Counter Intelligence: Another truck-to-restaurant story

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2012 - 8:11 AM

The World Street Kitchen will be coming soon to 28th and Lyndale.

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The future home of World Street Kitchen, at 28th and Lyndale in Minneapolis.

Street food lovers know World Street Kitchen (www.eatwsk.com), the food truck parked weekdays at 5th Street and Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Or, for their sake, here's hoping they do. In any event, WSK co-owners (and siblings) Sameh and Saed Wadi have some exciting news. 

Coming soon, to 28th and Lyndale in south Minneapolis: World Street Kitchen, the restaurant. But this isn't one of those we've-been-dying-to-turn-our-truck-into-a-restaurant stories.

"Actually, we were ready to open a restaurant before we opened the truck," said Sameh Wadi. "We've been working on a bricks-and-mortar place for two years, but when the city opened up the truck licensing, we decided to jump on that first. We've been using it as our test kitchen."

And no, the permanent restaurant -- at 2743 Lyndale Av. S., in the retail portion of the new Greenleaf apartment building -- isn't going to replace the truck. Instead, the restaurant's kitchen is going to supply its mobile unit.

Wadi, the chef behind the exceptional Saffron Restaurant & Lounge (123 N. 3rd St. Mpls., www.saffronmpls.com), plans to continue the truck's globally eclectic and affordable menu at its permanent iteration.

"We're definitely going to keep the tacos, the banh mi, the yum-yum rice bowls, the burritos, all those signature dishes," he said. "And we'll be keeping the prices below $12."

A roomier kitchen -- the prep space is 10 times larger than that of the truck's -- means that Wadi can also expand the menu to include the kinds of features he's been able to offer only sporadically at the truck, and keep them on the menu for longer periods.

"Basically, I'm going to be doing food that I love to eat," he said. "It's very selfish of me, but for the first time I'm going to cook whatever I want, whenever I want it. Just yummy food."

Beer and wine will be part of the mix, they hope. The counter-service setup will operate just like the truck: Order and pay at a counter, followed by a short wait until the food arrives. One small difference between truck and permanent location? Truck diners have to improvise a seat or eat standing up; the restaurant will feature a casual 60- to 70-seat dining room. "It's my idea of the way fast food should be," said Wadi.

Shea Inc., the Minneapolis firm that directed a nip-tuck at Saffron last year, is designing the new place.

Right now the plan is to serve lunch and dinner. Brunch is also on the docket, in part because Wadi said he feels it's a natural extension of the truck's existing mind-set. The culinary serendipity is already taking hold. Last week, inspiration hit as Wadi and his crew were preparing tacos filled with caramelized lamb belly.

"I made some hash browns, topped them with an egg and used that lamb belly from the taco and thought, 'We need to be open for brunch so we can feature this item,'" he said with a laugh.

Opening date? By year's end.

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