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What happened to Midtown Global Market?

I visited for the first time in a while this week, and it seemed to be quite dismal compared to what I remember. There are many abandoned/open spaces. I had trouble finding something that looked good. What is the best place in there now? Is it just me or did it used to be a lot better?

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  1. The abandoned/open space thing has been going on for a long, long time. Gradually over years. It used to feel more diverse.

    Sonora Grill is the best place in there now. Salty Tart is pretty good (except for their cupcakes). There are some other pretty good spots that have been there from the beginning including Manny's Tortas, Los Ocampo, Cafe Finspang (for certain sweets)...

    I was sad to see the following go: La Sirena Gorda, West Indies Soul, Starlight Cafe (is that even the right name? The East African place?), Everest Cafe. Birchberry (even though it wasn't a restaurant...).


    1. well there is this crap economy thing going on...

      1. There's a new Asian spot opening soon as well as a "gastropub" concept with a bar. There's still hope for Midtown Global Market...

        6 Replies
        1. re: Petey McNichols

          I seriously can't see a gastropub succeeding in Midtown Global Market, but I hope I'm very wrong. What soupkitten said about the crap economy strikes a chord.

          There are so many great neighborhood-driven places now that it seems people stick a little closer to home.

          I hate to say it, but MGM reminds me now of the fading stages of other former great hot spots in historical buildings. If you're old enough to know better you'll remember Bandana Square, St. Anthony Main and River Place in their glory days. Fun times!

          1. re: justalex

            The gastropub/bar situation seems sketchy. That space has said "coming soon" for three + months and exactly nothing has happened with it. If anything, it looks like more of a dumping grounds than ever.

            I just don't think MGM gets or has ever gotten enough traffic for it to really thrive. The only place that is ever consistently busy that I can tell is Salty Tart.
            +1 for Sonora Grill. I hope they make it, but it it would surprise me. And NOt because the food isn't great. If they were someplace on Lake St closer to uptown, they'd kill.

            1. re: splatgirl

              Yeah, I don't know how anyplace survives there. It deserves more traffic than it gets.

              1. re: splatgirl

                The gastropub is (might be wrong) American Bistro and the work seems to be coming along. Still a lot more to do but the tear down of Jade is complete and the bar is finished so I wouldn't be surprised if they manage to open in a couple of months.

                1. re: Petey McNichols

                  Update - The gastropub is called Well Seasoned and is coming along nicely. Construction has been steady. Website is up but limited. The owner is previously from Buster's and Happy Gnome as is the chef.

              2. re: justalex

                The Gastropub is still slated to open, my understanding is that involves a couple of the BOH guys from Busters.

            2. Hmmm - wonder if something changed last week? I was at MidGloMa (thanks, TDQ!) two weeks ago, and it seemed pretty full; I think there were two or three open spots, but that's less vacancy than in previous years.

              As far as good eats, +1 on Sonora Grill and Salty Tart (and the rest TDQ mentioned). I'd add Safari Grill, where I love the spicy chicken soup - tastes like the Chicken Fantastic in liquid form - and the camel burger (ask for extra grilled pineapple). Holy Land's is a staple in my rotation (great hummos, chicken, and gyros - skip the fries), though I usually go to the mother ship on Central Ave. I also LOVE the cheeses from Grass Roots Gourmet.

              I didn't like the Italian ices, though - they're way too sweet. (The kids I was with loved it.)

              And if the Kitchen In The Market is open, check out what they have for sale. I got a delicious harissa sauce-in-a-squeeze-bottle a few months ago, and I've got my eyes peeled for those soups that HeavyTable just reported on last week.

              P.S. Has anyone tried the Filipino/Hawaiian/pan-Asian place, Lutang Mekeni? I haven't made it there yet, because I can't resist Safari's camel burger and Sonora Grill's pinchos.

              3 Replies
              1. re: AnneInMpls

                Q: does lutang mekeni serve hawai'ian plate lunches?

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Lutang Mekeni is on its last legs. Hasn't been open the last 4 times I've gone. (All this past month)

                  1. re: Petey McNichols

                    Update - Luteng Mekeni is doneski...official.

