Chef Shack debuts at 5th and Hennepin

Donuts for breakfast, tacos for lunch
Donuts for breakfast, tacos for lunch

The smell of Indian-spiced mini-doughnuts in the steaming core of downtown Minneapolis is not a trick: The Chef Shack has set up shop at the corner of Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue and is offering its trademark doughnuts, tacos, Arnie Palmers, and even a spicy green curry from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The Shack, which can regularly be found on weekends at the Mill City Farmers Market, the Kingfield Farmers Market, Northeast Farmers Market, and the new Uptown Market, can now be part of your weekday lunch as well, thanks to the city's newly expanded street food vending measure.

Monday's launch featured the Shack's trademark doughnuts ($5 per bag), a pulled-pork taco ($6), sweet potato taco ($6), and spicy green curry (also $6), as well as a line of downtown officebots ready to nosh.

Nom nom nom
Nom nom nom

Chef Shack owners Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson took a break from slinging tacos to talk about their new location and how the menu will rotate throughout the summer.

1. What's the most popular item at the Shack? Lisa: Doughnuts, doughnuts, doughnuts. Doughnuts. And then...doughnuts.

2. Last winter you went to Thailand and India to get street food inspiration. What ideas did you bring back? Lisa: We spent a month in Thailand and two months in India, and we sampled as much food as we could. We've been traveling to those countries for years, and we get a lot of inspiration from Asia. The curry we have today is very authentic, if you went to Thailand...This would hit it right on the head. But we're from here, and we like to use local ingredients as much as possible, so when you are traveling in Asia you've got mangoes and papayas--nothing that grows in Minnesota. So we've got to alter things. Instead of a mango lassi, maybe we'll do an apple lassi.

3. What's new on the menu this summer? Lisa: The sweet potato taco, which is organic sweet potato, black beans, and fixins' on top. And duck noodle salad we did last weekend, which was Wild Acres fresh duck roasted with a spicy rub, thin vegetables, and fresh herbs, which was dynamite. We also did a pig's ear salad; we got a great response to that. For as much as you might think Minnesotans aren't adventurous, they will line up for anything unusual. It blows my mind. Tongue taco, we served about five or 10 when we first did them, and now I can't keep enough tongue on hand!

The Chef Shack's new green curry
The Chef Shack's new green curry

4. How did you decide to park at Fifth and Hennepin this summer? Carrie: I contacted about 12 different lots, I got a response from five, and out of the five one agreed to it, and that was this one. There's just been an overwhelmingly positive response, and I feel like we're changing the vibe of this corner during the day. It's great fun.

5. Do you get a lot of customers who are surprised to walk up to a mobile shack and see things like creme brulee and tongue tacos? Lisa: I think they're not as surprised anymore. I think they're getting used to it.

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