Serious Eats

Street Food Profiles: Chef Shack in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Note: Since this street food trend is getting a little out of control, we're going to spend every Monday getting to know different vendors from all over. This week in Street Food Profiles, we scoot to the Twin Cities.

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Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson. [Photographs: Chef Shack]

Name: Chef Shack
Vendors: Chef Lisa Carlson and pastry chef Carrie Summer
Location and hours: The Mill City farmers' market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Kingfield farmers' market on Sundays, same times. We also do block parties, festivals, and special events in and around Minneapolis from April until November each year.

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Tempura-fried soft shell crab

What's on the menu? Beef tongue tacos, bison burgers, veggie-walnut burgers, pulled pork nachos and sandwiches, grass-fed beef hot dogs, bacon brats, vegan brats, vegetarian falafel, tempura-fried soft shell crab sandwiches with pickled ramp tartar sauce, braised Indonesian natural chicken, fennel slaw, hand-cut fries, tomato and watermelon gazpacho, "trailermade" tempura cheese curds, fried green tomatoes with lemon aioli, Indian-spiced mini doughnuts, crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, goats' milk ice cream, chocolate crunch ice cream, sweet corn ice cream, red beet ice cream (all ice creams are processed with a Pacojet).

How many years have you been street-fooding? Two and a half years

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20090831-chefshack4.jpgAre you on Twitter? If so, how has it affected business? Yes (@chefshack1 and @shackattacks). We're also on Facebook. They're both free advertising tools, not to mention fun and easy. It's extremely popular and easy for us to tweet about the menu from the kitchen or the trailer. Bubble Tweet is our favorite!

Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? We are gypsy traveling chefs, so a mobile business suits our lifestyle. We work hard in the summer and travel the world in the winter months.

Typical customers? We have a huge fan base of kids who come for the doughnuts, local foodies, local chefs, hipsters, and freaks. Many regulars who hold VIP status.

Describe a typical day from start to finish. It starts at 3 a.m. We set up our rig, start cooking, and get ready to sell to the breakfast crowd around 7 a.m. We close up after lunch, breaking down and finishing around 5 p.m. Then it's all over again the next day. Sometimes we have double bookings and back-to-back events.

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What are/were you doing before this? We're both professional chefs, each with over 20 years of experience. Lisa has cooked for Gray Kunz, Christian Delouvier, and Daniel Humm, all top New York chefs. Carrie opened Morimoto's pastry department and worked at the Jean-Georges restaurant JoJo in New York City.

What makes the food so special? Can anything like it be found in the city? Our cuisine is so special because we are life partners and collaborate well together. Ingredients are paramount. We believe our good energy translates to the food. Taste and seasoning is also essential. We spend extra on ingredients because our fans are worth it! There's nothing else quite like us in Minneapolis.

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How would you define "street food"? Affordable, fresh, tasty, and unusual.

The best street food city and why. Bangkok and anywhere in India. The two tie for intense flavors, accessibility, and price point—they make "something" out of nothing! Creativity is off the charts.

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Sweet corn, red beet, and chocolate crunch ice cream

Your comfort food after a long day? Something bold and memorable. Anything ethnic—whether West Indian or Nepalese, or just ice cream and cookies.

Advice for an aspiring vendor? Cook from your heart and keep it simple.

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