With so many new — and delicious — food trucks hitting the streets of the Twin Cities each summer, it’s almost too tough to keep up. Well, fear not, we’re here to help. Here’s this week’s Friday food truck feature!
As one of the pioneers of Twin Cities street food, the owners of Chef Shack prove they’re not only getting better with time — they’re getting bigger.
Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson brought their tasty treats and spectacular dishes to the streets of the Twin Cities six years ago — long before our downtown thoroughfares were lined with food trucks.
Toting spiced mini donuts and a ridonkulous foie gras bison burger (among other delectable goodies), this truck is certainly a fan favorite — so much so they’re bringing their flavors to Wisconsin in the form of a new restaurant.
Before they begin their next chapter, we wanted to chat with them about their big, red truck.
Owner: Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer
Date the food truck opened: We first opened at the Mill City Farmers Market in 2007.
What kind of food do you serve? We try to do as much farm-to-truck as we can, and I have been using a lot of local farmers for many years. Tim Fischer, Thousand Hills, I use for the beef tongue tacos, we use Eichtens for our bison, with our burgers. We use Alberts organics. We do everything from scratch. Our friends make the buns over at Salty Tart, for our burgers, which makes them awesome. We get our organic eggs from Radtke farms. It’s really, really fresh, and always just a little twist, a little unusual, unexpected. We have just really, really delicious food. We really try to create a memory with our food.
Price range of menu: $5 to $12
Hours of operation: We do try to do Wednesday through Friday in downtown Minneapolis. We do the farmers markets on the weekends — Mill City from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., we do Fulton Market from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, as well. And then Sundays we do the Kingsfield Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Job before opening food truck: Carrie and I were the chefs at Spoonriver. I’ve been cooking for 26 years and she’s been cooking for 25, so we’ve been around the block. It’s not our first rodeo.
And you guys are also opening up a restaurant? We are. We bought a small bar and grill in Bay City, Wis. and we’re thrilled. We’re really thrilled to hopefully pull some people out of the city and just really have an amazing experience outside the city, overlooking the water. It’s kind of got a cabin feel to it. I’m assuming everyone’s going to love it (laughs) — I hope! We’ve both been classically trained and Carrie worked for (Masaharu) Morimoto, we have some interesting influences that we really hope to bring to the table. We’re contacting farmers right now down there, Red Wing, some nice wineries down there. So we’re going to try to pull from that local area — Stockholm, Pepin, there’s some local breweries down there. So we’re really hoping to collaborate with some local farmers and really bring some interesting food to the table.
Did you decide on a name for the new digs? Chef Shack, Bay City! We’re looking to open in the fall. With the leaves changing, I know people like to hit up the Great River Road and kind of make little stops along the way. So we’re hoping to be a little part of that. We might have to put a truck on the railroad tracks and track people in.
Why did you want to go into the food industry? So for me to get into the food industry, I think I really got wrapped with the excitement and the ever-changing moods and people around me and the hours are crazy — it’s for crazy people. You really have to be an adrenaline junky to be in this business. You’ve got ups and downs and now we’ve got rain and before we had sun — I mean, it’s just crazy, so you really have to be able to just roll with the punches. And if you can’t and you’re a control freak, you’ll probably have problems in this business.
Is everything done from the truck? We have a commercial kitchen. We took over the Java Jack’s space over on 46th and Bryant, so we do a large part of our production there. I roast pork shoulders anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, slow roasting, tongue braising, all that needs to be done at the kitchen and everyone that works downtown and has a food truck has to have a Minneapolis kitchen that they operate out of.
How did you come up with the name? I think Carrie came up with the name and it really just stuck right away. We were brainstorming originally and I’m positive she came up with it in the middle of the night sort of thing.
What do you think is your best dish? I think all of the dishes are extremely tasty. I know what’s the most popular — the Indian-spiced mini donuts. We have quite a variety of a crowd, so my tomato watermelon gazpacho is very popular, we’ve got the bison burger with the egg that’s amazing. I think the beef tongue taco also kind of unusual but people go for it, the travelers like it, the farmers like it, the foreigners love it. That’s kind of a unique dish. We do a pulled-pork nacho that’s a really popular dish on the weekends. I think you’re not going to lose, any of your choices are top-notch.
Describe your truck in one word: Creative.
What’s your craziest story from working at a food truck? Anywhere from blowing tires to knocking someone else’s hood fan off. I don’t even know where to start. I think it’s always an adventure. Every single day is completely unexpected. Today we couldn’t open our window because the emergency snow route sign was in our way. Every day is a surprise and the weather in Minnesota is always challenging. You just always have to be on your toes.
What’s one thing you want people to know about your food truck? We really care about the food. It’s owner-operated. Our heart is on the line with the food and we really care about using local, sustainable. The meats, to me, I have a lot of integrity with my product so I just don’t put out things I wouldn’t eat myself or serve my mother or family.
Catch the Friday Food Truck Feature every week, in the Curiocity column. Know of a food truck you think should be featured? Let us know by leaving a comment below or tweeting your suggestion to @SaraPelissero!