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Food Hall Fix

Mix and match menus in a welcoming atmosphere at any of several Twin Cities food halls

By Lianna Matt McLernon

Eat Street Crossing in South Minneapolis || Courtesy of Jux Agency/Madeline Eli

Nothing brings people together like breaking bread, so including a group happy hour, meal, or any event where food is served is a surefire way to build community among your attendees. Instead of stressing about the perfect menu, book your event at one of the Twin Cities’ food halls.

As Jason Miller, the director of operations at Eat Street Crossing in South Minneapolis says, “The rough decisions: what to eat, what everyone wants, making everybody happy—it’s eased a bit. It’s a little bit more relaxed, and a relaxed environment for groups
of people works really well in this time of coming out after being cooped up (since the pandemic began).”

Despite the casual name, food halls today are a big step above any stale mall court the mind conjures—especially in the Twin Cities. Multiple food courts are situated in renovated historic buildings, and many host activities or public events in their spaces. Even the food halls located in Minnesota’s malls, such as Rosedale Center’s Potluck, emphasize the local and original over the fast-food and ubiquitous. There is certainly no shortage of delicious options for planners to choose from in the North Star State.

Go Around the World

With food halls, attendees can enjoy cultural offerings that double as some of the Twin Cities’ local favorites. One shining example is Union Hmong Kitchen, celebrity chef Yia Vang’s eatery in Minneapolis’ Graze Provisions + Libations food hall in the North Loop neighborhood. Featuring four private and semiprivate event spaces, it also offers a full buyout for up to 500. While Vang has been on Netflix’s “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend” and hosted “Feral” on the Outdoors Channel, his kitchen has been dishing out Khao Poon and Tim-Tim Noodles. Nearby, Viva Taco (Mexican street tacos with a Vietnamese twist), the Fabled Rooster’s Southern-inspired fare, Soul Bowl, and the sweet Dream Creamery are excellent options.

Need another? North Loop Galley offers partial and full buyouts available for up to 60 and has a lineup that includes Wrecktangle Pizza, a Detroit-style pizza concept created by Minneapolis’ Jeffrey Howard Rogers. This crave-worthy option shares the building with Ono Hawaiian Plates and Ramen Kawae, not to mention the in-house bar beverage options.

“For buyouts, the client picks from different packages,” says Taylor Block, the galley’s director of marketing. “We have an order station, passed hors d’oeuvres, small plates, family-style dinners, a buffet, and a dessert station. What you would do is pick an option from each kitchen, which is great for guests to try different foods. It’s a great way to cover dietary restrictions, too.”

Go Public or Private

Plain to see, food halls are prized for their variety, so we would be remiss not to mention Midtown Global Market, a hallmark of the Twin Cities’ global cuisine. The space isn’t strictly a food hall, but a public market that just so happens to include almost 20 restaurants and specialty food vendors.

“I find the majority of people like to pick their own food,” says Amber Greelis, Midtown’s events and community engagement lead. “What a lot of companies do is give everyone a gift card, so they can get food and bring it back to the meeting space.” If you want something ready for your attendees, though, planners can order directly from a restaurant and have it sent over to their reserved space as well. Order coffee and hot chocolate carafes from Mapps Coffee & Tea, or try delicious Mexican sandwiches from Manny’s Tortas, to name a couple.

Diverse cuisine options at The Market at Malcolm Yards
Diverse cuisine options at The Market at Malcolm Yards || Courtesy of The Market at Malcolm Yards

While Midtown Global Market has been the site of staff parties, happy hours, conferences, and more, it is also a popular—and logical—destination for community outreach events. The nonprofit CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio) has held many public events there, even bringing in an impressive 3,500 visitors at its most recent Día de los Muertos holiday event.

“What we have done in the past is essentially booked performers for the stage,” says Hannah Novillo Erickson, CLUES’ associate director of arts and cultural engagement. “But then, also, art-making is a very important practice in our events, so what we have done is collaborated with the market to have booths for artists to be working out of and to engage the public by making art with them.”

Michelle Malone, the early childhood education center director at the YWCA, says Midtown Global Market has created a collaborative relationship with the organization. Malone might work with the entertainment for a YWCA event, but the two organizers team up on raffle prizes, and the market hosts. She adds, “As someone born and raised in the Philippines, when my work first took me there, it felt like Midtown Global was home away from home. It’s just everything culturally that you could want.”

For those who want private events, Eat Street Crossing in South Minneapolis offers chic, historic, yet contemporary urban elegance with private options for groups as small as 12, as well as a full buyout, which easily fit the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s (Mia) recent holiday staff party for 250.

Mia’s Facilities Operation Coordinator Carolyn Stanley loves the accessibility and layout of the food hall. “The venue offered spaces that were more tucked away and quiet, and plenty of space to celebrate with a crowd,” she says. Some extra bonuses? Signature cocktails named after art terms (Eat Street Crossing’s bar program is helmed by the nationally recognized Trish Gavin), delicious food, excellent and welcoming service, and a perfect DJ pick by Jason Miller, the food hall’s director of operations.

North Loop Galley in Minneapolis || Courtesy of North Loop Galley

Go Team Go

Many food halls are amenable to event planners bringing in their own activities, but some also offer them. Midtown Global Market has a bounty of options, and while Greelis says they are most often used by educational programs, attendees also may take advantage of options such as a chef-hosted food demo or dance lessons. The Market at Malcolm Yards, located in Northeast Minneapolis, also offers group activities including scavenger hunts; wine, beer, and spirit tastings; cooking demos; trivia; game shows; packing events for nonprofits like HandsON Twin Cities or Everymeal; cornhole tournaments; and the quickfire challenge, a relay-style series of light-touch challenges for teams to complete.

The Market at Malcolm Yards’ Community Outreach and Events Manager Molly Herrmann says, “We want it to be easy, we want it to be fun—I like to call myself the director of fun instead of my actual title—and we want to have some of those things that speak to our corporate clients, like the CliftonStrengths sessions (an assessment program for determining individual talents and values).”

She recalls one event planner hosted a large meeting that transitioned into a happy hour, but right before the happy hour began, The Market at Malcolm Yards’ team arranged a cocktail class led by mixologist and Bittercube Bitters owner Nick Kosevich. Another event was a buyout (maximum capacity of 100) that activated almost every room in the food hall and not only tapped into The Market at Malcolm Yards’ ax-throwing activity, but also brought in a fashion artist and the cover band Riverside Entertainment.

Food halls have hit their stride in the Twin Cities. Full of memorable food and relaxing atmospheres, these dining options provide planners with an easy way to give everyone something they will love. No matter which one you select, Minnesota’s food halls offer vibrant and flexible options for attendees to enjoy.