National Seafood month is in October. So we’re a little late to the party (rebels that we are,) but friends let me tell you, there’s salvation at The Shack. Yes, that Shack too, but I’m talking about Smack Shack on Washington Ave in The North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. It’s a summer favorite of ours, but let us celebrate the sea in the winter too, no?
Entering the Smack Shack through a short and darkened corridor, you go through a set of curtains and you’re transported to a seaport warehouse on the coast of the Atlantic. The smell of salt water is in the air, yes, it is, and the décor will make you smile in anticipation of what your taste buds are about to experience.
The clientele ranges from the well-dressed to the casually cool, so no need to dress to the nines- just go as you will with plenty of give in the waist of your jeans. I’m a lover of red, so I like to order a Merlot while I browse the menu of the delectable delights found below the waters. Our server is polite, engaging and accommodating. He made it clear that he was there to answer any questions we had and made each of us feel like the most important people in the room. (Sometimes I like that whole thing!)
There is something for everyone on their menu! You want the ultimate in seafood fare? There’s Maine lobster and premium ribeye, or perhaps Alaskan King Crab is more up your alley. If you’re feeling a bit jazzy, there’s plenty by way of Cajun style dishes designed to give your dinner a pleasant kick in the fins. Or perhaps you need to eat Gluten Free. If you do, there are more than a few dishes to choose from, not a tiny section in the menu that leaves you feeling left out.
You have to start somewhere, so it may as well be the Red Snapper Ceviche or the Peel & Eat Shrimp. This visit we ordered the Red Snapper Ceviche and we were not disappointed. Fresh is an understatement. I fully expected to walk out the back door and see fishermen bringing in the catch of the day. This Ceviche is bright. It is tender. It is bursting with flavor. It is the right amount to tease your palate and get you in the mood for the main course.
Choosing your main course at Smack Shack will involve going back and forth until you make up your mind, then picking up the menu and changing your mind. Then you'll pick up the menu again and change your mind once more. I finally chose the swordfish and made someone take the menu away from me. My friend chose the Alaskan Halibut and my partner decided on the 16 oz. Ribeye. The only reason we were able to make these decisions was because we agreed to give each other bites. We also splurged and ordered a Maine Lobster, and when given the choice to crack it ourselves or let the kitchen do that for us, we opted for the expertise of the kitchen. We didn’t want anything to go flying across the room and land in someone’s lap or on the floor. None of us are pros at lobster cracking.
We ordered some side dishes also, because, well, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms. Who can pass those up? We opted for some Roasted Rosemary Baby Red Potatoes with Bleu Cheese on the side and some Grilled Asparagus. Basically, we ordered as much as we could without ordering everything we saw.
You guys, nothing can prepare you for the moment they bring out your food. It’s one big, beautiful display of surf ‘n’ turf. The lobster was put in the middle of the table, and it was gorgeous. Deep red with a side of hot water from the boil (to keep your bites warm) and a little saucer of drawn butter. Drool. It was tender, and salty yet not too much so, and it melted in your mouth, the way lobster should.
My Swordfish was exquisite, firm and yet not even close to being dry. It came with a Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce that just made each bite better than the last. Our waiter was super nice and brought all three sauces for us to try- the lemon sauce I mentioned, the Basil Chimichurri, and the Chili Soy Vinaigrette. Each was so different from the previous and gave my individual bites of Swordfish a new piquancy. My friend’s Alaskan Halibut took the cake though- it was the best fish I have ever tried! The moment I put a piece in my mouth, I didn’t want that 30 seconds to end. It was white and flaky, and you could see the tenderness and care that went into that presentation. The Ribeye was so rich and flavorful, I didn’t even bother to take a sip of my red wine to compliment the taste. Compliment nothing. It needed no extra accolades or compliments. It was enough all on its own.
Grilled Swordfish, 16 oz. Ribeye, Alaskan Halibut
As I sat eating my swordfish, I didn’t know why I would even bother with the mushrooms. Until I put a forkful in my mouth. They were robust yet delicate and subtle. Obviously from some enchanted forest in the same magical woods where the red potatoes were harvested from. Those red potatoes with bleu cheese crumbles lent an easy cushion for your taste buds, so that you weren’t overwhelmed with the wallop the main courses dealt. The Asparagus was as it should be- crisp, lemony, fresh, and clean tasting. It was a light and colorful addition to an already perfect meal.
Eating at a table with the traditional white and red checkered table cloth was just a small detail that added to the experience. Once again, you had a clear view of the kitchen, where the chefs busied about creating mouthwatering concoctions, and the bar was bustling with people enjoying their Saturday night. It was a loud atmosphere, but it didn’t even matter and actually added to the excitement of the whole dining experience.
Needless to say, we had no room for dessert. When the feeding frenzy was over, it was with a bit of sadness that I donned my winter coat and got up to leave for the real world. Once again, we went through the curtain and down the short corridor, exited the laughter and the warmth of The Shack, and headed out in the November chill of Minnesota. Careful of Minnesota winters people- the wind-chill is its own shark bite! If you’re visiting during our winter months, take shelter in the best warming shack around- Smack Shack is happy to let you in on their summer seafood celebration!