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Lunching at the Lighthouse

May 29, 2022 11:50pm

(article by City of Storm Lake Communications Coordinator Dana Larson) 

There’s not many places on earth where you can dine at the foot of a lighthouse, surrounded by sailboats on the lake and kids playing on the beach. Makes sense that it would happen in the town of lighthouses.

Welcome to Storm Lake, Iowa – and the Snack Shack.

The tiny eaterie at Awaysis Beach had been closed for years, but under an agreement between The City of Storm Lake and popular local business Storm Lake Bakery, it comes back to life this season. The shack had its “soft opening” Friday, and it didn’t take long for the public to find it.

“We were super busy on our first day, especially in the evening – people kept coming into the night until we finally had to shut the doors. The reaction had been very exciting,” says Lisa Funk, proprietor both of the downtown bakery and the waterfront Snack Shack.

“We’re here for the people, to help them fully enjoy their summer,” Lisa says. “On a beautiful beach, with the park and the playground and all the wonderful things, what better place could you ask for?”

So far, what people are asking for is the shack’s specialty Chicago Dog. “People thought I was crazy wanting to do those, but it’s been what people ask for more than anything,” she grins. This is not your parents’ hot dog – a poppy seed bun, all beef frank, dressed in sweet relish, fresh onions, tomatoes, Vienna sport peppers, mustard, and seasonings (don’t even ask – they are staying a secret.)

If you prefer, you can get your dog plain, or with chili and cheese.

Another hot seller has been the big, soft pretzels bathed in cheese. People are also lining up for the colorful fresh fruit cups.

Maybe nachos are your jam – add on chili or jalapenos if you like. There’s Iowa favorite tacos-in-a-bag, with carnitas, queso fresco cheese, tomato and lettuce.

Try the chicarrones with lime, valentina and chamoy. “We’ve already had people coming down from just about every culture a town can have, and we want to make sure we have something to appeal to everyone,” Lisa says.

Got a sweet tooth? The Snack Shack serves up a selection of ice cream novelties, muffins, candy and popcorn. Along with the usual soft drinks, summer favorites like slurpies, root beer floats and ice coffee are on this menu.

Keep your eyes open for some surprises, too. “Just about every weekend we will be having something special and different, and we’re open to requests, too,” Lisa says. This Sunday, she plans to try out corn on the cob and sloppy joes, for example.

The Snack Shack was part of the city’s original Project Awaysis lakefront development 15 years ago, but until now, efforts to keep the beachfront bistro cooking had been frustrating. Another local business had agreed to operate it last summer, but due to a shortage of workers, could never open.

The opportunity has been in Lisa’s mind for a while.

“When my kids were young, this was our park. We loved it so much, and there was a Snack Shack back then that was part of it. It never felt right to me that it wasn’t here any more. I would hear people saying that they wished there was more life here.”

She played with the idea of approaching the City with the idea of reopening the site, not knowing if that would even be a possibility. And then, the pandemic hit. “Everything stopped. And personally, I basically went off social media entirely, trying to get away from all the craziness,” Lisa says.

While she was disconnected, the City was having similar ideas about the Snack Shack and calling for a local operator to stop up. “I never saw that,” she says. So the opportunity went to the other business, and frustration continued.

Lisa wasn’t shy about saying she wished she was the one taking the project on last year. And when the City opened up the possibility for an operator summer 2022, people were quick to urge her to jump. She was the only applicant.

“I was ready in a heartbeat,” she says. “I just wanted to make sure we could make it work – that we would be able to do this all season, and make the most out of it.”

It took some work to find the necessary equipment, and to clean and paint the long-vacant shop. “It was worth it,” the Snack Shack boss says. “We knew how badly the community needed this.”

Then again, you can see – or taste – for yourself, rain or shine. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 11-8 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; noon- 6 on Sundays.