                2. Wow, really? I love this place and every time I'm there it is HOPPING! Obsessed with Grand Italian Ice and Cafe Finspang-and the ladies are super nice.

                  Went to Chinese New Year to see the Lion Dance and was amazed at how many people were there on a Friday night.

                  1. I think they should clean up the surounding area outside gobal market first. Everytime I go, I always get harrast by panhandler. It seems to be unsafe and drive me out of that area.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: Buttersoy

                      Really? I'd be curious to know where you are from, then.
                      I find that part of town better than ever, with little to nothing that I would classify as "needs cleaning up" or "unsafe". Much better than 5 or 10 years ago. Like night and day from 20 years ago.

                      1. re: splatgirl

                        I don't live in the city, but it happened to me twice over there. So it drove me away and I have no intention to get back there anytime soon.

                        1. re: Buttersoy

                          I've been to MGM many times and have never run into panhandlers there. Although to be honest I don't think the mere presence of a panhandler is a very big deal. If you don't want to talk to someone, most of the time all you have to do is to keep walking (now and then you might run into something truly obnoxious, of course).

                          1. re: LiaM

                            That was what I did. Just smile and keep walking, that was about what I can do. I really like MGM to be a success for all the small business inside, I guess the landlord just have to take a step up for them.

                        2. re: splatgirl

                          I have to agree. I have never had a problem. I normally park in the ramp though and certainly have never had an issue walking from the ramp into the market. Buttersoy, are you saying you've seen panhandlers in this area or are you talking about walking in from somewhere else? I've even parked on the street a few times and gone in the other entrance and again, no issues. I am probably there 6 times a year. I've had mixed results on whether or not it's busy. I never know what to expect. I'm always afraid something else will be closed and I really want this place to work. It seems to do a lot better during the work week, during the day.

                          1. re: Bobannon

                            I parked at the outdoor parking across the market and twice got approached by panhandler. So I ended up stay there for only less than an hour. I do like to see small business to grow especially in this economy. I guess gobal market's landlord has to step up the measure if they really want to expand the scale of this market.

                            1. re: Buttersoy

                              I had no problems with feeling unsafe. I brought my 1yr old daughter and parked in the ramp. We even rode the elevator up and down about 10 times (she loved it). There were your typicall unhappy people in the DMV area, but they stayed there and certainly don't care about bothering anyboyd. There were also a lot of dogs in the building, a curious amount of people with dogs. They were not in the food area, but it was odd that I had to let my kid pet, or look at about 5 different dogs. I am all for dogs anywhere, so yeah for them I guess.

                              1. re: princebaal

                                There are condos in that building as well, that's probably where the dogs are coming from.....

                          2. re: splatgirl

                            I'm with you splatgirl...that part of town is vibrant, safe and awesome. We go to MGM with some frequency (Friday night is family night) and have never been panhandled...

                            1. re: Foureyes137

                              If you don't want to get approached by a panhandler, good luck walking any major pedestrian street in any major city anywhere in the world. People have and always will beg.

                              I love MGM, but do agree the past few times it has been a lot less lively and I have seen a few open booths. The Sunday Brunches are awesome value and I have always had a special place for Manny's Special Torta....but I am thinking the economy is probably affecting it as much as anything. And gas prices. I drive maybe 20 minutes to go there. Parking is always free with $5 purchase...which if you can't find something there...good luck anywhere.

                              I personally love ethnic diversity and wish the area around Hennepin and Lake had restaurants with this sort of flavor that were open late at night.

                              1. re: brlattim

                                I agree brlattim.

                                Buttersoy, you ever walk down Nicollet Mall? You can't walk out of Vincent, Masa, Neiman Marcus, etc. without practically tripping over a "panhandler". I'm thinking it might be perception that's the problem.

                                I do a lot of dining and photography-on-foot. Pretty universally, I've been approached by folks asking for money -- most recently at the light rail stop in the Warehouse District, but also near MGM. Last time, I invited the guy into the pizza place across the street (the one next to Dream Girls there) and bought him a slice and a pop. (BTW, I recommend that place if you're in need of a late night slice of pizza by Target Center). It probably wouldn't kill anyone to buy an extra tamale or two at MGM and bring it out to the guy who asked for their change.

