Minneapolis: Food Trucks Hitting the Sidewalks

The Smack Shack, Josh Thoma’s slick entry into the Twin Cities’ nascent food truck scene, made its 2011 outdoor debut today, at a boffo address: Marquette Avenue, just shy of Seventh Street, in front of the Wells Fargo Center. The Smack (pictured, above) has really come up in the world; last year, the truck was parked in a far less-trafficked spot at 1st Avenue N. and N. 4th St. in the Warehouse District.

As locations go, this new one’s pretty primo, adjacent to one of the state’s largest office buildings. Urbanists will agree that since Marquette’s double bus lane doesn’t see a lot of daytime action, adding a popular food truck is a smart way to enliven a fairly dead daytime zone. How cool would it be to see a critical mass of  food trucks parked, every day, up and down staid Marquette? Paging Mayor Rybak!

The truck’s sterling reputation had obviously preceded itself. I arrived fairly late in the game, at about 1 p.m., and Thoma & Co. were doing such a brisk opening-day business that they were running out of food. We got in line behind a group of people who were hanging around to see if they could even place an order (my favorite quote of the day came from a man regarding the woman who had taken on the role of sidewalk superintendent. “She’s not afraid to take charge, she can’t be from Minnesota,” he said). Not bad for a grey, windy day in the 40s, right?

Next time I’ll know to show up earlier, because Thoma knows how to make a lobster roll ($12, steep for street food but truly worth every penny). Don’t take my word for it. Bon Appetit magazine recently ranked the Smack Shack’s lobster roll as one of the nation’s 10 best. Impressive for a joint that’s 1. on wheels and 2. roughly 1,300 miles from Cape Cod.

Lobster lovers can double their pleasure with the “King Roll,” which piles twice as much decadent lobster into the same grilled bread, for $18. Other items include po’ boys (Minnesota-raised pork andouille, and battered shrimp, $9 and $8, respectively) and hot-from-the-fryer hand-cut fries ($2).

Check it out Thursday. According to their Twitter account (@Smack_Shack), the window will open at 11 a.m., with “way more lobster.”

Meanwhile, Dandelion Kitchen owners Natalie Coleman and Alex Brand were busy doing their thing — beautifully made sandwiches and house-made (or is that truck-made?) sodas — in front of the IDS Center on Nicollet Mall, Look for the dandelion-yellow truck (pictured, above).

A half-block down the street, the folks at Turkey To Go were hawking their two-fisted turkey sandwiches from their popular cart. Both are deep into their second week on the Mall.

Now if only 2010 players She Royal and World Street Kitchen would materialize (by the way, She Royal drops into the ground-floor cafe at Minneapolis City Hall every Friday for lunch). Pray for warmer weather, right?

The reigning monarchs of the local food truck kingdom, the Chef Shack, are gearing up for their first appearance on May 7 at the Mill City Farmers Market; hopefully downtown will be seeing more of them as the spring progresses. Last year, co-owners Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer were doling out their mini-doughnuts and daily lunch specials from a parking lot at Hennepin and 5th.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping to hit St. Paul’s Mears Park tomorrow. Simply Steve’s and Fork in the Road, here I come.