Disclaimer: As part of Smack Shack’s soft opening four of us were invited to dine for free to give the new restaurant a test before it officially opens to the public. We received comped items (everything except our alcoholic beverages) as part of this event. The total bill (including alcohol) came to about $240. Please take the following review with as much salt as you feel is required following this government mandated disclaimer.
Smack Shack has been one of the more popular food trucks and while I never got around to trying it while I worked downtown, I had heard great things about what they served and I was VERY excited to get a chance to try them out prior to their official opening (which is today). The space is beautiful. 8,000 square feet of modern, industrial beauty with two floors, an open kitchen showing off a two level lobster tank and gigantic kettle for lobster and shrimp boil, large bar area, and an even larger outdoor patio. Honestly, the place is impressive as soon as you walk in the door.
We were seated in the bar area and were served right away by a self-admitted nervous server who was very friendly and was trying very hard to make us happy. The menu was a typical preview night partial menu where you ordered one item from each section and were offered some shared desserts. Because there was four of us at the table and most of us ordered different items, we ended up with a pretty decent cross-section of what was available to us. For the first course we ordered Lorraine’s Lump Crab Cakes, the Smoked Pork Tacos, the Warm Smoked Duck, and Oysters (6). We went with the Newcastle Battered Perch Po Boy, Lobster Cioppino, and two orders of the Lonely Lobster Boil as our entrees and we got orders of both the baked beans and seasoned fries for our sides.
As with many preview nights, the service was spotty and disjointed. We received some of our appetizers on time and others not until much later; however, we did end up with an order of Lobster Corn Dogs to try because of the confusion. The Corn Dogs are a food truck staple and included a lemon chive aioli.
The appetizers arrived in several sessions with the oysters and the crab cakes arriving well before the duck and pork tacos. The oysters were supposed to number 6 but the pile that arrived at table were nearly double that number. Aside from literal mouthful of shell I got on my first oyster and the remaining shards that littered my mouth for the next two oysters, they were fine. The presentation was nice, the oysters were tasty, and the lemon and hot sauce (on the table already) abundant; however, the mignonette was too vinegary for my tastes and the horseradish (which we later decided may have been shredded radish) was so weak that forkfuls didn’t do anything for the three of us who tried it.
The crab cakes were extremely weak and tasted only of breading and the maque choux they sat upon. While the maque choux had some good flavor, it closely resembled a puddle of putrid green puke and it really took away from the subtle flavors of the crab which were already greatly muted by the breading. As someone who enjoys making crab cakes at home for The Wife, these were an insane disappointment for me and a definite pass for the rest of the people at the table.
Eventually the Warm Smoked Duck arrived at the table. It came with frisee, green apple, pickled cherries, goat cheese, glazed pecans and griddled milk bread. The textures were fantastic. Offsetting the crunch of the green apple and pecans were the soft and tart pickled cherries and the super creamy goat cheese. The duck, while having no smoke flavor, was tender and luscious. This dish was the smash hit of the evening with Lefty commenting that he would love to grab it to go for dinner; in fact, he boxed up what was left(y) to take home with him–the only item of last night which received such a treatment.
Much later, after some hounding, the Smoked Pork Tacos arrived at the table. There were two ($7 on the menu) and included tasteless, tough pork with no smoke flavor covered in an overpowering combination of tomatillo salsa and chili lime crema. The cilantro was wilted and looked cooked setting this one up for a visual failure. The liquid which ran out all over the plate rounded out this failure.
While some of us were eating our apps, Lefty’s Lonely Lobster Boil arrived. A sad presentation for sure, this dish was actually decent according to both of those at the table who tried it. The lobster was tender and sweet and the meat abundant. While it wasn’t something I would have ordered, especially after seeing it and tasting it, it ended up being one of the favorites of the evening–a good thing since ‘lobster’ is such a prominent part of the Smack Shack brand.
My Newcastle Battered Perch Po Boy was out next. It was a good size, especially for the price ($9.50) and included a ton of lightly battered perch. While the perch itself was lovely, the rest of the sandwich, namely the whole grain mustard tartar sauce and the cabbage slaw, really ruined everything that was good about the perch. Much like the crab cakes and tacos, the items accompanying the protein simply overpowered the dish instead of making the flavors really pop.
While we had some hits and misses so far, the biggest miss of the evening was the Lobster Cioppino. A tasteless conglomeration of great seafood, this should have been the run away favorite. Instead the tasteless broth somehow was able to overpower similarly tasteless proteins. I only had one mussel from the dish but it really had zero flavor. So very odd.
While I *REALLY* wanted to *LOVE* Smack Shack, I couldn’t bring myself to say it was worth it. While I realize it was a preview night, I would have expected some of the items to really shine but instead I’m sort of left having to say mediocre dishes were good (lobster boil). The misses were big (pork, crab cakes, cioppino, etc) and the hits were barely so. For the prices they were charging, their history as a popular truck, and the space they’re trying to fill I would expect so much more.
Have you tried Smack Shack’s restaurant in Minneapolis? If so what did you think? What did you have? What would you like to order in the future? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Smack Shack (brick and mortar)
603 Washington Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55401
See all the pictures from Smack Shack’s new brick and mortar joint on Flickr here.