We put it off until last because we knew it’d be there.
The Chef Shack, Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer’s kitchen-in-a-camper, was the final destination in a recent tour we took of Downtown’s first wave of mobile food vendors. It was also the only destination. Of the five vendors awarded licenses this summer, Carlson and Summer are the only ones we’ve actually seen out on the streets. Since opening on June 28, they’ve been operating where they said they’d be operating, keeping regular hours in a parking lot at 5th Street & Hennepin.
And the customers have come. A small mob of 30 or so diners milled about at the edge of the parking lot, cradling Styrofoam dishes of pulled pork sandwiches, chilidogs and potato salad. Carlson played hostess, weaving through the crowd with a platter of complimentary brownie treats. Wunderkind chef Landon Schoenfeld even wandered over from his new restaurant Haute Dish.
We plunked down $7 for the barbeque pulled pork sandwich — and were almost immediately disappointed to see a sad little bun placed before us. It’s an underwhelming portion: a pocket-sized mound of bread smothering a thin layer of what looks to be mostly slaw. A heap of shredded cabbage tops the pulled pork. The bottom bun does its best to soak up the juices, but it’s a sloppy snack.
But what the sandwich lacks in size, it more than makes up for in taste. The slaw is spiced up with ginger, cilantro and jalapenos. Its pickled acidity cuts nicely through the sweetness of the pork, which is just barely kissed with barbecue flavor — wisely so, as the pig here is a succulent one.
A still growling belly had us back in line buying a side of potato salad ($2), which proved much more hearty: thick slabs of potatoes, the skin still on, lightly dressed in mustard seeds and vinegar.
But the small portions have their upside; they more or less make dessert a necessity. And the Chef Shack’s mini-donuts — you know ‘em and love ‘em, those heavenly pillows of dough and sugar — are awesome. The consistency is spot-on, squishy enough to tear into but still expanding as you chew. Best $5 you’ll spend at the Shack.
Still though, at a total of $14 for lunch, we could’ve just gone to Barrio. And there, we would have had a place to sit.
Corner of 5th Street South and Hennepin Avenue South
M, W & F, 7 a.m.–2 p.m.