While I usually treat myself to my Food Truck Friday adventures at the end of a long week of leftovers and instant noodles, this particular escapade happened accidentally, midweek. Just having gotten back from a long weekend at the cabin, our fridge was woefully empty when I went to grab lunch stuffs on this particular Tuesday morning. On my way toward the local Chipotle at lunchtime, I took a different turn than usual and found myself on Marquette Avenue; facing me was a stream of tempting food trucks. I walked right on past Chipotle without a backward glance and found myself at the red truck with “Eat Chef Shack” emblazoned on its side and a smiling Joseph Gordon-Levitt look-alike waiting to take my order.
I ordered the first thing that caught my eye on the menu: the Moo Mee Thai Pork sandwich ($8). Well, $8.62 with the credit card fee, JGL warned me as he swiped my Visa and advised me with a squinty smile that this sandwich takes a few minutes to prepare –seriously, this guy was Joseph Gordon-Levitt with sideburns; I half expected Zooey Deshanel to pull up on her scooter and sing an adorable duet with him. I dodged across the busy sidewalk to wait my turn and snuck a couple pictures of the truck.
When my name was called, about ten minutes after ordering, I slung a few drops of the “XXX HOTTT” sauce on my colorful sandwich and booked it for Nicollet Mall, sneaking a few of the housemade tortilla chips into my mouth while I walked.
I plopped myself down on the first open spot I saw and dug in. Well, tried to, but it turns out the bun was too diminutive to confine the pork, pickles, onions, greens, and red cabbage and almost all of the sandwich insides drooped into my paper boat. Good thing those chips came with it for some scooping!
I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Thai Pork”; once I got over the kind of … fluffy… texture of the meat (the closest thing I can compare it to is a moist falafel), I enjoyed the spicy flavor with the fresh and tangy pickles and cabbage. The proportions were good, if generous on the meat. I do wish that the bun had been warmed or toasted, but all in all: a delicious sandwich and great thick, crunchy chips to go with it.
From what I can see, this menu is constantly changing and there are plenty of crave-inducing, rave-worthy mainstays. Popular items include a Bison Burger with Egg ($10), Sweet Potato Tacos ($7), Beef Tongue Tacos ($8), and the Bacon Beer Brat ($6). Apparently the “sister” truck, which also hangs out downtown, offers cannot-miss-them-amazing Indian-spiced mini donuts ($5).
Well okay, so the story doesn’t quite end there. The next Friday, I still had those Indian-spiced mini donuts on the brain. I “convinced” my friend Amber to join me on a trip to the other red Chef Shack truck to see what all the fuss was about.
For $5, we received a piping hot baggie of delicious mini donuts. Chewy, soft in the middle, rolled in cinnamon sugar and with a subtle hint of a spicy kick, they were amazing. To be honest, I had hoped for a spicier, more exotic flavor since I’m a big fan of sweet/spicy combinations. Nonetheless, due to the perfect texture and not-too-sweet taste, they were still probably the best mini donuts I’ve ever had.
A ten minute wait and a credit card service fee, I was warned about both. Chef Shack employees I encountered were friendly and relaxed (and the donut guy posed for paparazzi, thanks man!).
My sandwich was beautiful, with the colorful cabbage and the green chips.
Beats Chipotle any day.
Value for Dollars
$8.62 is about par for the course for food truck lunches; the portion was generous and it’s such unique food that I’m willing to pay a bit more for it. The mini donuts were pricey, but the portion was huge! Amber and I couldn’t finish half of them so I had plenty left to share with coworkers.
Overall Food-Truck Experience
Marquette Avenue isn’t the most scenic of downtown locations, but my tasty sandwich and amazing donuts were well worth it.
But don’t take my word for it!
Locations vary (chefshack.org/locations)
P.S. The Star Trib did a great write up about Chef Shack and the owners Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer a few weeks ago that is worth a read. I pretty much drooled all over the break-room newspaper while poring over those yummy food descriptions and photos.