Restaurant news: Chef Shack and more

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 31, 2013 - 4:02 PM

Another food truck goes bricks-and-mortar, bakeries open, sustainable sushi, gourmet burgers in Excelsior and more.


Just as food truck season winds down, Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer will take their popular Chef Shack truck and spin it off into a 40-seat restaurant in Minneapolis. The duo also run a weekends-only restaurant in Bay City, Wis.

Photo: TOM WALLACE , Star Tribune

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 It’s been a busy week in the local restaurant world. Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy changes.

The Chef Shack has found a permanent Minneapolis home.

After a three-year search, owners Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson are taking their popular and influential food truck business into full-service restaurant territory. They’ve leased the former Raja’s Mahal (3025 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.) and are in the process of converting it into Chef Shack Ranch.

“We’re calling it an ‘urban truck stop,’ ” said Summer.

The casual restaurant will initially start with a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule, serving dinner and all-day Sunday brunch. Because they’ve landed in the Seward neighborhood, one of the city’s unofficial vegetarian enclaves — it’s the home of the Seward Cafe, Seward Co-op and Birchwood Cafe — Carlson and Summer plan to make a statement by taking their menu in the opposite direction: pulled pork with hand-cut fries, pork brisket, beef cheeks, beef tongue, a bison burger, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy and more.

“It’s going to be a meat hut,” said Summer. As for dessert, “We’re going to be making mini-doughnuts all the time, baby,” she said with a laugh, a reference to a Chef Shack menu staple. “And we’ll be making pies and ice cream and all those favorites that you can get in a good truck stop.”

A fixed-location Chef Shack doesn’t mean that the trucks are disappearing. The opposite, actually. The Chef Shack Ranch’s surprisingly ample kitchen will also serve as the fleet’s commissary kitchen, replacing the facility that Carlson and Summer had been leasing in south Minneapolis.

“We have to change with the times, and keep showing a new face,” said Summer. “That keeps us fresh, and it keeps our customers engaged. They want new food, and we want to do new food, so it works.”

The new restaurant is coming along just as the outdoor truck season is winding down. Chef Shack trucks made their final regular-season appearances at Minneapolis farmers markets this past weekend — at Mill City Farmers Market and Fulton Farmers Market on Saturday, and Kingfield Farmers Market on Sunday.

The trucks are now moving into private event mode, and gearing up for occasional winter farmers market gigs (the first cold-weather Kingfield-Fulton collaboration is Nov. 10 at Bachman’s, 6010 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.). “My crew has their Carhartts ready,” said Summer with a laugh.

One change is coming next spring to the Chef Shack truck business: Expect to see fewer sightings in downtown Minneapolis. “There are just so many trucks down there, competing for limited parking spaces, which is why we’ve been avoiding it as much as we can,” said Summer. “We’ve been down there maybe once a week.”

The duo is also continuing their first bricks-and-mortar effort, the year-old, weekend-only Chef Shack Bay City (W6379 Main St., Bay City, Wis.,

Meanwhile, the 40-seat Minneapolis restaurant — familiar to anyone who remembers Moti Mahal, Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant, an off-campus outpost of the Big Ten and a parade of other tenants — is getting a quick low-budget makeover, with walls covered in repurposed barn wood and salvaged tin ceiling material. A tree-lined patio and walk-up takeout window should materialize next spring.

“I want a rustic, down-home feel,” said Summer. “Something approachable, because that’s what we do, approachable.”

An opening date hasn’t been pinned down. “Right now we’re looking at December, possibly, although we might hold off until January,” said Summer. “We’re really busy in Bay City, so we’re not in a rush to open, we’re just quietly plugging away and working on it. We’ve waited a long time to open in our home city, and we’re super-excited.”

Getting the goods on baked goods

It has been quite the up-and-down year for the neighborhood bakery business. Bread, Coffee and Cake in Mendota Heights, Jack’s Bakery in Brooklyn Park and Jerabek’s New Bohemian in St. Paul have all closed their doors.

But at the same time, newcomers continue to arrive.

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