Food carts: four down, one to go

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August 2, 2010 // UPDATED 3:32 pm - August 4, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
We’ve got the mini-donuts and the Injera bread. Now get ready for turkey legs and lobster rolls.

Two new mobile food vendors hit the streets in the first week of August, bringing the total number of food carts Downtown up to four. Five operating licenses had been awarded last spring, but it has been a slow slog getting the trucks through the bureaucratic process. The donut-slinging Chef Shack opened on June 28, followed by Ethiopian grill She Royal a few weeks later.

Turkey to Go, at South 8th Street and Nicollet Mall, debuted Aug. 2, serving up marinated drumsticks, turkey sandwiches, lemonade and ice cream. Smack Shack, at 1st Avenue and North 4th Street, opened Aug. 4, offering a gourmet menu of New England-style lobster rolls and shrimp po’ boys.

The original Turkey to Go is the official concession stand of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, which has been serving sandwiches at the Minnesota State Fair since 1959. After working the concession stand in 2009, entrepreneurs Danny Perkins and Drew Levin approached the Association about expanding beyond the fair. At the time, the city’s discussions about street food Downtown were still in their infancy.

“We joined forces with [Council Member] Lisa Goodman,” said Levin, who along with Perkins took an active role in helping Goodman retool the unruly city ordinances that had previously made it difficult for street vendors to operate. Turkey to Go, Levin said, was “the guinea pig.”

Tim Malloy, a chef who runs an in-home catering business, is Turkey to Go’s cook.

“It’s been really good,” Malloy said of his first two days in business. “We had no advertising. For just dropping shop yesterday, it’s been a really good surprise.”

Turkey to Go’s hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. When the Twins are in town, the truck will move to a second location, at South 6th Street and Hennepin Avenue, to serve food before and after games.

Smack Shack is the latest venture of chef Josh Thoma, better known as the man behind La Belle Vie and Solera.

Inspired by the small sailboats, or “smacks,” of the 1800s used for lobster fishing in the Northeast, Smack Shack serves up small seafood dishes. Signature items are a quarter-pound lobster roll and po' boys with shrimp or andouille sausage with arugula, tomato and aioli.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weeknights, with the truck serving food until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.