Big news from the Mill District: The Sioux Chef, the company behind James Beard-nominated Indigenous restaurant Owamni, announced on Instagram that it’s resurrecting its popular Tatanka Truck. The food truck will be parked outside Owamni near Mill Ruins Park all summer, starting this Thursday, May 19. Expect a menu of Indigenous tacos with an arepa-like base, salads, and more — the menu is still being finalized.
The Sioux Chef, helmed by James Beard-nominated chef Sean Sherman and co-owner Dana Thompson, first opened the Tatanka Truck in Minneapolis in 2015, in partnership with the Little Earth Community of United Tribes. The truck served dishes like bison tamales, smoked turkey wild rice bowls, and Three Sisters soup made with squash, beans, and hominy — all Indigenous foods from the Minnesota and Dakota territories — at locations around the Twin Cities. In 2017, the Sioux Chef announced on Facebook it was pausing operations to channel its resources toward opening Owamni and founding North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), a nonprofit that works to revitalize Indigenous foodways. The original food truck was sold to the White Earth Nation in northwestern Minnesota, to be used as a mobile food market.
The new Tatanka Truck is an exciting addition for Twin Cities diners eager to try the Sioux Chef’s lauded Indigenous dishes. Reservations at Owamni — where menu highlights include bison tartare with duck egg aioli, lake trout, and wild rice sorbet — book up months in advance. It’s also a boon for Owamni, says Thompson: The added kitchen space will help staff service the downstairs patio, where food truck diners can enjoy river views with their meal.
“The kitchen at Owamni is so small that it can barely support the top level of Owamni,” says Thompson. “When we expand our seating in the summer to include the outdoor seating on the upstairs patio, our kitchen is stretched so thin it can barely support it. To also be servicing the downstairs patio is completely outside the realm of possibility — so we essentially had to expand and buy another kitchen in the form of a food truck.”
Owamni has earned chef Sean Sherman two James Beard nominations this year: Best Chef: Midwest and Best New Restaurant. Sherman and Thompson opened the restaurant last summer, and quickly gained critical acclaim. The restaurant, which broke a Kickstarter crowdfunding record in 2016, features Indigenous ingredients like venison, duck, wild rice, root vegetables, and maple syrup — pork, beef, flour, white sugar, and other foods introduced by settlers are absent from the decolonized menu. Owamni perches on the banks of the Mississippi River, not far from St. Anthony Falls, which is known in the Dakota language as Owámniyomni.
Thompson says she expects that the Tatanka Truck will make a perennial appearance on Great River Road. “We’re excited to bring back the Tatanka Truck brand — we think it was a really strong brand,” says Thompson. “We’re excited to increase our visibility right next to Owamni so that people can see the diversity of what we’re offering from the Sioux Chef.”
For its opening weekend, the Tatanka Truck will be open Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Tuesday, May 24 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. More hours will be announced soon.