                                "Panhandlers" alone don't constitute a place "needing to be cleaned up". People in need just go to where there are a lot of people coming and going. That could be Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Nicollet Mall, or wherever.

                              2. re: Foureyes137

                                Yes. I think part of what is "up" with MGM is that at present it seems less vibrant and awesome than the rest of that neighborhood.
                                But I get that not everyone is comfortable with city flavah. In that case there's always Panera in Maple Grove.

                            2. re: Buttersoy

                              I always park in the vistor/resident ramp across from MidGlo and take the tunnel into the building. Never any problems and get to stay warm! Security does patrol the tunnel and the building so if the panhandlers are a bother or scare, just do what I do and you shouldn't have any problems. Plus 3 hours free parking if you get a validated ticket.

                              The MGM was a bit neglected but it seems to have gotten a renewed interest and some additional excitement from management. I've heard that they are really trying to elevate the image of the market as well as actively trying to secure more diverse and exciting vendors. Like I said, the gastro/bistro place is supposed to be nice. The jury is out but I do hope it is really cool. They're supposed to stay open late or at least later than the rest of the market. The Asian place might have been a rumor but I've heard that its supposed to be really cool as well. Hopefully something that's different than the usual fast food deal. I've always loved finding the hole in the wall food spots so the MGM is right up my alley.

                              1. re: Buttersoy

                                I go to MidGloMa often (1 or 2 times a month since it opened), and I've never been approached by a panhandler or street person.

                                I park in the multi-level lot - it's free with a purchase (remember to get your ticket stamped), and you can almost always find a spot on the street level right near the MidGloMa doors. There's often an official directing traffic (making sure the cars stop for pedestrians), people coming and going, and security guard station right inside the "central" doors. Even on the side with the parking meters, there's plenty of people coming and going. I've never felt less than 100% safe there.

                                In any case, I can't imagine a panhandler would keep me away from this great place. (Besides, without my life's lucky breaks, that panhandler could be me...) Note to self: Buy a few more MidGloMa gift certificates to hand out to any panhandlers, should I encounter any.

                                1. re: AnneInMpls

                                  Anne in Mpls,
                                  You are a true inspiration. Let us not let poverty frighten us and lets give what we can to support others. I am frequently in the neighborhood of MGM, and I have always felt safe. This is not to say there have been people all over the community who are down on their luck.

                              2. Where else can you get a camel burger?

                                1. I think a gastropub is just the thing to elevate interest. We were there this weekend. Sonora, Salty Tart and the custard place with the unmemorable name are still bringing it, and the place was pretty busy at 2p on a Saturday.

                                  1. went there for the first time a few days ago and walked away completely disappointed. Me and my wife tried a few little things to share and could barely finish small items between two people.

                                    Los Ocampa served up two of the blandest asada tacos I've ever had, between the meat, salsa, and the cilantro/onion...the only flavor that stood out was the cilantro/onion. La Loma Tamales were overcooked and greasy it somehow took them 15 minutes to take two tamales out of a steamer and put them on a plate. Phams Deli also provided one of the worst Bahn Mi sandwiches (more bland meats with huge buns and skimpy fillings, you get a 2:1 bun to filling ratio in every bite...and the bun sucks too).

                                    On a positive note, the food at Holy Land looked good and that burger spot smelled the best!

                                    1. We had amazing food from the Left-Handed Cook this past Friday.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        Went two weeks ago to Left-Handed Cook - and it was a fantastic - the pork bowl was definitely crave worthy, soft cooked egg put it over the top delicious.

                                      2. Went to La Loma Tamales for breakfast on Sunday. The Huevos Estrellados was excellent. They were busy. Many of the restaurants were not yet open, but there was a nice amount of traffic in the building.

                                        1. MGM is a great idea in a good building in a bad location.

                                          I love Reading Market in Philly and St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and Essex in NYC on the Lower East Side and North Market (is that the right name?) in Columbus Ohio and Pike Place Market in Seattle. They are terrific markets. I wish we had something like these in Minneapolis.

                                          Midtown Global is wrong on a couple of levels.

