NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Street food for the rest of us at Eli’s in NE Minneapolis


Gourmet street food is tempting the palates of downtown diners on every street corner – critics gush about the gastronomic delicacies tenderly shepherded from off-site kitchen to food truck to mid-day diners on the Mall and environs.  For those beyond the shadow of the IDS there’s Eli’s.  Eli’s offers street food for the rest of us.

The menu at Eli’s Donut Burger is as unique as it is simple – the donut burger is actually your basic bacon cheeseburger on a raised glazed doughnut.  It’s the brainchild of Brent Carlson-Lee, former corporate product developer and marketer and father of 2 ½ year old Eli for whom the mobile eatery is named.  Though the donut burger tops the menu Eli’s also offers sweet potato fries and other deep fried treats including green beans, jalapenos and pickles. 

Since it hit the road mid-summer Eli’s and Brent, chef and driver, have spent virtually every weekend at a county fair and many weekdays at local farmers’ markets, including the Village Farmer’s Market just a few blocks from Eli’s home in Northeast Minneapolis.  During his first three months on the road Brent was able to schedule 80% of the county fairs to which he applied – on one long weekend he had four options for setting up business at a local fair.

Brent loves to tell how the unique gustatory treat came to be.  Even more, he’s eager to work on a new product – that’s his corporate background.  Towards that end he plans to spend the winter months in the family kitchen, dreaming of treats that travel well and that combine an unexpected mash-up of ingredients.   Don’t ask for possibilities – Brent is still thinking.

While he thinks about food products that break all traditions Brent is taking care of Eli and Eli’s younger brother Asher, just 3 months old. Their mom, Kim, works long hours as a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.  It’s a major change from Brent’s corporate life, but it gives him a chance to explore possibilities for product development and for marketing what he creates to target audiences. Ideas, not recipes, get Brent’s juices flowing.

Brent wonders aloud if people have any idea the work that goes behind the splendiferous hamburger donut – the upkeep on the truck, ordering supplies, managing the books, the licenses and the schedule.

Though he admits that the downtown culinary fare may be more elegant and possibly less caloric. Brent is not in it for nutrition or even high cuisine.  He’s in it for the “ridiculous fun” that is the driving force that fuels the Eli’s Donut Burger enterprise.  Watch for the concession stand to show up at unexpected venues just about anywhere within driving distance.  Or find Eli’s on Facebook and Twitter anytime you have a brainstorm or just want to see what Brent is up to in his winter food lab.


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