Headed into the third year of hosting their wildly popular Christmas-themed “Miracle” cocktail pop-up—treating us to three separate bars this season, each with unique menus throughout the distillery’s decked halls—Lawless Distillery knew their next logical step was food.
Parked in front of the distillery you’ll find (sando), an unassuming and unmarked food truck serving modern takes on Japanese convenience store sandwiches. “Then people won’t leave Miracle to go eat elsewhere,” said co-creator Louie Lafleur.
Lafleur manages cocktail consulting for Bittercube, who run Lawless’ bar program. He recruited longtime friend Jeff Watson when dreaming up ideas for a food truck.
“Jeff and I went to middle school together in South Dakota, then we both moved up here, and worked together… at a bunch of Isaac [Becker] places.” The pair worked together under the James Beard-winner at 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, with Jeff in the kitchen and Louie behind the bar, and when Lafleur went on to work for Bittercube, Watson ended up at Martina, where he recently vacated the executive chef position.
“We were trying to decide on what we wanted to do,” said Lafleur, “and bounced around a few ideas... until we got to sandos, and then I was like, ‘If I was drinking I would eat that.’ It’s so delicious and unassuming. When they’re done right, it is the most satisfying thing you can bite into. Fast-casual, unpretentious, ready-to-eat food. For a place like this? And for what I want to eat? I wanted to make food that I wanted to eat. And that was it.”
They took a proposal for the pop-up food truck to Bittercube bosses Nick Kosevich and Ira Klopowitz, who approved it and now co-own the (sando) concept along with Watson and Lafleur.
An authentic Japanese sando is built on shokupan—a dense, chewy, crustless white bread unfortunately not made fresh commercially in the Twin Cities. (sando) found the closest alternative: a Pullman loaf, which has a square shape from being baked in a lidded right-angled bread pan, and yields a similar fine crumb designed to be soft but dense enough to hold a sandwich together. New French Bakery makes the bread about a block from Lawless.
“Everything’s in the neighborhood,” said Lafleur. They get meat from Swanson Meats around the block, and Asian ingredients like Japanese Kewpie mayo and togarashi pepper are purchased at nearby United Noodles.
As for the sando offerings, first and foremost the pork katsu sando is the standard-bearing classic with panko-crusted pork loin, tangy Bulldog sauce, shredded cabbage, and mustard. The pork is brined with koji, the umami-boosting rice ferment that injects next-level savoriness as it tenderizes. The chicken sando is a lightly breaded chicken thigh in a dredge seasoned with togarashi, black pepper, white pepper, and a few other secret ingredients, finished with pickles and a smoky rosemary bonito mayo.
Their zaniest showstopper is the PBJ & Pâté. “This was Jeff’s baby. It was the very first one, besides the [pork] katsu,” recalls Lafleur. It’s a double-decker club-style sandwich where one level is peanut butter spiked with togarashi-roasted peanuts and a homemade blueberry compote made with Bittercube Trinity Bitters. The other level is chicken liver pate. The combo makes for an unexpected complementary combination.
The egg sando is based on the Japanese tamagoyaki, a meticulously rolled omelette that (sando) didn’t want to spend time making, so they #lifehacked it by making a big sheet pan souffle with parmesan and black pepper to cut into sando-sized pieces topped with American cheese and bacon. It’s also available vegetarian with Herbivorous Butcher bacon.
“Part of being unpretentious is being inclusive,” espoused Lafleur, “so we wanted a vegetarian sandwich that can be made vegan.” This meant coming up with a sando with warm roasted squash tossed with serrano chiles, goat cheese, miso mayo, fresh basil, cinnamon, and maple syrup. They’ll swap Herbivorous Butcher feta for the goat cheese and miso vinaigrette for the mayo, by request.
They also have gluten-free bread and are working on making as many of the sandos wheat-free as they can. “Squash and PBJ & Pâté are gluten-free for now, then we are switching to tamari... so the chicken and pork can be [gluten-free] when needed.”
For a side dish, (sando) is offering waffle fries tossed in sumac, szechuan pepper, and cinnamon served with ketchup and Japanese mayo. They also have a toasted rice-steeped hot apple cider and coffee from Misfit available.
And to round things out, they have an over-the-top dessert sando. “Neither Jeff nor I are dessert people, and then Nick [Kosevich] said, ‘You should do a Kit Kat sandwich.’” It’s made with pastry cream infused with Heirloom Pineapple Amaro and yuzu… and a full Kit Kat bar.
Topped with sprinkles.
On a sandwich.
(sando) is open the same hours as the Miracle at Lawless: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday every day now through New Year’s Eve (including Christmas Day). Orders can be conveniently placed online for in-person pickup, or be made at the truck.
After Miracle, Lafleur says, “it’s all hypothetical, it’s all up in the air, but the idea would be to put this somewhere you can get drinks and these things, because they go so well together.”
Even if the food doesn’t fit the bar’s Christmas theme?
"It's not festive but it's drinking food. This food's good in any context. Nothing's cool about it."
(sando) at Lawless Distillery
2619 28th Ave. S., Minneapolis