Josh Thoma has some serious lobster love. Judging from the fervor around his Smack Shack food truck and its famed lobster roll, he’s not alone.
Fans of Thoma’s crustacean creation have been pre-tucking their bibs since word spread last year that a brick-and-mortar restaurant was in the works. The chef/restaurateur of La Belle Vie, Bar La Grassa and Solera lineage and his business partner Kevin Fitzgerald open Smack Shack’s new digs in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood Friday.
Dropping anchor in a 7,500-square- foot location, Thoma is now capable of dishing his savory seafood on a larger scale. A roughly 1,200-gallon lobster tank that he had custom-built in Nova Scotia can hold 400 to 500 lobsters at a time. “It was funny,” Thoma recalled. “The guy that built this tank and engineered it said, ‘What do you think you’ll be selling in lobsters, maybe like 60 pounds a week?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, no. [More] like 200 to 300 pounds a day.’ ”
The capacious tank sits next to a 100-gallon boiler, encircled by what Thoma describes as primarily a “food bar.” The counter-service setup lies between the 115-seat dining room and a separate bar area adjacent to Washington Avenue N. A small mezzanine overlooking the dining room will be used for private events and a patio seating about 80 will open in the spring, he said.
Backed by a stable of investors, including ex-Viking Bernard Berrian and Déjà Vu/Sneaky Pete’s owner Peter Hafiz, Smack Shack is opening one year after Thoma signed the lease on the converted warehouse space. He said they experienced a number of delays, such as a “soil compaction” issue that temporarily halted construction to ensure that erecting the mezzanine wouldn’t cause the building to sink.
Despite Smack Shack’s shiny new home, Thoma said he’s not abandoning the food-truck game or his relationship with the 1029 bar, where some of his lobster-leaning treats also are served. While far sleeker than a mobile kitchen or a Nordeast dive bar, Smack Shack central is short on pretense. It might be the only joint in town with pulltabs and a $42 entree.
“It’s supposed to be someplace you could go before a Twins game in flip-flops,” Thoma said. “It’s [also] someplace you could go for an anniversary. It’s as special an occasion as you want to make it.”
Smack Shack will initially be open from 5 p.m.-1 a.m. weekdays, and stay open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Thoma said after a week or so, lunch service will be added.
Aside from an expanded food menu, the new Smack Shack features a full bar and 16 tap beers. A short cocktail menu that Thomas describes as “more Shack than craft” includes a Hurricane — a fruity-boozy drink popularized in New Orleans.
While the Hurricane may go down well year-round, you might want to save the flip-flops for another season.
Where: 603 Washington Av. N., Mpls.