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Snack Shack: Fast Food From Scratch

Is there such a thing as healthy, fresh, fast food? I’ve always wondered if anyone could really pull that feat off effectively. I guess if a chef tried really hard, it wouldn’t be impossible. Did I just say “chef” and “fast food” in the same breath? Well, maybe that’s what it would take to make the concept work. And that’s exactly what Chef Mark Bauer (formerly w/ Protocol, Briarwood and Park Lane) is doing at the corner of Allen and Elmwood in Allentown. Mark had a soft opening for his Snack Shack concept this past Monday – the concept is to serve a lot of different types of homemade creations for a good price at all hours of the day and night.

It’s a different type of set-up that Mark is working with. During the day he has access to the adjoining Steel Crazy retail/gallery space, and after gallery hours the hand-forged gate is closed and the space is downsized dramatically. That means that during the day there’s plenty of seating in an eclectic atmosphere, and at night it’s a take-out joint. Despite the differences in seating arrangements, the food regiment remains consistent. I tried one of the bean burritos and was thoroughly impressed with the ingredients and the proportions (especially for the price – average wrap is under six bucks). “Everything is homemade,” Mark told me. “There’s as much skill and talent going into this food as you’ll find in any fancy schmancy restaurant. I don’t have a deep fryer… though I’d like to have a smoker some day. There are too many places out there that don’t prepare their foods from scratch. Not only is almost everything (including the sauces) made from scratch; I pride myself in sourcing as many products locally as I can.”

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This fast-but-healthy food idea should do well in a place like Allentown, where there are plenty of people on the go who still care about what they’re putting into their bodies – even at four in the morning. The Snack Shack signature meal is the duck wrap with hazelnut rice and cranberry ginger sauce – now that’s different. I tried the dish (sans duck) and was blown away by the taste. The chicken and asparagus wrap is served on an 11″ soft shell burrito with paella rice, lettuce, olive mix and saffron tomato sauce. The smoked salmon and asparagus wrap is served with julienne veggies and lemon dill cream cheese. Get the picture? There are also tacos, quesadillas, salads and soups. Mexicali anyone? If you’re into barbecue, as Mark is, you can go for one of the signature BBQ wraps prepared with regular, Cajun or Goldschlagger sauce – Mark told me that early BBQ recipes called for cinnamon and nutmeg, hence the unusual latter choice.

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When I first saw how my bean burrito was prepared I wondered why Mark piled most of the beans into one end. The question was answered when I worked my way to the other end, where my taste buds were greeted by a medley of cool and flavorful veggies. “It’s a refreshing end,” Mark told me. “It’s a bit different, but that’s the way I like to do things.”

Snack Shack is located at 191 Allen Street (corner of Elmwood). Phone: 716-885-0206. Catering is available. Hours: Tues-Wed 11am to 8pm. Thurs-Sat 11am to 5am. Sun 10am-4pm. Closed Mon.

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