As Cosmopolitan as New York
Minneapolis’ Thriving Ethnic Eateries
Old habits die hard. If you haven’t visited Minneapolis in the last 50 years, you may have a stereotypical vision of its fare: a Scandinavian smorgasbord of bleached-white bread, Lutefisk and Swedish meatballs. While native Minnesotans proudly enjoy a good cheese curd and tater tot hot dish, it’s the city’s progressive and inclusive character that rises to the top of a new confluence of ethnic cuisines. Now considered an immigrant gateway with a 127 percent increase in foreign-born residents between 1990 and 2000, Pho bistros, South American cocinas, Hmong and East African restaurants surround the city’s Swedish meatball counters.
The Somali population in Minneapolis is the largest outside of Africa and can be found in Cedar Riverside or South Minneapolis. Qoraxlow should not be missed. It is more than an authentic Somali restaurant, but a community within a community. They’ve built a dedicated following, proudly serving big heaps of traditional fare and kindness in a casual, family-friendly ambiance.
Northeast Minneapolis presents an interesting mixture of cultures and dining options like Kramarczuk’s, Gorkha Palace, PinkU, Gardens of Salonica, Brasa, Hai Hai, Masu Sushi and Robata. Young Joni’s, located in the hip Arts District, is perhaps the most notable among the Northeast’s new ethnic destinations. James Beard nominated chef/owner Ann Kim’s latest wood-fired pizza concept has earned numerous awards for its Korean-inspired pizzas and globally influenced shareable plates. The Lady Zaza pizza features house-made kimchi, Korean sausage, Serrano peppers, scallions, sesame and soy chili glaze. According to Kim, “Many of our guests who order this pie are tasting kimchi for the first time and never would have guessed their first experience would be on a pizza.”
Lola Korean BBQ Pizza
Lola Lady Gaga Pizza
The well-traversed Eat Street neighborhood is also a big, aromatic buffet line of every type of exotic quick-serve cafes ideal for the adventurous lunch crowd who can’t get enough of new flavors.
Leveraging the extraordinary blend of cultures and entrepreneurialism in Minneapolis is the Midtown Global Market, a non-profit incubator that supports the city’s diversity by providing an affordable venue for more than 45 businesses, reflecting dozens of ethnic communities. It’s a great place to experience a crash course in Minneapolis’ ethnic offerings.
Lina and Jon Goh, co-owners of wildly popular Zen Box Izakaya (Mill Town neighborhood) launched their concept 14 years ago. Family and friends thought they were crazy when they moved from food-friendly, multi-cultural San Francisco to Minneapolis to open a Japanese bento restaurant.
“It was lacking a good Japanese concept,” explains Lina, co-owner of Zen Box. “And with so much diversity with the Hmong and Somali populations, we felt it was the ideal place. Minneapolis has a very curious foodie culture and they embraced us immediately.”
Zen Box Izakaya’s signature dish is ramen. Weekly and seasonal ramen specials evolve based on available produce, and slurped up eagerly by Goh’s loyal customer base.
Cross the river to St. Paul and you’ll discover a flourishing Vietnamese and Hmong restaurant district and the popular Hmongtown Marketplace where you can sample spicy stuffed chicken wings, papaya salad or sausage.
Zen Box Dishes