                                          First, Midtown Global Market is NOT serving the neighborhood in which it is located. With a few exceptions, almost nobody living within 1 mile of MGM can afford to shop/eat there. Don't believe me? Go east on Lake to Bloomington Ave. and at Mercado Central you will see a market that is serving the local population. This lack of appropriate location is going to overcome and undo all efforts to sustain a market targeting a more upscale foodie demographic.

                                          If one wants to make a market with food stalls targeting upscale foodies, put it at or much much closer to Lake & Hennepin or over by Surdyk's or even around 800 N. Washington or by Black Sheep pizza. Or on Grand Avenue or near 50th and France. It needs to be somewhere that people who eat there can walk to from their homes or places of employment. Allina's lunch crowd alone isn't enough.

                                          The second problem is the word "Global" in the name. Just Midtown Market and let the success or failure of the various vendors (market forces anyone?) determine the theme of the market. Branding it Global limits the options.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                            I lived across the street from Mercado Central for years, and never found it to be a cheap place to eat (nor should it be so). The sit-down restaurants in the area regularly offer entrees in the double figures, and have for quite some time.

                                            The "upscale foodie demographic" dines at Crave. Hate to break that to you. They aren't changing their minds.

                                            The place is in the literal center of the city, is fun to go to, and has free parking. It's probably the least dumb thing this city has ever done.

                                            There exists a homogenous brick, built by the government, and left to be defined by the market. It's called Block E, and it is something out of a North Korean comic book.


                                            1. re: kevin47


                                              I agree with you that Block E is way dumber than MGM.

                                            2. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                              I think MGM seems to be improving--it's heading in the right direction at least with Sonora Grill, Left Handed Cook, etc. What I would like to see are some specialty spots--like a great cheesemonger, awesome chocolates, or something--that is a destination for whatever specialty is is. I think that's what Reading Terminal Market in Philly has going for it--people go there for specific things, and for great food to eat while they're there.

                                              I disagree that the location needs to serve the neighborhood specifically. I don't know about St. Lawrence or Essex or North Market, but Reading Terminal Market and Pike Place Market aren't designed to serve their neighborhoods. People come from miles around to go to those places, and I think that's ideally what MGM should be--a destination. It's not the most convenient place to get to for me, but I like to get there when I can. With a few more TRUE destination shops, it could turn the corner to being something that's special for the metro as a whole.

                                              1. re: baa

                                                Reading and Pike Place did not start as destinations. And they definitely serve the market in which they are located. Reading Terminal is right smack down-town in Philly, next to the convention center. Same with Pike Place and North Market in Columbus. The density of office workers is much greater than MGM's Lake Street location.

                                                If MGM were sited in Minneapolis like one of these long-term successful markets, it'd be located on the downtown side of the Target Center. Or maybe on Nicollet.

                                                1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                  I think you both make valid points. I agree that it does not really serve the surrounding neighborhood. More than anything I'd say it serves the Allina commons employees and then food enthusiasts mostly NOT from the neighborhood. The intent of MGM (and the name) was to serve the neighborhood with grocery and retail and to support/encourage small business. In the latter regard it has succeeded, IMO. I also think has succeeded at improving the neighborhood.
                                                  The gentrification of Lake St. is moving ever eastward. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it does bode well for MGM, assuming your definition of improving is gentrification.

                                              2. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                "Allina's lunch crowd alone isn't enough."

                                                There's a surprising amount of signage in Abbott Northwestern Hospital (and a skyway) that points to MGM. Wonder what kind of business they get from there?

                                              3. We just came back, and new to Minneapolis, were really expecting something exciting from how many people have told us about it. We had Pham's, which was serviceable, but nothing to write home about. I'm sure way more exciting fare to be had at independent restaurants.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: amybritt

                                                  Pham's isn't very good, sadly. And it's even sadder knowing this is a town with lots of good Vietnamese, and Southeast Asian in general, options.

                                                  Next time try Sonora Grill.


                                                  1. re: amybritt

                                                    You walked through the entire Midtown Global Market, and all you tried was Pham's? Oh, you missed so many wonderful treats. Give it another try! And read all the tips on this board first!

                                                  2. Nice to see Hot Indian Foods will be taking over the old Left Handed Cook's stall : http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2014/...

                                                    1 Reply