, but that didnt happen so i turn to you, my fellow chowhounds, with this report and these questions. On a night when i learned that a fav in uptown (jPs) is no more, and i had to prematurely say goodbye to some of the best indian food ive tasted in minn (B2D), the weekend streetfood in st paul is enough to give one hope that all is not lost in the twin cities food scene.

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  1. Amazingly, I found that there's a Mexican woman who goes up and down the Hispanic businesses on Central Ave. selling hot tamales. The whole thing is pretty clandestine, but I think it's a regular thing around 5 pm, when people are getting off from work. I was in Durango Bakery buying some pan dulce and there were a few people in the bakery just visiting and chatting, one of them the woman with a large cooler. She didn't speak English, but one of the guys there did and he asked if we like Mexican food. She opened the cooler and it was totally full of piping hot tamales! She offered us a pepper and cheese one to taste and we bought a dozen assorted ones on the spot. They were every bit as good as the ones I had when I was in MX (though she didn't have mole ones--my favorite).

    It would be so great if this was a more common occurrence in the Twin Cities, and more well-established. What keeps street vendors from operating here? I've only seen the apple fritters at the farmer's market. Is this a zoning thing? Is it the low pedestrian density? If only this woman knew how many people would love to buy her hot tamales and she was able to set up something better than lugging a cooler around door-to-door. Maybe this particular person wouldn't want to grow her business that way, but what keeps other people from doing so?

    1 Reply
    1. re: tasmonia

      >> What keeps street vendors from operating here?

      Minneapolis has ridiculously restrictive laws on food carts or any mobile food. They're illegal anywhere except downtown or for special events such as street fairs. So dumb!

      I wish the tamale lady well, and hope that she has found a legal way around those draconian laws. If not, publicity could be fraught with danger for her - I certainly hope not!

      This summer, there was a woman selling Mexican drinks on the Greenway, but I wonder if her situation changed after Jeremy Iggers "outed" her. I hope not!


    2. A minneapolis tamale lady! awesome! for a second i was sure i had mentioned San Francisco's famed (and sometimes derided) tamale lady, who, just as the woman on Central, packs hers hot in a cooler. Unlike the tamale lady of NE, the one in SF pretty much only circulates around dive bars int he mission after midnight, serving a patron crowd pretty similar to the ones targeted by the hot dog vendor.

      In a related street food not - on my way home from Los Ocampo on arcade last night i noticed a trailor (not truck) parked just off of arcade a block or so north of Minehaha. I recall reading some reports of this business but also that it wasnt consistently to be found. I am, like tasmonia, curious about the legalities and logistics of street food in MSP - has there been a legal shift lately or is it purely coincidence that i have noticed two new (to me) informal food businesses in the last week?

      2 Replies
      1. re: tex.s.toast

        here's more on the east st paul taco trucks and the legality thereof:

        from what i can tell there is frequently a truck in that area, though the truck is not always the same. there is also frequently a hot dog cart parked across the street from the st paul farmer's market on weekends-- also across the street from black dog cafe-- that's the south-west corner of the market, right?

        1. re: soupkitten

          i know that hot dog guy (he's usually advertising cheddar brats). i *think* that is actually the southeast corner, but who knows.

          also, for the record - this was a taco trailer, not a truck. The engineless trailers have become increasingly popular in los angeles as gas prices have risen. frequently one company oversees a number of trailers and uses a signle vehicle to reposition a small fleet of trailers.

          thanks for that link, knew i remembered something on the boards, and was surprised by the volume of street food i encountered this weekend (not that two sightings is overwhelming, but good for st paul)

      2. tex-
        The cart off of Grand and Avon is owned by me. The relish is as green as it gets. The weather and deaths of close family/friends has caused me to not be out lately. I will start back up again a few weeks before Christmas. I am also looking to be adding 1919 draft root beer on tap as well. Check out the website Thanks!