Brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi have something to celebrate this holiday season. So does anyone who's become addicted to the international street-food favorites at their World Street Kitchen food truck, previously only available during the warm-weather months. Yes, World Street Kitchen, the restaurant, is up and running at 28th and Lyndale in Uptown Minneapolis, and it is delicious.
All the street-treat favorites are here (Yum Yum Bowls, Bangkok Burritos, double corn tortilla tacos) and a lot more, with a brand new sprawling kitchen that allows for all kinds of wicked experimentation.
WSK the truck has always been a laboratory for the sorts of things that chefs love to eat after hours. What sorts of things? Spicy things, of course, things that offer palate-cleansing refreshment, yet satisfy with umami and perhaps just a tiny bit of grease. So far, my favorite newcomers have been the Bun, that Vietnamese rice noodle bowl that all in-the-know diners have come to think of as comfort food -- this one with spot-on beef short ribs, gobs of noodles, shredded daikon and carrot, good fresh herbage and a generous side of nam pla. Or, if you're feeling more peckish, give the Moroccan fried chicken sandwich a whirl, sort of a mashup of all that's good about KFC -- expertly fried chicken on a tender biscuit -- but united with the deep, exotic spice that Sameh Wadi has become known for at his chic Mediterranean outpost, Saffron. When I mentioned that the biscuit seemed a bit outsized for the meat, Wadi assured me that he would be making the meat bigger, rather than shrinking the bread, so this thing is gonna be massive. "We don't call it the Motherfucking Chicken Sandwich for nothing," he joked.
Desserts are not getting short shrift, either; the kitchen has taken delivery of a new toy -- a soft-serve ice cream machine. "Betty Lou," as she's affectionately named, is cranking out sweet treats in flavors like sea salt with smoked almonds and marshmallows.
Local restaurant design gurus Shea imagined the space along with heavy input from chef Wadi, and the end result is something of a more elegant, airy Chipotle feel. The vast open kitchen is a showpiece, ensuring diners that even though it's fast, its still all-scratch. The fast/casual design means you'll order at the counter, have a seat and take delivery of your grub. Service seems like a high priority, and the staff cheerfully buses tables and periodically checks on diner satisfaction.
I love that I can eat my noodle bowl out of a recycled paper container, but still enjoy a nice glass of Cava in a stylish flute. And with the very reasonable price points -- not much over 10 bucks and some items for as little as $3 -- I noticed a lot of lingering over a drink and a snack, then going back for more. Or, maybe that was just me.
Interior design features include lots of all-natural recycled materials, including concrete, wood, metal and found and repurposed items. "This is street food, after all," said Wadi. As an homage to the original WSK, conceptual photography of the truck adorns the walls.
And, the space sports something not often seen around these parts: a communal table. "It's a myth that Minnesotans don't want to sit together," says Wadi.
If Yum Yum bowls can't bring people together, nothing can.
The restaurant will be "slinging burritos and Yum Yums" at a rapid pace (the goal is to have customers in and out within half an hour) and relatively high volume with 80 seats plus grab-and-go, as well as a catering program.
And, though their liquor license is limited to beer and wine, this fact will not preclude the WSK team from exercising its signature creativity. Lead mixologist Rob Jones says he's making plenty of cocktails using beer, wine and sake as a base. "Expect lots of local beers on tap, cans and bottles from all over the world and a wine selection that packs a punch," said Jones.
WORLD STREET KITCHEN
Where: 2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. Hours: 11 a.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Brunch coming soon. Info: www. eatwsk.com.