Where to Eat at Minnesota’s #1 Attraction
By Molly Mogren
We’re the land of 10,000 lakes, the birthplace of Prince and Bob Dylan, home to the Boundary Waters and some of the best live music and theater in the country. And yet, our number one tourist attraction is a mall. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mall of America (or the MOA or the Mega Mall… you pick). Where else can you buy a pair of sneakers, ride a roller coaster, swim with sharks and buy a bean bag the size of a mid-size sedan all under one roof? Even if you’re a MOA-hater, inevitably you will end up there if you’re in the Twin Cities. And if you’re there, you’re probably going to need to eat. Here are seven food spots at the MOA that are worth your stomach space.
There are a few sushi spots in the MOA, but I love this one for a lot of reasons. They serve up excellent, fresh sushi, not the stuff that’s covered in globs of spicy mayo and other weird sauces. I also adore their Japanese robata selection, basically skewered meats and veggies grilled over super hot flames. Plus, unlike the other spots at the mall, they’re committed to serving only sustainable seafood… which means you won’t be inadvertently dining on an endangered species (cough!—blue fin tuna—cough! cough!). masusushiandrobata.com
This was the first place I ever dined at the MOA, and twenty years later, it’s still a favorite. Their chopped chicken salad is exactly the thing I want to eat when I’m spending a day navigating the nation’s biggest shopping mall. If I’m feeling gluten-friendly, I’ll dig into their basket of hot, salty focaccia, dragging it through a plate of olive oil and balsamic. If you’re trying to forget the chaotic hell that is the American Girl Store, you might find solace in a bowl of their carbonara and a big ol’ glass of wine. And if you are feeling like you need some fresh air, good news! You can opt to eat on their patio… which is still inside the mall. I don’t get it, and yet I have a very strong preference for eating on said patio versus eating inside the actual restaurant. I think it’s the amazing access to people watching. tucci-benucch.com
I’m not going to argue that there is anything super-special about the Nordstrom Café. It’s a café in a department store. Big whoop. But I love it because it’s quiet, low key and tucked away on the third floor. They offer plenty of salads, sandwiches and pizzas. It’s quick without being fast-food, perfect for dropping your bags for 30 minutes (but not an hour-plus dining commitment). Plus, there are windows that show off the outdoors! Granted, it’s of the parking lot and IKEA, but natural light is notable in the mega-mall. shop.nordstrom.com
This new shop is a welcome respite for weary, thirsty shoppers. One of the first outposts of this European franchise, Vom Fass works with small farms, distilleries and winemakers to source unique, small batch products. That’s excellent, but what’s even more excellent is their company motto: The World’s Best Tasting Experience. I sipped on “tastes” (not samples, because sampling alcohol is illegal in Minnesota. Tasting, however, is perfectly fine!) of apricot and Caipirinha liqueurs, some concoction that tasted exactly like a brownie topped with ice cream and cherries, a few whiskeys and a 22-year Bowman scotch. It was all delicious, not to mention took the edge off of shopping for shoes for my upcoming wedding. Their pretty bottles, which come in a variety of sizes—from 100 ml to 750 ml—make for a unique gift, or just something to sip on in your hotel room. vomfassusa.com
We Minnesotans love coffee, and I’m unsure there are portions of the mall’s concourse where you won’t be able to spot a Caribou or Starbucks. I enjoy Caribou and finally found two drinks at Starbucks that don’t taste burnt (the Americano and their iced coffee). But for something a little more special, try Coffee & Tea LTD, located inside Sears on the first floor. It’s the weirdest location (you’ll need to enter on the main floor from the mall, meander past appliances and tools, then hang a left). These guys do a fine cup of java, as well as roast their own beans and sell fancy, unique teas. It’s not really a mustachioed hipster kind of experience either, which is refreshing. coffeeandtealtd.com
If you have an hour-ish for a meal, go here. It’s got that comfy, cozy supper club feel—big booths, dim lights and rich wood (no leather bound books!). You’re probably noticing a theme here—yes, I like to order salads at the MOA (their wedge is great), but if you’re trying on clothes, that’s probably the best idea. However, if that’s not a top priority, then by all means dominate their prime meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, walleye fish fry, or prime rib. I have it on good authority that Twin City Grill does a killer loaded mac and cheese (that means bacon and bread crumbs). twincitygrillrestaurant.com
What can I say about the food at Dick’s? Nothing really… you don’t go here for the three Michelin-starred cuisine, you go to be berated and insulted by their hysterical staff. Yes, it’s one of those places where the staff gets paid to make fun of you. I know what you’re thinking, “What a silly, gimmicky tourist trap!” Listen, you’re already at the Mall of America. Might as well roll with it. If I knew the money was decent, I’d apply to wait tables here in an instant! But since I am not sure about that, I’ll just order a burger with a side of “hmmm… with those childbearing hips, are you sure you really want a burger?” I love it! dickslastresort.com
About Molly Mogren
The daughter of a flight attendant and a hippy-turned-real estate developer who toured Europe in a Volkswagen bus, Molly Mogren came into this world with an undeniable sense of adventure. From hiking the Antarctic Peninsula, to outrunning a hyena in South Africa and even driving a street-legal monster truck through Des Moines, Iowa—she never turns down an opportunity to do something crazy. She’s worked as Andrew Zimmern’s right-hand lady since 2007; they’ve co-written three books together and co-host a weekly podcast called “Go Fork Yourself.” Her latest project, Hey Eleanor!, chronicles her year-long journey of tackling one thing that scares her every day. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her fiancé, dog (Patsy) and kitty, Bogart. She likes to drink coffee, do crossword puzzles and is very good at parallel parking.