Love, Hip Hop & Tater Tots at Kleezy’s Kitchen
Bars, trucks and everything else
There’s a dirt lot on Country Club Road, just north of Speedway, that’s been vacant for far too many years. Recently a curious figure appeared on this plot, a black truck with the name Kleezy’s kitchen emblazoned on the side. It’s an almost curious mirage when you pass it because it’s just sitting there, waiting, on display.
Upon entering this space, you will notice signs that say “Chicken Strips”, “Hot Dogs”, and “Vegan Options”. Forced, you approach the truck and are immediately greeted by a man with a broad smile by the name of Shunniche Williams.
“But call me Shimp,” he said.
Looking at the menu boards, you see a variety of dishes such as chili cheese dogs, tacos, and (What is this?) seasoned cauliflower nachos. What a fun snack stand. Now you’re glad you stopped. Now it’s time to eat. Shunniche “Shimp” Williams is originally from Rockford, Illinois and moved to Tucson in 2006 “chasing a girl.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
“Man, we broke up about three months after I moved here,” Shimp said with a laugh. “The thing is, I fell in love with Tucson, so I stayed anyway.”
Shimp stayed in Tucson for another two years before moving to Iowa for work. He was also just plain lonely and a bit Midwestern homesickness. When the work dried up, he had two options: go back to Rockford where everyone knows his name or try his luck and go back to Tucson.
He chose wisely.
Once settled, Shimp began performing at hip-hop shows all over town. One evening after a concert at the old flycatcherr on Fourth Avenue, Shimp spotted a hot dog cart set up near O’Malley’s and decided to make a brat. He was far from impressed.
“The quality was terrible,” Shimp said. “It just drove me crazy because there was a huge queue for this bad food. But then I thought maybe there was something here.
Shimp then decided to operate his own food truck but to bring this quality that he was looking for and that he lacked. He found a truck on the east side, fixed it, and nicknamed it Kleezy’s Kitchen – after his deceased close friend.
“It’s home and feel-good food,” Shimp said.
This statement is not a lie.
Growing up cooking next to her grandmother, who gave Shimp her nickname after Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges, but with a twist, he wanted to bring the comfort food flavors of his Midwestern hometown. Having very little experience of Illinois cuisine, all I could tell from biting into some of his dishes was that the Midwest has something to do – everything was fun and delicious.
Yes, Kleezy’s Kitchen serves up fun culinary reality.
It’s the kind of food the whole family can have because the menu is so simple and filled with tasty picnic-style news. All you can do is do a little dance while you chew.
The seasoning in his hard-shelled tacos is an upgraded version of “taco day” at school or summer camp. That’s high praise, by the way. They are filled with fresh pico de gallo, spicy jalapenos and served alongside a host of tater tots – a band. In fact, most Kleezy’s dishes come equipped with tater tots. This is a good thing. A very good thing.
“All of my seasonings and sauces are from recipes back home,” Shimp said. “Chili dogs are definitely a Midwestern thing, but I didn’t want to just serve a chili dog. I had to do it my way. You know, with this quality that I need and that everyone likes.
It gets really interesting with the aptly named Roasted Cauliflower Nachos Kleezys. Inspired by his current girlfriend who insisted he had vegetarian options, this is a dish that could easily be served at a posh downtown affair as part of their bar menu. Although it’s not as messy and when you eat nachos of this nature you want the mess. It’s this seasoning that gives you expertly roasted cauliflower. They are a perfect balance snuggled under a blanket of cool toppings such as this pico, black beans, cheese and sour cream.
Just omit dairy and meat and this treat is totally vegan.
Shimp is in preparation for a Blenman Elm Dog, an ode to his neighborhood that he plans to present by Monday, July 4. For now, it’s best not to let this truck pass when walking around Country Club. Stop in for a bite or two and shoot the breeze with a guy who’s always up for a chat.
Kleezy’s Kitchen is all good food parked in a dusty lot, but why this dusty field?
“Oh, I live just down the street,” Shimp said. “I’m still fixing the truck so I don’t want to drive too far, but I like it here. This is my neighborhood and these are my people.
For more information and to find out where the truck will be parked, follow Kleezy’s Kitchen on Instagram.