Haven’t heard of Smack Shack, the Minneapolis-based lobster roll purveyor? Google it. Then get excited because it’s set to roll into Google’s shiny new HQ (326 N. Morgan St., West Loop) on April 21.
Regardless of whether you Googled it or not, here are the CliffsNotes: Owner Josh Thoma introduced a lobster roll food truck to the Minneapolis streets in 2010. (It was the city’s first licensed food truck, and Thoma still has license plate number 001 to prove it.) His initial goal was to discover whether Midwesterners would consume lobster rolls from the most casual of set-ups. The answer: you betcha. Soon the truck was serving 300-plus rolls daily to the lunch crowd.
When the Minnesota winter came along, Thoma began cooking inside a friend’s dive bar—an arrangement that led to a visit from Guy Fieri. “Our business increased five times overnight when the [Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives] episode aired,” Thoma recalls. In 2013, Smack Shack got its own brick-and-mortar location in Minneapolis, and last year, when Thoma and his partner, Kevin Fitzgerald, were looking to expand to Chicago, the opportunity arose to team up with Four Corners Tavern Group (the busy crew that also recently announced a collaboration with Hogsalt).
The table service joint will be gigantic, with seating for about 300 inside the 10,000-square-foot space. About those famous rolls: As with the Minneapolis restaurant, they will feature crustaceans flown in live daily from Maine via Boston. Diners will select between two styles: original, with chilled lobster on brioche-like griddled milk bread (as is the tradition in Maine), or Connecticut-style, with warm lobster tossed in butter, lemon juice, and chives, and served on a warm bun.
But, oh, there’s more. Thoma describes Smack Shack’s extensive offerings as “coastal casual,” explaining that the menu, “draws a line around the U.S., starting with coast of Maine” for preparation inspiration. Beyond those East Coast lobster rolls, there’s Florida grouper, red snapper, and stone crab; New Orleans-style po’ boys; Baja-style fish tacos; and Alaskan king crab boil.